Tom Suozzi on what is next for the property tax commission and his own political future. Page 8
VOL. 1, NO. 2
Up and Coming:
Richard Brodsky goes
Capital Region Spotlighting five elected officials to watch.
Back & Forth on congestion pricing and staying in the Legislature.
Democrats Fret Over Greenâ€™s Delay of Game No back-ups in Syracuse if former footballer skips race
Checks and The DiNapoli Balances Three, One
Judges charge that Year Later pay raise delay is Latimer, Magnarelli forcing them off and DelMonte reflect state bench on the Spitzer attacks
FEBR UARY 2008
Roundtable Discussion Looks to Take Mystery Out of Article X X, THE STATE’S POWER plant siting law, expired more than five years ago. But according to those who participated in a roundtable discussion on New York’s energy future Jan. 30, there is new power in the effort to get a new law passed. This could happen by the end of the current legislative session, said Arthur “Jerry” Kremer. Kremer, a former member of the Assembly and chair of New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (AREA), favors a siting law that would be “fuel neutral,” with no extra restrictions placed on one kind of plant versus another. With Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) calling for a different approach to energy policy in his State of the State address, and enough pressure coming from both business interests and consumers upset by the high price of electricity, Kremer expressed confidence that such a law will pass. “There’s sort of an awakening going on that you can’t say that you want more power and then say it’s only restricted to that one type of power and nothing else, because it just won’t happen,” he said. The event was sponsored by New York AREA, the Independent Power Producers of New York, the Energy Association of New York State, the Business Council of New York State, Inc. and The Capitol as a forum for discussion about the status of energy policy in New York. Energy advocates have long been pushing for a renewed Article X, which would allow the construction of new power plants in the state. No new plants have been built in the state—with the exception of projects which were already underway—since the law expired at the end of 2002. Without new plants to augment the energy supply as demand continues to increase, advocates of renewing Article X say costs will steadily rise. The efforts to pass a new Article X have been stalled by concerns about the placement of power plants and a larger political debate about the future of New York’s approach to energy, with specific fears about the safety of nuclear plants a major factor in public opinion. But to retain existing businesses and attract new ones, said Heather Bricetti, vice president of government affairs for the Business Council of New York State, the state must act quickly. Otherwise, she and others indicated, those businesses are likely to relocate in neighboring states where the energy policy is set. “Businesses need to plan,” she said. “They can’t plan day-to-day. They have to plan four years out, five years out. And if we want to attract new businesses into the state, we need to have an energy market that is viable so that the businesses can get the energy they need at a price that is reasonable.” Gavin Donohue, president & CEO of the
Jerry Kremer led a roundtable discussion on New York’s energy future Jan. 30. Independent Power Producers of New York, noted that the state was also suffering from not having money come directly from new power plants and the jobs they would provide. He said he regularly gets calls from power companies interested in building power plants in New York that ultimately turn elsewhere to avoid getting entangled in the uncertain process of getting new plants approved in New York. That, he insisted, means New York is missing out on the economic benefits of plants while still paying an environmental cost when the plants instead go to nearby states. “We are sending incentives to tell people ‘go invest in Pennsylvania; go invest in Massachusetts; we don’t want your taxes; we don’t want your jobs,’ but New York will also succumb to your pollution because of how the trade winds work,” Donohue said. He said fuel neutrality in a new Article X is critical, and encouraged the state to look equally on clean coal and nuclear plants and those that rely on solar, wind power, and fossil fuels. Safety and emissions thresholds should be the determining factors, he said, and nothing else. But while Patrick Curran, executive director of the Energy Association of New York State, joined the chorus of voices in support of renewing Article X, he also encouraged focus on what he called the “overlooked stepchild of the restructuring era”--infrastructure. He encouraged a renewed effort to get new infrastructure built. “If we have all that power but the system that gets the power from the plant to the outlet is stressed and hasn’t been built and hasn’t been maintained and hasn’t been supported, the lights still aren’t going on,” he said. “And that’s an issue that by far we’re paying even less attention to than we are to Article X.”
Democrats Fret Over Green’s Delay of Game
FEB RUARY 2008
Democrats are hoping Tim Green will make up his mind to come off the bench and take on Sen. John DeFrancisco.
BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS
F DECIDING WHETHER TO RUN FOR
New York State Senate were like football, Tim Green, a former defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons, would be at fourth-and-goal. But the clock is ticking, and Green may be running out of time. Green, now a Syracuse-based attorney, television commentator and novelist, is said to be considering a run against incumbent State Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Onondaga). But Green has been mulling the decision for over six months now. And with the November elections fast approaching, Democratic recruiters are getting antsy. “It’s getting pretty close, but we still have time,” said Sen. Jeff Klein (DBronx/Westchester), who heads the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee’s fundraising arm. “Anyone who wants to run, we’re asking them to raise some money and raise their profiles in their respective districts.” With the Republican majority in the Senate hanging in the balance and only a handful of seats up for grabs, Democratic strategists are weighing their best chances at unseating incumbent Republicans. For many in the party, Green, a Republican-turned-Democrat with the star power of a professional athlete, could be the right man to oust DeFrancisco. While Klein would not comment on whether Green plans to enter the race, he did say Green’s profile in and around the Syracuse area would be an obvious advantage. The race will be highly competitive, Klein said, “if he is the candidate.” Klein offered no names of other potential Democrats in the district. Green has had discussions with Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) and Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D), and is very close to making a decision, said a political strategist from the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee who asked not to be named because talks are
still ongoing. “He’s not 100 percent there yet,” the strategist said, indicating the campaign committee’s interest in getting a candidate set. He confirmed that there are no other candidates being considered. “We would prefer a decision sooner than later,” the strategist added. Diane Dwire, chair of the Onondaga County Democratic Committee, said her group would begin looking at potential candidates sometime after the first of March. She would not discuss whether Green was on the list, or her group’s view on the former defensive end. Green, a graduate of Syracuse University, played seven seasons with the Falcons from 1986 to 1993. After graduating from Syracuse Law School in 1994, he took a job at Hiscock & Barclay, LLP. That work, along with his sports and children’s writing, helped earn him the title of the “renaissance man of sports” by both Sports Illustrated and the Los Angeles Times. A secretary at Green’s law office said the potential candidate was declining comment on the race, and that she had amassed a list of reporters to call back when he made a decision. Although the incumbent advantage is
No back-ups in Syracuse if former footballer skips race
Giuliani’s presence on the ballot to stimulate the party’s base, may now find staving off a Democratic coup more difficult. In any case, though, DeFrancisco is unlikely to be an easy target. An eightterm incumbent, he is well-liked in the district and the chair of the Judiciary Committee in Albany. Party enrollment is in his favor as well, with Republicans edging out Democrats in the district by 10,000 registered voters. Plus, as of the January campaign finance filing deadline, DeFrancisco has raised over $260,000 in donations. Green, by contrast, is not registered with the State Board of Elections and has not raised any money. “DeFrancisco is some ways in very good shape,” said Jeffrey Stonecash, a political science professor at Syracuse
The race will be highly competitive, said State Sen. Jeff Klein, “if he is the candidate.” powerful in New York, the state has been trending Democratic. Rudolph Giuliani’s (R) exit from the presidential race have some speculating that Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R), who was banking on
University, noting the senator’s efforts spearheading a plan to stimulate upstate tourism and against unpopular development projects. With Green in the race, though, Stonecash said the dynamics could change very quickly. “But Tim Green’s got charisma, he’s well known, he could get some money,” he added. “I’ve been doing polls for 27 years and I’ve seen lots of cases where you thought someone was secure, and then wham!” Democrats are hoping he is right, and that Green will come off the bench to give their team a shot at winning. “He’s got a great résumé and he’s good looking,” said the Democratic campaign insider. “If you have someone like Tim Green in the race, I can see that as winnable.” email@example.com
FEBR UARY 2008
Building on Our Success BY PAUL TONKO NEW YORK STATE ENERGY Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is at the forefront of New York’s efforts to solve our shared energy and environmental challenges. Our nation is dangerously dependent on fossil fuels and foreign sources of energy, experiencing skyrocketing energy costs, and confronted with an aging energy infrastructure and growing demand. Harmful emissions are damaging the environment and causing climate change. The good news is that New York already has the infrastructure in place with which to address these issues. Indeed, NYSERDA is nationally recognized for its experience, expertise, and ability to address these energy and environmental challenges. Our program activities range from research and development—which feeds both conservation and supply solutions—to deployment, from energy efficiency to renewable sources of energy, from low income assistance to education initiatives, and from market transformation to environmental preservation efforts. Now we must build upon the success of these programs. As we move forward, it is important to recognize that there is no single solution.
Rather, we must both invest in energy efficiency and develop renewable sources of energy to achieve a sound, sustainable outcome. Gov. Spitzer has aggressively responded with his 15 by 15 plan, which calls for New York to reduce statewide electricity use by 15 percent by the year 2015. Simultaneously, this plan will reduce energy costs, spur economic opportunity, curb pollution, and address global climate change. NYSERDA views the 15 by 15 initiative as the cornerstone of New York’s energy and environmental policies. To that end, NYSERDA offers a portfolio of cost effective and proven programs that promotes energy efficiency and conservation, including alternative fuel vehicles, green buildings, energy efficient appliances, residential and commercial building improvements, clean energy technology development, and more. Under NYSERDA’s New York Energy $mart SM Program, the level of annual energy bill savings has grown to $480 million. The level of annual greenhouse gas reduction has grown to about 2 million tons, which is equivalent to removing about 400,000 cars from New York roadways. And for every dollar New Yorkers invest through this program, $2 in energy costs are avoided.
Coupled with energy efficiency, a variety of energy sources are needed to ensure a sustainable energy future. The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) program is a critical component to our efforts to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and develop green energy sources. The goal of the RPS is to increase the proportion of renewable electricity used by New York consumers to at least 25 percent by 2013. As the administrator, NYSERDA supports and provides financial incentives for the production and use of innovative energy resources, such as hydropower, wind, biomass, solar, hydrogen and other emerging technologies. Further, Lt. Gov. David Paterson’s
Renewable Energy Task Force, in which NYSERDA is heavily participating, is formulating a strategy to increase renewable sources, potentially beyond RPS goals. New York State is a member state in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which has as its goal the reduction of greenhouse gases. In this effort, NYSERDA contributes its expertise and is taking the lead in developing the carbon auction system. An important facet of the RGGI is the ability to trade and sell carbon offsets, which would secure additional revenues that can be invested in programs to further reduce harmful emissions. In addition to significant energy and environmental benefits, these initiatives present vast economic opportunities. A clean energy economy, enjoined by the intellectual economy and supported by a Green Collar workforce, represents a sector ripe for sustainable economic growth. Fossil fuels will most certainly remain part of our energy mix for some time to come. However, we must be efficient in its use, even as we grow the balance of renewable energy sources. Only then can we achieve a sustainable energy future. Paul Tonko is the president and CEO of NYSERDA.
MOMS DEPEND ON OUR POSITIVE ENERGY Can a devoted Mom feel positive about nuclear energy? Yes. Because there’s a lot of positive energy at the Indian Point Energy Center. Want your children to inherit a cleaner planet? Indian Point produces none of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. The National Academy of Sciences, an independent assessment group of scientiﬁc experts, said that without Indian Point, high carbon fossil fuel replacement plants would dump millions of tons of pollutants into New York’s air. Thanks to Indian Point, you, and your children, can breathe easier. Kids (and Moms) thrive on our positive energy. For more of it, visit our website at www.rightfornewyork.com
Indian Point Energy Center
WE’RE RIGHT FOR NEW YORK
FEBR UARY 2008
The Power of Competition
ISSUE FORUM: ENERGY
Learn Energy Independence by Greening New York Schools BY REP. STEVE ISRAEL HREE DECADES AGO, OUR NATION
New York's competitive ener gy markets have allowed independent power producers to become a driving force in our state's economy. In addition to supplying nearly 75% of New York State's electricity, electric generators: - Have invested more than $6 billion in their plants since 1999 - Employ over 10,000 people - Pay more then $300,000,000 annually in taxes Competition in New York has also fostered the development of 350 megawatts of wind powered resources and proposals for another 50 projects totaling over 6,000 megawatts -- roughly the same output as eight lar ge power plants. Today, due to the emer gence of over 1,800 megawatts of demand r esponse resources, New Yorkers now have the ability to exer t some control over their ener gy blls, help keep the lights on during contingencies, r educe envir onmental impacts, and slow down the need for additional power plants. “New York's competitive markets have given electric generators the power to become leaders in our industr y. We stand ready to power New York's economy into the future.” — Gavin Donohue, IPPNY President/CEO
www.ippny.org • 518-436-3749
recognized that we were in the midst of an energy crisis. Our initial response was lackluster, and it hasn’t improved much since. In Hollywood terms, our response is parallel to remaking Planet of the Apes—and the remake wasn’t good the first time. It’s been the same script, same scenery and same plot since we vowed to break our dependence on fossil fuels—we’ve just had different actors. But the plot has finally twisted with the passage of landmark energy legislation that will make America more energy independent, cut energy costs and grow our economy through the creation of hundreds and thousands of new “green” jobs. Now that we’ve made a national commitment to changing the “players” by creating the next generation of green thinkers, New York should lead the way in transforming the “set” where these players are educated by making a statewide commitment to the greening of our schools. I recently read a book called “Smart Kids, Smart Schools” by Edward Fiske. Fiske explains that because of the rapid industrialization of the late 1800s, schools were actually modeled after factories— ideologically and structurally. These educational factories were complete with teachers as factory workers, children as raw material and the bell sounding for a change or break in the everyday assembly line of basic skills and knowledge. The emphasis was on standardization, uniformity and efficiency, because public schools were the first line of defense against rebellion and anarchy. When our school buildings were constructed, we did not anticipate that we’d one day be struggling with a dependence on foreign oil that is a threat to our economy, our national security and our future. The energy bills for schools in my district and around the state have skyrocketed over the past few years. This is unacceptable. The legacy of our factory schools has left us with an aging infrastructure that is quite literally blowing our tax dollars out its windows. Updating or replacing school structures can reduce energy use and save taxpayer money. Schools around the state can go green by assessing their potential to generate on-site renewable energy using technologies like solar, wind, geothermal and biomass, entering into green energy contracts to purchase renewable energy offsite and retrofitting buildings using the most efficient technologies.
According to the Green Building Council, green schools on average use 33 percent less energy, save 32 percent more water and reduce solid waste by 74 percent when compared to traditional school buildings. These energy savings extend to school budgets, with the typical green school saving an average of $100,000 per year on energy costs or $4.2 million over the life of the school. New York is already taking the lead in encouraging schools to go green. Last year, the State Education Department and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) announced new guidelines to encourage the use of energy efficient design and technology when building and renovating schools. These voluntary guidelines, known as the “Collaborative for High Performance Schools,” will help schools develop and maintain learning environments that contribute to improved academic achievement while reducing operating costs and protecting and conserving our natural resources. After these standards were announced, Governor Spitzer and I joined NYSERDA and the Long Island Power Authority to host the first “Green School Summit” for New York. At the summit, held at SUNY Farmingdale, we shared best practices so that area superintendents, principals, school board officials and managers of school buildings, grounds and fleets could learn how to reduce their energy consumption and employ advanced energy technology and building improvements. But these improvements are expensive, and schools can’t be expected to make them on their own. That’s why I’ve introduced legislation in Congress that would provide matching funds to schools when they make investments to reduce their dependence on oil, whether that means energy-efficient lighting or solar panels for their roofs. My legislation provides federal matching funds—up to 50 percent of a project’s total cost—to school districts implementing state guidelines through investment in energy efficiency upgrades and technology. By incentivizing schools to retrofit with energy-efficient technologies and renewable resources, we can save tax dollars, create new energy markets and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And New York schools can take the leading role. Steve Israel is a Democrat representing parts of Suffolk County in Congress. He leads the Next Generation Energy Security Task Force.
“Our New York ENERGY STAR labeled home saves us money every month on our energy bills. And it’s so com mfortable, no matter how hot or cold it gets. There are no drafts.” –The Harrison Family, Mechanicville, NY
Today, more builders and developers are discovering the advantages of building homes and multifamily buildings that use LESS ENERGY and provide greater comfort and greater durability. What you build today will save your customers on energy for years to come. Plus, there are FINANCIAL INCENTIVES and MARKETING SUPPORT for constructing a building, whether single or multifamily, that meets the New York ENERGY STAR standards.
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1-877-NY-SMART or log onto www.GetEnergySmart.org
FEBR UARY 2008
ISSUE FORUM: ENERGY
Our Renewable Energy Future: We Are in This Together BY STATE SEN. KEVIN PARKER
S WE LOOK AT OUR CURRENT
environmental conditions, we know that there are some truths that cannot be denied. The big truths are: up to two-thirds of potential energy is lost when traditional energy systems extract oil, coal and gas from the earth, and transport them over long distances for refining and delivery to consumers. However, renewable energy can be produced right where it is used, so almost nothing is wasted. Our supplies of oil, coal and uranium are diminishing and becoming increasingly more expensive. Also, the extracting and processing of fossil fuels wastes water, a critically valuable resource. The world’s growing demand for energy and water, and the limited supplies of these resources, causes conflict and war. Currently, accessible renewable resources can deliver six times more energy than all the people on this planet use every day. And renewable-energy fuels are free. The sun and wind do not increase their price, and technology will become cheaper as the market grows. Rising fossil-fuel prices slow economic growth and benefit only the countries and industries that produce and supply energy. Renewable energy provides stable fuel prices while creating a large number of high-skilled jobs in many sectors. Producing electricity from fossil fuels releases climate-heating CO2 waste—either into the atmosphere or into the ground for storage. Most renewable-energy fuels produce no emissions. The sooner we switch, the sooner we can stabilize our climate and prevent catastrophe. Another argument to consider is that for 100 years, the fossil-fuel industry has been heavily subsidized by governments around the world. To continue this financial support means wasting tax money on doomed technology. Governments should support future technology that has the capacity to solve energy problems with clean, affordable energy for everyone. The centralized control of energy by a few leaves us all vulnerable to accidents and political power plays. More than two billion people still have no electricity at all. Renewable-energy technology produces energy in diverse, small-scale ways, allowing energy independence for everyone, everywhere. The individual truth is that the earth’s peril is an illumination for all of us. This moment is the opportunity for us to share in the responsibility of a changed future. The least we can do,
the very least, is our own part in transforming the world into a new kind of place for our children. We’re all in this together now. When you save water, you’re saving the rivers and oceans. When you turn down the heat in winter, you’re turning down the heat on the planet. When you take the cleanfuel bus, you’re doing your part to let all children breathe easier. Recovery of the stuff you recycle becomes the new resource for industries and jobs. Everything matters now. In the here and now, global transition to clean, green energy will mean much less CO2 in the atmosphere, reduced climate chaos, reduced pollution of our air, water and land, greater energy security for communities and nations, fewer conflicts and wars over energy resources, affordable energy for everyone, skilled jobs in cities and rural areas, and sustainable economies with stable fuel prices. And in the here and now, local transition to energy conservation means cleaner air, drinking water, and food, for the earth’s ecosystem is much the same as the human ecosystem. From the smallest thing to the largest, we are at the moment of opportunity. Leave the smallest footprint you can. Together we can save the earth. But we must think fast and act now. Kevin Parker is a Democrat representing parts of Brooklyn in the State Senate. He is the ranking member of the Senate Energy Committee.
FEB RUARY 2008
ISSUE FORUM: ENERGY
With EEPS, a Careful and Collaborative Approach to Energy is Coming BY ASSEMBLY MEMBER ANDREW HEVESI YORK STATE’S STRATEGIC energy policy is about to be changed for decades to come. The New York State Public Service Commission and other expert parties are in the process of deliberating and creating New York State’s Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (EEPS). As a member of the New York State Assembly’s Committee on Energy, I support their efforts and encourage all interested parties to join together and help make New York a national and global leader in energy efficiency. In the last 10 years, after decades of debate, the scientific community has accepted the merits of global warming and climate change and its link to human activity. It has become clear that calculated efforts to achieve reductions in carbon emissions and decrease energy demand are imperative for the sustainability of future generations. As a result, policy makers in New York State are reacting to this emerging consensus by seeking to reduce the demand for energy in our city and state. While the impetus for change is a positive and welcome development, we are now faced with the uncertain prospect of individual entities making isolated decisions about ways to reduce energy demand. These decisions have the potential to impede our overall progress and run the risk of duplicative efforts, inefficient programs and unnecessary costs to our constituents. Recently, for example, Con Edison has asked the Public Service Commission to raise the rates in its service area to pay for demand side management (DSM) programs intended to reduce per capita consumption among its customers. Mayor Bloomberg has proposed a variety of demand reduction initiatives in New York City. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority is employing a variety of nationally renowned DSM programs, while numerous other entities around the state, including the New York Power Authority and other utilities, have their own programs. As policy makers, it is crucial that we demand that all involved parties in New York resist the temptation to make judgments in a vacuum. On behalf of all of the residents and ratepayers we represent, we must encourage participation in a deliberate and collaborative effort. The EEPS, now being created by the Public Service Commission, represents exactly that type of careful and collaborative approach. The effort to create EEPS resulted from the April 19, 2007 announcement by the governor that New York State would pursue the aggressive goal of decreasing energy consumption by 15 percent from forecast levels by 2015. This “15 x 15” initiative sets the most challenging target in the nation and places New York where it should be, as a national and global leader in the effort to reduce energy consumption.
Currently, four working groups of the most knowledgeable and expert talent that the state of New York has on energy efficiency issues are working to create a structure to achieve the goals set forth in 15 x 15. They are charged with recommending the types of pro-
grams that are appropriate for New York’s vastly different communities, the proper administration of those programs by various entities, the measurement and verification of program goals and achievements, the use of appropriate incentives and the impact individual programs will have on our overall goal. I encourage our elected officials, leaders in the energy field and other interested parties to not only participate in this
process but also to help ensure the uniform adoption of the completed EEPS. Working together through this process will be the only way to guarantee that the energy demand reduction goals we have set for our future come to fruition. Andrew Hevesi is a Democrat representing parts of Queens in the Assembly. He is a member of the Renewable Energy Subcommittee.
We Cut Our Carbon Footprint by 13,000 Tons
a member of the CERES coalition of companies
In 2006, National Grid’s Investment Recovery operation recycled almost twenty million pounds of metal, paper, plastics and other materials. The EPA calculates that’s equivalent to reducing our carbon footprint by almost thirteen thousand metric tons. As part of our climate change initiative, by 2010 we plan to move to 100 percent renewable energy for our internal use. We’re committed to a 60% reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions of all our worldwide operations by 2050. We’re focused on the future, and the safe, reliable, efficient and responsible delivery of electricity and natural gas.
FEBR UARY 2008
Commission Impossible? Once a rising star, Suozzi tries to find his political future
rumors that he might make a run for the seat of State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Suffolk/Nassau) have dissipated, helped along by Suozzi’s adamant denials of interest in running a race this year. For Suozzi, 2008 and what lie beyond were not shaping out very well. Then, on Jan. 7, he got a call. Spitzer wanted to meet with him the next morning in Albany, he was told, right before the State of the State. And then, presuming the meeting went well, Spitzer wanted to name Suozzi head of his new property tax commission. Suozzi quickly accepted. A vocal proponent of property tax reform since his first run for county executive, Suozzi made the issue central to his 2006 challenge to Spitzer. During the campaign, Suozzi’s push for a property tax cap was a major point of disagreement between the two. “When he signed the executive order creating the commission,” Suozzi recalled, “the governor said, ‘Some people have criticized him for this.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, you!’” In their appearances together to promote the commission, they have turned that old tension between them into a running joke. At the Nassau Chamber of Commerce in January, Spitzer introduced Suozzi as “a friend, somebody who has done a spectacular job running Nassau County, and made the tough decisions, and is fun to travel with across the state.” Suozzi went for the laugh line. “It really isn’t that much fun—it’s a small plane, very cramped,” he said. Spitzer parried, teasing his old opponent about the win. “I don’t want to show you the big plane,” he Tom Suozzi seems to have returned to Eliot Spitzer’s said. good graces with his appointment as head of the Many in the audience laughed. Suozzi did not. property tax commission. But what that might mean Eager to keep the attention focused on the for the future of his political career remains unclear. need for reform, rather than on himself, Suozzi was reluctant to say that his role as the commission head BY EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE would lead the group to make any specific recommendations that it otherwise might not. OM SUOZZI WAS ONE OF THE FIRST elected offi“There’s no question in my mind that people are betcials to arrive at Sen. Hillary’s Clinton’s Super Tuesday celebration. He stood toward the front, ter educated than I am in the State Legislature and think chatting and clapping, primely positioned in front of the tanks on the issue of property tax reform,” he said, explaining that his mandate to the members and staff so podium. Eventually, others started pouring in, including Rep. Charles Rangel (DManhattan), New York City Comptroller William Thompson and Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Not long after, they poured back out again, tugged by staffers to the press room to crow about the Clinton victories in front of the cameras and microphones. far has been simply to get as broad a perspective as posSuozzi stayed put. Two years after he launched his insurgent primary chal- sible by reviewing legislation passed and debated in lenge to Spitzer, the man once seen as a rising star in his other states. He does not, he insisted, have any sense of what the party found himself in a difficult political position at the beginning of this year. After two wins for Nassau County commission members will ultimately glean from this executive, questions are swirling about how he might fare information, or what this will lead them to recommend in a bid for a third term, or whether he will even seek one. for New York. “I don’t know what the right answer is yet,” he said. All the statewide offices are now held by Democrats, leaving him no clear path to Albany or Washington. And the “I just know that the problem is very clearly that prop-
erty taxes are crushing people throughout the state, especially outside New York City.” Now Suozzi will spend the next year embroiled in the debate, while simultaneously making constant appeals to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Rensselaer) to be open to the commission’s recommendations when those are announced. Their frustration over not having representatives on the panel, he said, is something which can be overcome. “I don’t think anyone would defend the current system as being sustainable,” he said, “and I know that to fashion a solution, it’s going to require a broad consensus.” He said he was well suited to appeal to both Silver and Bruno, as well as other Democrats and Republicans across the state. Some might see the role on the commission as a way for Suozzi to resuscitate his political prospects. Political consultant Norm Adler, who has worked for Democrats as well as for Marcellino and other GOP State Senate candidates on Long Island, was skeptical. Adler called Suozzi an unlikely pick to be appointed to the Senate if Clinton wins the White House, and a bid for Congress would mean a primary against popular Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Nassau), who seems unlikely to retire soon. If Andrew Cuomo (D) runs a primary against Spitzer in 2010 and leaves the attorney general race open, Suozzi could make that campaign, Adler said, but otherwise, his options are limited. “Timing is everything, and it’s just that at this particular juncture, at least, it appears that when he finishes his term, there’s nowhere else in public life for him to go,” Adler said. The only hope for Suozzi’s political career, Adler said, would be to get appointed to a position in the second Clinton administration, if the New York senator is able to win the White House. Outside of that, Adler said, Suozzi is likely to join the long list of once promising politicians who quietly disappear. “I think this rising star is about to fall into a black hole,” Adler said. But Suozzi says he is not worried. Recent political comebacks in New York and in the White House races give him solace. “You never know what’s going to happen. You can be Hillary Clinton before New Hampshire, and you can be Hillary Clinton after New Hampshire. You can be John McCain in the summer of 2007 and you can be John McCain in the winter of 2008. There’s a big difference. You can be Andrew Cuomo after 2002,” he said. “You just never know what’s going to happen.” For now, he said he is upbeat, insisting that he is optimistic about his future, though for the first time in his political career, he is unsure of the next step. “I did see a show on television the other night where people say they’re most depressed when they’re 44 years old. And after that, it’s all uphill,” he said. He laughed. “Well,” he said, “I was 44 when I ran for governor.” firstname.lastname@example.org
For a county executive, political consultatnt Norm Adler said, “Unless you run for statewide office or run for Congress, where do you go? And the answer is, you don’t. And he don’t.”
Despite Commission, Property Tax Cap May Wait Until Next Year Move to change laws before budget is passed seems unlikely BY ELIE MYSTAL OV.
ELIOT SPITZER (D) IS TRYING TO CONVINCE the citizens of New York that he was wrong. Admitting that last year’s $5 billion Middle Class STAR program failed to address the core issues that make New York’s property tax burden the highest in the nation as he barnstorms around the state on his “Bringing Home the Budget” tour, Spitzer says he has changed his mind on the property tax cap he once opposed. Though the governor calls the cap a blunt instrument, he now acknowledges that it may be the only way to force hard decisions and discipline when nothing else works. Those hard decisions though, do not seem likely to come before this year’s budget is passed, nor before voters go to the polls in November. For now, the governor is waiting on the report of the Commission on Property Tax Relief he appointed to study the issue and make recommendations. Though many expect the commission, led by Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi (D), to eventually recommend a tax cap, Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco (R-Saratoga) believes the time the commis-
and California. One of the commission’s first steps will be to study those programs, taking advantage of its broad investigative powers and even subpoena power granted through its organization under the Moreland Act. The commission will seek input from school boards and teachers’ unions. The New York State United Teachers union has already come out against a cap. The plan, according to Spitzer and Suozzi, is to have discussions with legislative leaders before formal recommendations are announced, though there is no mechanism in place for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Rensselaer) to have a direct hand in shaping the commission’s proposal. “They’ll see it when I see it,” Spitzer said. Legislators seem unwilling to leave the final decision on property taxes fully in the hands of the commission. Sen. William Stachowski (D-Erie), the ranking minority member on the Senate Finance Committee and a member of the Committee on Investigations, Taxation, and Government Operations, said he does not know if or when the commission will reach out to
Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco suggested that the time the commission is taking “really looks like it could be some smoke and mirrors by the governor and the Legislature to get through an election.” sion will take to study the issue will cause an unnecessary delay. “When he did the illegal alien and driver’s license legislation, he didn’t need a commission to study it,” Tedisco said, suggesting that the time the commission is taking “really looks like it could be some smoke and mirrors by the governor and the Legislature to get through an election.” Tedisco wants a tax cap proposal by April 1, in time to be included with the budget. But a property tax cap could be passed with this year’s budget should the commission propose one on May 15, the deadline touted by Spitzer for Suozzi’s interim report. Spitzer, however, said he is not preoccupied with having a tax cap in place for this year’s budget. “I don’t think it will be done by then,” Spitzer said. Instead, the governor pointed to Dec. 1—after the November elections, when the control of the State Senate will be up for grabs—as the deadline for the commission’s final recommendations. Taking the governor’s cue, the commission is also looking past this year for passage of a cap, said Paul Tokasz, a former Assembly majority leader who was named to the commission. “I don’t think anything is going to happen that is that substantial until ’09,” he said. Several states have adopted some form of tax cap, including New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island,
his committees. But he expects the Legislature to change the proposal after Suozzi makes recommendations. “If there’s a concern that there are no teeth, then the Legislature can look at it and put teeth into it,” he said. “The governor can’t make us pass a law.” However, when the time comes to pass the bill, Stachowski believes Spitzer will have the political capital to get a tax cap passed. Sen. John Bonacic (R-Dutchess/Ulster/Orange/Sullivan) agreed, but noted that before he pushes the plan very far, the governor will have to first sell the property tax cap to members of his own party. Silver, Bonacic believes, could prove a major obstacle. But Bonacic is optimistic that a broad coalition of upstate and downstate interests coming together on a cap, with only Manhattanites—who pay for public schools out of the city administered personal income tax—resisting the plan. Spitzer seems to be courting precisely that kind of coalition, making stops in support of the commission in Syracuse and Rochester, as well as Nassau and Westchester Counties. To pass a property tax cap in 2008, the commission will have to make a report and have enough support behind it ahead of the May 15 interim report deadline. To the governor, that date will be far from the finish line. “Think of it like a four lap race,” he said. “May 15th marks the end of the second lap.” email@example.com
FEB RUARY 2008
New Energy Policy Critical in 2008 By Arthur (Jerry) Kremer
Electricity is the blood that pulses through the veins of New York’s economy, which is something the governor addressed in his 2008 State of the State speech. He pledged to increase production of local renewables and reduce electricity use by 15 percent by 2015, while offering a bill to fast-track the building of new power plants. This comes on top of senior staff moves, adding Paul DeCotis, former Director for the NY State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA), as his Deputy Secretary for Energy and Garry Brown, a former VP at the NY System Operator (NYISO) to be Chair of the Public Service Commission. Even with these steps forward, the picture became cloudier due to vacancies at the helm of the Assembly Energy Committee, with Chair Paul D. Tonko leaving to become President & CEO of NYSERDA, and most recently Senator James Wright, longtime chair of the Senate Energy Committee, announcing his retirement. According to NYISO, southeastern New York will need up to 2,000 megawatts (MW) of new electricity by as soon as 2012, assuming that Indian Point — which produces in excess of 2,000 MW — continues to operate. 2,000 MW is the equivalent of four to five typical sized natural gas power plants. The reality is that due to the expiration of Article X on December 31, 2002 there are no new power plant projects in the pipeline. There has also not been a major transmission facility constructed since 1989. NIMBY activists are stopping any new generation and transmission projects, and are trying to close existing facilities, like Indian Point. On January 31 the Westchester Business Alliance, a coalition of significant Hudson Valley leaders, released a study finding their region is facing an immediate energy crisis. Energy consumption is rising at 100-150 MW per year and by 2015 Westchester alone will consume 800 MW more than today’s current use of 5,000 MW. The Alliance says Westchester residents paid $.20 per kilowatt hour in 2006, more than twice the national average and without a new supply, they find electric bills will jump 150% more, meaning lost jobs and tax revenues. Arthur (Jerry) Kremer is Chairman of New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance and a co-author the Article X Power Plant Siting Law. He served in the State Legislature for 23 years, 12 as Assembly Ways and Means Chair.
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FEBR UARY 2008
No Set Powers or Meetings, But an Insistent Role for Assembly Ethics and Guidance
there a single document detailing the committee’s jurisdiction. Potential violations HE ASSEMBLY ETHICS AND include fraternization with interns and sexGuidance Committee is a unique ual harassment. Since most of its work is providing guidand often misunderstood body charged with the narrow mission of upholding the ance to members, the Assembly committee rules and decorum governing its mem- has only had about six meetings in the last three years, according to Cahill, all of these bers—not necessarily the laws. The chamber's only committee evenly to investigate allegations against Assembly divided between Democrats and Member Mike Cole (R-Erie/Niagra). Cole, who remains in the Assembly, Republicans, Ethics and Guidance rarely meets. Most of the issues brought to its admitted that last April 16, he drank and leaders are the responsibility of a separate, then spent the night on the bedroom floor of a 21-year-old female intern. Cole was larger ethics commission. Some Albany observers are skeptical stripped of his seniority and $9,000 annual that the Assembly can police its members stipend as the ranking Republican on the effectively. Others say there is no other Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee. Cahill said that the committee was on way. Outgoing Committee chair Kevin Cahill the verge of meeting to deal with a situa(D-Ulster/Dutchess) said the body was cre- tion involving another legislator last year. ated to consider ethical transgressions that Though he did not mention then-Assembly Member Ryan Karben (D-Rockland) by could be, but are not necessarily, illegal. The committee is one of four bodies in name, he described circumstances that fit a complex web exercising oversight over Karben, who allegedly fraternized with state government employees including leg- female interns. Karben resigned last May, islators: the Commission on Public before the committee could be convened Integrity, which can investigate and to act. Dick Dadey, executive director of the enforce violations of the state’s ethics and government watchdog group, Citizens Union, said Because the committee is the lawmakers should not monitoring themselves, tasked with investigating be and that the current strucalleged misdeeds of col- ture should be replaced another. leagues, it is considered a with“We support the idea of a tough assignment. unified agency having singular responsibility for the Legislature and the execulobbying laws for the executive branch and tive,” Dadey said. Professor Eric Lane of Hofstra Law lobbyists, the joint Legislative Ethics Commission, which focuses on ethics, con- School, who served in Albany as chief flicts of interest and financial laws cover- counsel to the Democrats in the Senate for ing members and staff of the Legislature, six years, said he believes feuds would the Senate Ethics Committee, which make external oversight untenable. “There is no government neutrality. All watches over senators, and the Ethics and have a political axe to grind, so if you want Guidance Committee. The Assembly committee conducts to maintain a separation of powers you investigations of alleged ethical violations have to let the Legislature do its own at the direction of the speaker. However, work,” he said. A policy banning fraternization with the committee has no review over new ethics legislation, which is handled by the interns was adopted in 2004, after accusaGovernment Operations Committee. Nor is tions that Adam Clayton Powell IV (DManhattan) raped a 19-year-old intern that year. The charges were later dropped. The committee's newest member, Thomas O'Mara (RChemung/Schuyler/Tioga), suspected he Chair was tapped because of his experience as Kevin Cahill an attorney. “It deals with having to make determiMembers nations and judgments on colleagues as William Barclay various ethical issues arise," he said. "I Joseph Lentol don't think there are members clamoring John McEneny Thomas F. O'Mara to get on.” Bob Oaks firstname.lastname@example.org Dede Scozzafava Direct letters to the editor to Michele Titus email@example.com.
BY ADAM PINCUS
The Assembly Ethics and Guidance Committee
The DiNapoli Three, One Year Later Latimer, Magnarelli and DelMonte reflect on surviving the Spitzer attacks and rebuilding BY JOHN R.D. CELOCK GOV. ELIOT SPITZER (D) attacked in the wake of their votes to select Tom DiNapoli as the new state comptroller, the last year has been one of mending relationships and repairing the damage the governor may have done with their constituents. Spitzer went on something of a rampage in those first few weeks after the DiNapoli vote, calling the 150 members who chose DiNapoli political hacks who had blindly followed the lead of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan). Traveling the state to promote his first executive budget proposal, he lashed out at the local legislators. One of those Spitzer put in his sights, Assembly Member George Latimer (D-Westchester), said that he got a steady stream of constituent attacks for months after the governor attacked him on a district visit. “I had negative feedback for 90 days,” Latimer said. “Everyone who contacted me and said, ‘The governor’s right,’ and ‘You’re a hack,’ I said, ‘You don’t know my record.’” A Democrat in a district with many Republican voters, Latimer was particularly sensitive to the attacks from the leader of his party, and in response, he waged a non-election year campaign to salvage his reputation in advance of the 2008 election. He increased his visibility district wide, held more town hall meetings and community visits to promote his record of government reform. Latimer said he wanted to show that he could work with the governor’s office. The DiNapoli experience and its aftermath, he repeatedly stressed during these events, was a one-time issue. He believes his efforts worked. “I had one person who told me to resign come back to me and say, ‘You were right’,” Latimer said. And Latimer said his relationship with the governor got better as the year progressed. He has been in frequent contact with chamber staffers about issues in his district, and had a meeting late last month to discuss state policy effecting incorporated villages. Assembly Member William Magnarelli (DOnondaga) may have felt the Spitzer attacks most acutely. The governor’s vituperative visit to his district came just as Magnarelli was launching his bid for county executive. With the 20-year Republican incumbent leaving office, county Democrats had been hopeful that Magnarelli could retake the office. Magnarelli said he had to spend time throughout
FEB RUARY 2008
State Must Address Need for More Electricity By Al Samuels
According to recent reports by the New York Independent System Operator, New York’s downstate region will need significant new sources of electricity by 2013 just to meet basic energy demand. Without new sources of power, the growing demand could outstrip supply, increasing the potential for costly and dangerous power shortages. New York already has some of the highest costs of doing business in the nation, and electricity rates are a major contributor to that. The state’s average energy rate of more than 17 cents per kilowatt hour is nearly twice the national average rate of 8.8 cents. Businesses and investors regularly cite the high cost of electricity as a major inhibitor of economic growth in New York.
OR THE LEGISLATORS
In my home county of Rockland, we recently witnessed the closing of a significant manufacturer, and clearly, high electricity costs were a factor. Having no power plant siting law in New York sends the wrong message to investors with ideas to construct much needed, in-state power plants. New sources of power are being constructed in surrounding states, and New York is losing out on the jobs and tax revenues that these projects bring.
Gov. Eliot Spitzer put Assembly Members Francine DelMonte, George Latimer and William Magnarelli within his sights last year following the DiNapoli vote, but now the wounded legislators say they are all getting along and singing Kumbaya. the county executive’s race explaining his vote for state comptroller, instead of explaining what he wanted to do in Onondaga County, with Spitzer’s attacks brought up by both his primary opponent and the Republican nominee, former Syracuse Council Member Joanie Mahoney. While Magnarelli narrowly won a primary that went to the paper ballots, Mahoney trounced him in the general election by 22 points. Assembly Member Francine DelMonte (DNiagara) narrowly escaped being attacked by the governor in her district— Spitzer had reportedly identified her as his next target, but a major snow storm prevented the governor from coming to Niagara Falls to deliver the rebuke. Delmonte, who faced a tough primary challenge in 2006 and is a perennial target of Niagara County Republican Chairman Henry Wojtaszek, insisted that her relationship with Spitzer has always been good, and remains so. But though the turmoil may be in the past, Latimer said he expects opponents to exhume Spitzer’s old comments in this November’s elections. “People will bring up every bad thing they can Google up,” he said. “I will see a mailer on this. That’s the business.” Johncelock@aol.com Direct letters to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Rockland County the Town of Haverstraw is willing to host a new natural gas plant, which would create key jobs, electricity, and tax dollars. But there is no mechanism in place at the state level to help facilitate the construction of new plants. The now defunct Article X power plant siting law has been expired for over five years. We need to make every effort to ensure that this law is reenacted to foster the development of new sources of power generation to meet New York’s increasing energy demand. In addition to new plants, we also need to keep our cleanest and most efficient sources of power online, like the Indian Point Energy Center and the rest of our state’s nuclear power plants. We cannot overlook the need to preserve and maintain our current sources of clean, emission-free electricity. By working together, we can ensure that New York's economy and businesses can continue to prosper for years to come. The author is President/CEO of the Rockland Business Association, representing more than 1,000 businesses which employ more than 60,000 residents of the Hudson Valley, and is also an Advisory Board member of New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance
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FEBR UARY 2008
Checks and Balances BY JOHN R.D. CELOCK ITH THE STATE’S JUDGES ENTERING THEIR NINTH
year without a pay raise, the Judiciary is continuing to pursue extraordinary measures to get the raise. While the state’s Supreme Court is one of the oldest courts in the country, it also has the distinction of going the longest in the country without a pay hike. Chief Judge Judith Kaye, who will leave office at the end of this year because of mandatory retirement, has made judicial pay raises a prime focus of her waning days in office. Kaye has taken the step of publicly lobbying for the raise and threatening to sue the governor and Legislature for a raise and a new compensation method. Gov. Eliot Spitzer seems to have taken heed, including money for a raise in his budget proposal. But though Spitzer’s move has kept Kaye from making new public comments, it has not stopped her action to pressure the government to approve a change. At the end of January, Kaye retained former Clinton White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum on a pro bono basis to prepare a lawsuit against the executive and legislative branches if needed to get the raise. Kaye’s
hardly goes as far these days. “What was the cost of gas 10 years ago? What was the cost of rent? Gimme a break!” Golia said. “Some judges are borrowing against their pensions. Judges are dipping into their savings and I’m one of them. It’s hard.” In addition to the raise, the Association wants to see judicial pay moved to be considered by an independent commission instead of being tied to the salaries of state legislators. Kaye has endorsed this measure, and Golia said many legislators are sympathetic. But no action has yet been taken. “The Judiciary is the abandoned child of government,” Golia said, reflecting on the situation. With the salaries static, Golia said he has heard of several judges around the state considering leaving the bench for more lucrative jobs in private practice. Supreme Court Justice Robert Julian of Utica already has. After announcing his resignation at the end of December, Julian sent Spitzer a scathing letter citing the pay issue as his main reason for departure. Julian said that when he joined the bench in 2000, he anticipated the pay to be lower and for there to be some changes in his lifestyle. But with a 40 percent rise in inflation since he took office, Julian noted that he has had to dip into his savings in addition to adjusting his lifestyle in order to afford to keep his judgeship. With costs going up, he decided to leave the bench in order to recoup his losses. “In my case, I had to make lifestyle modifications to become a judge,” Julian said, noting that “there are modifications, and then there is radical surgery. These are judges who are in the last third of their careers and had lifestyles before becoming judges.” State Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Onondaga), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said his chamber has been working to achieve the pay hike. He laid the blame for the delay on the Democratic-controlled Assembly and the governor’s office, noting the two bills the Senate passed last year on pay raises—one to create an independent commission for both legislative and judicial pay raises, and a second to make a separate commission for judicial pay raises. DeFrancisco noted that he has also been advocating for the judges to have an annual
“The Judiciary is the abandoned child of government.” —Joseph Golia, president of the state Supreme Court Justices Association. spokesman said the suit would be filed as a last ditch scenario, and messages left with Nussbaum’s law office were not returned. At the heart of Kaye’s suit, which would be on behalf of the entire Judiciary, is that the Legislature needs to stop tying judicial pay hikes with legislative pay hikes. While Kaye was not willing to talk, other state judges were. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Golia of Queens, president of the state Supreme Court Justices Association, said the members of his association have lobbied, and plan on continuing to inform legislators of the judges’ plight. With judicial salaries stuck at $136,700 since 1999, and judges barred from making outside income, the judges have noted that the money
Judges charge that pay raise delay is forcing them off state bench
Chief Judge Judith Kaye is making the push for judicial pay raises a central focus of her last year on the bench. cost of living raise. Messages left for DeFrancisco’s Assembly counterpart, Assembly Member Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn), were not returned. DeFrancisco noted that judicial pay raises have often been used to give legislators political cover for hiking their own pay, a particularly important factor as legislators push for pay raises themselves in a year when the control of the State Senate is expected to hang in the balance. “No doubt,” DeFrancisco said, “it is a chip in the never ending political game of state government.” Johncelock@aol.com Direct letters to the editor to email@example.com.
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With Caveats, Downstate Legislators Prepare to Back Spitzer’s Upstate Plan Developing divisions appear more partisan than regional Serphin Maltese (Queens), said his first action upon hearing of Spitzer’s plan was to ask how it would benefit his constituents. With an expected tough re-elecN THE FIRST-EVER “STATE OF THE UPSTATE” address, delivered Jan. 16 in Buffalo, Gov. Eliot tion fight ahead of him this fall, Maltese will need to Spitzer outlined his reasoning behind pumping $1 show results to voters in his district. “Everyone feels that they want to help their own billion into upstate cities and towns. “It was just a few short decades ago—in the late first,” Maltese said. “And I’m one of them.” But he acknowledged that even upstate investment 1970s—when New York City was in crisis,” Spitzer said in the speech. “Yet when the people of New York could benefit downstate indirectly, providing a reason City asked for help, the people of Upstate did not for downstate legislators to back Spitzer’s proposals. “There’s no question the whole state benefits from look the other way.” Spitzer is counting on that spirit of unity now help- tourism, economic development and other proing move money in the other direction, to help grams,” Maltese said. Meanwhile, upstate lawmakers said they are cauupstate communities which are continuing to hemortiously optimistic about the prospects of Spitzer’s rhage population, jobs and money. Spitzer’s plan calls for $350 million for the construc- plan to pass with downstate support, even at a time tion of industrial parks and infrastructure upgrades, when money is in short supply. Spitzer’s budget, while earmarking $1 billion for including brownfield cleanup and water and sewage improvements. The governor also wants $10 million upstate revitalization, slashes health care spending put into a venture capital fund to provide seed money and scales back plans for new education aid and for small business expansion and $50 million steered property tax relief, in an effort to close a $4.4 billion budget deficit. toward upstate agriculture businesses. “The approach of sending added state dollars to That is too much of a tilt northward for New York upstate understandably engenders an “The approach of sending added state dollars envy from other ‘famito upstate understandably engenders an envy ly members’,” said from other ‘family members’,” said Assembly Assembly Member Member Robin Schimminger. “I would think the Robin Schimminger (D-Erie/Niagra). “I other siblings would not begrudge the one that would think the other needs extra help and assistance.” siblings would not begrudge the one that needs extra help and assistance.” State Sen. David Valesky (D-Madison/Onondaga) City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Unaff.). “In balancing this budget and in promoting the said the argument in favor of Spitzer’s plan is borne state’s economy, we see no need to pit downstate out by noting the amount of jobs lost across upstate against upstate or shortchange one area of New York New York and the number of young people leaving while subsidizing others,” Bloomberg said in testimo- for other areas. “There’s always tension in the budget adoption ny before the Assembly Ways and Means Committee process,” Valesky said. “There very well may be that on Jan. 28. Assembly members and state senators from the same kind of tension as it relates to this proposal.” State Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Onondaga) was five boroughs, however, were more open to supporting Spitzer’s upstate plan—so long, they said, as the more skeptical. “The situation now has been bad for a long period governor take care to attend to the needs of their of time,” he said. “I don’t think just infusing money to communities as well. “There’s no doubt that upstate has gone through promise that jobs are going to be created really is an economic decline over the years,” said Assembly enough anymore.” At the moment, divisions developing over the Member Keith Wright (D-Manhattan). “There’s also no doubt that some areas of downstate haven’t even upstate revitalization plan appear to be more Democrat versus Republican rather than upstate vergotten out of the starting blocks.” Wright cautioned that shortchanging the city sus downstate. E.J. McMahon, director of the conservative would in turn worsen conditions for upstate commuEmpire Center for New York State Policy, argued that nities. “As Shaquille O’Neal said back in the day,” Wright Spitzer’s plan does nothing to create a more favorable said, “if the big dog don’t get fed, the house goes tax climate for upstate New York. “It’s a plan built on the premise that the State of unprotected.” State Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-Brooklyn) New York is going to figure out how to jump-start said she remembers the days when every budget investment upstate with its own money,” he said. Regardless, downstate legislators may be fooled cycle saw new fights between upstate and downstate into thinking they are being passed over, McMahon legislators. “The politics of fractionalizing our state into seg- said, even though the governor’s plan is largely similar ments is counterproductive,” she said in a statement to past, failed plans to stimulate upstate New York. “They’ve been paying for upstate revitalization provided by her office. The city’s needs are vast, she said, and must be without getting much results for years,” he said. “I included in any plan to improve the whole state’s don’t know—once they realize there’s much less than meets the eye, maybe they won’t mind.” economy. firstname.lastname@example.org One of the few downstate Republicans, State Sen.
BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS
FEB RUARY 2008
2.1 Million Jobs Depend on NY’s Power Future By Bob Seeger
Rising energy demand and capped in-state electricity production – is a nightmare scenario for New Yorkers’ wallets. At slightly over 17 cents per kilowatt hour (17.16), New York State’s electricity rates are third highest in the country. With Article X, our power plant siting law now expired more than five years, New York is at a crossroads. We need to act quickly to avoid rising energy costs that can endanger the jobs of the working men and women of New York. How important is the union workforce in The Empire State? In 2007, more than 2.1 million New York workers were represented by a union, equal to 25.2 percent of the entire workforce. These workers make up the bedrock of our economy, and they depend on reliable and affordable electricity to get the job done. If we do not address the energy challenges we face now, the state’s economy could find itself reeling if local employers pack up and move somewhere with cheaper energy costs. A decade long study of 20 states by Americans for Balanced Energy Choices directly linked employment shifts at the state and local levels to business energy costs. States with lower energy costs grew 25 percent faster and 60 percent more jobs were created. The Bloomberg Administration is projecting the need to develop between 65 million – 70 million square feet of commercial and significant residential space to accommodate another one million residents by 2030. Given that it takes five years to site and build power plants, we must act now to create clean energy sources to power that positive economic growth. Given growth projections, New York City will need more than 6,000 – 7,000 megawatts of new electricity supply within the next twenty years to meet its needs. Without an Article X law allowing the construction of new power generation, the cost of powering New York will climb significantly, until and unless we can add new base-load power supply to the grid. Without a committed effort to create an affordable electricity supply to power a growing New York economy, we must all be concerned with the economic consequences to come. Bob Seeger is Business Manager for the Millwright & Machinery Erectors Local 740 of the New York City District Council of Carpenters. Local 740 is a member of the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance. S P E C I A L
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FEBR UARY 2008
Is it tough finding time to date with the demands of a job in politics? “It’s not conducive to relationships. My job comes first and there are times, especially around budget time, when we come in at 9:00 a.m. and don’t leave until 6 the next day. A relationship takes time, and lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time at work.” How do people respond when you tell them you work in politics? “A lot of people want the ‘inside scoop,’ and I tell them that it’s a lot like The West Wing. There’s a lot going on: the phone rings all day and I see the inside dynamics of the place. So when people ask, I just laugh and say, “Do you ever watch The West Wing?” What’s your worst recent date experience?“I was dating someone, but I broke up with him before I went to training. This guy was so obsessed with me that he started to stalk me. He even mailed himself to me! He had a big box, and he got into it and jumped out of the box in front of my whole platoon. I was mortified. Then we had a final PT test, and I was running with another soldier when I saw this three-foot sign on the side of the road that said this person’s name and ‘Kimmy, Forever.’ I got so mad that I did two miles in 14.40!”
What’s your best recent date experience? “I have this really humorous side to me, so I was at a restaurant having dinner with someone and they asked, “Where do you want to go?” I was just joking when I said ‘Nantucket,’ but then he left to print out a photo of Nantucket and bring it back to the table. He wasn’t able to print it out, but I thought it was so touching that he wanted to do something special for me. “
Where do you look to meet people? Is there any place in Albany that stands out? “I don’t look much, which is probably why I’m in the situation that I’m in now.”
They say love and politics do not mix. But in honor of Valentine’s Day, The Capitol sought out your picks for the single people in and around state government who should stay single no more. Here are the beautiful and the powerful, the brassy and the brainy, Democrat and Republican, young and old, divorced and never married, staffers and elected officials—Albany’s most eligible bachelors and bachelorettes.
By Rachel Breitman, John R.D. Celock, Andrew Hawkins, Elie Mystal, Dan Rivoli and Carl Winfield
Is it tough finding time to date with the demands of a job in politics? “I am working 18 to 20 hour days. There is simply not enough time in the day.”
How do people respond when you tell them you work in politics? “I don’t know that they understand what an extraordinary sacrifice public life can be. Most of my contemporaries don’t understand why I am not doing something like finance or banking, something more lucrative.”
What is your best recent date experience? “I think it would be to be with somebody who understands the commitment to a higher calling.”
What is your worst recent date experience? “In the past, I would have steered clear of blind dates because they just seem to be disastrous. But I do make sure that I have a good time.”
Where do you look to meet people? Is there any place in Albany that stands out? “Albany is not, for single men and women, a mecca for dating. I wouldn’t advise anybody to come try it.”
Assistant to the Senate Majority Leader
Greg Ball Assembly Member (R-Putnam/Dutchess/Westchester)
FEB RUARY 2008
How do people respond when you tell them you work in politics? “Sometimes I lie about what I really do. Sometimes it’s easier to say you’re a bureaucrat. It’s easier to understand if you’re dating someone in politics.”
What’s your worst recent date experience? “Over the summer, I was still working for the city Parks Department as director of public affairs. I was on a date at the movies when there were multiple sightings of a shark at Coney Island. I spent the entire movie pretty much in the lobby dealing with every news desk while my date was in the theater.”
What’s your best recent date experience? “I had a great date in November in which I went to the Met. We had a cocktail after that, then I went home and caught up on sleep.”
Where do you look to meet people? Is there any place in Albany that stands out? “I’m in Albany about twice a week. So I guess the first place I look is the restaurant at the Hampton Inn. I think my past couple of relationships have been created through fundraisers for elected officials.”
What are you looking for in a potential significant other?
Director of Communications, Empire State Development Corporation
“Somebody who is accommodating to my schedule, and someone who doesn’t feel that they need to see me every day.”
Is it tough finding time to date with the demands of a job in politics? “It can be if you let it, but it’s very important to make time for other aspects of life. To be a whole person, you need to lead a full life, and I work hard to make time for things other than politics.”
How do people respond when you tell them you work in politics? “There is a wide range of responses. Some people are excited. Some people are put off by it. After you start to engage people in conversation, basically everyone I meet is interested in talking about it.”
What’s your worst recent date experience? “I can’t think of a worst recent date experience. I guess I should be very grateful.”
What’s your best recent date experience? “I do very much enjoy taking someone for dinner in one of the great Dominican restaurants in Upper Manhattan–taking someone who’s not from the neighborhood.” Where do you look to meet people? Is there any place in Albany that stands out? “My social life is not in Albany. There are great Dominican clubs and restaurants, no question. It’s where I love to hang out.”
Eric Schneiderman State Senator (DManhattan/Bronx)
Is it tough finding time to date with the demands of a job in politics? “Kind of, because you have so much time spent on specific legislative work or in the office or in meetings, and the other part of it is the community work. Dinner is a possibility.”
How do people respond when you tell them you work in politics? “Most potential dates I might have already know that. I’ve been in politics for a long time.”
What’s your worst recent date experience? “The worst was the gentleman who started and ended most sentences with ‘I’ or 'me.' He basically talked about himself the whole time.”
Where do you look to meet people? Is there any place in Albany that stands out? “I just go to Albany to work. I can’t say there’s a place I’d go to meet somebody. I do try to keep myself in the right circles.”
What are you looking for in a potential significant other? “Somebody with a strong sense of spirituality, good commitment to their biological family, and great commitment to the community.”
Assembly Member (DBuffalo)
FEBR UARY 2008
Is it tough finding time to date with the demands of a job in politics? “I wouldn’t say it’s tough to find time to date, but it’s more about finding someone who is understanding, which is time consuming.”
How do people respond when you tell them you work in politics? “Sometimes they look at me like they don’t think I’m telling the truth. Some people say that’s good.”
What’s your best recent date experience? “I’m a simple type of guy; just being home and watching a movie. I don’t need anything special. It’s more about the company.”
Where do you look to meet people? Is there any place in Albany that stands out? “I don’t look to meet people when I go out. All of my recent girlfriends I have met at different places, so I don’t go out to look.”
What are you looking for in a potential significant other? “A person who can under-
Assembly Member (D-Bronx)
stand my life and someone who can be a good friend. I don’t ask for a lot.”
Is it tough finding time to date with the demands of a job in politics? “It is a bit of a balancing act between work and play, and unfortunately, there isn't much of a dating scene at the rest stops along the Thruway.”
How do people respond when you tell them you work in politics? “Pretty much I get the same questions when I meet people and tell them what I do—and the funny thing is, they all think that they're being original. Most common these days is they ask if the mayor is running for president, thinking they will get some inside scoop. Also, can I fix a parking ticket? And then usually something about how I should be able to make the subway come faster or some other idea on how to make the city a better place.”
What’s your worst recent date experience? “A friend set me up on a date recently and after a few minutes I realized his stories sounded familiar—turns out we had already been set up years ago and neither of us had realized it. It was really awkward since we didn't like each other the first time around!”
What’s your best recent date experience? “Had one last week— seeing him again this week—so I don't want to jinx it by going into details.” Where do you look to meet people? Is there any place in Albany that stands out? “I work a lot when I am up in Albany. The Capitol Café between 1:00 and 1:15 is pretty much as social as I get, but when I can get out, I like 74 State for drinks.”
Is it tough finding time to date with the demands of a job in politics? “It is very difficult to find time, but if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be as good at my job. A press secretary isn’t any good if he's always in a foul mood.”
How do people you meet in social settings respond when you tell them you are in politics? “Most of them are intrigued, but I often find myself explaining all sorts of policy positions, even ones that aren’t on my boss’s agenda.”
What’s your best recent date experience? “Ice cream at a Brooklyn pier overlooking the lovely skyline of Lower Manhattan.”
What’s your worst? “A gentleman never tells.”
Where do you look to meet people? Is there any place in Albany that stands out? “I like lounges. I’m a big fan of the Old World Wine Bar on Lark Street.”
Errol Cockfield Press secretary, Gov. Eliot Spitzer
Michelle Goldstein Director of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Albany Office of Legislative Affairs
FEB RUARY 2008
Is it tough finding time to date with the demands of a job in politics? “I would say yes. A lot of long hours, a lot of demands on your time outside the office. It’s not a 9-5 job. When you split your time between Syracuse and Albany, like I do, that can also be a barrier.”
How do people respond when you tell them you work in politics? “Their eyes glaze over or they look at their watch.”
What’s your worst recent date experience? “Never had a bad date, would you believe that?”
What’s your best recent date experience? “You expect me to answer that? My mother might read this!”
Where do you look to meet people? Is there any place in Albany that stands out? “I would say that Albany has, for a medium sized city, a pretty interesting, exciting and energetic social scene. There are plenty of places downtown and on the outskirts.”
Legislative Counsel, State Sen. John DeFrancisco (ROnondaga)
Is it tough finding time to date with the demands of a job in politics? “It’s tough because so much of your time is spent doing your job. I often have to forgo more social events.”
How do people respond when you tell them you work in politics? “Generally people are impressed. They believe that I have a responsible position, which is true, that I have to pay a lot of attention to.”
What is your best recent date experience? “Just going out to dinner, and sampling restaurants in my districts.” What is your worst recent date experience? “I haven’t had a bad date recently. Someone pretending to be interested in me but really being interested in my ability to help them with a constituent problem—that would be bad.” Where do you look to meet people? Is there any place in Albany that stands out? “It’s not like I am on the hunt.You meet people just in your everyday interactions, and if one of them happens to be interesting in that way, that is a plus.”
Linda Rosenthal Assembly Member (D-Manhattan)
Is it tough finding time to date with the demands of a job in politics? “It’s just hard finding the right person!” How do people respond when you tell them you work in politics? “It depends on the person. Some people understand what it really is and some people think of the movies.”
What’s your worst recent date experience? “I haven’t really had a bad time on a date, but I have been in situations where a guy just couldn’t take a hint. It’s not that he’s bad, but sometimes, when it’s not working out, the guy is just clueless. It’s annoying.”
What’s your best recent date experience? “We went out to Radio City to see Harry Connick, Jr. and we had, it had to be 15 minutes left for the concert. We said, ‘We’re going in,’ and we just hung out and had a great time.” Where do you look to meet people? Is there any place in Albany that stands out? “Downtown Albany is good because there are different streets that have a different feel, but they’re in walking distance. Pearl Street is clubby. Lark Street has a more relaxed atmosphere.”
Producer, Senate Media Services
FEBR UARY 2008
Is it tough finding time to date with the demands of a job in politics? “I think you can find time for anything.”
How do people respond when you tell them you work in politics? “That’s something I always hear. People are intrigued by how I fit into politics and what I like about it. People ask, 'What do you do in the Spitzer administration?' Being at the Consumer Protection Board, I can talk about how we spearheaded the investigation into lead paint in toys.”
What’s your worst recent date experience? “I was out to dinner with someone who was obsessed with the fork that she was using to eat her dinner with. And while the fork was interesting, the extreme obsessiveness she had with it was quite a bit of a turn-off.”
What’s your best recent date experience? “I recently spent a day with a young lady where in the early afternoon we went to a performance of the ballet, and in the evening, we went to see a Professional BullRiders show.”
Associate Director of Special Projects, State Consumer Protection Board
What are you looking for in a potential significant other? “She’ll need to be able to keep a conversation,
and at the same time, listen to me speak and talk to her.”
Is it tough finding time to date with the demands of a job in politics? “I work 24-7. It’s very rare that I get off on a Friday night or even a Saturday night.”
How do people respond when you tell them you work in politics? “People are impressed. I usually say first when they ask me what I do that I’m a lawyer. And then I get into the State Senate. I always find people are intrigued or impressed. They’re not quite sure if you’re a United States Senator or a State Senator. I have gotten, ‘Do you work with Hillary?’”
What’s your worst recent date experience? “I had a two-year relationship that unfortunately ended in August. So I really haven’t been dating that much.”
What’s your best recent date experience? “I’ve always had long term relationships over the years. But I’m still hopeful. And there are a lot of nice, interesting women out there.” Where do you look to meet people? Is there any place in Albany that stands out? “Albany is very
State Senator (D-Bronx/Westchester)
work related. It’s not what you would call a meet-greettown.”
Is it tough finding time to date with the demands of a job in politics? “I think it’s hit and miss. Sometimes you go through periods when it seems easier. Sometimes it is more difficult to date people you work with. It doesn’t generally happen for people to date within the same office.”
How do people respond when you tell them you work in politics? “I think some people who are of a different political party may not be open to it, but people are mostly agnostic. Women don’t say it’s an absolute must or definite no.”
What’s your worst recent date experience? “I went on a date with a girl, and a little piece of her hair looked like it had fallen out. It turns out she had a hair piece attachment on, and it was being held in by a pin, and I was caught off guard by that.”
Where do you look to meet people? Is there any place in Albany that stands out? “I find Lionheart’s is a good place, and Bombers. It’s a very diverse, young, professional environment with a lot of people.”
What are you looking for in a potential significant other? “I guess I am looking for someone who is very attractive, nice and friendly. I have no political requirements. I date people in both parties.”
Director of Government Affairs New York Business Council
FEB RUARY 2008
Is it tough finding time to date with the demands of a job in politics? “I find it difficult to hold down any type of long-term relationship. There is a lot of travel. It is a lot of weekend work, early mornings, Saturdays and Sundays.”
How do people respond when you tell them you work in politics? “Generally they think it is sort of bizarre, to tell you the truth. I’m 27 and people’s first reaction is ‘Wait, what do you do?’ A lot of my peers think I am sort of an anomaly.”
What is your best recent date experience? “I generally enjoy a quiet dinner. I go out to dinner and maybe get a couple of drinks, not traveling into the city.” What is your worst recent date experience? “Well, my worst date would be dragging into the city and spending an hour and a half stuck in traffic on the West Side Highway to go to some stuffy Upper West Side restaurant.”
Where do you look to meet people? Is there any place in Albany that stands out? “Quite honestly, I find the Albany scene
Assembly Member (D-Rockland)
pretty dead. I’m in here at 9 and out at 9. Occasionally, I’ll go out to dinner with a few colleagues who are generally twice my age.”
Is it tough finding time to date with the demands of a job in politics? “We all have people who do our schedules. So if someone were to even ask me, ‘Oh, what are you doing Friday night?’ I actually would have to say, ‘Oh, I have to call my office. I don’t know.’”
How do people respond when you tell them you work in politics? “From time to time I’ll be in rooms that are not political and I’ll be talking to a man, and he’ll say, ‘So what do you do for a living?’ And I’ll actually find myself hesitating. Usually I’ll start by saying, ‘Oh, I work for the government.’ You don’t want to just say to the guy, ‘Oh, I’m a New York State Senator.’ Because immediately he’ll say, ‘Okay, gotta go.’”
What’s your worst recent date experience? “I can’t remember my worst date partly because I won’t go out with anybody. I don’t mean that I’m too picky. If I’m not immediately attracted to you, I’m not interested. Some women will go out with anybody who asks them because they figure what the hell, it’s a free meal.”
What’s your best recent date experience? “Dinner and a movie. Pretty boring but it was nice.”
Where do you look to meet people? Is there any place in Albany that stands out? “The last place you want to start a relationship is in Albany. That’d be like doing it in a fishbowl.”
State Senator (DBrooklyn/Staten Island)
Is it tough finding time to date with the demands of a job in politics? “Oh yeah. I’m always on the road. So basically if I plan things, they often get changed last minute because of my travel schedule. Today I am here, and tomorrow I could have something else.”
How do people respond when you tell them you work in politics? “A lot of girls out there are looking for finance guys. But the girls who want to get to know me often have an interest in politics, current events.”
What’s your worst recent date experience?“I once went down to New York to set up a date with a girl. We met up at this bar near Madison Square Garden. All of a sudden the girl looks towards the door and gets weirded out. She says ‘I have a boyfriend, and he just walked in here.’ As it turned out, he worked for a rival office and I knew him. She went into the bathroom and managed to slip out. On the way out, I said hi to her boyfriend like it was nothing.”
Where do you look to meet people? Is there any place in Albany that stands out? “I try not to mix work with dating too much. In my free
time, I like Jillian’s or wherever my friends are going. If you do attend a political event, at least you have interests in common with whoever you’ll meet there.”
Member of advance team for Gov. Eliot Spitzer
What are you looking for in a potential significant other?“I don’t want to get bored too quick. I want her to be pretty and intelligent, and herself. I want to be able to say something crazy and have her laugh.”
FEBR UARY 2008
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More Pay, But for More Work t a time when fears of a recession are increasing and voter confidence in the State Legislature remains low, giving a pay raise to the members of the Assembly and State Senate seems totally counterintuitive. And yet, a pay raise is precisely the right thing to do—provided that the job itself is reshaped too. It’s true that the current annual base salary of $79,500 is more than many New Yorkers make. But that number, even when paired with various leadership stipends, is still well below what many private sector jobs pay to experienced and valuable professionals. Public service is meant to be a calling, and the honor of serving should perhaps make up for some hit in salary. Some. But when
ends. Agreement on three or four issues, however major, should not count as a successful session. But what else can we expect when the clock ticks down to June each year, and many legislators go back home to their districts, able to take the impasses off the top of their agendas for another six months? Proponents of keeping the Legislature part-time tend to trumpet the supposed merits of having citizen legislators who can walk among the people, and thus better represent them in Albany. At this point, though, the best representation for the people would likely be spending a little less time walking among them, and a little more time solving their problems. Proponents of the half-year session also argue that having the legislators at home for six months helps with constituent services. This in mind, we suggest that additional allocations for constituent service staffing be allocated along with the pay raises and the switch to a full-time Legislature. Decades ago, Congress used to be part-time as well. Then they realized there was too much for them to do to allow them to leave Washington for half the year, so they now commute from across the country to represent the people’s interest on the federal level. The State Legislature should follow suit. It is worth noting that the base congressional salary is $169,300.
state legislators are making less than half of the standard base salary for associates right out of law school at Wall Street firms, there is a problem. The Legislature should attract the best and brightest in all fields from across the state. Crucial to doing so is making their salaries at least somewhat more comparable to what would be available to them in other professions. Not only would this
Raise the salaries. Raise them by a lot. Double them, even.
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almost certainly lead to more bright and capable candidates running for office, but it would also help reduce the pull so many legislators feel to trade in their member pins for offices in lobbying firms. So raise the salaries. Raise them by a lot. Double them, even. But do so only on the condition that the jobs are made full-time. This state has more than enough problems to keep legislators busy year-round for decades. Aside from the need to supplement their incomes, there is no excuse for members of both chambers not to be in Albany from January through December, working out compromises and passing legislation to address the numerous problems that are left hanging each time a session
Old Vegas bookmakers have been trumped by new technology, and dozens of websites exist to bet on the outcome of all sorts of things, including who will be the next person to measure drapes in the Oval Office. Intrade lets people buy shares in the candidates’ futures. Ladbrokes gives odds to bet against. Here are this month’s standings, with last month’s included for comparison. CURRENTLY
DECLARED DEMOCRATS CURRENTLY DECLARED REPUBLICANS Mike Huckabee John McCain Ron Paul
PRICE ON ODDS ON INTRADE LADBROKES
1.8 92.9 1.3
16 to 1 1 to 20 200 to 1
LAST MONTH PRICE ON ODDS ON INTRADE LADBROKES
18 36.9 2.1
3 to 1 6 to 4 25 to1
PRICE ON ODDS ON INTRADE LADBROKES
Hillary Clinton 41.5 Barack Obama 59
POTENTIAL ENTRIES Michael Bloomberg
11 to 10 4 to 6
PRICE ON ODDS ON INTRADE LADBROKES
20 to 1
LAST MONTH PRICE ON ODDS ON INTRADE LADBROKES
58.9 40.8 PRICE ON INTRADE
4 to 6 11 to 10 ODDS ON LADBROKES
16 to 1
**DATA AS OF FEBRUARY 7, 2008**
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FEB RUARY 2008
So Much for Conventional Campaign Wisdom uper Tuesday’s results are in and once again the pollsters, pundits and pols got it wrong. Months ago they were predicting the Republicans could go all the way to convention without a clear frontrunner, while the Democrats would know theirs by February 6th. Oops. John McCain, who the experts had pronounced dead just six months ago, has risen like Lazarus to all but seal the Republican nomination. Hillary Clinton, who they proclaimed Queen just six months ago, is now locked in a to-the-death struggle with Barak Obama over who gets to wear that crown. Not only have the experts fumbled when picking candidates this time around, but their conventional campaign wisdom doesn’t seem so smart either.
For years they’ve told us there are certain immutable truths in American politics: • That the candidate who has the most money wins • That negative campaigning works • That people vote for the candidate who panders • That candidates should avoid getting pinned down on the issues First, the money part. On the K.T. Republican side, McFarland this time the guys doing the best are the ones with the least money. Romney may have saturated the airwaves and stuffed the mail boxes with literature, but it hasn’t translated into votes. The guy who’s beating him is Huckabee, who doesn’t have two nickels to rub together. As for frontrunner McCain, he didn’t start winning until he had lost all his money and started driving around in a second-hand Greyhound bus.
With the Democrats, Hillary’s early lock on the party’s major donors and fundraisers was thought to preclude any potential challenger getting traction. But Obama found new, first-time donors, and brought people into the political process that normally don’t give politicians the time of day. Second, the claim that negative campaigning, while distasteful, is brutally effective. So far, wrong again. Obama, McCain and Huckabee have all sworn off negative campaigning. Their aides aren’t slinking around dark alleys handing journalists unmarked manila envelopes filled with slime about their opponents. Yet Obama, McCain and Huckabee are the three candidates exceeding expectations. On the other hand, the more negative Romney and Clinton get, the more their supporters melt away. Third, the experts argue that people vote for the candidate who panders to them. If that’s true, how do you explain
A Rapid Infusion of Tax Dollars for the State Treasury BY STATE SEN. REV. RUBEN DIAZ n the 2008 State of the State Address, Gov. Eliot Spitzer offered several proposals to attempt to help close New York State’s budget deficit. As part of this statewide initiative, I have re-introduced Senate Bill No. 774 to ensure that New York State promptly receives all of the sales tax revenues to which it is entitled. This bill could increase the state’s budget by up to $300 - $500 million dollars in revenue. This modification of the New York State Tax Law will require credit card companies to remit the state’s portion of sales tax amounts from receipts of retail sale of taxable foods and services directly to the State Department of Taxation and Finance—and not keep them within the accounts of businesses and retail establishments pending remittal to the state. This change will affect all sales tax vendors registered with the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance, and put our state tax dollars to use immediately and directly. The anticipated increase in revenues to the state from my proposal are expected due to the following factors: reduced tax agency costs associated with reduced processing of these quarterly sales tax returns, the financial benefit the state will receive from the ability to use and manage sales tax funds immediately, the reduction of loss of sales tax revenue due to underreporting of taxable sales, and the ability of the state to avoid loss of col-
lected sales tax revenue when businesses fail or file for bankruptcy protection. Presently, businesses are required to file and submit sales and use tax returns, usually on a quarterly basis. Eliminating the need for calculating and filing quarterly sales tax returns would benefit business owners by reducing their own accounting costs. Under the current system, businesses have the opportunity to invest already collected state sales tax in their own accounts and accrue interest for themselves and their businesses. These businesses get the benefit of the float. By allowing months to pass before receiving these already collected taxes, the state does not have use of that money until it is remitted with the tax. My bill would prevent the state from losing interest on this float by requiring that tax amounts be paid simultaneously at the time the purchase is made. Statewide, this should result in substantial revenues. Unfortunately, either through error or otherwise, too many businesses operating in New York State underreport their taxable income. My proposed change would mean that payment will take place at the point of sale. The total price of the goods plus the tax will be charged to the consumer's debit or credit card, and simultaneous payments to the merchant and the state’s taxing authority will be made by the credit card company. This will reduce the problem of underreporting of taxable sales by businesses. If the business gets paid for a sale, the state gets paid its sales tax.
With passage of this bill, there will be less possibility that New York State will be a creditor in the traditional case of a failed business. At present, a failing business might continue to bring in sales tax receipts that are deducted from a credit card holder’s account, but, due to financial strains within the company, retain those sales tax proceeds rather than pay them to the state. A failing business might choose to do whatever it needs to survive and divert from paying business obligations such as taxes, just in order to keep the business running for a couple of months longer. All too often these businesses never catch up with their obligations. When it comes to their time to fold, or file for bankruptcy protection, too many of them never pay off the withheld sales taxes. My bill will allow the state to get ahead of the bankruptcy game, never be owed money, and always get paid on time—at least in this realm. This expedient method of collecting sales tax revenues will reduce administrative expenses presently needed to process sales tax returns before the taxes actually become credited to the State Treasury. We will no longer have to wait until the end of the year to figure out how much money is coming into the state from these businesses, because it will be coming in daily. Ruben Diaz, a Democrat representing parts of the Bronx in the State Senate, is a member of the Banking Committee.
the resurrection of John McCain? When he was telling voters what they wanted to hear, they left him in droves. Once he started telling people what they didn’t want to hear—that he would cut their favorite pork barrel projects, keep troops in Iraq, spend real money on alternative energies, and push for entitlement reform—they rallied to him. As for Obama, his biggest donors and most ardent supporters are the same guys he wants to tax to high heaven. Fourth, don’t get specific on the issues. Political consultants warn their candidates not to go on the record with definitive stands on any controversial issues. Every time you come on clearly for or against something, you risk goring somebody’s ox, and making enemies. So far, there has been something to that. The candidates doing better than expected are the ones who are strong on charm and soaring rhetoric but light on policy positions. That will start to change, though, once the parties settle on their candidates. Why? Because there will be nothing left to talk about other than policy issues. In the last few months, we have seen an explosion in the number of election commentators, news producers and journalists. There is a whole new array of media superstars on network and cable news shows. There are literally hundreds of pollsters, pundits, pols, journalists, news anchors, and traveling press corps employed full time covering the primaries and caucuses. So far there have been lots of candidates to cover, lots of stories to write, and lots of events to comment on. But now that the field is narrowing, what will happen to these guys? Remember, the general election is still nine months away. Do you really think they want to go back to covering Paris Hilton and Britney Spears? Not a chance. We’re about to have the election that some of us have been dreaming about for years, where substantive issues get debated by serious candidates. And the media and the American public are fully engaged, the candidates with the most money aren’t necessarily the winners, and the politics of personal destruction don’t rule the day. Turns out democracy isn’t dead after all; it just needed a transfusion.
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FEBR UARY 2008
Up and Coming in the Empire State ollowing Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s appointment of longtime Assembly Member Paul Tonko (D) to head the state energy authority last year, Democrats expected to easily retain Tonko’s Albany-area Assembly seat. Republican George Amedore, a local businessman, surprised them, taking the seat in the July 31 special election. Amedore’s election has been the talk of state Republican circles since last summer, with his name often mentioned for higher office. Amedore has been crediting his success based on his work as a businessman, which he said was able to swing voters in his direction during the special election. Regarding his work in the Assembly, Amedore discusses wanting to change the culture of Albany and bring a citizen’s approach to government. He noted that he has been trying to increase visibility in his district in order to listen to constituent concerns. Downplaying his role as a politician, and playing up his business roots, Amedore sounds like a polished Albany politician when asked about the speculation that Republican leaders are looking to run him for a higher office in the future, given his win last year. “I am here to serve the people in my district and the people of New York State,” he said. “When opportunities come up, I consider them. If there is an opportunity to go higher and do this for the long term, I would consider it. It’s up to the people I represent.”
What is your biggest accomplishment in office so far? “It has to be the balancing of my business, my family and my duties in the Assembly.”
George Amedore Assembly Member (R)
What do you want to accomplish in the next two years, governmentally and politically? “My biggest goal is to follow through on the message of my campaign. The voters did not want a politician. They wanted a change. I am spending a lot of time working to stop the toll increases on the Thruway.” What are the top challenges facing New York State right now? Regulatory Reform, Reducing Taxes and Fees
y the time Republican William Hoblock got the chance to take his seat in the Albany County Legislature, his term was half over. Following a federal court’s redistricting of the county and postponing of the regular 2003 election to the spring of 2004, Hoblock looked like he was about to pick up the seat. But with his opponent disputing which absentee ballots should be counted because of the delays, the votes remained sealed and the seat vacant, while the case worked its way through the state courts. After the state Court of Appeals punted to the federal courts, a ruling from the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the ballots opened, which confirmed the original machine count of 2006. Taking his seat, Hoblock immediately had to start planning what would ultimately be his successful re-election bid last year. Hoblock comes from a mini-Albany County political dynasty. His father is on the executive committee of the Colonie Town Republicans, his great-uncle was Colonie Town Clerk, and his cousin, Michael, was Albany County’s only Republican county executive, as well as a state senator and Assembly member. Michael Hoblock currently serves as a state racing and wagering commissioner. In office, Hoblock said he has been focused on studying the county budget and county operations in order to develop plans to streamline county government. He noted that he is looking to cut back on county departments, and wants to stop the Democratic majority from expanding county government. As a part of a political family, Hoblock’s name is mentioned for future offices. Coming off his contested 2004 race, he remains coy about any future race. “Any way I can continue to be a good public servant, I will,” he said.
What is your biggest accomplishment in office so far? “As a conference, we have dug through the budget and figured out what’s been going wrong. This is the year we will bring it forward.”
William Hoblock Albany County Legislator (R)
What do you want to accomplish in the next two years, governmentally and politically? “To me, I live on the motto that good government is good politics. If I can make Albany County more efficient and streamlined, that would be good politics.” What are the top challenges facing New York State right now? Upstate Economic Development, Property Tax Relief, Shrinking State Government
FEB RUARY 2008
Their constituencies are often spread across many miles, but that has not stopped the next generation of New York State’s elected leaders from making themselves known and prompting intense speculation into their political futures. The Capitol has identified five of the most promising up-and-comers in each of the state’s seven regions outside of New York City and will profile each in this ongoing series. Ages were not taken into account in the development of these lists. What matters here is potential, which everyone in this group has in abundance.
REGION DESCRIPTION: Albany is the hub of the Capital Region. Politics fuels the city and its suburbs, with state government the largest employer. As the rest of the upstate economy declined as the manufacturing industry fell by the wayside, Albany has managed to keep afloat based on its role as the state capital. Huge swathes of farmland surrounding the city have been transformed to ready suburbs, giving civil servants and lobbyists a place to sleep at night. While Albany and its environs have leaned on the government for support, other areas, including nearby Schenectady, have seen economic decay, as companies have moved on for greener pastures. Strong party machines have dominated the political landscape, with the storied Albany County Democratic machine holding sway on one side of the Hudson, and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno controlling the Republicans on the other side.
By John Celock firstname.lastname@example.org Photos by Barry Sloan
hen a Republican county legislator from Colonie was killed in a car accident last year, it fell to the chamber’s Democratic majority to fill the seat. The party turned to then 24-year-old Ryan Horstmyer, a law student at Albany Law School, to take the seat and defend it for a full four-year term last November. Already a political veteran, Horstmyer had lost a bid for Colonie Town Board just after graduating high school in 2001. He entered the fall campaign with an enrollment disadvantage and a Republican Party united to regain the seat. Horstmyer’s career has benefited from the historic Republican dominance of suburban Colonie, with the dearth of Democrats in town allowing the young politician to rise quickly within his local organization. Taking his seat last year, Horstmyer used a project from law school to put his first marks on the body. Having done research into the state’s local government ethics law for school, Horstmyer developed legislation to tighten the county’s ethics rules. The bill died at the end of last year, but Horstmyer was upbeat about the proposal’s chances this year, noting that it was debated in committee extensively last year. Having previously worked as a law clerk in the State Legislature, Horstmyer said he enjoys his work in county government, but would like to move back to the state level in the future. Stopping short of declaring his candidacy for a future office, Horstmyer said he would consider a race for the State Legislature. “My interest is in state government, and there is a lot to do there,” he said. “All local governments are creatures of the state. State government is where it’s at.”
What is your biggest accomplishment in office so far? “In a local legislative body, what I’ve noticed is that you don’t have the same workload as a member of Congress. When you find a priority, you work on it. I found an ethics law that would change a lot. I would say that’s my biggest accomplishment.”
Ryan Horstmyer Albany County Legislator (D)
What do you want to accomplish in the next two years, governmentally and politically? “I want to get the ethics law passed. I also am interested in government consolidation and shared services.” What are the top challenges facing New York State right now? Property Tax Relief, Affordable Access to Higher Education & Investment in the SUNY System, Affordable and Increased Access to Health Care
ensselaer is Joe Bruno country. Sometimes the existence of other elected officials in the county can be forgotten, given the State Senate majority leader’s dominance of local politics for the past few decades. Not so for Kathy Jimino, a career government official who has been the county’s chief executive since her appointment to an unexpired term in 2001. Jimino started out in county government after college, working her way up to county data processing commissioner before becoming Troy’s city manager. Following a defeat for mayor of Troy, Jimino worked as a budget analyst for the State Senate and served as a county legislator before taking the county executive’s office. A former president of the state county executives’ association, Jimino quickly became an advocate for unfunded mandate relief in the state. While not as high profile as some county executives, like Nassau’s Tom Suozzi, Jimino has been pushing the issue in the halls of Albany and to groups in the region. Outside of crusading against unfunded mandates, Jimino has dedicated much time to the development of a comprehensive program to reduce teen alcohol and drug use, including the creation of two annual youth summits to focus on these issues. With her activity on issues with statewide impact, the county executive has been mentioned as a potential candidate for Congress or statewide office, and as a possible lieutenant governor pick, like Mary Donohue, another female Republican who helped make a winning statewide ticket. Jimino instantly downplayed anything other than her plans to seek a third term in 2009. “It’s always flattering to hear my name mentioned as a possible candidate for higher office,” she said. “I love my job and there is so much more to accomplish.”
What is your biggest accomplishment in office so far? “The collaborative effort to show the children in our community the dangers of alcohol and drugs.”
Kathy Jimino Rensselaer County Executive (R)
What do you want to accomplish in the next two years, governmentally and politically? “I want to continue to focus on county government spending and continue to cut spending. We’ve cut $30 million over the last seven budgets. We need to continue to fight state unfunded mandates. The other issue is to focus on making our county more business friendly. Another large component is agriculture. We’ve worked hard to be agricultural business friendly.” What are the top challenges facing New York State right now? End State Unfunded Mandates on Counties
FEBR UARY 2008
Up and Coming in the Empire State he Albany region is littered with political professionals who have moved from the halls of state government to public affairs firms. Most do not make the jump into elective office themselves.Then there is Kyle Kotary, a veteran Democratic communications strategist, who got elected to the Bethlehem Town Board in 2005. A veteran of the Clinton Administration and various state government positions, Kotary is developing his own public affairs firm, Empire Public Affairs, representing the Home Care Association of New York, amongst other clients. Democrats were once a rare breed in Bethlehem, making a showing in local races but not winning. The party began its march to dominance in 2003, accomplishing its mission last year, capturing all the seats on the Town Board. Kotary is quick to discuss being part of a team on the Town Board, focusing on such issues as the development of new land use plans for the town, preserving open space, and promoting economic development.These include developing new plans to link the town’s far flung neighborhoods closer together, a popular idea in suburban towns across the state. Having worked in the state and federal government, and having a high profile in state Democratic circles, there is speculation that Kotary would consider moving past the town level and would seek to settle into a higher office.While announcing his re-election bid for 2009 and talking enthusiastically about his plans for Bethlehem’s future, Kotary did let his ambition peek through when discussing the future. “As far as higher office, I do enjoy working at all levels , and I am open to opportunities that may come,” he said. “I don’t have my sights set on any particular office or career path. If the opportunity presents itself, I would take the opportunity.”
What is your biggest accomplishment in office so far? “I would say the two to three things I’ve taken the leadership role on are the creation of the town’s first comprehensive plan, saving Colonial Acres golf course and hundreds more acres, and efforts to improve our town’s technology and communications.”
Kyle Kotary Bethlehem Town Board Member (D)
What are the top challenges facing New York State right now? Property Tax Relief, Upstate Economic Development, Expanding Access to Health Care, Local Government Reform
Age: 38 Profiling; Alive and Well Cousin v. Bennett Decided By: Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Jan. 4 Though it is illegal for attorneys to select jurors on the basis of race, this law continues to be nearly unenforceable in New York State. Cousin v. Bennett centers around a prosecutor who rejected the only AfricanAmerican potential juror out of a pool of 58 Suffolk County residents for no stated rea-
Underdog Judges Shut Out 9-0 by U.S. Supreme Court
Court’s ruling put power in the hands of New York’s voters—through their representatives in the State Legislature, which has the power to change the process—to change the state’s 86-year-old nominating process. “The Constitution does not prohibit legislatures from enacting stupid laws,” Stevens wrote, quoting the late Thurgood Marshall.
New York State Board of Elections v. Torres
The court’s lack of specificity about circumstances that might possibly lead to an inference of racial discrimination may contribute to continued ambiguity about a law that has historically proven hard to enforce.
Decided by: United States Supreme Court, Jan. 16 The Supreme Court upheld New York State’s controversial process for picking state judges, in a decision that has been widely reported as a victory for party leaders and a setback for voters. The state’s process excludes potential candidates that do not have the backing of party leadership. This is a result that the state’s Federal District Court and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals had previously decided was in violation of a First Amendment right to ballot access. Most reports skipped past the radically different takes on the First Amendment by the Second Circuit and Supreme Court. Writing for a unanimous majority, Justice Antonin Scalia agreed that the First Amendment was the key constitutional question, though he prioritized the First Amendment rights of political parties over the rights of individual candidates. Scalia argued that the Constitution protects political parties’ rights to choose their nominees in whatever manner they wish. On the other side of the ideological spectrum, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote a concurring opinion which argued that the
Major Court Decisions Impacting New Yorkers This Month son. The Second Circuit affirmed his right to do so. Attorneys can normally reject potential jurors without giving a reason. However, if a judge believes that race could be playing a role in the jury selection process, the court can force the attorney to try to present a non-racial motivation. Here, the Second Circuit decided that the prosecutor clearly had other, non-racial reasons when he rejected the lone AfricanAmerican in the jury pool, though the court did not specify what these reasons might have been, nor did it allow anyone to ask him. The court emphasized that the prosecutor rejected 14 white jurors before he rejected the first and only minority candidate he had a chance to consider.
What do you want to accomplish in the next two years, governmentally and politically? “Over the next two years we hope to continue implementing our comprehensive plan, like our 2020 plan.”
Roberts v. Boys and Girls Republic Inc. Decided by: New York State Supreme Court, First Department, Jan. 8. A New York City court ruled that bystanders within close proximity to a baseball field voluntarily risk being hit in the head with baseball bats. While watching her son’s little league baseball practice, a woman was struck in the head by a swinging bat. Though she was on the spectator’s side of a fence that separated her from the field of play, the court argued that there is an inherent and obvious danger of being hit in the head with bats while watching a practice session, and therefore dismissed her claim for damages. The court also dismissed the mother’s negligence claim, putting New York City at odds with courts elsewhere in the state. The 2003 case of Hochreiter v. Diocese of Buffalo establishes that sports franchises, organizations, or operators can still be negligent in their duty to protect spectators, even though spectators assume some risk of injury when attending practices and games. The court in Roberts v. Boys and Girls Republic Inc. explicitly disagreed, making negligence on the part of a team or organization effectively impossible to prove. The standard set by this ruling will apply to all baseball fields in New York City, including those operated by the New York Mets and New York Yankees.
Crack Down U.S. v. Smith Decided By: Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Jan. 24 Several federal court decisions around the country in the past few months have rolled back federal sentencing guidelines that penalize crack possession far more harshly than cocaine possession. This comes despite no movement from Congress to change the sentencing guidelines. In U.S. v. Smith , the Second Circuit allowed defendant Shannon Smith to seek a reduction in his 188-month sentence for various offenses involving crack, and then affirmed judicial authority to make sentencing decisions “based solely on the crack/powder cocaine disparity.” The Smith decision brings New York in line with the recent Supreme Court cases of Kimbrough v. U.S. and Gall v. U.S. Both decisions authorized judges to ignore federal sentencing guidelines because of what the Court called a gross disparity between crack and cocaine penalties passed by Congress. The ruling will apply to all federal drug cases in New York, excluding state cases that come under the sentencing mandates of the Rockefeller drug laws. While Smith restores judicial discretion going forward, the court was silent on whether inmates previously sentenced under the guidelines can now apply for re-sentencing on the basis of Kimbrough and Gall. This could re-open a huge number of cases involving crackrelated sentences that were handed down over the 22 years since Congress passed crack sentencing guidelines. —Elie Mystal email@example.com
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FEBR UARY 2008
Charting a New Course for Charter Schools Merriman says there should be no ‘cap’ on high-performing schools and the Department of Education do that work—which they already are. We also clearly saw a double standard in the treatment of charter schools in this case. Not surprisingly, and as I expected, the usual suspects have tried to portray our lawsuit as a way of escaping accountability. Charters welcome accountability and have plenty of it; but we don’t want it to be duplicative of already existing monitoring and we also want it to be fair.
BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS ames Merriman, the new CEO of the New York City Center for Charter School Excellence, formerly served as Executive Director of the Charter Schools Institute of the State University of New York (SUNY), the nation’s second-largest university-affiliated authorizer of public charter schools. In his previous role as authorizer of charter schools, Merriman was responsible for holding charter schools to the highest operational and academic standards. As head of the nonprofit Center, he is an advocate for charter schools, overseeing the Center’s efforts to ensure that charter schools have the freedom and resources to provide a public education to the City’s neediest communities. Merriman touches on the future of charter schools in New York City, the concept of school autonomy and legal action taken by charter advocates against State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli (D). What follows is an edited transcript. Q: What sort of vision do you have for your tenure at the Center? A: My hope for the Center is that everything we do is as top flight as the very best charter schools that we were created to serve. We need to be an absolutely relentless advocate for allowing charter schools to flourish in an environment that supports them, but equally make sure that we’re an advocate for charter schools living up to their promises of delivering not just a good but a great education to the children they serve. Q: Besides advocacy, what else does the Center do for charter schools in the city? A: The Center provides services to charters, with a focus on those tough technical issues that tend to take them away from the core business that they got into this in the first place -- teaching, and more importantly, learning. Our theory is that if we can relieve schools of some of the burdens of finding facilities, sorting through the maze that is the Department of Education, providing centralized services on teacher certification, fingerprinting, how to deliver special education services, we have then helped school leaders by giving them more time and energy to serving their students. Given how much schools are regulated, even charters, we have to remember always that that’s why we have schools in the first place. Q: Given the decision last year to increase the cap on the number of charter schools, how would you rate
DANIEL S. BURNSTEIN
James Merriman, the new CEO of the New York City Center for Charter School Excellence. the State Board of Regents’ approach towards charter schools? A: I think the Board of Regents has been a thoughtful partner in moving the charter school movement forward. It’s pretty clear that I didn’t always agree with them when I was at SUNY and we won’t always agree now. But it is a constructive dialogue. The one thing I hope the Board fully understands and conveys to the State Education Department is that for charter schools to be successful, the autonomy that allows charter schools the freedom to innovate needs to be jealously protected. At the same time, all of us need to hold charters accountable when they don’t live up to their promises. Q: Is this idea of autonomy related to your lawsuit against the state comptroller’s office? A: Yes it is, and I want to be completely clear about this because there’s been a lot of confusion: charter schools and the Center do not oppose the fiscal audits of charter schools by the Comptroller. Charter schools and district schools have undergone fiscal audits for the past two years after the debacle in Roslyn, and we understand the need for them. We filed our lawsuit only after the Comptroller’s announced that he would conduct “performance” audits on top of the fiscal audits—and then it turned out this additional round of audits was only directed at charter schools, and not a single district school. What got us about these performance audits is that we don’t understand how or why accountants should be judging how teachers and educators are doing their jobs. Let the Board of Regents
Q: Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been very supportive of charter schools, as has Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein. Do you see that extending past 2009 with the current crop of mayoral candidates? A: It would be hard to improve upon the support the Chancellor and Mayor Bloomberg have had for charter schools, but obviously we’re hopeful that anyone who comes into office will be supportive of charter schools. Not because they’re a good idea abstractly, but because of the demonstrable success they’ve had in improving student achievement. In fact, this latest round of progress reports from DOE showed that the number one and number two schools in the entire city were charter schools. If you ask me, that’s an argument for more of those schools, not less. Q: What about the decision to include charter schools in the city’s grading system? How has that worked out so far? A: Charter schools already have an extensive accountability structure, so there was some hesitation about whether to add another measure. However, the fact is that charter schools recognize that because this measure is likely to be used by parents to decide where to have their children go to school, and because charter schools do very well on this measure, overall we welcome it. Q: What has been the relationship between your center and the teachers unions? A: Cordial and respectful. Again, it is clear that we won’t always agree, but my guess is that there may be more common ground than the conventional wisdom out there has it. We have to remember that there are a number of charter schools that are unionized because they were conversions or have subsequently been unionized and we support the choice of employees to work in the setting that they collectively feel is right for them. And of course, the UFT has its own charter school and is working with a group from California to start more of them. Q: Are there any sort of noticeable dif-
ferences between charter schools that are managed by for-profit organizations and not-for-profit organizations? A: First, we don’t have a lot of schools in New York City that are managed by forprofits. With that said, the fact is while the for-profits have had some successes, as a group they have not been outstanding. I think this clearly raises questions in people’s minds fairly or unfairly. After all, while people might not begrudge someone making a profit if they are hitting the ball out of the park, they won’t understand why a company should make a profit from public education if the results aren’t extremely positive. And so far, unfortunately, they just haven’t been. So it’s a challenge for them. Q: You talked a lot about maintaining autonomy and having enough transparency so that people feel comfortable. What is sort of the appropriate level of oversight that the government should have over charter schools? Where do you see the line that up to this point it’s appropriate, but past that you’re encroaching on the school’s autonomy? A: What I think is appropriate is in fact the system that is laid out in the Charter Schools Act, the legislation that created charter schools. It provides for a comprehensive oversight structure in which charters are overseen not only by the Department of Education or the State University of New York, but also by the State Education Department. The laws and structure in place under which oversight is established and carried out we feel is appropriate. However, where agencies work somehow to change the charter structure to make it look just like the district structure, and all the constraints of that structure, we feel that crosses the line. Q: Should there be a cap? A: No. For the life of me, I can’t understand a legislative veto on having more great schools. Let’s take all the energy that we’re spending on fighting more charter schools and make sure that every one that we start has more promise of being a great school. Q: Do you feel that especially with a lot of public schools being shut down and consolidated into other schools; do you think that charter schools can fill a gap there? A: I do think that charters will be an important component of creating new schools and more importantly better schools for the students who have been so badly served by the schools that are closing down. But they are only part of the answer.
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FEBR UARY 2008
New York Delegation Spending
Allocation Arithmetic M
embers of Congress are allocated north of $1.3 million to spend each year—committee chairs get slightly more. Only $169,3000 goes to their base salaries. The rest is divided up at their discretion, letting them each decide how much to spend on the basics: staff, travel and district office rent. Between them, New York’s 29 representatives spent almost $25 million dollars on these three main expenses in 2007, leaving them with about $500,000 each to spend on other things. But there are major differences between how much each put toward each category— for staff, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan/Brooklyn) is the leader, investing $875,710 over the course of the year, while Rep. Jim Walsh (R-Wayne) spent almost half as much, $497,627. For travel, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens) is the leader, spending $48,948, while Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Manhattan/Brooklyn/Queens) spent just $9,383. For rent, Meeks was also the leader, spending $139,927 between his two district offices, while Rep. John Hall (D-Orange/Westchester/Dutchess) spent just $26,503 between his two. How the fears of a recession might change things this year is something no one can yet predict. But together over last year, this is how much New York’s members of Congress spent. Source: Statement of Disbursements of the House
FEB RUARY 2008
: Brodsky, in Brief What follows is an edited transcript. The Capitol: What do you think about the congestion pricing report that was just released? Richard Brodsky: I think it’s a disaster. TC: Do you think this is being touted as a substitution for a commuter tax? RB: I haven’t heard that. I don’t know why anyone would say that, because commuters don’t pay this fee. This is only paid by people from the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. Not only, but largely. TC: So why doesn’t this make sense to you? RB: It’s a regressive tax on a large band of people, mostly middle income and low income people in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. People from Jersey don’t pay. The money is not guaranteed to go to mass transit. They gut the environmental laws.
ssembly Member Richard Brodsky (DWestchester) may have been on the congestion pricing commission, but he certainly does not agree with its recommendations. In a 13-2 vote earlier this month, the commission approved a modified version of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s (Unaff.) congestion pricing plan, which would charge motorists $8 to drive below 60th Street in Manhattan. Bloomberg is the latest politician to run up against Brodsky, who in his 25 years in Albany, has established himself as one of the Legislature’s most notable no-nonsense politicians, with a reputation for being a man unafraid to criticize anyone. He has made several tries for other positions—Westchester county executive, attorney general and state comptroller, in the wake of Alan Hevesi’s resignation. Now he is rumored to be a possible successor to Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), and though he quickly shot down that speculation, he took some time to discuss what he sees as the future of the congestion pricing plan, public authority reform and Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s improving relationship with the Legislature.
TC: Bloomberg’s plan originally called for the creation of a new authority, but that has been shelved. When it comes to the existing authorities, do you see room for reform? RB: Yes. We have a bill that passed in the Assembly last year that would do that. It does a lot of things. It would change the law governing them, and that’s in the bill. TC: Couldn’t some argue that there’s a knowledge gap of sorts when it comes to the understanding of public authorities? RB: Well, I don’t know about nobody, but we have looked at them very carefully and we have a proposal that I think would work and that’s what’s in the bill. TC: How do you feel the governor has changed his approach with regards to the Legislature? RB: I think the governor is trying to find a better way to communicate with both the public and with representatives in the Legislature, and I think it’s all for the good. There have been, I think, unnecessary bumps in the relationship and I think everyone ought to try and fix that. I think he’s listening better and it’s all for the good. TC: In the past you’ve made three attempts to get out of the Legislature. Do you mind the idea of being an Assembly lifer? RB: I don’t know what a lifer is.
RB: Every two years I make a decision about whether I run for re-election. That, I think, is the appropriate time and based on what the people think, then I make those decisions. I don’t sit around and worry about those decisions. TC: Do you think you could beat Assembly Member Dick Gottfried’s (D-Manhattan) record? RB: Got any other questions? TC: If Shelly Silver were to step down at some point or retire, are you interested in running for speaker? RB: Those are the questions you ask at that point. Generally speaking, it isn’t in anyone’s interest to have folks busy figuring out what their next job is, in any business. TC: You think it’s a distraction? RB: I think for anybody, do the job you’re in and do it well, and the rest of it comes when it comes. The speaker does a very good job. No one that I know is engaged in the kind of discussions that you’re talking about and I’m doing the stuff I have to do. TC: Metropolitan Transportation Authority President Lee Sanders announced that he would give a “State of the MTA” speech in March. Are you planning to attend? RB: I haven’t been invited. TC: What do you think can be done with the MTA? RB: I think you should go back and look at the thorough and thought-out way we approached authority reform. I think the MTA is a poster child for those kinds of reforms. These have been Soviet style bureaucracies that are out of control. There’s no accountability. And the trick is to make them accountable. TC: Do you think that has the support to get through the Legislature? RB: Yes. We’ve already passed it in the Assembly and the Senate passed a similar bill and we’re going to try to get it done in both houses this year. TC: Do you think the governor will sign the bill into law? RB: Well, the governor would be supporting the bill the Assembly has passed.
TC: A legislator for life? RB: I don’t know what a legislator for life is. There are elections every two years.
TC: But not the Senate version? RB: Right.
TC: Are there other positions you might be interested in running for?
TC: So there are still kinks to be worked out? RB: Well, there are issues to be resolved.
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Photography by John Afrides
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The February 1, 2008 Issue of The Capitol. The Capitol is a monthly publication, targeting the politicians, lobbyists, unions, staffers and...
Published on Feb 1, 2008
The February 1, 2008 Issue of The Capitol. The Capitol is a monthly publication, targeting the politicians, lobbyists, unions, staffers and...