Vol. 2, No. 7 | APRIL 8, 2013
Future GOP of the
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WILL the SMITH SCANDAL SINK jeff klein & THE IDC? // PAGE 16 SPECIAL SPOTLIGHT ON MUNICIPAL UNIONS // PAGE 18 A Q&A WITH former white house press secretary ARI FLEISCHER // PAGE 31
ZERO TOLERANCE When I asked Malcolm sion for are the elected who when Smith nine months ago leaders whether, despite the years confronted with the unscruof accusations against him, pulous if not outright he could say unequivocally criminal actions of their that he had never done colleagues continue to anything dishonest as an look the other way when it elected official, he replied is politically expedient for them to do so. without hesiJeff Klein tation: “Absoand his fellow lutely. 100 perIndependent cent. Never.” At Democrats may the time, I wrote have won plauthat Smith was dits from some either “one for the swiftof the most ness of their misunderstood disciplinary and unfairly actions against maligned poliSmith, but they ticians in New Morgan Pehme knew full well York State” or “a EDITOR the reputation of the man bald-faced liar.” The sensational devel- they were getting into bed opments of late appear to with when they appointed have finally resolved who Smith the chairman of their Smith truly is. Of course, conference only a month the charges brought against and a half ago in an unanhim by the U.S. Attorney’s nounced maneuver so quiet Office remain allegations it smacked of embarrassment. until proven otherwise. Like the IDC, Sheldon It is often believed that journalists rejoice in the Silver, Dean Skelos, Chrisdownfall of politicians tine Quinn and so many because it makes for great others have consistently ink. I feel otherwise; when and deliberately turned I learned of Smith’s early a blind eye—or worse— morning arrest—staged to the misdeeds of their for maximum effect by the colleagues, until they could Feds, who tipped off the no longer afford to so do media to make sure that so without toppling themSmith and his cronies would selves in the process. The time has come to be photographed coming out of their homes in hand- enact a strict policy of zero cuffs—I could not help but tolerance toward political think of Smith’s wife and corruption in our state. Innocent until proven guilty children. That corrupt politicians should be the standard of have only themselves to our justice system, but for blame for the immeasurable our legislative leaders to devastation they bring upon hide behind it is a pervertheir families is certain. Yet sion of the public interest. Nobody has a right to be we in the press must always remember that as much an elected official. If a credas the elected officials we ible accusation of wrongcover may appear to us as doing is brought against a caricatures, at the end of the legislator, he or she should day they are human beings be immediately sidelined whose lives have profound until they are absolved from effects upon those who have wrongdoing, not harbored until the ship of state done no wrong. Who I have no compas- explodes.
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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/thenotebook. 1. ALBANY Gun owners have been fuming over the New York 3 SAFE Act since its passage in January, and now the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association and other plaintiffs will challenge the constitutionality of the gun regulations in a lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court. The association’s president, Tom King (below, top), would not comment about the details of the suit, but called the SAFE Act “feel-good legislation. ... Any antigun law is a method for the legislators to make their constituents feel good, make them feel like they’re being protected, because they don’t want to take on the tough subjects, such as actual crime in the streets and the fact that they’re allowing criminals to walk all the time,” he said. Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel (below, bottom) dismissed that notion. “A number of states have put in lawsuits and it’s been upheld,”
she said. “The states are allowed to make stricter regulations. I support the New York SAFE Act, the way it was done, how it was done, the breadth of the bill, and I think it’s refreshing that a state and legislators on both sides of the aisle have the courage to put the interests of the public first.”
2. BROOKLYN A Brooklyn nonprofit under investigation by the city and the federal government for its ties to Assemblyman Vito Lopez (below) received $63,337 from the state in this year’s budget— but it wasn’t a new member item. Lawmakers stopped getting discretionary funding for their districts in 2009, but a residual pot of money remains. The Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council obtained a $1.9 million grant in 2004 to construct its youth center. The last of that grant is trickling in this year, according to the charity’s CEO, James Cameron. “It’s way before my time,” he said. “When I heard about it, I was hoping it was a new grant that I didn’t know about.” Lopez, who founded the nonprofit, has kept his distance from the charity since its former CEO and his longtime campaign
treasurer, Christiana Fisher, became the subject of a probe in 2010 1 for allegedly falsifying tax documents to justify tripling her salary. She stepped down in January 2 2012 and pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators 11 months later. Lopez has been the subject of criminal and ethics investigations for sexual harassment charges that came to light last summer. He has missed votes in Albany for most of the year and been recuperating from pneumonia since mid-February.
3. DUNKIRK With its coal-fired power plant in Dunkirk struggling to stay open, NRG Energy released a study that supports its proposal to “repower” the plant to run on cheaper natural gas. The study, commissioned by NRG, predicts that the repowering project would lower wholesale energy prices in the region and around the state, reduce dirty emissions, create jobs and avoid having to build long-distance transmission lines to import electricity from out of state. “The takeaway is that the study shows that there is a remarkably strong return on investment in a Dunkirk repowering, and the return on the investment is lower electricity prices, many jobs and a strong economic output for the life of the project,” said Dave Gaier, a spokesman for NRG. However, NRG first needs a long-term contract to sell its energy before it can afford to repower the plant, which is already partially closed. Two potential candidates for a contract are National Grid and the New York Power Authority, a state entity.
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www.cityandstateny.com | APRIL 8, 2013
UPFRONT THE KICKER: A CHOICE QUOTE FROM CITY & STATE ’S FIRST READ EMAIL “What did we do, put a gun to their heads and force them to write legislation? Is that the allegation? That we were up there with automatic weapons with expanded-capacity magazines, forcing them to write a bill?” ——Mayor Michael Bloomberg, responding to a suggestion from a state source that the mistakes in New York’s gun control law are the fault of New York City, via the New York Post
BY THE NUMBERS
Deadlines Missed, Deadlines Made The deadline to pass the New York State budget each year is March 31. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has met that deadline for his first three budgets, but his predecessors haven’t always managed their time quite so well. Here’s a look at how many days late the budget’s passage by both houses was in the decade before Cuomo took office.
POLITICAL REALITY A new reality television series about Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes is set to begin airing in May, and the opponents challenging him this fall have already started criticizing his decision to be a part of the show, titled Brooklyn D.A.
2000–1 35 Days Late
That got us thinking——could Brooklyn D.A. be just the beginning? We asked our readers to pitch other New York politicians who should be the focus of a reality TV series. Here are several you came up with.
2001–2 124 Days Late 2002–3 46 Days Late 2003–4 45 Days Late 2004–5 133 Days Late
JEFF & DIANE
2005–6 ON TIME!
2006–7 ON TIME! 2007–8 1 Day Late 2008–9 9 Days Late
Four Amigos The
2009–10 3 Days Late
CHART: NEW YORK STATE DIVISION OF THE BUDGET
2010–11 125 Days Late 2011–12 ON TIME! 2012–13 ON TIME! 2013–14 ON TIME!
APRIL 8, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
City & State is now accepting nominations for our 2013 edition of Rising Stars: Albany!
Nominations should be elected officials, staffers, lobbyists, candidates, activists, reporters and other movers and shakers under 40 years old who are making a difference in Albany and around New York State!
The closing date for your submissions will be Friday, April 15. Winners will be announced shortly thereafter, with details on a reception to be held in Albany in June.
To submit your nomination visit: www.cityandstateny.com/2013-rising-stars/
www.cityandstateny.com | APRIL 8, 2013
Educate & Influence NY’s Elected Officials with:
t h e f i v e b o r o u g h b a l lot
Tottenville, Staten Island
The patrons at W’s aren’t sure who they want to be the next mayor of New York, but they know who they don’t want. By Nick Powell
I Promote Your Organization’s Benefits and Objectives to NY’s Policymakers in this Strategic Legislative Messaging Venue The Special Section Features Political Perspectives from:
Richard Kauffman “Energy Czar” for New York State
Assemblyman Robert Sweeney Chair, Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee
Sergej Mahnovski Director, Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning nad Sustainability
State Sen. Mark Grisanti Chair, Senate Environmental Conservation Committee (Public Officials pending confirmation)
t’s the calm before the storm at W’s, early evening on a Saturday night, the eve of St. Patrick’s Day. Across the city, droves of drunken co-eds and twentysomethings booze their way from one pub to the next, part of what is now ostensibly a two-day drinking holiday, with no semblance of Irish heritage outside of green attire. But W’s keeps it old-school— corned beef and cabbage on the menu, taps of beer flowing, and scores of locals slowly migrating to the neighborhood haunt for conversation and “Irish” cheer. In other words, it’s not a great night to talk politics in Tottenville. When asked what his thoughts are on the mayoral election, a gentleman at the bar responds gruffly that he doesn’t “pay much attention” to what’s going on in city politics. Sure, he doesn’t like Bloomberg; sure, he votes—but ask him about any of the candidates and he shrugs. “I’m just not really interested in it,” he says. Situated in front of the tap, a man named Chuck sips a finger of whisky with a friend from New Jersey. Wearing a 49ers hat and denim jacket, an earring in his
left ear, Chuck is approachable and genial about the topic of conversation, if not overly opinionated. He sticks to the creed of W’s patrons in his dislike for everything Bloomberg—despite voting for him— taking issue with his crusade against cigarettes and generally high taxes under his administration. “I’m a smoker, so I don’t like the cigarette tax,” Chuck says. “I tend to go down that line: Save our taxes.” A fan of former mayors Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani, Chuck is thus far unimpressed with the slate of candidates to replace Bloomberg. “I don’t dislike [Christine] Quinn, but I wouldn’t vote for her. I don’t know anything about Lhota, the guy from the MTA.” “I want somebody who’s just gonna get the job done, who’s assertive and doesn’t want to look pretty for the cameras,” Chuck concludes, looking increasingly disinterested in the discussion and eager for another round with his pal. Two retired New York City police officers, Kevin and Anthony, stand at the end of the bar by the entrance. At first wary of talking to a reporter from a publication they have never heard of, they let their guard down after some persuasion and step outside of the bar. As they each light up cigarettes, it is clear within one minute of conversation that they keep close tabs on the citywide race. Kevin is tall and broad-shouldered, a Yankees cap with a green logo covering
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april 8, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
bess adler (3)
Anybody But Bloomberg
T H E F I V E B O R O U G H B A L LOT
W’S BAR & RESTAURANT his head and a relaxed smile fixed to his face—perhaps the cop you would ask for your one phone call while in a holding cell at the precinct. Anthony is shorter, with a stockier build and a straight-shooting disposition. As to their age, neither of them appears far removed from his days in uniform; they are likely recently retired. It’s easy to imagine them patrolling the streets of their district; both have a distinctly authoritative presence. “I’m supporting Bill Thompson,” Kevin says, naming the former city comptroller and 2009 Democratic nominee. “He seems like a fair-minded guy who’s not gonna tell people not to drink a 32-ounce soda. [Bloomberg] is so out of touch with the working man. I’m more of a conservative libertarian, and I just don’t think [Thompson] is gonna be overreaching.” Again Bloomberg’s flaws provide the backdrop for any conversation about the mayoral race, despite the mayor having one foot out the door as his third term winds down. The prevailing sentiment with these two on the next mayor is “Anybody but Bloomberg.” With three kids, Kevin is concerned about education, and has paid close attention to the ongoing dispute between Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teachers over teacher evaluations. He believes the public education system could be
more inclusive of parents. Anthony is unsure of who he is supporting in the mayoral race, but he is concerned with the escalating city property taxes, so much so that he is beginning to look across the Arthur Kill in Jersey for a new home. He also reflects on an issue that resonates with many middle-class New Yorkers: the rising economic gap between the wealthy and everybody else. “It’s been eight years since I bought my house, and my taxes have tripled. It seems like they want us to go to Jersey,” he says. “In this city, you’re either very rich, or very poor.” As ex-cops, both can speak to the topic of public safety better than the average voter. On the controversial stop-and-frisk policing that has been a widely used method under Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Anthony stands by the practice, noting New York’s relative safety compared with other major cities. “[Stop-and-frisk is] not necessarily making a difference out here [in Tottenville], but it’s making a difference in the communities that
need it,” Anthony said. “That’s why we’re not Chicago, Philadelphia, Camden, Trenton. It’s a tool you have to use to fight crime.” Kevin bristles at the notion that stop-and-frisk disproportionately targets minority communities, sometimes unfairly so. “That’s untrue; [stop-and-frisk] targets the areas where there’s crime,” he said. “Whatever the socioeconomic reason, police want to stop crime, so if it’s happening in those areas, it’s not racist—they’re going by the numbers.” The conversation circles back to the other mayoral candidates. They both like former MTA chairman Joe Lhota, a Republican, but think that he has no chance of winning in a city where conservative voters are vastly outnumbered. Neither takes the candidacy of supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis, a Republican, seriously, if only for his membership in the Billionaire Boys Club with, yes, Michael Bloomberg. “We don’t need another billionaire,” Anthony says, as Kevin nods in agreement.
Kevin (left) and Anthony (right) are retired NYPD officers and W’s regulars with strong feelings about the mayoral race.
www.cityandstateny.com | APRIL 8, 2013
t h e f i v e b o r o u g h b a l lot
CAMPAIGNS SKIP MOTT HAVEN; DRUG CENTERS AND SHELTERS DON’T Mayoral front-runners skipped a recent forum in the South Bronx neighborhood, where many residents are upset about the number of drug and mental health facilities in the area. By Joe Hirsch
t was standing room only on a Saturday afternoon in March at a South Bronx church known for its social activism streak, where residents came, hoping to hear the city’s mayoral candidates explain their positions on the issues. There was only one problem: The three candidates considered front-runners in next November’s election—Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former comptroller Bill Thompson—were nowhere to be found. Over 100 potential voters instead heard three other candidates—City Comptroller John Liu, stand-up comic Randy Credico and Green Party hopeful Anthony Gronowicz—state their cases at the Resurrection Church near Mott Haven on March 9. Local grassroots groups organized the event to acquaint residents with the candidates vying to represent them in City Hall. Many expressed anger that Quinn, de Blasio and Thompson had ignored invitations to attend, saying it was an indication of the low regard in which the city’s power structure holds the South Bronx. “I don’t know about you, but right now, I’m pissed off,” Pastor Kahli Mootoo of Bright Temple A.M.E. Church in Hunts Point bellowed into the mic, to sustained applause. “For them not to be here, I’m pissed off so bad, Monday morning I’m going to pick up the phone and I’m going to make some phone calls.” One resident told the crowd that although politicians have long neglected the area, the buck stops with voters. “We allow this stuff to happen to us,” said Rita Jones of the nonprofit National Action Network’s Bronx division. “All we do is sit around looking out the window, cussing each other out,” she said, adding that advocates’ battles for Bronxites’ rights are “going to waste. If you’re not going to fight, then stop running your mouth.”
anger over concentration of clinics At Camaguey Restaurant on 138th Street a few days after the forum, one resident said the highest-profile candidates’ failure to appear was a sad but familiar example of Manhattan power brokers trying to keep South Bronx voters in the dark. 8
april 8, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
“When the talking heads talk about the wonders Bloomberg has done for the city, they’re talking about Manhattan,” said Marian Rivas, 69, during lunch at the restaurant a few blocks from her home. “We have not benefited.” Rivas is an M.D. with a specialty in genetics who returned 15 years ago to live in the house where she grew up after many years working in other parts of the country. In 2011 she helped create We Are Mott Haven, a group of local homeowners and renters who oppose what they say is the city’s unstated policy to place as many drug rehab and mental health programs here as it can in order to avoid political blowback in wealthier parts of the city. The group says the city’s decision to cluster treatment facilities and residences for chronically jobless newcomers in Mott Haven has made the streets feel less safe, and that it is pushing the neighborhood back toward the lawlessness of the 1970s. “This administration has targeted lowincome, minority neighborhoods to place these shelters,” Rivas said. “Even our own elected officials don’t know what’s going on. Public policy is against us.”
Waiting for word from Cuomo The residents organized after finding that a nonprofit agency, the Association for Rehabilitative Case Management and Housing, had secured state funding to build a six-story home for people with psychiatric diagnoses on a residential block. They say the area is already saturated with methadone clinics and similar residences. They point out that no city official or agency advised them the building was in the works, and they found out only after a construction worker on the site mentioned it to Rivas in passing. The community board district that comprises Mott Haven services nearly as many of the borough’s mental health outpatient clients as the Bronx’s other 11 community boards combined, according to data from the City Planning Department website. In addition, the area serves more outpatients classified as chemically dependent than any of the borough’s other community districts. The group pressured several elected officials who represent the neighborhood to send a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo last summer asking that the project be stopped, but construction is well under way, and the governor has not responded. The homeowners now believe that the support they received from
local representatives was halfhearted, adding that the community board has been of no help. But they insist theirs is not a NIMBY issue. They contend the neighborhood badly needs city-funded programs, but that the focus should be on services for needy children and other vulnerable residents instead of unwanted facilities wealthier neighborhoods have successfully fought. “Why do we have to have all those methadone centers where these kids and teachers have to pass?” said Antonia Vega, 69, whose autistic grandson travels by bus to a school several miles away. “Why can’t they put a special needs school in the neighborhood?” Vega came away from the March 9 mayoral forum with meager expectations for next November. “Liu has good plans for housing people who live in shelters,” she said, but added, “They don’t do what they say.” Vega’s husband, Marcelino Sanchez, is similarly unenthused about the prospects for a new crop of elected officials, and is skeptical Mott Havenites’ concerns will be addressed. “They are absolutely impotent. They can promise whatever they want, but they cannot deliver,” Sanchez said. He calls the city’s unwillingness to stop the new psychiatric home, despite the local outcry, “almost criminal. They did it under the radar. Nobody knew until it was done.”
thing,” the advocacy rarely translates into policy changes. Like his neighbors, Rodriguez says he has been discouraged about the political process since joining the fight to prevent the psychiatric residence from being built. “They’re taking us for granted. There’s no real political power here,” said Rodriguez, adding he was not surprised the front-runners ducked the mayoral forum. “There were going to be hard questions.” Rodriguez said the community board system has been of no help in the fight to keep out the project. “We really don’t rely on them any more. The community board does not tell the people what’s going on,” he said. “They are part of the problem. They’re selected by the borough president. If you don’t go their way, you’re out. Nobody’s challenging it from within.” The district manager of Bronx Community Board 1, Cedric Loftin, did not return a phone message requesting a response. For Rivas and her neighbors, one of the most important changes a new mayoral administration should bring is transparency in the decision-making process. “People gave up when they saw all of their efforts were going for nothing,” she said. “That’s what bothers me the most. We’re the last ones to know.”
Politics stirS pessimism Julio Rodriguez, 64, a retired MTA employee, said that “although there’s a lot of activism in the area,” and “there’s a group for every-
top: marc fader/city limits; bottom: Mia wendel-dilallo/City Limits
Mott Haven, the Bronx
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MANHATTAN ARTIE’S DELI POLITICS TAKES BACKSEAT ON UWS By AARON SHORT
he mayor’s race was transformed during Holy Week. Faced with an insurrection in the City Council over her resistance to paid sick leave, Speaker Christine Quinn hammered out a deal with union officials and health care advocates just in time for Good Friday. As a result, the city’s political chatterers noted that a paid sick leave bill removed a strong argument from progressive Democrats against a Quinn candidacy, thus strengthening her position her as the race’s frontrunner. But at Artie’s Diner on the Upper West Side, voters are still waiting for their matzo ball soup to cool down before they make a decision in the race. Though they have yet to commit to a candidate, the patrons at Artie’s do have a strong sense of what characteristics they want their next mayor to embody—even if they aren’t sure who she or he should be. “He or she should have the experience working with a diverse community, not only a diversity of opinion but a diversity of culture,” Tobie Atlas, a customer at Artie’s, said. “To have a participatory democracy, you have to be sensitive to this and to connect to people in their day-to-day lives.” Between bites of scrambled eggs with lox, patron Edward Summer said the next mayor must be an “educated person.” “We should have someone who puts human welfare ahead of getting re-elected,” he said. “It would be interesting to have a politician who has a minimum of a master’s degree, a degree in cultural anthropology, sociology or civics instead of
someone who came up through the political culture.” Artie’s Deli had one of its busiest weeks of the year, serving over 1,000 matzo balls and 250 gallons of chicken soup during the Passover rush. But for Artie’s manager Barry Orenstein, the mayor’s race hasn’t whetted his appetite just yet. “I don’t like Quinn personally because she reneged on her promise not to support Bloomberg’s third term,” he said. “I admire her for her temper; I think that’s good. I’d rather have that than a milquetoast.” His dream candidate is a “photogenic” Puerto Rican woman raised in a one-family household by her mother with five siblings, educated in public schools before graduating from City College and Harvard. Unfortunately that candidate’s closest avatar is already on the U.S. Supreme Court. Orenstein’s ideal mayor would also be “entering politics for the first time” but with “ but “plenty of experience representing community organizations and neighborhood groups.” While Orenstein gets his news from The New York Times, The New Yorker, PBS and MSNBC, his waiters and kitchen workers typically grab a Metro or amNewYork, or catch NY1 between shifts, to stay on top of what’s going on in city politics. In general the staff is divided over whether the next mayor should be a woman or a man. Most say hizzoner or herroner must be sensitive to the needs of the poorer classes. “I think in this day and age we could stand for a change—somebody young, liberal, a woman would be interesting, somebody with a different race would be interesting—
other than a white male,” waitress Natasha Youngman said. “Most of our candidates are from higher class society, so they don’t really have knowledge of the kind of life that the other half of the population has.” Waiter George Yturrizaga Jr., who says he prefers Mayor Koch, believes that a candidate doesn’t have to be a politician in order to be effective. “I’m a big fan of personality, how he makes the people feel,” he said. “I can’t say ‘one who keeps promises,’ because they never do anyway. Bloomberg wasn’t a politician before he took office. It’s a good thing to know about finances when it comes to city financial problems. But, no, I don’t think you have to have a political background to be a politician. Anyone can be a politician.” His co-worker Joshua Caleb prefers a man in the mayor’s office, but isn’t concerned about what the mayor looks like or where he came from, as long as he “does stuff for us. The number one quality is that you give to the people. You have to be generous and sympathetic to all the people in the city who don’t have homes, don’t have food, work and [are] not making enough money,” he said. “Those are the important things. That’s really all I care about.” Artie’s customers and staff are aware of some of the early narratives forming around the mayor’s race, including candidates’ temper tantrums and fundraising follies. Several customers said that scandal stories only become important when they “reached the level of headlines” for several days. “My reaction to that is to do more research myself,” Atlas said. Orenstein cuts politicians some slack because they are all likely to “fall to temptation” when raising money—a promising sign for John Liu, who has been dogged by campaign finance allegations for months. But deli workers said character was important. “That’s what people base their votes on: a person’s character, how their chemistry is, and how much of a people person they are,” Youngman said. “It’s a big issue—if you can’t connect with the people, then you’re out of luck.” As for Caleb, he could do without the drama this election cycle. “You don’t want somebody to be mayor who’s involved in a bunch of crazy scandals,” he said. www.cityandstateny.com | APRIL 8, 2013
COV E R STO RY Rising stars of the GOP (clockwise from bottom right): Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, consultant Jessica Proud, Assemblyman Peter Lopez, state Sen. Lee Zeldin, New York City Councilman Eric Ulrich and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis.
APRIL 8, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
COV E R STO RY
E PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER LOGAN
NEW YORK STATE’S REPUBLICAN PARTY IS DOWN, BUT IS IT OUT? • BY MORGAN PEHME
lection Day in 2012 was one of the bleakest in the history of the New York State Republican Party. Propelled by an Obama landslide in New York—the president’s best showing in any state except Vermont and Hawaii—the Democrats trounced their opposition all the way down the ballot. Kirsten Gillibrand, once considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the U.S. Senate, amassed a startling 72 percent of the vote, the highest percent total of any statewide candidate in New York history. At the same time, Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, a Tea Party darling, was drummed out of office, Rep. Nan Hayworth was defeated in a stunner, and Rep. Tom Reed, who was expected to cruise to re-election, only narrowly staved off a strong challenge from his previously unknown opponent. In the state Legislature, the story was just as dreary. Despite the Vito Lopez scandal that had wounded Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the Democrats rolled to victory in the lower chamber, regaining the “veto-proof” supermajority they had lost in 2010. And in the Senate, long the lone bright spot statewide for the GOP, the Republicans lost their pure majority, watching much ballyhooed candidates like Sean Hanna and Bob Cohen go down in flames, and even, after a razor-thin recount, George Amedore, for whom the party had gerrymandered the newly created 63rd Senate seat specifically for him to win. In the devastating aftermath, a host of political observers declared the state Republican Party dead— or at least on life support. As Baruch College professor Doug Muzzio put it to the Daily News, “It is not extinct, but it is comatose.” Beyond the results of Election Day, there was—and continues to be—ample reason to draw this conclusion. With the party suffering from a registration deficit statewide that has grown to a gaping 2.5-to-1 in favor of the Democrats, the last time the Republican nominee for president prevailed in New York was 1984, when Ronald Reagan swept every state in the union save for Walter Mondale’s home turf of
Minnesota. The last Republican state comptroller was Ned Regan, who resigned from office in 1993; the last Republican attorney general Dennis Vacco, who lost to Eliot Spitzer in 1998; and the last Republican to hold statewide office was Gov. George Pataki, who declined to run for a fourth term over seven years ago, in 2006. Almost universally in the post-Pataki era, Republican candidates have fared poorly—if not embarrassingly—in statewide contests. For the most part the candidates the party has fielded have been no-names or sideshows, and even in the rare instance that it has been able to attract a marquee recruit, like businessman Harry Wilson, who sought the comptroller’s office in 2010, the Republicans have still fallen short by tens of thousands of votes. In many ways, things have never looked worse for the state Republican Party—once a breeding ground for giants like Teddy Roosevelt, Fiorello La Guardia, Thomas Dewey, Nelson Rockefeller and Jacob Javits. “We have hit rock bottom,” laments New York City Councilman Eric Ulrich, one of the Republican Party’s promising state Senate candidates who went down to defeat in 2012. “The only place we can go is up.” Some political insiders think even this appraisal is overly optimistic. When one longtime operative learned that City & State was writing a piece about the future of the Republican Party in New York State, he quipped, “That’s going to be a short piece.” THE POSTMORTEM
he devastating defeat of 2012 set off intense soul-searching among Republicans not just in New York but nationwide. Last month Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus made public an unusually candid 97-page report on the lessons the party needed to learn from their loss. Though the report was given the cheery title “Growth and Opportunity Project,” it instantly became known by the stark one-word description Priebus had decided upon to dramatize its importance: “autopsy.” The findings of the autopsy were many, and they were dire. “Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; our primary and debate process needed improvement,” Priebus said at the press conference unveiling the report. “There’s no one solution. There’s a long list of them.” Though a few of the problems identified in the report were unique to the national party, most of them were equally applicable to New York’s GOP, among them the need to get up to speed on using social media, to organize better, to update its obsolete voter file, to adapt the state-of-the-art targeting techniques the Obama campaign used so effectively and, perhaps above all, to embrace Hispanics, AfricanAmericans, Asian-Americans and all other minority groups, which with every cycle become a more vital percentage of the electorate and yet consistently have
been largely ignored—or worse, rejected—by the Republican Party. Not all of the state party’s challenges, however, were articulated in the autopsy, as some of its greatest difficulties are distinct to New York as a bastion of Democratic dominance. “Republicans in this state have long struggled with what it means to be here in New York, which is a very blue state, and still be effective in advancing Republican policies,” says Saleem Cheeks, a management supervisor of public affairs at Eric Mower & Associates and a former deputy press secretary under Pataki. “Ultimately it’s a party with an identity crisis at the moment.” Lynn Krogh, 32, a top GOP consultant and former chair of the New York State Young Republicans, agrees. “New York’s Republican Party is not the Republican Party of Kansas, it’s not the Republican Party of Tennessee and it’s not the Republican Party of even Colorado. Our Republican Party is a huge diverse group of people, from the Tea Party to the more moderate, and when you’re talking to people as the leader of the state party, you’re not all-encompassing. That’s the problem. … You don’t have a cohesive party.” In part, the disunity of the state GOP may be a by-product of the Republicans’ fundamental ethos. “Because our philosophy, a lot of times, is based on individualism, and maybe the Democratic Party is more of a collectivism kind of outlook, we each treat our own individual areas as our own territory, if you would,” Congressman Reed postulates. “I think what we need to do is branch out, and we have to become a team.” Ed Cox, a prominent attorney and son-in-law of President Nixon, has had the daunting task of trying to tie together these disparate threads since he was elected chairman of the state party in 2009. He asserts that the independence of the county leaders makes for a stronger party because it liberates the local chairs to develop the right approach for their respective areas. “There are a lot of different views in the Republican Party here, but we basically agree on the core principles,” Cox maintains, defining their shared conviction as one that “stands for freedom and equal opportunity and accountability and limited government and fiscal responsibility and pro-growth policies.” While almost all of the Republicans across the state interviewed for this article voiced some similar formulation when detailing their political beliefs, several expressed frustration that their ability to convey this message to the people of New York is undermined at times by the national party, which has tended to be markedly more conservative than the state GOP and has insisted on ideological purity on a number of social issues that tend to alienate voters who would otherwise be receptive to their values. Jessica Proud, 30, the vice president of a leading Republican political consulting film, NLO Strategies, says that the larger problems with perceptions of the party are coming from the national level. www.cityandstateny.com | APRIL 8, 2013
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“In other areas … they just kind of [go], ‘Well, he’s next in line, so it’s his turn.’ That’s the old way of thinking that has got to go out the window. We need to go find new people from different walks of life, not just people who have been career politicians to keep running for these different positions and expect different results.” Cheeks concurs, acknowledging the damage inflicted by incendiary remarks such as former Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment. “In the absence of having an identity to be a Republican in New York, the default setting for most people in New York is going to be to look to the national party … and that’s not necessarily a good thing sometimes, because it does not reflect the New York Republican position in all cases.” “The national party has to tone down the rhetoric,” says Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, 46, who is widely regarded as one of the state party’s rising stars, and whose name was recently floated by Cox as a promising potential candidate for statewide office. Cox also named Harry Wilson, Rep. Chris Gibson, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards as potential statewide candidates. Molinaro, who is only 37 but has served continuously in elected office since becoming America’s thenyoungest mayor—of the town of Tivoli—at the age of 19, bemoans the unwillingness of some of his fellow Republicans to embrace a diversity of opinion. “We have to say to those people in our party that don’t want to talk to those who disagree with us that in a democracy, in public discourse, civility and respect is not a weakness,” he says. “In fact, it is a strength.” To make things worse, the national party has in recent decades generally abstained from allocating resources to growing the GOP in New York, judging the investment in such a blue state to be without an adequate return—even though every high-profile Republican Party candidate breezes though New York City to fundraise and treats the wealthy donors of Manhattan like an ATM. “At the end of the day, one of the things that I saw really hurt us [in 2012] was that the presidential candidates came in, went down to New York, raised the money, and then they left,” observes Michael Backus, 29, the Oswego County clerk and the party’s youngest county chair. “It would have been nice to see them upstate, even if it was only a day, even if it was only a couple [of ] hours. I think that would have really helped our congressional candidates across the state, and our Senate candidates as well, all the way down the ticket…. You got to come in here to raise money—we understand that—but you also have some responsibility to us as a state party to help us grow our brand.” Reed, who in February of this year was named the Northeast chair of the National Republican Congres-
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sional Committee, acknowledges the validity of Backus’ grievance. But he points to the significant resources Speaker John Boehner expended in 2012 across the state as proof positive that Boehner understands that New York is a crucial “front line” in the battle to preserve the GOP majority in the House. Efforts are now underway to identify Republican “decision makers and leaders across the entire northeast, starting in New York” to help rebuild the state party’s national connection, Reed says—though, admittedly, they are still at a fledgling stage. Reed says that he greatly appreciates the importance of the national party engaging New Yorkers, particularly the state’s young people. “That’s why we spent so much time with kids in high school and college,” he notes. “When they come down, I make it a priority to meet with the classes and things like that, because you just never know when that lightbulb’s going to go off and someone says, ‘Hey, I met Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney and I remember a speech he gave and I totally believe what he’s saying,’ and that student winds up the President of the United States, 25, 30 years later.” Bright Spots
eed has no illusions about the enormity of the challenges the state party faces, and yet he still sees plenty of reasons to be optimistic about not just its future but its present. “As we stand in New York, we’re significantly outnumbered, so there’s an issue right there just on the mathematics, but I will say there’s great opportunity ahead of us. There are definitely different sections of the state where the Republican Party is strong, where it’s vibrant.” In cities like New York where the GOP’s registration disadvantage is a gloomy 6-to-1, or in Buffalo where the ratio is an even worse 7-to-1, the idea of a potent Republican Party might seem fanciful or delusional. But there are large swaths of the state right now where the GOP is not just on the rise; it is ascendant. Despite the fact that Democrats outnumber Republicans in 26 out of New York’s 62 counties (as of Nov. 1, 2011), currently 13 of the state’s 17 county executives are Republicans—as are 44 of the state’s 57 sheriffs and 46 of its 57 county clerks. 45 of its 57 county legislatures or boards of supervisors—the governmental structure varies—are GOP-controlled. In Nassau County, where registered Democrats exceed Republicans by over 20,000 voters, Ed Mangano was able to knock off the popular Democratic County executive Tom Suozzi in 2009. That same year in Westchester, where there are some 120,000 more Democrats than Republicans, Astorino was nonetheless able to unseat the incumbent county executive Andy Spano by 16 points. And in 2011, Molinaro was able to become Dutchess County executive by beating his general election opponent 62 percent to 38 percent, despite there being 6,000 more Democrats in the county than Republicans. Even in as bruising an election year as 2012 for the GOP, Cox points out that when the Obama tidal wave receded, the party only had lost a single seat in Congress, leaving them with six seats in the House overall—not so bad considering that in 2010 it only had three. The state GOP was able to hold the Dems to a oneseat pick-up in the House thanks to Chris Collins’
defeat of Kathy Hochul, a well-liked first-term incumbent congresswoman who, to be fair, was hobbled by a district redrawn to her disadvantage but who had nonetheless tried to level the playing field by outspending Collins by close to $3 million. Collins’ victory was part of a strong showing in 2012 by the GOP in Erie County, the one glaring bright spot for the Republicans on an otherwise dreary electoral map. In addition to Collins, state Sen. Mark Grisanti, the county party’s nominee, fended off stiff challenges in both the primary and the general to win re-election, and Stefan Mychajliw became the first Republican to win countywide in a presidential year since 1972 by prevailing in the comptroller race. “On paper we have no business winning anything,” says Nick Langworthy, 32, who played an integral role in orchestrating the trio of victories as chair of the Erie County Republican Party since May 2010. “There’s 300,000 Democrats, 150,000 Republicans—but we have the sheriff, we have the comptroller now, the clerk, we have 45 percent of the legislature and we have town supervisors elected in 21 of the 26 towns. So we have a lot of Republican government for what our percentage of the total population is.” Langworthy, who is one of the most respected chairs in the state—and formerly the youngest, before Backus eclipsed him—attributes his success in large part to placing “a heavy emphasis on finding the right candidate for the right time.” “In other areas … they just kind of [go], ‘Well, he’s next in line, so it’s his turn,’ ” says Langworthy. “That’s the old way of thinking that has got to go out the window. We need to go find new people from different walks of life, not just people who have been career politicians to keep running for these different positions and expect different results.” In this case, the right “outside of the box” recruit was Mychajliw, 39, a former investigative journalist wellknown for his distinguished on-air career at the local NBC affiliate, but a first-time candidate. “I had to spend a lot of time answering [questions from insiders and donors along the lines of] ‘What’s this newsman know about the county budget?’ and my explanation was, ‘He knows the county budget and the budgeting process inside and out, because he spent all those years covering County Hall, and he knows where the bodies are buried.’ ” “I can’t tell you how many people told me I was nuts to run for a countywide race in an Obama presidential year,” recounts Mychajliw, a moderate Catholic who grew up one of seven children in the inner city of Buffalo. “People within our own party said, ‘You can’t win. You can’t do it.’ ” Mychajliw, who heaps praise on Langworthy for being “supersupportive of my candidacy in every way,” insists that an often overlooked key to victory is simply having “the will to go for it.” He believes that in order to grow, the state GOP should “take the model of success here in Erie County and apply it statewide.” This year Langworthy will try to build upon his accomplishments by defending Mychajliw’s seat, re-electing Sheriff Tim Howard, and securing the firstever Republican majority in the history of the Erie County Legislature, a goal Langworthy is one seat away from achieving. Rob Astorino, no stranger to improbable victory himself, is of the same mind as Mychajliw, believing fortune rewards the bold—a spirit the state party must
John Catsimatidis for Mayor
Salutes the future leaders of the Republican Party of New York State
www.cityandstateny.com | APRIL 8, 2013
COV E R STO RY embody if it is to rebound. “It’s a chicken-and-egg kind of thing,” says Astorino. “There really wasn’t a Republican Party in Westchester until we won. But once you do, you can build upon a party and prove that you can win locally. You can build resources up, and get the grassroots going and get out the vote. … So it’s hard when you keep losing, but once you start winning and when good candidates step forward knowing that they’re going to have some resources behind them, then you can build upon those successes.” Minority Report
urrently there are no Republican AfricanAmerican elected officials in New York State. The last black Republican to hold office, James Garner, the four-term mayor of Hempstead, Long Island, was defeated in 2005. Likewise, there are no Asian-American GOP electeds in the state—New York City Councilman Peter Koo defected across the aisle to join the Council’s overwhelming Democratic majority in January of last year. The number of Latino elected officials across the state who are Republicans can be counted on one hand—even if you are missing some fingers. The outreach to minorities by the state party over the last decade or so has been anemic at best. It was not always that way. As part of his 2002 re-election campaign, George Pataki launched Amigos de Pataki, a highly successful effort that made significant inroads into the Hispanic community, garnering the governor 38 percent of the Latino vote—up 23 percent from 1998—and playing an important role in securing his third term. “Those outreach efforts [were] … very helpful both to the governor and the party, but it wasn’t sustained,” says Assemblyman Pete Lopez of Schoharie County, who when he won office in 2006 became the first Hispanic Republican ever elected to the Legislature from upstate, and the first Latino GOP member of the Assembly since 1937. Since then, in Lopez’s description, minority engagement by the party has been an “afterthought,” and pursuing the votes of these groups has largely been
Despite having served in a high level of government under Republican Gov. George Pataki, Saleem Cheeks still encounters stereotypical reactions to his personal politics based upon the color of his skin. “I remember in 2008 people would say to me, ‘Oh, you’re excited about Obama, huh?’ And I’d go, ‘Why would you say that?’ You would see their jaws hit the floor. … You’re definitely fighting against preconceived notions.” 14
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written off by state Republicans as futile. “I still remember being told not to campaign in certain areas because whatever ethnic group is not going to vote for me anyway, so why waste time?” recalls Astorino, who sometimes surprises voters with his ability to speak fluent Spanish, a skill he learned in part through his studies at the Enforex School in Barcelona. “I reject that. Whether they vote for me or not, I’m still going to be their county executive, and they deserve to hear what I plan on doing.” Another rising star in the party, state Sen. Lee Zeldin, 33, a lawyer and Army veteran who served in Iraq and represents part of Suffolk County on Long Island, also says he refuses to ignore any of the communities in his district, which is one of the most diverse in the state demographically. “Over one quarter of my population is Hispanic,” Zeldin notes. “I represent a lot of low-income areas, and we have a large black population as well. I don’t get elected without talking to everybody and representing all of the diverse interests as best as I can. The lesson for the Republican Party is to talk to absolutely everyone. There’s no one we shouldn’t talk to, because our message crosses party lines. There are people out there voting for Democratic candidates because Republicans haven’t spoken to them, and if the Republican Party did a better job of letting more people know what we stand for, more Republicans would get elected to office.” Both Chairman Cox and the national party have gotten the message—and it’s about time, some minority members of the party note with frustration. In 2011 the Republican State Leadership Committee launched a $3 million initiative called the Future Majority Project, with the goal of finding and financing at least 100 new Latino candidates to seek seats in state legislatures across the United States. The program helped fund the candidacy of Peterson Vazquez, a disabled Army veteran and small businessman who ran unsuccessfully last year in Rochester to unseat Democratic Assemblyman Harry Bronson. Following the recommendations of Priebus’ autopsy report, Cox, in concert with the national party, has held several high profile events intended to bring minority voters into the Republican fold. In February Cox brought out former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who served as ambassador to China under President Obama and who speaks fluent Mandarin, for a fundraiser in Manhattan attended by over 500 ChineseAmericans. Cox also joined forces with the senior pastor and CEO of the influential Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, Rev. A.R. Bernard—who presides over a congregation of more than 37,000 members, to organize a small gathering of influential African-American Republicans—to begin what Rev. Bernard called “the conversation of change.” As Cox acknowledges, change will not come easily. In 2012 President Obama got 75 percent of the AsianAmerican vote, though only 68 percent of ChineseAmericans supported him. Obama also got 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, beating Mitt Romney by 44 points among Latinos, and doing 8 points better with Hispanic voters than he had in 2008—a deeply troubling trend for Republicans, who had hoped to do far better with Latinos. After all, President George W. Bush got 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004. Obama, the first black President of the United States, actually saw his total among African-American voters decrease from 2008 to 2012, though the
difference was only in the degree of the blowout, a colossal 93 percent versus a near-annihilation of 95 percent. In all likelihood the disparity was only a statistical blip, not any demonstrative reflection of a cooling of African-American voters toward the Democratic Party. The very existence of black Republicans is still anomalous, and the idea of being one remains stigmatized among many members of the African-American community—even as the Republicans have stepped up their efforts to remind voters that the GOP’s roots harken back to Abraham Lincoln. Rev. Bernard, whose congregation is 85 percent Democrat, 10 percent Republican and 5 percent unaffiliated or independent, has been a registered Republican since shortly after he converted to Christianity in 1975. “I just did not buy into the notion that when you’re black, you become a Democrat,” explains Bernard, who has been floated by Cox as a potential Republican candidate for mayor of New York and who still has not ruled out jumping into the race. “With this whole mayoral candidacy … some say I came out of the closet, but I was never in.” Bernard, who notes that Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman were Republicans, says that it is his faith that led him to join the GOP. For Bernard, it is perfectly natural that minorities would gravitate to the party’s message. “African-Americans, Latino-Americans tend to be socially conservative,” Bernard points out. “What is represented by their political representatives tends to be a gap away from what they really feel, believe, and the values that they hold to.” Staten Island Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, 32, who is half Cuban-American and who became the second Hispanic GOP member in the state Legislature—along with Pete Lopez—when she was elected in 2010, concurs with Bernard that the values of many Latinos align with those of her party. “Hispanic voters tend to agree with conservative principles. Many of them are pro-life; many of them are fiscally conservative; many of them believe in traditional marriage; so I think that there are many similarities that we share.” Malliotakis, who describes herself as part of a “new wave of young Republican members” of the Assembly, including Ed Ra, Joe Borelli and Chris Friend, has been a guest speaker at several events to engage minorities and thinks that the party has “been doing a great job in terms of outreach.” A fan of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Malliotakis believes that a run by Rubio for president could help galvanize Latinos’ interest in the party and provide a role model for Hispanics to embrace. Another reason minorities might turn to the Republican Party is a revolt against what Cheeks calls the “culture of dependence.” Cheeks, 33, was raised in Syracuse in a middle class African-American Democratic household in which both his parents were union workers. “I’m the oddball in the family,” he notes. Growing up, Cheeks became convinced that the social services promoted by the Democratic Party did more harm than good, denying struggling individuals a pathway out of poverty. “[The GOP] was speaking the language,” he says. “The other party was sending out the message that you were owed something.” Despite having served in a high level of government under Pataki, Cheeks still encounters stereotypical reactions to his personal politics based upon the color of his skin. “I remember in 2008 people would say to me, ‘Oh, you’re excited about Obama, huh?’ And I’d
COV E R STO RY go, ‘Why would you say that?’ You would see their jaws hit the floor. … You’re definitely fighting against preconceived notions.” Though Rev. Bernard hopes to alter the way blacks and Latinos understand and interact with the GOP, he knows full well why so many minorities are reluctant to give the party a chance. “When you do things that give the impression that you really don’t care about a particular group of people, they’re going to react,” says Bernard, referring specifically to the national party’s stance on immigration reform, a position Priebus’ autopsy singles out as severely detrimental to the GOP’s ability to bring Latinos into the fold. “That’s the perception … [and] perception can be more powerful than reality.” Pete Lopez, whose father was a subsistence farmer from Puerto Rico and his mother a woman of humble means from upstate New York’s “mono-culture,” contends that it’s not enough just to vie for the votes of minorities—the party must take active steps to invite them into its inner circle. “It’s about giving individuals a chance to be a part of the decision-making process and not making it a closed— I’ll use the term ‘good old boys club,’ ” said Lopez, who compares himself to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer because he stands alongside his fellow Republican legislators but is not allowed “to play in any of their games.” He believes that the party leadership should adopt the example of his mentor, the late Republican state Sen. Charlie Cook, who brought a young Lopez onto his staff because he sensed his promise, giving him the opportunity to succeed. Now in his fourth term, Lopez is considering accepting the invitation he has just received to join the Assembly’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus—a group with whom he has worked in the past on legislation, but one that he has never sought to be a part of because “practically speaking, it was just a matter of relative time.” Lopez would be its only Republican member. His district, which is no more than 3 percent Latino, is immense, encompassing seven counties and an area larger than Rhode Island, and was devastated by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Only now, having survived both disasters and redistricting, does Lopez feel stable and secure enough in his seat to commit time to any activities not directly related to his district. After largely ignoring minorities for so long, of course, any efforts by the Republicans to reach out to them will be perceived by many as pandering—a cynical calculation born out of the realization that with the shifting demographics of the state and of the nation that soon it will be impossible for the GOP to win election without their support. So how does the party pull off the outreach that it must undertake without a backlash against such an attempt? “It can’t be just making an appearance, and putting an ad in the paper, and chest-beating,” Lopez says. “That doesn’t wash, because people understand and will be quick to detect sincere engagement versus opportunism.” “The underlying thing that offends the most with the pandering, by either party,” says Cheeks, “is that it assumes that the minority community you’re talking to is so race-conscious 24/7 that that would appeal to them. We don’t sit around thinking about our race all day.” Astorino says the key is not trying to concoct a message artificially tailored to any one group. “Maybe my speaking Spanish puts people at ease, but you know what? I go to African-American communities, and I go to the churches where there’s a commonality, and I don’t change my tune.” Rev. Bernard says the odds of success in the party’s
efforts are long, but it must try nonetheless. “It will be perceived in different ways, but it should not stop the effort,” says the reverend, who admits it will be years if not decades before it is clear whether the seeds they are now planting have taken hold. “Change is not an event; it’s a process.” Lynn Krough is more blunt as to why the GOP must expand its tent. “Our party has to grow or we’re going die,” she says. “It’s that simple.” The 100 Percenters
erhaps the most damaging moment in Mitt Romney’s entire campaign for president was his now-infamous “47 percent” comment. For many voters—Democrats, Republicans and independents alike—it seemed to unmask Romney as what many Americans had suspected all along: a patrician who was feigning compassion for the poor and working class on the campaign trail, while all along planning only to serve the rich if elected. “Those comments were devastating and dumb. Period. And I think that’s the problem plaguing our party, that people have the misconception that we are the party for wealthy white men. That’s not the case,” says Mychajliw, who grew up in a “dirt poor” family that depended upon public assistance. “It hurts us when people can’t connect with our national candidates and that, whether fair or unfair, can trickle down to Republican candidates at the local and state level.” Romney’s remark, of course, was not the first time the GOP had walked right into the criticism that they are out of touch with the everyman. “Why are we always defending the millionaire?” asks Krogh with frustration. “We’re like, ‘You can’t raise taxes on millionaires, that’s not right. They generate all of this business, and they put their money into the economy… Why the hell are we defending them? We should just be saying, ‘You can’t do this to anybody.’ ” Mychajliw emphasizes that it is just as important for the Republican Party to embrace socio-economic diversity as it is to welcome ethnic and racial diversity if the GOP is to survive and thrive. “I look at yours truly. I grew up … in the poorest section of the city of Buffalo … on welfare, food stamps,” says Mychajliw, who drives a beat-up ’99 Oldsmobile with 147,000 miles on it, and who made his humble upbringing and frugality a cornerstone of his campaign. “I wasn’t the traditional Republican candidate that people would think of and that’s why … it is so important that we take a hard look at who our party selects to become public servants. It’s very important for our candidates to come from all types of backgrounds.” Mychajliw explains that it was experiences like standing on line for government cheese that convinced him to become a Republican. Though his parents never once voted Republican in their lives, Mychajliw was won over by “the GOP’s message that a hand up, not a handout was best.” Because Pete Lopez is in the Assembly minority, the allowance he receives from the leadership to sustain his two constituent offices and travel his district is small. “I do 1,000 miles a week. My wife and I have to raise funds— we raise twenty to thirty thousand dollars a year to subsidize the position. All of our mileage, car insurance, cell phones. [In] two of the offices I fund computer equipment, internet access, phone lines out of pocket.” Lopez insists that the GOP has to do more to encourage and make it viable for working class people like himself to serve in public office. “If you read the backgrounds and
bios of many of the members, they’re sons or daughter or grandchildren or nephews or nieces of former Assembly members or senators or judges, or of people of significant financial means. Very few of them are working class people who happen to be able to get here, very few. And there are even fewer who have been able to maintain themselves, and so the issue here in Albany is either you’re someone from a political dynasty or someone of wealth or someone who is owned—owned by an interest group, you’re owned and then subsidized—and so the question is—and this extends to both parties—can an everyday person … who doesn’t come from those quarters … continue to represent the community in this democracy? That’s an open question. I can tell you that’s a discussion that my wife and I have on a daily basis: How can we do this? How can we keep raising funds to subsidize the job and be representative in this democracy, because the odds are stacked against you? … That has to change.” Why the GOP Matters
here is no question that Chairman Cox and the Republican county leaders face immense challenges on a statewide level and in urban centers like New York City and Buffalo in their battle to revitalize the party. These problems are only exacerbated by the recent charges against New York City Councilman Dan Halloran, GOP Bronx Chair Jay Savino, Queens County Republican Vice Chair Vince Tabone, as well as the all-too-frequent revelations of corruption that have plagued the party in the past—though, to be fair, criminality has become systemic in both parties. The next high-profile test of the party’s viability will be the statewide election of 2014, a trial that will be made all the more difficult because in order to succeed Cox and Co. will have to mount a credible challenge to the mighty Andrew Cuomo, which would be no small feat. Can Cox, like Langworthy has done in Erie County, cultivate a candidate who can defy the odds and become New York’s answer to Chris Christie? “We’re only separated by one river! If Chris Christie could do it in New Jersey, of course there’s room for a figure like that in New York,” says Newsweek/Daily Beast columnist John Avlon, who served as chief speechwriter under Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Regardless of what happens, even Democrats should root for the state GOP not to go the way of the Whigs. As progressive reformer Bill Samuels, a Democrat, explains, “Any time there is a one-party system eventually you have corruption.” Sound familiar? “The state Republican Party is well positioned to be a model for a new type of Republican Party nationwide,” continues Samuels. “It’s fairly moderate, it has a lot of good people in it and it’s in our interest, as Democrats, to have two strong parties that politely disagree, that enjoy exchanging ideas. I think that’s possible in New York.” Councilman Ulrich sees even greater urgency in the preservation and future vitality of the state Republican Party. “It’s absolutely essential that New York maintain a two-party system of government,” he says. “If the Republican Party falters and becomes irrelevant, it will be a recipe for disaster. … You need checks and balances in government. The only way you have good government is when you have people with different ideas, different backgrounds, coming together, finding a compromise and passing the laws and making policies that are in the best interest of all New Yorkers, not just some New Yorkers.” www.cityandstateny.com | april 8, 2013
Unlucky Guys Can the Independent Democratic Conference withstand a scandal tainting one of their own? By Aaron Short State Sen. Malcolm Smith woke up to FBI agents pounding on his door in Queens on Tuesday morning— and his colleagues in the Independent Democratic Conference woke up to a pounding headache. Federal prosecutors charged Smith with bribing New York City political officials in a quixotic bid to run for mayor on the Republican ballot, the latest in a steady stream of corruption cases flowing out of Albany. The elaborate alleged conspiracy and extortion plot originating in Rockland County has ensnared Queens Councilman Dan Halloran, two Republican county leaders and two city officials in Spring Valley. But Smith was the most high-profile politician charged, and his alleged role embarrassed the Independent Democrats, who maintain an uneasy power-sharing coalition with Senate Republicans, and gave ammunition to Democrats eager to retake control of the Senate’s upper chamber. “As this independent group of legislators, who are supposedly in favor of fairness and transparency and a standard of ethics that’s better than both parties, they’re supposedly above the fray, and yet one of their own members of this exclusive club is now at the center of this FBI indictment,” said one Republican political insider. “This is as scandalous as you get.” Senators Jeff Klein, David Valesky, Diane Savino and David Carlucci broke from the Democrats and formed 16
april 8, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
their own conference after Republicans gained control of the Senate following the November 2010 election. The lawmakers touted their conference as a bulwark against corruption that had rooted itself among their Democratic colleagues—who have lost Pedro Espada, Hiram Monserrate, Carl Kruger, Efrain Gonzalez and Shirley Huntley to theft, mail fraud, bribery, conspiracy and falsifying evidence convictions, respectively. Senate Democrats threatened to wrestle back the majority after securing additional seats in the 2012 elections. But the Independent Democrats added a fifth member, Malcolm Smith, and announced they would form a governing coalition with Senate Republicans. Smith received a committee chairmanship, which came with a $12,500 raise, and Klein made him chairman of the conference in February. At the time, a Klein spokesman called Smith a “great senator.” Six weeks later, Smith was in handcuffs, and Klein had stripped him of his titles. “These are very serious allegations that, if true, constitute a clear betrayal of the public trust,” Klein said in a statement. “Given the level of criminality alleged, I believe that Sen. Smith should seriously consider whether or not he can continue to effectively serve his constituents.” State Sen. Tony Avella said he was not surprised by the allegations. He thinks both Smith and Halloran are “finished politically,” and said the Senate should move to
expel Smith. “It’s just indicative of the pervasive corruption in city and state politics,” Avella said. “It’s the influence of money. It’s the power of political parties to nominate people for public office. We keep electing the wrong people to public office, whether they’re interested in ego, public office, or money. Too many people in politics and government are in it for the wrong reasons.” Democratic Conference Leader Andrea StewartCousins called Smith’s actions “an unacceptable and outrageous violation of the public trust.” And one state senator, Daniel Squadron, quickly called on Smith to resign. “The charges outlined in today’s complaint are simply shocking,” Squadron said in a statement. “This is something that belongs in House of Cards, not an election to decide who will run our city or any part of our government.” Smith maintained his innocence, and his attorney, Gerald Shargel, told reporters Smith was not thinking about resigning. But multiple Albany sources said his political career is almost certainly over. Smith faces a pending federal indictment with charges that could carry up to 45 years in prison. The Senate Ethics Committee has also begun preliminary discussions over whether Smith’s conduct broke ethics rules, and will convene in the coming days, according to committee chairman state Sen. Phil Boyle. The Joint Commission on Public Ethics may consider investigating the allegations as well. The future of the Independent Democrats is also unclear. The group’s governing coalition still has the numbers to maintain control of the Senate, even if Smith steps down and Democrats win his seat in a special election, but the scandal has shattered the conference’s image as a group untainted by corruption and greed. “This is really bad,” said a Democratic political insider. “Jeff was out there trying to tout this as a new paradigm, and here you have in a very crass way the same old corruption, the same old deal-making and everything else, but just—great, now it’s happening in a bipartisan fashion. That’s progress.” Some members may face primaries, including David Carlucci, who, in the 28-page complaint against Smith and his alleged co-conspirators, Smith mentioned as a legislator whom an undercover agent and a cooperating witness could approach to secure transit funding for a real estate project. Both Carlucci and the U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed he was not involved in any criminal misconduct. “Carlucci should be concerned about Democrats running someone against him,” one Democratic consultant said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the Working Families Party runs somebody.” Across the state in 2014 Democrats will aim to remind voters about a corruption scandal that didn’t involve one of their own caucus. “Democrats are going to have a message to the state: Trust us with the government,” said former legislator Richard Brodsky. “This is much less about IDC than it is about how the Democrats put together a governing majority to control the Senate.” Meanwhile, Smith’s presence in the Senate will serve as a distraction to the Independent Democrats’ agenda. “I’m sure he’ll be up in Albany,” Assemblyman Walter Mosley said. “He will be working. It’s going to be very odd and peculiar.”
No Foolin’! By Aaron Short
hey were furiously studying documents, debating the merits of what was on their desks for 20-hour periods last week while consuming a mix of coffee, donuts and vending machine snacks to keep them awake. Was it a group of SUNY Albany students cramming for their last round of midterms before spring break? Hardly. Legislators plowed through a flurry of budget bills during Holy Week, finishing debate in the wee hours of the morning to put a $135 billion budget that closed a $1.3 billion budget gap on the governor’s desk before April 1. It was the third on-time budget in a row—an achievement Gov. Andrew Cuomo reminded the public about on the radio and at speaking engagements in the days that followed. “After years of out-of-control spending, for the third year in a row we have an on-time budget that holds spending growth under 2 percent,” he said in a statement. “This is a budget that all New Yorkers can be proud of.” For much of March legislative leaders argued over policy matters, including gun control revisions, a minimum wage increase, casino gambling, city school aid and immigration funds for college
kids, in addition to several tax credits and surcharges that could be included in the budget. But by the end of the month, thornier policy issues of gambling and immigration reform were tabled for another day and lawmakers pushed through what was left. Senate Majority Co-Leader Dean Skelos called the budget “responsible” and “business- and family-friendly” and touted providing tax relief to middle class families while limiting state spending. His co-leader in the Senate, Jeff Klein, highlighted a minimum wage increase to $9 per hour, a permanent tax credit for veterans and a $350 rebate check to families with children. And Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver noted the budget added many of his chamber’s “core priorities,” including continued investments in public education, public health and affordable housing, and a minimum wage increase for the state’s
“It was concerning to see a large tax deal arrive at the last minute, which will significantly increase taxes in a few years. It was intended to be a temporary bridge to get past a sudden and severe drop in revenue. It’s starting to take the form of a permanent surcharge rather than a temporary one.”
neediest workers. Cuomo told radio host Susan Arbetter that the budget was more complicated this year because of the addition of another leader in the negotiations, but said that the arrangement did not hold up the process. “It worked,” he said. “They passed the bill. I don’t think people care if it was more difficult for the governor or the parties.” Cuomo added that he checked his BlackBerry for updates on the budget vote, which kept senators up until 4:30 a.m. last Wednesday. On that night, he said, he slept “fitfully.” Taxes and Spending
The state budget capped government spending growth at 2 percent, Cuomo’s stated goal, while allocating $350 tax credits to families with at least one child and incomes between $40,000 and $300,000. But the state’s wealthiest residents will see little relief with the extension of the “millionaires’ tax” for another three years. “It was concerning to see a large tax deal arrive at the last minute, which will significantly increase taxes in a few years,” Citizens Budget Commission senior researcher Tammy Gammerman said. “It was intended to be a temporary bridge to get past a sudden and severe drop in revenue. It’s starting to take the form of a permanent surcharge rather than a temporary one.” Business leaders lobbied to eliminate a utility surcharge known as “18a” that has been a burden on manufacturers and other small businesses. Cuomo wanted to keep the tax for another five years, but Senate Republicans fought to cut it entirely. A compromise to phase it out over three years was reached, saving companies $300 million through the 2016–17 fiscal year and $500 million after that, but some were disappointed it wasn’t eliminated altogether. Minimum Wage
The campaign to raise the minimum wage took over the bulk of the budget discussions, particularly after President Barack Obama proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour. Assembly Democrats
followed suit and swiftly passed a $9 wage hike, but Senate Republicans demurred, floating a training wage for young, unskilled workers. Ultimately lawmakers reached another compromise. They would phase in a minimum wage hike from $7.25 to $9 per hour by the end of 2015, while offering tax relief to employers who hire teenagers. Progressive groups, who had hoped for the $9 increase this year, have largely held their tongues, but business leaders remained frustrated. “The Business Council would have preferred a straightforward training wage, and while the final agreement on both of these measures is an improvement over the original proposals, they are not consistent with a strategy to promote economic growth and the creation of good-paying jobs,” Heather Briccetti, CEO of the Business Council of New York State, said in a statement. Gun Control
Cuomo fired the New York Secure Ammunitions and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act through the Legislature in a mere three days, causing many Republican legislators to lambaste its haste. Legislative leaders altered several sections of the bill after receiving complaints from police officers, movie studios and gun manufacturers. The amendments, which Cuomo called “technical corrections,” allow gun owners to use 10-round magazines in their rifles but only to fill them with seven bullets in most places; let police officers to carry weapons with 10-round magazines; and exempt film and television productions from compliance. Nonetheless, gun advocates were not satisfied. Several gun clubs have sued the state and the governor in order to repeal the SAFE Act in its entirety. School Aid
The state will spend $1 billion more on school aid next year than it did in the previous year, an increase of 4.9 percent. That money will be distributed to school districts that use the state’s new teacher evaluation system and among programs to expand prekindergarten, add community schools in impoverished neighborhoods, and extend the length of the school day and the school year. New York City remains without an estimated $240 million in school aid for the coming year, but Cuomo announced an agreement that could solve an issue holding up negotiations between the city and the teachers’ union and allow both parties to settle their differences by May 29. www.cityandstateny.com | april 8, 2013
Judy Sanders-Office of the Governor
State wraps up budget by April deadline—and most people are actually happy with it.
S P OT L I G H T municipal unions
Outsourced Oversight? CityTime scandal spurred changes, but critics say more needs to be done By Jon Lentz
Fighting for fairness for all
In the wake of the CityTime scandal, New York City officials have taken steps in recent years to increase oversight of outside contractors, including a joint transparency project with the city comptroller, a new city technology development corporation, and the passage of a law requiring a cost-benefit analysis before any outsourcing that could replace city workers. But for critics, still more changes are needed to prevent another debacle like CityTime, a computerized payroll system that went hundreds of millions of dollars over budget and was plagued by abuses. “The administration’s position is CityTime is an isolated incident—I think otherwise,” said New York City Councilwoman Letitia James, who is now running for public advocate. “I believe CityTime is the tip of the iceberg, and am of the opinion that there needs to be more rigorous oversight over contracting and outsourcing, but more important than that, I think the administration should
really focus on in-sourcing and using municipal employees to do the same job, but for much less money.” The CityTime payroll system was aimed at holding city employees more accountable, but its eventual $700 million cost ended up dwarfing its $73 million budget. The Bloomberg administration has defended the system, which is now up and running, and last year a contractor agreed to pay $500 million to avoid prosecution. Administration officials have pointed out that many other city technology projects have moved forward without the problems that dogged CityTime, such as its 311 customer service center and its wireless water meter reading system. But other projects, like the New York City Automated Personnel System and the new 911 system, have been targets for similar complaints. In response to CityTime and other projects, the Bloomberg administration last year announced a new Technology Development Corporation to oversee major information technology projects from start to finish. City officials said the new entity will save millions of dollars by reducing the need for costly contractors. The city also set up a subcontracting database, since many contractors delegate
New York City Contracting
Michael Mulgrew PRESIDENT
OFFICERS: Michael Mendel, SECRETARY Mel Aaronson, TREASURER Robert Astrowsky, ASSISTANT SECRETARY Mona Romain, ASSISTANT TREASURER VICE PRESIDENTS:
april 8, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
Karen Alford • Carmen Alvarez • Richard Farkas Catalina Fortino • Janella Hinds • Sterling Roberson
City contracts, by total dollars in billions
municipal unions tasks to subcontractors. While some questioned whether the motivation behind the new technology corporation was to distance Mayor Bloomberg from contracting problems, the move won praise from several good government groups. “Digitizing and reporting subcontractor payments is a huge leap forward in accountability and transparency,” John Kaehny, the executive director of Reinvent Albany and a co-chair of the New York City Transparency Working Group, said in a statement. “Though somewhat dry and esoteric, this new reporting system has big implications for reducing corruption and improving efficiency and, when fully in place, will make New York City one of the most fiscally transparent cities in the world.” The City Council has also taken several steps to improve oversight and cut costs. It
S P OT L I G H T
even relies on consultants to monitor the contracted work of other consultants. “Moving forward, the city needs to ensure that it doesn’t become hostage to IT vendors, like SAIC or others, who develop proprietary systems that only they can manage,” Liu said, referring to the CityTime contractor. “Whenever possible, city employees, not outside consultants, should be operating our IT infrastructure.” Henry Garrido, an associate director with District Council 37, said that he welcomed many of the improvements but that the city still needs to take more control of oversight meted out to quality assurance contractors. “You cannot always turn over the key to a contractor and expect him to run it if his bottom line is profits,” he said. “Part of the problem we had with the Bloomberg style of management, from a private sector point of view, was that these procurement
“Though somewhat dry and esoteric, this new reporting system has big implications for reducing corruption and improving efficiency and, when fully in place, will make New York City one of the most fiscally transparent cities in the world.”
overrode a mayoral veto to pass a law that requires the city to conduct a cost analysis before outsourcing and for city agencies to publish their procurement plans. The Council and the mayor worked together on legislation to flag contracts that go over budget. Additionally, City Comptroller John Liu, who has criticized Bloomberg over CityTime, partnered with the mayor on the Checkbook 2.0 website, which aims to make contracting more transparent by posting city contracts and spending online. “Last month, we joined City Hall to announce a new process that will ultimately make public the millions, if not billions, of dollars that go to city subcontractors, who currently operate in the dark,” Liu said. “This data will be posted on the Checkbook NYC website that we launched in January. It was one of my priorities when I took office because I wanted to empower every New Yorker with the necessary tools to act as a fiscal watchdog.” Liu agrees with James that city employees should do more of the work outsourced to outside consultants. He called the number of consultants hired by the Bloomberg administration “out of control,” adding that the administration
rules that were put in effect years before his tenure were more of a hindrance to getting stuff done, as opposed to the checks and balances necessary to get stuff done within costs and within reason. To that extent, as long as city agencies continue to see that as just a nuisance, as opposed to a government’s checks and balances, then there’s going to be an effort by city agencies to continue to curtail those rules and not exercise them they way they should.” Like other observers on both sides of the issue, Garrido said that many city contracts are necessary and make sense. What he takes issue with is the use of consultants for long-term work—for example, contractors who develop an information technology system and then must be retained to keep it running. “In the Bloomberg administration, an army of contractors and consultants are coming to the city agencies, not only to advise the city how to run the agency but basically doing the day-to-day functions,” he said. “The stuff that should be inherently within the city government— you have consultants who are making a considerable amount of money, and on top of that you’re paying a company to supply them to run what should be basic functions of government.”
Uniformed Firefighters Association Representing New York City’s Firefighters
WHO PROVIDE CRITICAL, LIFE-SAVING SERVICES:
u In the 11-years since the Bloomberg Administration began (2002-2012), New York City Firefighters have responded to over 5.225 million emergencies.
u For Firefighters 2012 was the Second Busiest Year in FDNY History. u The Last 10-years were the Busiest in the FDNY’s 148-year History. u Firefighters’ role protecting New Yorkers continues to expand: Medical 1st Response
• • Fires & Other Emergencies • Major Disasters such as Blizzards, Blackouts & Hurricanes
The FDNY is New York’s multi-faceted rescue department. Emergency Responses by Firefighters up Drastically, Despite Round After Round of FDNY Cuts:
Since 2000 up 11.4%
From 2000 - 2012
Since 1990 up 38%
From 1990 - 2012
Since 1985 up 59%
From 1985 - 2012
From 1960 - 2012
New York City Firefighters respond to emergencies ranging from fires, man-made and natural disasters, explosions, gas leaks, building collapses, scaffold rescues, serious vehicle accidents and extractions, medical emergencies and terror threats. Post 9-11 New York’s Bravest are the city's first line of defense to chemical, radiological, biological and nuclear threats (CRBN).
The demands and toll on firefighters is greater than ever, but firefighters will always put the lives of New Yorkers first.
WWW.UFANYC.ORG www.cityandstateny.com | april 8, 2013
CityandState Quarter ad 2013 image:Layout 1
The union that cares for and about the community
S P OT L I G H T municipal unions
LABOR PAINS The next mayor has the unenviable task of settling outstanding municipal union contracts, and with few resources to do so. By Nick Powell
“The future of Labor is the future of America.” - John L. Lewis
New York State Public Employees Federation, AFL- CIO
of the major unions representing city employees has a current contract—some have been without one since 2008—and the mayor’s preliminary budget sets aside very little money for wage increases for city workers. Most notably, increases promised to public school teachers and administrators in bargaining sessions from 2008 to 2010 have not been delivered, heightening tensions between the United Federation of Teachers and the Bloomberg administration that climaxed with the recent impasse over teacher evaluations. “The focus of the next mayor coming is going to be on teachers, the teachers’ union and schools,” said Ed Ott, a labor consultant. Part of the problem is that around the time some labor contracts were settled in 2008, the Wall Street collapse threw New York City’s fiscal situation into a tailspin. New York City keeps a labor reserve account that in 2008 totaled roughly $1 billion, but it has since been depleted and now contains only $107 million. Over the last five years, funds were transferred from the reserve to the general fund to help close the budget deficit. Bloomberg has set aside money in the budget for each fiscal year through 2017 to replenish the account back to its 2008 level, while adding the caveat that the money will not be used to settle past contracts. Of course, that could change with a new mayor in office. Even accounting for those changes to the reserve fund, the cost of settling the unions’ contracts will be astronomically high. The cost to settle teacher and school administrator contracts alone will
DC37photos by Clarence Elie-Rivera
Representing 54,000 professional, scientific and technical employees www.PEF.org Susan M. Kent Carlos J. Garcia President Secretary-Treasurer
In January, New York City will inaugurate a new mayor. Michael Bloomberg will be working on his tan in Bermuda, marginal candidates will have faded into obscurity and one man or woman will be sitting in City Hall with a lengthy list of municipal unions ready to negotiate pay raises and long overdue collective bargaining contracts. In these early months of the campaign season, when mayoral candidates are short on substance and long on platitudes, the daunting labor situation has become a hot topic in mayoral forums and debates. There is little consensus among the candidates, even along party lines, on how to deal with expired municipal contracts. Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio, the city’s public advocate, has called on the unions to make concessions on pensions and health care costs. His Democratic rival, Comptroller John Liu, has touted pension reform as key to keeping the city fiscally solvent. Former comptroller Bill Thompson has mostly blamed City Council Speaker Christine Quinn—herself a Democratic candidate—and Mayor Bloomberg for the inaction on contracts. Meanwhile, Republican candidate Joe Lhota has hinted at a hard-line stance in future union negotiations. In a recent interview Lhota said he understands the importance of unions in “elevating people into the middle class,” but that “I also won’t provide an unfair contract to the people of the city of New York in any way, shape or form [by] over-negotiating.” Unfortunately for the unions, there likely won’t be enough money in the city budget to grant generous contracts. None
20 april 8, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
S P OT L I G H T
come out to an estimated $2.4 billion, and demand that the workers sacrifice, everyan additional $3.1 billion will be needed body gets that, and if there’s no money, to settle other municipal contracts, there’s no money,” Ott said. “But when according to a report by James Parrott of there is a turnaround in the economy and the Fiscal Policy Institute using data from the revenues start coming in, I think even the city comptroller’s office. The mayor’s Lhota is gonna feel the pressure to be fair. preliminary budget includes funding for The people in the city, not just the city wage increases of 1.25 percent, which workers, are going to kind of expect it.” Labor will also be expected to concede is significantly lower than inflation and likely will not satisfy unions which have on several issues to reach a compromise in collective bargaining. Parrott been waiting years for wage increases. The resolution of the current cold war suggested that the unions should commit surrounding the municipal contracts to improving the quality of services and hinges on the approach of the next admin- collaborate with the city on reducing poverty. istration. Labor insiders The cost of health say that the lines of “When there is a insurance for municipal dialogue with the various turnaround in the employees is another candidates have been economy and the huge factor in ballooning open but hardly substanrevenues start the city’s budget deficit. tive in terms of how they would negotiate. Some coming in, I think Health care costs are feel that a new mayor will even Lhota is gonna expected to grow by want to prioritize sitting feel the pressure to almost 40 percent by 2016 and will amount to $1.5 down with larger unions be fair. The people billion of the $1.9 billion such as UFT and the police and firefighters’ in the city, not just budget deficit projected the city workers, for that year, according to unions, in order to set a pattern for negotiations are going to kind a report by Maria Doulis of the Citizens Budget as well as to mend fences of expect it.” Commission. Mayor with kingmakers who can Bloomberg has called for alter a mayor’s chances for reforming this system, and the onus falls re-election. “Obviously a Democratic mayor is not on the Municipal Labor Committee to going to want to make the same mistake negotiate those changes. Harry Nespoli, that Dinkins made in his ’89 term, which who chairs the MLC and is president of was to not figure out a way to settle the the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Associateachers’ contract,” said one union opera- tion, said discussions have been virtually tive with ties to city workers. “Then the stagnant and that he is willing to wait until teachers sat out in ’93, and it probably cost a new mayor is elected before moving him the election. Any of the Democrats forward. “It’s very difficult to do because the are going to be committed to try to figure cost of living in New York City continues something out.” Ott believes that regardless of whether to go up,” Nespoli said. “All we are is the the next mayor is a Republican or Demo- middle class, and we’d like to stay middle crat, he or she is not “going to walk in class. What we’re hoping for is that the new the door and give away the store.” He mayor, whoever he or she is, will come in predicted that the new mayor would take a and say, ‘You know what, let’s sit down pragmatic approach and continue discus- and try to make this work.’ If we do that, sions while waiting for the city’s economy we can reach an agreement, but we don’t have that at the other side of the table right to continue to recover. “When you go into a crisis and you now.”
Uniformed Firefighters Association Representing New York City’s Firefighters
Always Focused on Public Safety u Binding Arbitration in its current form is vital for the safety of ALL New Yorkers. u Binding Arbitration guarantees that those who put their lives on the line for the citizens of New York are protected. u Public Safety is enhanced when New York City Firefighters and Police Officers have a process that allows their contracts to be resolved.
Over nearly the last dozen years, significantly increased emergency demands placed on firefighters, coupled with numerous cuts in staffing, closed fire houses and closed fire companies has impacted every firefighter. The UFA membership recognize that the 2013 Elections will be critical in determining the future of the FDNY’s ability to keep New York City America’s safest large city. Our union and its members will reserve making endorsements in elections until after the New York City budget is finalized and after the Binding Arbitration Extender is resolved on the state level.
Left: DC 37 workers rallying in 2012. DC 37 is one of New York City’s many municipal unions working without a contract. Above: New York City Board of Education employees protest school worker layoffs.
WWW.UFANYC.ORG www.cityandstateny.com | april 8, 2013
S P OT L I G H T MUNICIPAL UNIONS
THE PLAYERS THE STATE Two major public-sector unions in New York are the Civil Service Employees Association, or CSEA, and the Public Employees Federation, or PEF. CSEA, headed by Danny Donohue, represents about 300,000 state government employees. PEF has 54,000 members in professional positions and elected a new president, Susan Kent, last summer. Richard Iannuzzi is president of NYSUT, a 600,000-member federation of education unions across the state. The state’s labor commissioner is Peter Rivera, a former assemblyman. State Sen. Diane Savino chairs the Labor Committee, while Assemblyman Peter Abbate Jr. chairs the Governmental Employees Committee.
THE CITY Michael Mulgrew heads the city’s 200,000-member United Federation of Teachers, which has been at odds with Mayor Michael Bloomberg over teacher evaluations and other issues. District Council 37, headed by Lillian Roberts, the Transit Workers Union Local 100, led by John Samuelsen, and Gregory Floyd’s IBT Local 237 also play a big role in city politics. Other key union leaders include Harry Nespoli of the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association, Patrick Lynch of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and Steve Cassidy of the Uniformed Firefighters Association. New York City Councilman Michael Nelson chairs the Civil Service and Labor Committee.
THE ISSUES PENSIONS
BY THE NUMBERS
Last year the state Legislature created a new pension tier for new state workers, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it into law. However, mayors and county executives across the state continue to struggle to balance their budgets and have called for changes in how they negotiate with their unions over benefits and for more mandate relief measures.
SERVICE CUTS Unions focused on service cuts and other issues in the recently completed state budget. Cuts to mental health and disability services were only partially restored; lawmakers failed to find a solution to avert the potential closure of the Long Island College Hospital; and workers’ compensation issues also came up. At the city level, unions are also pushing for more funding—for example, to bring subway service back to peak levels. ENDORSEMENTS New York City unions have started announcing their endorsements in a number of races, though public unions are expected to wait until May to endorse a candidate in the Democratic mayoral race, where Council Speaker Christine Quinn is seen as the front-runner. Quinn, who recently reached a compromise on paid sick leave, could benefit if unions rally around her, but the delay also allows competitors to gain ground.
APRIL 8, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
Union membership has long been in decline, and the trend has increased in the past year. But public sector unions in New York have avoided declines and continue to have far larger shares of the workforce belonging to a union compared with the private sector.
NEW YORK UNION MEMBERSHIP* YEAR
2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
68.0 70.2 68.9 68.8 70.0 70.5 72.4 70.5 72.2 71.1
14.8 15.1 16.1 14.7 15.8 14.4 14.0 13.7 13.5 13.3
24.6 25.3 26.1 24.4 25.2 24.9 25.2 24.2 24.1 23.2
*As a percentage, by share of the workforce Source: Unionstats.com
The NYC Charter School Center would like to acknowledge the UFT for some of its lesser-known accomplishments: Founding two charter schools in New York City Negotiating “thin contracts,” less than 30 pages long, for charter teachers Securing public funding for a charter school facility Expanding its charter school’s co-location in an underused school building
CHARTER SCHOOLS TRULY ARE FOR EVERYONE CITY&STATE
www.cityandstateny.com | APRIL 8, 2013
S P OT L I G H T municipal unions
Expert Roundtable TOM DiNAPOLI
New York State Comptroller
Chair, Assembly Governmental Employees Committee
Mayor of Syracuse
New York City Comptroller
Q: Your concerns about the governor’s plan to smooth out pension costs led to changes. What made the proposal more acceptable? TD: My responsibility, as the fiduciary of the [state’s pension] fund, is to ensure that the pension system is properly funded so that benefits can be paid to retirees. That’s why I recommended a variation of the existing program that was enacted in 2010. This program has given local governments flexibility while continuing to ensure that the fund remains among the strongest in the nation. New York has done an excellent job over 90 years to ensure that our pension system remains strong, and I oppose any plan that would jeopardize that system. I believe the original proposed pension plan in the executive budget failed to adequately protect the pension fund from potential shortfalls. Q: Is there any pension legislation on the table this year? TD: The focus this year was to provide local governments with another option to contend with the spikes in pension costs driven by the market meltdown in 2008 and 2009. In the last three years, the Legislature has passed two new tiers of pension benefits. These tiers have significantly reduced the longterm expected costs of pensions, while maintaining the traditional definedbenefit pension system for most workers in New York. Q: Should municipal unions do more to help local governments balance their budgets? TD: Everyone should be included in the discussions about how to address the problems, including unions. The problems have been mounting for years, so there won’t be any overnight solutions. There can and should be public discussions about how to prioritize resources and find ways for government to operate more cost-effectively. This includes working closely with business leaders, community leaders, unions and taxpayers. We need to collaborate, share ideas, and examine tough choices involving our current level of public services and the price that taxpayers are willing to pay.
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Q: What is your top priority on public sector unions? PA: I’ve been out there watching— whether it’s the public sector or the private sector—how employees are treated, and my goal is always to try to have an even playing field. And over the years people in the middle class, especially those who belong to unions and the civil service, have been getting a bad rap. It seems that everything that has gone wrong in this country over the last 10 years has been blamed on unions, and a lot on the public service unions—that they’re getting this, they’re getting that, and it’s hurting the taxpayers. I think people forget that those people are the taxpayers, especially the public employees in New York State. They’ve lost some stuff in their pensions over the years. A lot of companies or organizations no longer even pay health care for their employees. One goal has been reducing the cost of health care. Q: The governor’s pension smoothing plan was modified and included in the budget. Is more mandate relief needed? PA: I don’t see how that’s mandate relief. I think it was a big charade. All it’s doing is, they have to pay less into the pension system now and pay it in the future. To me it’s like a big scheme, and I don’t see how it’s mandated. That’s paying their fair share of the pension system. What we’ve done is going to jeopardize the pension system in the future. The actuaries in the administration say the costs will go down when Tier VI goes into effect. There’s no guarantee on that. Right now a county is going to pay 5 to 6 percent less than they should be paying into the system. If that goes on for five years, that’s 30 percent that they haven’t paid into the pension system. The administration says when times are good, they’ll put it back in. You take 30 percent out of your bank account and say when times get better you’ll put it back in—how many times do you put it back in? We came out with a compromise that’s a little better, but something that’s got to be monitored.
Q: You raised concerns about the pension smoothing plan that was included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget proposal. Now that the proposal has been modified and passed, what are your thoughts on the plan? SM: The plan that was passed has notable differences from the original proposal; however, it is still more borrowing. We cannot reasonably attempt to finance our cities using a plan that leaves greater debts that would come due in just a few short years. This will just kick the can down the road temporarily, avoiding necessary hard discussions and real solutions.
Q: Your office played a big role in exposing the CityTime scandal. Does privatization or the outsourcing of government work continue to be an issue in New York City? JL: Our municipal workforce can do most jobs better and at less cost to taxpayers than can expensive outside consultants. Simply put, the number of consultants the city hires is out of control. As absurd as it may seem, the city has now taken to hiring consultants to monitor the contracted work of other outside consultants, taking itself completely out of the picture. When the city refuses to take responsibility, the public gets taken advantage of, as we saw in the CityTime fiasco.
Q: Last year the Legislature passed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new Tier VI pension plan aimed at cutting costs for state and local governments. Are there any new cost-cutting proposals on the table this year that you support? SM: I believe the governor’s proposed 2 percent cap on compulsory binding interest arbitration awards for fiscally distressed municipalities is a meritorious proposal and a positive step in the right direction. Binding arbitration is a major cause of what has gotten cities into the position they now face.
Q: Is there any pension legislation on the table this year that you support or oppose? JL: The lack of retirement security is one of the most pressing issues facing New Yorkers right now. One-third of our households in which the top earner is near retirement have less than $10,000 in liquid assets. They can’t afford to retire. Just 35 percent of New York City workers participated in an employerbased retirement plan in 2009, and there are the nearly two million workers in New York City without access to retirement benefits through their employers. What I’d like to see is legislation that makes it easier for private-sector workers to retire with security. I support the creation of New York City Personal Retirement Accounts (PRAs) that pool employee and employer contributions into retirement funds that would be managed and invested by city pensionfunds staff. While PRAs do not require any taxpayer funds, they could potentially reduce the burden on social services for seniors who lack retirement income and deliver significant governmental budgetary savings.
Q: You have joined other mayors and county executives in calling for more mandate relief measures to help local governments balance their budgets. Should municipal unions be expected to do more to help in that effort? SM: At this time, everyone needs to do more to govern responsibly. Everyone—unions, business leaders, community groups, elected officials, state legislative leadership, the comptroller and the governor—should come together and have a discussion aimed at developing a new viable economic model for our cities. There is no villain, and there should be no victim; we each have a responsibility to make the tough and smart choices the people of our communities need. Everyone should be asked to step up and make the hard decisions we need right now before the detrimental consequences of the failure to do so are foisted upon New Yorkers.
Q: Is your office considering reviving its proposal to consolidate New York City’s five pension funds? JL: We are proceeding with parts of the proposal that we can act on unilaterally, such as bringing more of the management in-house and reducing outside consulting fees, and hope that the state Legislature can do its part in enacting the parts of the proposal that require legislative action.
Civilianization is Good Public Policy Every day hundreds of able bodied uniformed police officers sit behind desks and perform routine clerical tasks. They file, type, answer phones and do paperwork. This is a poor and wasteful public policy. The public's tax dollars are wasted while the City's streets are not as safe as they could be. An arbitrator has ruled against this practice and a court upheld the decision. Yet, the City and Police Department have refused to budge on this issue. Police officers, after five years of service and including benefits, are paid three times more than clerical-administrative employees. Overtime for clerical employees is limited in the NYPD, so uniformed officers often must work the overtime required to complete routine clerical tasks. Taxpayers pay more for this. The current city's administrative budget proposal calls for attrition of close to 500 police officers next year. This is the same number of positions that Commissioner Kelly and the New York City Council agree can be civilianized. Since there is no civilianization plan in place for next year, there will be 500 fewer officers on patrol while that same number continue to perform clerical duties. A civilianization project would save the city $45 million a year by our estimate. This estimate is more conservative than those of former City Comptrollers. Big cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, San Jose, San Antonio, Phoenix, Houston and even Suffolk County in New York all have enjoyed the benefits of civilianization. Primarily, substantial savings and enhanced public safety. The clerical-administrative title of Police Administrative Aide (PAA) was created in the 1960's by Mayor John Lindsay, for the purpose of civlianizing. Yet this logical and cost effective endeavor remains unaccomplished. This year, the city's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is stonewalling civilianization requests, despite the fact that former City Comptrollers, Public Advocates, the Independent Budget Office and City Council all have stated that civilianization is a budget saver! What does OMB know that no one else does? They are not saying, thus allowing taxpayers' dollars to be wasted. We are calling on the City Administration and City Council to invest in a civilianization project this year so that more tax dollar savings can be realized for many years to come. The resulting additional police officers on patrol will keep us safer and allow for more effective community policing.
www.cityandstateny.com | april 8, 2013
PERSPECTIVES Patrick Dolan
How Two Fires Changed New York Forever
t was the week that forever altered our country’s understanding of workplace and fire safety. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Manhattan and the New York State Capitol Building fire in Albany came just four days apart in March 1911, but their legacies are still being felt today. The disasters quickly became part of the national dialogue, and for the first time lawmakers en masse began to focus on workplace conditions and fire prevention and suppression. The Triangle Factory fire started in a scrap bin at the end of the workday and quickly spread through the eighth floor. Many workers who tried to use a broken fire escape plunged to their deaths, while locked doors kept people from escaping down the stairwells. Firefighters rushed to the building, but their equipment only reached the sixth floor, and many workers overwhelmed by the smoke chose to jump out the window, while others remained trapped inside. By every account, it was one of the most horrific and deadliest workplace fires in American history. As the nation began to learn about the 146 people who perished— mostly young women—and how they died in the fire, Americans began to demand workplace safety improvements. And as word was filtering through the country, another destructive fire, albeit nowhere near as deadly, struck the majestic New York State Capitol Building. The Capitol, one of the most costly government buildings in the country, caught fire after 2 a.m. on March 29 when it is believed that faulty wiring sparked in the third floor library. The fire, fueled by more than 500,000 books and 300,000 manuscripts, engulfed the fourth and fifth floors. Many rare documents and artifacts, including Native American and early Dutch settler items, were destroyed, though the only reported human casualty was an elderly night guard named Samuel Abbott. The sight of the gutted, smoldering building shocked residents in
Hector Figueroa and Rob Speyer
REBNY And 32BJ: Why We’re Working Together
n this day and age, finding common ground and working together on political solutions is as challenging as it is essential. Our two organizations know very well how hard it can be, and how rewarding the effort. The Real Estate Board of New York and 32BJ Service Employees International Union—two groups often on opposing sides—held a series of joint meetings of our organizations, which collectively represent the men and women building the New York of tomorrow and the thousands of service workers who operate these buildings on behalf of millions of residents and office professionals. The catalyst for this collaboration is the 2013 mayoral race. Though unions and management don’t agree on everything, we all know that a safe, vibrant and thriving New York City benefits us all. It spurs economic development; it creates good middle class jobs; and it keeps the five boroughs as the place to live and raise a family. Representatives from REBNY and 32BJ over the last two months sat together and listened to candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties discuss their vision for New York City. We wanted these candidates to speak to “both sides” at the same time, in the same room, in order to engage in honest, practical dialogue starting from an acknowledgement of our shared destiny. These meetings were an opportunity to hold elected officials accountable while engaging one another in tough conversations. At these meetings, we collectively asked the candidates to offer specific and substantive solutions to a number of issues critical to the real estate industry and, frankly, all of New York City.
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Albany who had been led to believe that better workplace ventilation, new elevator the building was indestructible. According procedures and more. The commission to the Times Union, architects touted “the also substantively discussed for the first building’s invincibility, and no standpipes, time the plight of immigrant laborers who extinguishers or other fire safety equipment didn’t speak English and were working in were installed.” dangerous jobs, like the chemicals industry. For state lawmakers, The Capitol was soon there was literally rebuilt and retrofitted no way to ignore the with fire hoses, evacudamage of the fire. ation stairways, standBuilding codes and pipes and other fire workplace safety were safety measures. quickly catapulted to The nascent fire the top of the priority suppression industry list by the duo of disasgrew exponentially ters, and action was after the tragic events of soon to come. March 1911. Insurance Heavyweight state companies began to legislators Robert incentivize the installaWagner and Alfred E. tion of sprinkler systems Smith championed the by reducing premiums. creation of a Factory Fire safety measures, Investigating Commislargely ignored by local sion, which looked lawmakers, were now into fire hazards, added to the building factory inspections, code. workers’ health and To this day the legisother issues. The lative action taken in The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in U.S. Department of Albany and municipaliManhattan Labor called the New ties like New York City York commission “by far the broadest, most has made our state a leader in workplace thorough study of workers’ safety and health safety. Subsequent changes to building codes done up to that point.” have helped reduce fire deaths by 70 percent The commission held 59 public hearings in the last 40 years. The results are clear: Fire and heard testimony from 472 witnesses, safety and suppression systems save lives. and staffers investigated 3,385 workplaces. The commission got a total of 20 laws passed Patrick Dolan is the president of Steamfitters in the state, which focused on fire safety, Local 638.
Affordable Housing: One million more and the rest of New York City demand and residents are expected to call New York City deserve answers to the issues previously home by 2030. How will outlined, as well as others our next mayor encourage like land use policy, sustaindevelopment to account ability and infrastructure for such a large population investment. influx while preserving and Our organizations may growing the city’s stock of disagree about how the affordable housing? candidates should answer Job Creation: Despite these questions and who is job growth, unemploybest fit to run New York City, ment remains stubbornly and we may hold different high and wage projections visions for our city, but look like they will be flat we both believe dialogue, 32BJ SEIU’s Hector Figueroa for the foreseeable future. engagement and the search How will our next mayor for common ground set a grow and diversify our foundation for doing what economy with well-paying is right for the city and all middle class jobs? the people who live here, Immigration: We have not just for ourselves. And always been a city of this seems like a worthwhile immigrants. How will our endeavor that all those next mayor continue to running for mayor should implement initiatives to follow. foster the city’s immigrant community? Hector Figueroa is the Today’s political landpresident of 32BJ SEIU. Rob scape requires bold and Speyer is the chairman of detailed solutions to these the Real Estate Board of New REBNY’s Rob Speyer problems. Our members York.
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PERSPECTIVES Michael Benjamin
Cuomo Should Grant Local Control Over Casinos
omething is astir in New York. Ripples of revolution are occurring all over. Mayor Stephanie Miner of Syracuse pushed back against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pension borrowing scheme, which mortgages our children’s futures. Gun rights advocates are pushing back against Cuomo’s hastily drawn-up SAFE Act. Now Brooklyn Assemblyman Karim Camara has introduced legislation that grants localities a say in the siting of casinos in their areas. Camara’s bill also includes preferences for local vendors and minority- and womenowned businesses, also known as MWBEs. Since Cuomo has effectively cut off New York from new sources of revenue by derailing efforts to approve natural gas exploration, he wants to go all-in on casino gaming. Camara, who heads the Legislature’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus, denies that he is opposing Cuomo on casino development. He believes that host communities should have “input,” and that local vendors and MWBEs should have an opportunity to benefit from casino development. Because he is constrained by the state Constitution, Cuomo must hold a statewide referendum amending New York’s governing document. The Legislature is considering an amendment to the state Constitution that would allow for as many as seven Atlantic City-style commercial casinos to be built throughout the state. Cuomo has already imposed downstate political values to halt gas extraction in the Southern Tier and to impose callously strict gun control measures on law-abiding upstate gun owners.
Bruce N. Gyory
Battle Lines Already Forming For Next Year’s Budget
he ink is barely dry on this year’s state budget, but we can already glimpse two issues that will absorb media ink in next year’s budget: school aid and the DREAM Act. School aid formulas in Albany, to borrow from Winston Churchill, are a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. The riddle is how the state’s school aid formulas came to be. The mystery is how—despite being ruled unconstitutional in the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) lawsuit—school aid formulas continue to be bound by the regional “shares” that were the basis for the Court of Appeals’ finding that the distribution of funds was unconstitutional. The enigma is that intrastate Senate politics continues to lead to the same result, despite the fact that within the Senate’s new bipartisan governing coalition, a large majority would benefit from the “foundation aid” formula created to correct the constitutional defects. Coming into this year’s budget negotiations, education advocates hoped that the foundation aid formula developed to comply with the court decision would be brought back to the commitment level made in 2007. The Great Recession blew a hole in the funding levels underlying that commitment. School aid did rise 5 percent in this year’s budget, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to reduce “high tax aid” was rebuffed by the Senate, leading Majority Coalition Co-Leader Sen. Dean Skelos to declare, “So it’s a win for Long Island.”
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Now the governor wants to use downstate further than the heavy-handed passage of the votes to win a gambling referendum and to NY SAFE Act to see how the people of New York manipulate the possibility of siting a casino in react when this governor excludes the people Western New York to hold the Seneca Nation of of this state from the conversation.” Indians hostage to his agenda. Lamentably, Rev. Jason McGuire concedes Cuomo’s desired version that the votes are there to of the gaming legislapass the casino amendCuomo asserts that ment, but he still believes tion would not permit local decision-making in that localities should at he has brought the siting of casinos in a about an end to the least have a voice in their community. That task will siting. dysfunction that be assigned to an unelected Cuomo appears to commission stacked with have stacked the deck by characterized Albany his appointees. removing casino developbefore he ascended Cuomo asserts that he ment as an immediate onto the scene ... and issue from the areas where has brought about an end to the dysfunction that that abiding by his the overwhelming number characterized Albany before will is fundamantal to of deciding votes will come he ascended onto the scene. from in November—New effective governance. York City, with its mayoral Building on this spurious claim, he insists that election, and Nassau abiding by his will is fundamental to effective County with its county executive race. governance. I do not support casino gaming as an Nonetheless, Camara has the courage economic stimulus for any region, but if it is to argue that “local communities should to be legalized, I strongly feel that its implehave some say because it’s fundamental to mentation must include a provision for local governing.” approval—in far greater detail than we have “Fundamental to governing,” when that been provided. “fundamental” does not align with the goverSome development projects are better run nor’s wishes, is not a phrase often uttered in out of Albany through the lens of statewide Albany, especially by someone widely seen as a priorities, but casino development and siting Cuomo ally. does not fall into that category. Tough-talking Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, who has tangled with Cuomo Former Assemblyman Michael Benjamin over the new gun laws, says, “We need look no represented the Bronx for eight years.
Answers can be found in the glue holding together the old Senate Republican majority. Upstate Republicans placed their priority on transportation and economic development projects, while Long Island Republicans placed their priority on securing a guaranteed “share” of school aid for their suburban districts. In the new governing coalition, if the Independent Democratic Conference’s five senators joined with the 20 upstate Republicans on prioritizing foundation aid, they could perhaps move the Senate position away from the nine Republicans from Long Island who insist upon strict adherence to shares. Three factors will make school aid a hot issue next year. First, a new mayor of New York will likely become a strong advocate for CFE reforms. Second, the smaller upstate districts are hurting, and the political pressure will likely increase dramatically on their senators—mostly Republicans—to place a much higher priority on education aid. Finally, 2014 will be an election year, heightening the political antennae of incumbents, given the popularity of school aid. As for the DREAM Act, it was not enacted in this year’s budget, leaving Hispanic and immigrant advocates seething. In 2013 Hispanic voters will be absolutely key to the outcome of the New York City mayoral and the Nassau County executive’s race (won by the GOP incumbent by less than 400 votes in 2009). Hispanics will likely
comprise at least a fifth of the overall New York City mayoral vote and could be just under 10 percent in Nassau. I suspect the Hispanic vote will be at the forefront of both parties’ minds in 2014 if it proves decisive in electing New York’s mayor and/or Nassau’s county executive. Moreover, the GOP lost their reapportionment bet. The Republicans came up short in the race for the new seat they created through the merger of the Mohawk and Upper Hudson Valleys, which left Long Island’s GOP incumbents to absorb an increase in the minority population to 31 percent, according to the census. The Hispanic population is what is driving that surge; for example, 15.5 percent of Nassau County’s population is now Hispanic. At least three GOP districts on Long Island now have voter registration bases where 20 percent or more of the vote is minority (Hannon, Boyle and Zeldin) and two more are close to or over 10 percent (Martins and Fuschillo), with several more likely to follow. One doubts that either side of the Senate’s majority coalition can safely ignore the DREAM Act in 2014. Whatever else bobs to the top in next year’s budget battles, expect school aid and the DREAM Act to be in the mix. Bruce N. Gyory is a political consultant with Corning Place Communications and an adjunct professor of political science at SUNY Albany.
HAVE A QUESTION FOR JEFF? EMAIL EDITOR@CITYANDSTATEny.COM
DO AS I SAY A political advice column
I’m considering running for office in 2014, but here is my dilemma: I am not sure I want to put myself out there. My father and grandfather were both elected officials, and my father has encouraged me to run. I think I could win based largely on name ID, but having to knock on doors just is not my cup of tea. Do you think I could win without doing that? —Definitely no initials or location!
years later. Still, if you’ll read the profile, you’ll see that he doesn’t actually appear to enjoy the lifestyle—and these days, his numbers are in the tank. So, before doing it to please your family, take a hard look at what you’re getting into. I usually found it amusing when people slammed doors in my face. If you’re more sensitive, you’re gonna struggle, at least at first. And remember—some introverted dynasty candidates (think Al Gore) seem much happier now that they’re out of the game.
Hey, Jeff, definitely not complaining, but why have you been writing about sex so much lately? —N.L., Washington, D.C.
A few thoughts. By Jeff Smith Because I’m married, and my wife is First, you have to f---ing want it. pregnant. If you don’t want it, voters sense it. And you’ll probably lose. That said, knowing nothing The NRA actually doesn’t about what office you’d run for or who your opponent(s) might be, or how hard you’d work (or they’d work), yes, I spend that much money think you could win. I’m sure you’ve considered this, but compared with their influyour family probably has residual name recognition and, ence, so where does their power especially if your father or grandfather is alive, they likely really come from? retain fundraising connections that could benefit you. —T.S., Washington, D.C. As a general rule I abhor dynasty candidates since so few compare to their parents (with some notable exceptions, such as Jeb Bush or the impressive Udall brothers), but Their passion. Pundits constantly cite the fact that the fact is that most Americans vote like they shop, and 85 percent of people are for gun control measure X, or when given the choice between 7-Up and Super-Up, they 83 percent for gun control measure Y, to bolster their usually buy 7-Up. case that the House should pass X or the Senate should Second, if you dread knocking on doors, you probpass Y. Unfortunately, those numbers are irrelevant if ably shouldn’t get into politics. It is, of course, a people only 5 percent of that 85 percent (about 4 percent in business, and if you don’t like people, you’re going to be all) actually vote based on the issue, while 60 percent pretty miserable most of the time. New York Times Magaof the 15 percent against gun control (9 percent in all) zine writer Matt Bai once profiled someone who reminds actually vote on the issue. This is the difference between me of you, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, whose an issue’s salience (the proportion of people who tell a father, John, was a legendary U.S. senator. During Linc’s pollster they care about it) and its intensity (the proporfirst campaign, for delegate to the state’s constitutional tion of people actually willing to call a legislator, visit convention, he went to his home turf to knock on doors. her office, knock on doors for/against her and vote According to Bai, “He sat there for 20 minutes, holding based solely on the issue). The NRA has been extremely a stack of palm cards with his picture on them, trying to effective at stoking paranoia—witness the huge spike work up the courage to get out of the car.” in gun sales after the president’s re-election. And their Now, he’s turned into a pretty successful pol, first power comes from the fact that, even in the wake of the reaching the U.S. Senate and, after a 2006 loss, recovering Newtown tragedy and despite seemingly overwhelming to win an unusual independent bid for governor four public opposition to their positions, the percentage of
pro-gun single-issue voters exceeds the percentage of pro–gun-control single-issue voters.
Based on the postmortems, the 2004 election was all about “microtargeting.” 2008 was about online fundraising. 2012 was about data analytics. What will 2016 be about? —B.M., New York City You’re right about what the postmortems said. But really, all of those phenomena are united by a single thread: Campaigns are leveraging technology to recreate the politics of yesteryear, when block captains knew everybody on their block and didn’t need Big Data or anyone else to tell them how their neighbors voted and what they cared about. As famed scholar Dick Fenno (whom I’ve quoted before) wrote, at its core, retail politics is about a candidate communicating to voters: “I’m one of you.” And so, while the technology will continue to evolve, I suspect 2016 will extend this theme: In a society where people are increasingly accustomed to depersonalizing call centers, social media and mass emails, campaigns will continue seeking innovative ways to personalize their outreach by saying, “I’m just like you.”
When I decided to work on the presidential campaign I thought this would be a glamorous lifestyle. But it really wasn’t—at all. I could tell that you need to work three to four election cycles to get to a position where there’s any glamour at all. That means like six to eight more years, and I don’t really want to wait that long. What would you advise me to do? Isn’t there some shortcut I could take? —J.L., Chicago Yes. Move to L.A. and try to get on a reality show. www.cityandstateny.com | april 8, 2013
# W I N N E R SA N D LO S E R S
WINNERS & LOSERS
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Top-seeded Andrew Cuomo beat 16th-seeded David Paterson’s legacy, but trailed eighth-seeded gun advocates at halftime due to sloppy turnovers. And 420th-seeded Assemblyman Steve Katz smoked his opponents before the second-seeded State Troopers quashed his run. Our brackets are busted, but there are clear winners and losers. Go to cityandstateny.com each week to vote.
WEEK OF MAR. 25, 2013
WEEK OF MAR. 18, 2013
WINNERS LHOTA 26% CUOMO 23% L
LEVIN 20% LIU 18% SKELOS 13%
Steve Levin: No Lincoln Restler challenge John Liu: Launched his mayoral campaign Dean Skelos: Some tax cuts, minimum wage phase-in
HAT TRICK Andrew Cuomo: The governor reached a budget deal before the deadline, positioning himself to notch a record-setting trifecta of on-time budgets, with the latest one the earliest in decades. The budget includes initiatives to tout when he runs for re-election, like small business tax cuts, middle class tax credits and a minimum wage hike. If he keeps this streak going, New Yorkers may want to keep him from running for president just to keep him running things here.
UP IN SMOKE QUINN 47%
GRESHAM 4% KATZ 38% ESPAILLAT & PERALTA 8% LITTON 3% Adriano Espaillat & José Peralta: DREAM deferred George Gresham: LICH closure bad news for 1199 SEIU Larry Litton: Selene Finance worst bank for Sandy victims YOUR CHOICE Christine Quinn: The Speaker had been enjoying a nice few weeks with her mayoral campaign launch and polls showing her as the front-runner. But her intransigence on paid sick leave continued to be a thorn in her side, resulting in boos from LGBT groups at a mayoral forum, though she eventually reversed course. Even her proposal to set up an inspector general to oversee the NYPD has been hammered, with Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly coming out emphatically against it. Is the honeymoon over?
YOUR CHOICE Joe Lhota: The MTA chief– turned–mayoral candidate continued to build “Lho-mentum,” racking up endorsements from all four GOP New York City Council members. With Tom Allon out of the race, George McDonald on the fundraising ropes and Adolfo Carrión apparently boxed out of a Wilson Pakula thanks to Bronx GOP Chair Jay Savino defecting to Lhota’s camp, the Republican field has quickly shaken out to be a head-to-head between Lhota and John Catsimatidis.
APRIL 8, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
Steve Katz: The assemblyman’s credibility went up in smoke when he was busted for possession of marijuana. The arrest was embarrassing not because Katz (R-White Castle) was cruising around, listening to Cypress Hill, with two baggies and 3 1/2 grams of dank. The problem was that Katz, a member of the drug abuse committee, voted against the legalization of medical marijuana, and a week before his arrest put out a statement excoriating the “illegal drug culture”—apparently for skipping him in the rotation.
WINNERS BREWER 41% DINAPOLI 19% FURILLO 15% FALLON 13% ESPOSITO 12% Joseph Esposito: Police chief was NYC’s good cop Jill Furillo: For-profit hospital measure left out of state budget Jimmy Fallon: Heeeeeeere’s a tax break!
IN COMPTROL Tom DiNapoli: The state comptroller comes across as mild-mannered, but he handed the mighty governor a budget defeat. When DiNapoli questioned the governor’s pension smoothing plan, Cuomo dismissed his frenemy’s criticism with backhanded praise and an inference that municipalities wouldn’t be in such a fiscal mess if the comptroller could get the pension fund to perform better. But in the end it was DiNapoli’s approach that carried the day when the ink dried on the budget.
Gale Brewer: “Leave” it to Brewer. Three years after the councilwoman introduced her paid sick leave bill, Speaker Quinn finally blinked, allowing the popular measure to the floor for a vote. Sure, it wasn’t all that the coalition of labor leaders and union activists wanted, but it was close and forced a complete about-face by Quinn—the type of victory that only comes in an election year. Will Gloria Steinem now be endorsing Brewer for Manhattan borough president?
YOUR CHOICE THOMPSON 35%
DICKER 33% MCDONALD 18%
WOODLOCK 8% GIPSON 6%
Terry Gipson: “Vampires” win this round George McDonald: Opts in to public matching funds program Kristin Woodlock: More misspent Medicaid money
DICKERED AROUND Fred Dicker: The dean of the Albany press corps has baited the governor for turning leftward since signing the SAFE Act at the beginning of the session. So what does Cuomo do? Why, call Susan Arbetter’s Capitol Pressroom for two weeks in a row. Dicker felt the governor was, well, dickering him around, and has been complaining about the slight. But, hey, the gov will call his favorite biographer at some point, won’t he?
Bill Thompson: The mayoral contender came under fire over the proposed NYPD inspector general, suggesting an IG’s office should be placed under Commissioner Ray Kelly, seemingly defanging independent oversight. For a candidate whose base is in the African-American community, siding with Kelly, whose relations with that community are tense, probably was not the wisest political move. Plus, Thompson’s campaign omitted key information about the source of more than $450,000 of the money he raised, a violation of campaign finance law.
B AC K & F O R T H
MASTER OF COMMUNICATIONS A Q&A WITH ARI FLEISCHER
ri Fleischer arrived on the national stage as the first White House press secretary for President George W. Bush, serving in that role until mid-2003. These days, he lives in Westchester County and is focused on another area where top-notch communications advice comes in handy: sports. While consulting through his company, Ari Fleischer Sports Communications, he also keeps a hand in politics with regular appearances on CNN. In addition, he helped author a recent Republican National Committee “autopsy” report on how the political party can compete with the Democrats in the wake of its poor performance in the 2012 elections. City & State Managing Editor Jon Lentz spoke with Fleischer about Gov. Andrew Cuomo, weapons of mass destruction and what the Republican Party needs to do to win another presidential election. The following is an edited transcript.
C&S: What do you think about Andrew Cuomo? AF: I’m very low on Cuomo. I think he is a classic Northeastern liberal. He did a double deal on taxes. He said he would pass temporary tax hikes. He’s made them permanent. That’s my personal view. My analyst view is that if Hillary doesn’t run, the Democrats have to take Gov. Cuomo seriously. He’d be a formidable Democrat in a primary. I’d love to have him in the general. C&S: Do you think New York could elect a Republican governor? AF: It’s a long shot in New York, because of the massive voter registration advantage the Democrats have, but I don’t rule it out, especially with the corruption that’s taking place, which, sadly, involves both parties. That’s a reference to New York City, of course. It’s events like that that can create a backlash for a reformist candidate, but it’s a long shot in New York State. C&S: How about Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino? AF: I know Rob well, and I’m very high on Rob. It’s amazing he won that county executive race because of Westchester’s couple of decades’ long trend of going Democratic. Rob is smart and able, and he’s a breath of fresh air in a land of tax increases. In New York State, like Illinois and California, the answer to everything is to raise taxes. Rob is pushing in a different direction, and he’s a moderate leader who understands how growth benefits one and all, and that you can’t just keep raising taxes to solve our problems. It puts us on the course of Illinois and California. When you look across the country, the 10 states with the lowest unemployment, eight of them have Republican governors, and there really is this big gap between the tax hiking approach and the low taxes, high growth approach. There’s a true ideological split, and I’m afraid the big former industrial states like California, Illinois and New York are all on the wrong side of history.
cans have to make conservatism more welcoming, more inclusive. We have to stop sending foolish signals that we don’t like people or want people in this country, and we have to remember that there are many who struggle, who are lower income and who want nothing more than to become middle income. Republicans have to help them make that dream come true. C&S: Do you regret that the Bush administration got it wrong on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? AF: Of course I do. I’ve gone back and thought about that many times. And it changed everything. It’s the biggest reason President Bush left office unpopular. And of course it led to war. On the other hand, we in the Bush administration faithfully and accurately told the American people what we were told by the CIA. What we said was identical to what Bill Clinton said, what Al Gore said, what John Kerry said, what Hillary Clinton said. When I look back and I hear people say that George Bush lied, it makes me very sad, because the liar was Saddam Hussein, and I only wish that Bush critics would criticize Saddam Hussein instead of George Bush. Hussein lied, not Bush.
To read the full text of this interview, including Fleischer’s path from the Democratic Party to the GOP, his favorite New York baseball team and why life in the White House isn’t like an episode of The West Wing, check out cityandstateny.com.
C&S: What does the Republican Party need to do to stay relevant nationally after the 2012 elections? AF: I was one of the authors of the report that came out of the Republican National Committee about what we need to do for our future, and I wrote the section on messages, which really laid it out about how Republicans lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. Unlike George Bush, who got 44 percent of the Hispanic vote when he ran in 2004, Mitt Romney had 27 percent. Republicans are on a national path to never again winning the White House if we can’t make a greater, better appeal to nonwhite communities. Republicans must do better with the black community, with the Hispanic community, with the gay community. I’m on the board of the Republican Jewish Coalition, and that’s an instructive group, because in 1992 Bush’s father got only 11 percent of the Jewish vote on his way to defeat to Bill Clinton. In 2012 Mitt Romney got 30 percent of the Jewish vote. If Republicans can do in the Hispanic community and the black community what they’ve done in the Jewish community, i.e., make inroads, Democrats will never again win the White House. Politics is not always about winning a majority; it’s about making inroads in the other team’s camp. And that adds up to give you a majority, especially with the Republicans’ massive advantage among white voters. I do think the Republi-
www.cityandstateny.com | APRIL 8, 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