Jon Cohen tries to explain what exactly he does.
David Patersonâ€™s list of shovel-ready projects may be too long to fund adequately.
VOL. 2, NO. 2
Longtime AP reporter Marc Humbert discusses why retirement was not for him.
t r o n o i p m e r
the Mind of
on life after Tedisco, the GOP Senate and having enough members to matter
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happen with Kirsten Gillibrand. For vacancies in the House, State Senate or Assembly, the power to call special elections must be taken out of the discretion of the governor and put on a set schedule as well. If those in government want their constituents to believe their work is actually important, then they should be reluctant to allow them to believe that seats can remain empty for so long without causing problems. There are other changes to the process that might be considered, like following the approach New York City takes to special City Council elections and other states have for special House elections by making these strangely timed races non-partisan. Given the short windows provided, a system of public funds for all who meet the threshold to appear on the ballot would also make sense. This does not necessarily mean that all elections should
If those in government want their constituents to believe their work is actually important, then they should be reluctant to allow them to believe that seats can go vacant for very long without causing problems. be non-partisan or publicly funded, though sparking that debate would not be a bad thing at all. Up until the moment he announced his choice, Gov. Paterson griped throughout the process of deliberating about the Senate appointment that he neither asked for the responsibility nor was sure it should be his. That was over a month ago. If he really did have a problem with the law, this would be a perfect opportunity for him to exercise some executive leadership and spearhead the movement to change the law, especially now that his dithering over setting the date to fill Gillibrand’s House seat has called the sincerity of those complaints into question. That he ascended to his current office without the assent of voters and was first elected to his State Senate seat in a special election only makes this even more appropriate. But there should not really be much need for Paterson to lead on this. These are the kind of common-sense changes in government which should be voted up unanimously. And as for those that would take a constitutional amendment? There is an election coming up next November when New Yorkers will get a chance to vote on the governor, comptroller and senator who have been given to them, to select the lieutenant governor they have been missing and all the legislators. If all of these people combine to ensure the ballot also contains amendments which would fix the election system, the result would be a truly special election.
o many local politicians, elections are essentially an annoyance, a technicality they must submit to every two or four years, but, pragmatically, a waste of time. Rarely are races contested in any real way, and even more rarely does an incumbent lose. So the lack of real traction for reforming special elections and the process of filling vacancies is hardly surprising. But that does not mean it is acceptable. Now we have a governor, senator and comptroller who sit in seats the voters did not give them, and might well have had an unelected attorney general as well, had David Paterson gone in another direction in replacing Hillary Clinton. We also have a Legislature where well over onequarter of the members first won office in inherently questionable special elections, as well as several members of Congress. And we currently have an open spot in the 20th Congressional district that the governor was apparently in no hurry to fill, not to mention a lieutenant governor’s office that will have been vacant for two years and nine months before it is filled again. Any one of these would be a problem. Together, they represent how problematic it is to refer to the government in New York as an elected one. Given the incumbency re-election rate that is an irrefutable reality of politics everywhere, a group of political leaders that is so often first put in office by appointments or railroaded elections cannot truly claim to be representative of New Yorkers. Now that there are so many people who were appointed or first elected in special elections, there should be the critical mass to begin productive discussions about what to do and the will to actually do it. Special elections should be mandated when any of the statewide offices become vacant—and within months, not almost two years later, as will
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Monserrate, Defiant, Says He Has Been Pummeled for Being Progressive State senator says he will ultimately overcome the shadow of “the incident” and persevere BY DAVID FREEDLANDER ew have arrived in Albany with as dark and as deep a cloud hanging over them as Hiram Monserrate. First, he muscled an incumbent Democrat out of office. Then, a nonprofit group headed by his chief of staff was accused of misdirecting hundreds of thousands of city funds to his campaign coffers. Next, after becoming the first Latino state senator from Queens, he joined a group of rogue Democrats refusing to support Malcolm Smith for majority leader. Then came what Monserrate calls simply “The Incident:” that night in December, when, according to the police, he slashed his girlfriend across the face with a glass, sending her to the emergency room for a gash above her left eye that left her with 20 stitches. He insists this was an accident, and said he is certain that he will be absolved in court. And in his first extended interview since being sworn in this January— something that Republicans sought to prevent pending the resolution of the case against him—Monserrate said he is forging ahead, and accused the “corporate media” editorial boards, the police department and some of his GOP colleagues of trying to prevent him from delivering on the kind of broad-based reforms that he has promised. “I have a serious commitment to promoting a social justice agenda and a progressive agenda,” he said. “I understand that you’re going to get beat up publicly at times. Your positions are going to get beat up. I understand if you slip on a banana peel, you’ll be on page one—even though it was an accident.” For Monserrate, the outpouring of vitriol directed at him after he was arrested—The Daily News took to calling him “Monsterrat”—was in the same vein as the negative response he received for standing up for the residents of Willets Point, or taking on the owners of the New York Mets. “Throughout our history we’ve had political leaders who’ve taken on the populist or the progressive stance, and they’ve all got shots taken at them for
Hiram Monserrate says he remains undeterred by the allegations against him and determined to continue the work he has done throughout his political career. In the meantime, he is working to get up to speed in the Senate. There is staff to hire, new parliamentary procedure to understand and the convoluted corridors of the Capitol to master. A lifelong resident of Queens, Monserrate says he is still adjusting to life-in-exile. He lives out of a suitcase at a local hotel and spends most evenings working late at his Albany office. After a
“Look, politics is a very difficult game. I mean, if anyone thinks otherwise, I don’t want to put it in sports terminology, but there’s a term in sports called ‘fullcontact.’ Politics is full-contact. It’s very consuming of your personal time, life and space. Trying to keep some semblance of a ‘normal’ life is next to impossible.” And though Monserrate is anxious to move on with his career, Senate Republicans, faced with a hair-thin minority, have tried to make him an issue. The day he was sworn in, Monserrate greeted Sen. Marty Golden (R-Brooklyn) on the floor of the chamber just as Golden was explaining to a scrum of reporters why the Queens senator should be barred from taking office. “It is a horrendous crime when a woman is beaten and smashed in the face with a bottle,” says Golden. “Domestic violence is a dirty little secret in many neighborhoods across our state. Women that see this are going to think twice about coming forward.”
“I understand that you’re going to get beat up publicly at times,” Monserrate said. “Your positions are going to get beat up. I understand if you slip on a banana peel, you’ll be on page one— even though it was an accident.” different reasons,” he said. “Now, one thing I ought to say, I’m not a saint. I’m not perfect. No one is. But you’ve got to look at the totality of your life and what you’re doing.”
late-night workout, he heads to his room, where he falls asleep to the conservative talk shows on cable. He maintains that the controversy surrounding him will not be a distraction.
Monserrate said later that Golden was taken aback by his gesture, and added, “I think it was important for him to understand that outside of politics, that outside of the headlines and the flashbulbs, there’s a real element. Not only to what I endured, but to what my family endured, what my community endured. A very difficult, challenging position, period. And unfortunately, sometimes in politics, we take an unfair advantage over people and we attempt to extract political points as a result of that. That’s unfortunate. My going up to him was sincere. I do wish him the best. I wish his family the best. And his friends the best. And I would never hope that his family, that him as an individual, or people close to him, would ever have to endure what I endured. I wouldn’t wish that upon my worst enemy.” The state chapter of the National Organization of Women called for his resignation as well, and organized a rally at the statehouse urging him to step down. They were countered by a group supporting him that also rallied at the Capitol, calling themselves Women for Monserrate. The senator defended his record on women’s issues. “I was a NARAL delegate to the Democratic convention. I’ve been supported by NARAL in the past. If you look at everything that I’ve done in my seven years in the city council, it is clearly a public record that is very supportive of women’s issues. I understand that domestic violence is an incredibly serious issue in our community and that government must respond effectively,” he said. “But in the case of Hiram Monserrate, there was no domestic violence, okay?” Democrats deny that Monserrate has become a persona non grata in their conference. But still, he is rarely seen palling around on the floor with the rest of his colleagues before votes, and rarely joins in the tableau behind majority leader Malcolm Smith in the post-vote press conference. “Listen up, I’ve been beat up, tarred, feathered, you name it, right? You know, more than ever recently, unfairly. Clearly unfairly. But I also understand that I have a progressive agenda that I pursue and a huge community that I have just franchised.” And he is, he insists, forging ahead. “You’ve got to be really sure that you want to do public service because you live your life under a microscope. And what I have decided to do is, I’m going to continue on this journey and I’m going to do it for the people that I represent. And promoting an agenda that I believe in. And you know what, if I get criticized, if I get tarred and feathered and get knocked around along the way, that’s the price I’ll pay. And I’ve got a lot of work to do. And I’m going to continue to do it.” email@example.com
Energy Independence Will Allow for New 21st-Century Thinking BY ASSEMBLY MEMBER KEVIN CAHILL ew York State has ambitious goals for renewable power and energy conservation— 25 percent by 2013 and 15 percent below forecasted consumption by 2015, respectively. As impressive as those targets promise to be, particularly in comparison to other states, we should cast them aside to instead strive toward energy independence. Such a shift in focus will get policymakers to think in terms of how we can best use renewable power, energy efficiency and infrastructure enhancements to help satisfy our most pressing needs while addressing long-term energy security at the same time. We can only head in the direction of energy independence by asking and completely answering the questions of what are New York’s challenges, opportunities, needs and attributes. That is why a top legislative priority of mine for the coming term will be the advancement of a new wide-ranging Energy Planning Law. Only a statutorily empowered and independent Energy Planning Board with broad representation from all stakeholders will have the ability to thoroughly examine current and future energy-related issues and frame them in both a regional and statewide
context. A law creating a comprehensive, dynamic and permanent process will ensure that New York has a clear and enduring mechanism to lead us to energy independence. A properly funded State Energy Plan is a modest expenditure in view of the great potential, but it can provide the principled framework and moral authority for determining effective efficiencies, infrastructure enhancements and renewable energy initiatives. By identifying and prioritizing the steps needed to reach our goals, a comprehensive process will help guide both public and private development. Only a board that reaches beyond traditional bureaucracies can appropriately assess impacts on the economy, public health and the environment. It can also reveal the context for the siting of new power plants and transmission facilities. In brief, planning can do what planning does: better prepare us. President-elect Obama has identified investment in energy projects as essential to our economic recovery. With our stature as one of the foremost leaders in energy conservation and renewable energy already, with our diverse energy needs and with an unrivaled network of universities, transportation and manufacturing infrastructure, New York
is perfectly positioned to seize this opportunity to be the nationwide model for energy independence. To get there we need to better utilize the resources we already have. Mass transit and smart sustainable development have already made us one of the most energyefficient states in the nation. Let’s repower our old hydro facilities and modernize our electric grid to make it smarter, more efficient and better equipped to handle clean distributed generation. Let’s put our unrivaled higher education system to the task by fostering university and industry partnerships. Together they can focus on the research, development and deployment of wind, solar, thermal, tidal, fuel cell and combined-heat-andpower technology that can significantly fill the carbon fuel gap. The safe and environmentally sound extraction of our abundant native natural gas reserves can also help. Still, the fastest and most responsible step we can take is through the greening and weatherizing of our buildings.
Energy independence is right for New York in so many ways. It will create new jobs at every level from entry to executive, from unskilled to highly technical. By meeting our energy needs in New York State we will be shielded from the volatility of the global energy market. By reducing consumption we will lower energy costs, improve air quality and help combat climate change. It seems like one of those “slap the forehead” nobrainers. Working with Governor David Paterson, himself an expert in the field of energy, and the State Senate, over the coming weeks and months, I intend to help the New York State Assembly meet that challenge by starting with an energy planning board empowered with the resources and authority to show us the way. As we have so many times before, New York has the potential to lead the nation to a new brighter future. This time it’s about energy and energy independence. Can we do it? Yes we can. Kevin Cahill, a Democrat representing Ulster and Dutchess counties, is the chair of the Assembly Energy Committee.
Keeping New York Strong—It’s Our Business The American Council of Engineering Companies of New York (ACEC New York) supports Governor Paterson’s efforts to reduce the budget deﬁcit in New York State: tNYS can lower engineering costs on infrastructure projects 14 percent by using private sector engineers to design public works projects—saving the state taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.* t Private sector engineers are paid only for the time
they work on a project, not for life. Once the project is complete, payment stops.
tCompetition keeps private sector engineers efﬁcient,
cost effective and at the top of their game. tPrivate sector engineers assume risks in design contracts otherwise borne by the state. * Results are based on a side-by-side comparison of salary, work hours, fringe beneﬁts and overhead of New York State engineering employees vs. private engineering ﬁrm employees, “NYSDOT Engineering Design Costs: In-House Versus Outsourced Design,” Polytechnic Institute of NYU, October 30, 2008.
Consulting Engineers—Quality, Innovative, Cost-effective Design for New York State
Albany Ofﬁce: 6 Airline Drive, Albany, NY 12205, (518) 452-8611 New York City Ofﬁce: 60 East 42nd Street, Suite 1742, New York, NY 10165, (212) 682-6336 www.acecny.org
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
Regaining the Lead on Energy: Efficiency, Conservation, Innovation BY STATE SEN. KEVIN PARKER s Governor Paterson said in his 2009 State of the State address, energy really is now our new rate of exchange, and we are going to have to make New York a more energyefficient and more energy-independent state to ensure our near-term and longterm competitiveness. Our current and future energy challenges will require a three-pronged approach. First, we have to increase the efficiency and cleanliness of our existing energy supply and transmission systems. Second, we must commit to energy conservationâ€”in government, business and in the home. Third, we must make a significant and generational commitment to the exploration and development of new energy sources in ways that lower costs to consumers and lessen the damage to our environment. Policy makers must confront these challenges even as we seek to kick-start our economy back into gear. We cannot tax or borrow our way out of the energy crisis, just as we cannot drill or pump our way out of this crisis. We are going to have to increase efficiency, conserve and innovate our way to an energy-efficient and environmentally responsible future. As the new chair of the State Senateâ€™s
Energy and Telecommunications Committee, I have been aiming for a long time to conceive ways to protect our environment, while still affording New Yorkers the opportunity to live a decent life, pay our bills, while still leaving behind a better place for our children. Though our economic outlook is bleak and energy conservation remains an issue for all of us, there is still hope if we all pull together. 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 or generation and transmission to consumers. Our energy generation and transmission infrastructure is antiquated, and simply by increasing efficiency we can save and create jobs while reducing costs to suppliers and to consumers. The state and federal governments should incentivize the upgrading of our energy infrastructure. Even though the global economic slowdown has temporarily lowered energy costs, the reality is that with a rebounding economy, global demand for oil, coal and natural gas will only increase, and costs for consumers and taxpayers will rise. While there are many things anyone can do to conserve energy, the single most effective way is to use public transportation or purchase a fuel-efficient car, including ones with the new hybrid engines. Currently, New York consumes the least amount of energy per capita than any other state in the nation, in large part due to our heavily used public transportation systems. We must keep public transportation affordable, pursue smart and fair traffic reduction regimes that improve air quality, and continue to raise emissions standards for transportation, manufacturing
and farming through incentives and encouraging voluntary action. Renewable energy provides stable fuel prices while creating a large number of high-skilled jobs in many sectors, and accessible renewable resources can deliver six times more energy than all the people on this planet use every day. The sun and wind will not increase in price, and technology will become cheaper as the market grows. We must also consider advances in engineering and technology that should give us greater confidence in nuclear power, and continue to monitor promising developments in tidal energy generation in a state with several powerful rivers and hundreds of miles of coastline on our ocean and the Great Lakes. We need a global transition to clean, green energy that reduces climate chaos, provides greater energy security for communities and nations, skilled jobs in cities and rural areas and sustainable economies with stable fuel prices. New York must lead the way in this new energy age, through efficiency, conservation and innovation. Kevin Parker, a Democrat representing parts of Brooklyn, is the chair of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee.
How Can NY State Encourage More Infrastructure Investments like NYRI’s Proposed $2 Billion Transmission Project? “To accelerate the creation of a clean energy economy, we will double our capacity to generate alternative sources of energy like wind, solar, and biofuels over the next three years. We’ll begin to build a new electricity grid that lays down more than 3,000 miles of transmission lines to convey this new energy from coast to coast.” — President Barack Obama, January 24, 2009, from his ﬁrst Weekly Address after being sworn in as President
Long before President Barack Obama called for reinvigorating the country’s electrical infrastructure system to create jobs and encourage the development of renewable energy, New York Regional Interconnect (NYRI) proposed exactly this type of energy infrastructure upgrade in New York. NYRI, a group of private investors experienced in energy infrastructure projects, wants to invest $2 billion of its own private capital in New York State to help rebuild the state’s aging electrical transmission system. Now under review by the Public Service Commission, our proposed transmission line is a direct response to the congestion problems in New York’s electrical grid, well documented by the U.S. DOE, the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, the North American Electrical Reliability Corporation as well as other private and public studies.1,2,3 Congestion on the electrical grid directly costs New York’s ratepayers millions of dollars every year and contributes to New York having among the highest electricity rates in the country. For the beneﬁt of all New Yorkers and for the country, we urge all elected ofﬁcials to support NYRI. In addition to improving energy reliability, NYRI’s private capital investment in transmission means jobs, increased tax revenues, and further development of clean renewable energy sources that rely on transmis-
sion. After NYRI is built, host communities and schools throughout upstate New York would receive over $30 million annually in property tax payments. The project would be built at no cost to taxpayers at a time when our deeply stressed state budget would be hard-pressed to pay for a large infrastructure upgrade. Discouraging such a project also creates a severe chilling effect on other would-be private investments in New York. NYRI remains committed to addressing concerns raised not only by elected ofﬁcials, but by any stakeholder in the proposed project. Only through this type of engagement can we ensure the NYRI project provides the maximum number of beneﬁts to the majority of New York State. What we cannot afford is to let our businesses, schools, hospitals and homes be impacted by transmission constraints before we take action. Today, more than ever, leadership means ﬁnding ways to work together to encourage and support private investment in our long-term energy future. 1 DOE National Electric Transmission Congestion Study (August 2006) at: www.oe.energy.gov/DocumentsandMedia/Congestion_Study_2006-10.3.pdf 2 NERC 2008 Long-Term Reliability Assessment 2008-2017 (October 2008) at: www.nerc.com/ﬁles/LTRA2008.pdf 3 The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research’s special report “NY Unplugged? Building Energy Capacity and Curbing Energy Rates in the Empire State,” (March 2008) at: www.empirecenter.org/ﬁles/Energy-02-08-2.pdf
NYRI: Efﬁcient, Reliable, Safe and Affordable Energy Transmission for New York For more information, visit www.nyri.us or call 1-877-FYI-NYRI
Paterson’s “45 by 15” Initiative Will Reinvigorate New York’s Economy BY FRANCIS MURRAY, JR. he New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) will be working with our partners in government and the private sector to implement Governor Paterson’s “45 by 15” initiative. This is the most ambitious clean-energy program in the nation. NYSERDA is nationally recognized for programs that address today’s energy, environmental and economic challenges. Our programs promote energy efficiency in the commercial, industrial and residential sectors. We also manage research and development programs that foster the development of clean energy technologies and renewable sources of energy. Additionally, NYSERDA works with state agencies, utilities, municipal governments and school districts to reduce energy costs and promote the use of renewable energy. Our programs are also designed to help reinvigorate New York State’s economy by reducing the impact of energy costs, increasing productivity, growing jobs and creating a clean-energy economy, which provide opportunities for jobseekers, entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes. These programs have created or retained thousands of jobs. In fact, we have been building the “green collar”
workforce long before the term was popular. Under partnership arrangements with universities, colleges, community colleges, trade unions and high schools, NYSERDA has built a training infrastructure to develop the green collar and clean-energy workforce to address the energy and environmental challenges of the 21st century. We continue to prepare the workforce to make our homes and businesses more energy efficient, and to design, install and maintain the renewable energy infrastructure necessary to help meet the crisis of global climate change. NYSERDA has perhaps the most sophisticated and far-reaching energy efficiency programs in the nation, which are funded through the System Benefits Charge (SBC). The programs are critical to the reliability of the state’s electric system. Since inception in 1998, the SBC programs have permanently reduced energy consumption by 670 megawatts. Our peak load reduction program—which is implemented during periods of highest electric use—can curtail an additional 550 megawatts thereby protecting the electric system during the most vulnerable times. To date, these programs have deferred the
need for the equivalent of four medium- sized power plants, while reducing the harmful impact of air emissions and water pollution that threaten people’s health and our environment. On top of the $620 million in annual customer savings, the programs have reduced greenhouse gases two million tons on an annual basis, which is equivalent to removing about 400,000 cars from the State’s roadways. And for every dollar New Yorkers invest through this program, two dollars in energy costs are avoided. Building upon the success of SBC, the Public Service Commission significantly increased the level of investment dedicated to energy efficiency through the Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (EEPS) proceeding. EEPS will be administered by NYSERDA and the investor-owned utilities. The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is a critical part of New York’s efforts to reduce our heavy dependence on fossil fuels and reduce harmful air emissions. Through the RPS, NYSERDA stimulates and supports a myriad of projects that include hydropower, wind, biomass, solar and other eligible technologies. Since inception in 2004, the RPS has added 785
megawatts of clean, renewable electric generation to our state’s electric grid. These programs have provided significant resources to the electric system, strengthening the electric grid while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating and retaining thousands of jobs. The ratepayer funds used to implement the SBC, RPS and EEPS programs are collected from the electric customers of investor-owned utilities. These funds and programs have been implemented through the ratemaking process of the Public Service Commission and are subject to the Public Service Law. NYSERDA uses competitive contract selection processes that involve outside experts serving on technical evaluation panels. These initiatives represent a significant investment in the clean-energy economy that Governor Paterson outlined in his State of the State address. With a renewed emphasis on energy policy and research and development, New York State is uniquely poised to reap the potential benefits of the federal stimulus plan. These resources will help jump-start the economy and provide New Yorkers with new career opportunities in the clean energy sector and create thousands of green collar jobs. Francis Murray, Jr. is the president and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
Some footprints are bigger than others
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Recover Energy-from-Waste. Each year, Americans recycle approximately 110 million tons of waste, but still landfill 250 million tons more. Take THAT landfilled waste and turn it into energy and you could power more than 11 million homes and offset 250 million tons of greenhouse gases, the equivalent of pulling 41 million cars off the road.
As our nation works toward a path of energy independence, an energy-efﬁcient technology is making strides to lower societal Btu consumption while protecting the environment. With a focus on reusing fuel energy, micro-combined heat and power (micro-CHP) technology combines clean heat and power with its dual approach of generating electricity while heating a home. With the ability to supply both heat and power to U.S. homes, micro-CHP significantly reduces the amount of fuel normally needed to supply electricity and heat to a home, which directly and dramatically impacts the environment by reducing the greenhouse gases associated with global warming.
Improved Energy Efficiency
The 2008 Annual Energy Outlook of the Energy Information Administration found that 47 percent of all energy supplied for residential consumption in the U.S. is wasted, partially due to ineﬃciencies in the production and transmission/ distribution of electricity.1 In addition, the Department of Energy states that if 20 percent of the U.S. energy supply were to be produced by combined heat and power by 2030, it could save nearly half the total energy currently consumed by U.S. households.2 “If consumers install a micro-CHP system in new or existing homes, they can signiﬁcantly reduce their energy use and electric bills,” said Michael Paparone, president and CEO of ECR International who manufactures freewatt® micro-CHP systems in New York State. Micro-CHP technologies are designed for both retro-ﬁt and new construction applications, so they can be placed into a majority of current U.S. homes today without the physical and aesthetic limitations associated with solar panels or wind turbines. This enables micro-CHP to have maximum short-term and transitional impact before renewables are universal.
EPA Climate Choice
The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star Program has designated micro-CHP as its ﬁrst Climate Choice technology. Climate Choice is a new partnership program that recognizes emerging technologies with the potential to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions once they are more widely adopted.
Power to the People
In addition to reducing their electric bills (in an average size home in the northern U.S., micro-CHP can generate half of a home’s annual electrical needs, eﬀectively cutting the electric bill in half ) and their carbon footprint (a typical homeowner will cut 4,000 to 6,000 pounds of carbon annually – the equivalent of removing a car from the road for 6 months), homeowners gain increased control over the comfort of their home. Not only does micro-CHP deliver a continuous low level of heat, reducing temperature swings experienced with traditional home heating appliances, but it also oﬀers Internet smart grid connectivity for remote monitoring, control, troubleshooting, diagnostics and maintenance. The Stimulus Act places high priority on smart grid demonstrations.
Making micro-CHP a Reality – The freewatt System The freewatt system, manufactured in New York State by ECR International, is currently available in the Northeast for homeowners who want to reduce their carbon footprint and experience micro-CHP. The Climate-Choice rated freewatt system marries an ENERGY STAR-rated, high-eﬃciency natural gas or propane furnace to a quiet Honda generator. The electricity created by the Honda generator can be used to power the home or it can be sent to the “grid.” By utilizing natural gas, the electricity freewatt produces is greener than electricity produced by coal- and oil-generated power plants. “Unlike a traditional home heating system, freewatt puts you in control,” said Michael Paparone, ECR president and CEO. “For example, by using freewatt for one year, a household can reduce its CO2 burden equivalent to not driving the family car for six months.” freewatt can be easier to install and use than solar, wind and geothermal power and it is smart grid ready. Utilizing freewatt may also help residential projects qualify for points under the LEED for Homes Rating System. For more information, visit www.freewatt.com or call 877-386-5475. Based on the Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2008 ﬁgure of 11.52 QBtu consumed in the residential sector in 2005. “Energy Consumption by Sector and Source.” Date Published: June 2008, p. 117, table A2. ORNL/TM – 2008/224, COMBINED HEAT AND POWER, Eﬀective Energy Solutions for a Sustainable Future, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Date Published: December 1, 2008, p. 4. ©2009 ECR International, 2201 Dwyer Avenue, Utica, NY 13501. freewatt® is an innovation of Climate Energy, LLC, a JV of ECR International and Yankee Scientiﬁc. ECR-0068 1 2
No Exit—for Now—for Would-Be State Senate GOP Jumpers DeFrancisco, Fuschillo and Flanagan likely to stay put as hopes rise for 2010 resurgence
hen Republicans lost control of the Senate for the first time in 40 years, observers widely predicted that they would begin to leave the body in droves. Many Republicans had been begged to stay on by former Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Rensselaer), with many stories circulating like that of George Maziarz (R-Niagara/Orleans/Monroe) reduced to tears over not being able to run to succeed Rep. Thomas Reynolds (R-Genesee/Wyoming/Livingston) last year. Many in the conference, especially the younger senators, were assumed to be itching for the chance to retire or run for higher office once they were in the minority. But not only has no one switched parties yet, the mass Republican exodus has yet to materialize. The likely jumpers have found the soft landings they hoped for elusive, and burgeoning Republican hopes that the floundering of both the economy and Gov. David Paterson (D) could give them a chance of getting control of the chamber once again. Republican leaders have urged them to stick around to be part of that effort. Not everyone is listening. State Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Onondaga) has been
considering a run for mayor of Syracuse, despite a likely tough primary challenge from former Onondaga Parks Commissioner Otis Jennings, and an even tougher general election against whoever emerges from a wide-open field of Democrats in a traditionally blue city. But if he emerges, his open seat would spark a scramble in a district that has trended increasingly Democratic over the years. The GOP registration lead there has dwindled to 5,000, and Democrats would likely roll out a full-on assault for the seat if it opened up. “If we had a strong candidate, there’s no reason we wouldn’t want to fully engage,” said a senior Democratic strategist. “It’s a swing district, so it’s clearly contestable, but it’s hardly a slamdunk for the Democrats.” Syracuse mayor Matt Driscoll (D) and former football star Tim Green have been mentioned as possible candidates for DeFrancisco’s seat. Driscoll would be able to mobilize the voter-heavy Syracuse portion of the district, and has demonstrated considerable cross-over appeal in his mayoral campaigns. Green has high name recognition in the area, and almost ran against DeFrancisco in 2008. Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Nassau) has also seen his escape route close, at least temporarily. Fuschillo was considered
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a strong contender for Nassau County executive while incumbent Thomas Suozzi (D) was being mulled as a possible replacement for Sen. Hillary Clinton (D) and before he decided to run for a third term in November. Now Fuschillo’s only shot at the seat is if Paterson picks Suozzi as his lieutenant governor running mate next year, or if Fuschillo waits until 2013 to make the race. If Suozzi does leave, Fuschillo is seen as the party’s best chance to retake a seat Republicans have coveted since Suozzi snatched it in 2001. “Fuschillo would be a very strong candidate,” said Nassau Democratic Chairman Jay Charles Fuschillo, John Flanagan and John DeFranJacobs. “He’s young, cisco were all expected to parachute out of the micharismatic, telegenic. nority, but their options seem to be evaporating. He’d be tough to beat.” Meanwhile, Democrats have been such as Queens Sen. Frank Padavan, eyeing his South Shore Senate seat for 74, and Suffolk Sen. Carl Marcellino, years. They see a potential special election 66. Democrats already plan on targeting there as a chance to build inroads into both in 2010, but would rather face nonRepublican territory, and have already incumbents in special elections, given begun scouting candidates. The leading how popular Padavan and Marcellino are name so far is County Legislator Dave in their districts. But both Padavan and Marcellino Denenberg, a young, tax-cutting Democrat who could appeal to the district’s largely have pledged to run again in 2010, and Republicans say talk of potential white, middle-class base. The one prospect to leave the Senate retirements on their side of the aisle is who seems to have fizzled the most in simply Democratic hype. “I don’t know that there were too recent months is Sen. John Flanagan (R-Suffolk), who toyed with the idea of many talking about retiring,” said Sen. running for governor in 2005 until Bruno Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn). “The ones shot that down. With both former New that were talking about retiring were York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former the Democrats telling us that they were Rep. Rick Lazio considering running, retiring.” Not even the Senate’s new four-day however, the low-level murmurs about Flanagan going for the top of the ticket in work week, which many thought would 2010 quickly dissipated. The better bet for agitate some of the Republicans’ older him, Republicans agree, could be 2014, if members, has managed to nudge them Paterson hangs on or if Attorney General toward early retirement. When asked about Democratic efforts Andrew Cuomo (D) takes his place in the to frustrate or needle him into leaving governor’s mansion. With Flanagan, Fuschillo and the Senate, for example, Padavan said DeFrancisco all cooling their jets for simply, “I’m not easily frustrated or easily now, Democrats have turned toward needled.” some of the older members of the party, firstname.lastname@example.org JERRY MILLER
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ane Corwin got to the Assembly after beating Mike Cole, he of the night spent sleeping on an intern’s floor, in a primary which focused quite a bit on the proper conduct for an elected official. So when Ethics and Guidance Committee Chair William Magnarelli (D-Onondaga) invited her to participate in the ethics seminar he was holding for new members, she eagerly accepted. She was surprised, then, to be turned away at the door, told that the session was in fact going to be for the chamber’s new Democrats only. A woman without a background in politics or state government, Corwin had been warned of the difficulties of life in the Assembly minority, but nonetheless, she said, she had arrived in Albany planning to be all but oblivious to her party affiliation. This was an important moment for her: her first real lesson in being ignored as an Assembly Republican, or what her colleague Rob Walker (R-Nassau), in the three years he has been in Albany, has come to call the challenge of constantly living within “the unknown.” Asked what she learned, Corwin shrugged. “I said, ‘Okay, whatever, we’ll do it that way,’” she said, brushing right past denial and into that distinctive mixture of anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance that is typical of the 41 Republicans left in the Assembly. They are valued members of the state government, able to make a difference in the lives of their constituents and people across the state, but they are furious and dejected about being shut out of most major discussions, unable to have a say. They are a strong force, each of them optimistic that the fortunes of their conference and their party will turn, though most of them laugh long and hard at the thought of ever, between now and the end of time, even coming close to regaining the majority which has slipped further and further away since 1974. They are fully in support of Minority Leader James Tedisco’s (R-Saratoga/Schenectady) bid to take Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D) old seat in the House, but they worry about the future of the conference without his bombastic personality to get them attention. More immediately, they worry that the time he is spending on the campaign trail will hurt their standing amid negotiations for what is already proving to be the state’s worst fiscal moment in years: both the special election in the 20th Congressional district and the budget deadline are March 31.
Minority by edward-isaac dovere
Inside the Minds of Assembly Republicans on life after Tedisco, the GOP Senate and
having enough members to matter
and collects support for his congressional bid. “Believe it or not, there are doors we couldn’t get into, in terms of people wanting to talk to me about fundraising for my conference, because they think I’m going to win the congressional race,” he said.
(c) steve bloom / stevebloom.com
Assembly Member Dede Scozzafava (R-Lewis/St. Lawrence/Jefferson), who serves as the conference whip, says her priority is having a leader fully focused on the difficult budget negotiations. She wants a conference meeting and potential vote on the idea of Tedisco continuing as leader as he runs for Congress. “I think it’s a discussion the conference has to have,” she said. “Now is an important time. We’re not talking about July. We’re talking about March.” After all, while Tedisco may be looking past life as an Assembly Republican, Scozzafava is not. “I’m still going to be in this conference and my concerns are what’s going to be the best for this conference over the next six weeks going forward,” she said. At least one member has already asked Tedisco outright to step down. But as he recruits Assembly staffers for his campaign and spurs some grumbling among his members for trying to do both jobs at once, the minority leader has refused, in private and public, to entertain the idea. “If I thought that I couldn’t lead and be the best leader in the four to six weeks in this short sprint, that I couldn’t multitask, I would,” he said, speaking in his office just off the Assembly floor, a day on the road in support of his candidacy ahead of him. “I don’t think that’s the case.” On the contrary, Tedisco believes that he is in fact helping the conference by remaining leader as he meets with people
edisco is not the only thing concerning Scozzafava, nor is she the only one among her colleagues wondering what the future of the conference may hold. Paterson’s return to major budget discussions that include just the governor, speaker and Senate majority leader tend to prompt the same threemen-in-a-room rant that most Assembly Republicans have learned to recite like a rosary over so many years of being excluded and ignored. Ways and Means Chair Herman D. Farrell’s (D-Manhattan) declaration that the Assembly leadership had not included them in the discussions over the Deficit Reduction Package because the Democrats had known the Republicans would vote against it anyway eats at all their hearts—a sign of why they need a fully focused leader to keep swinging, though admitting they probably would not have made a difference in the final result. Conversations with Assembly Republicans have a common theme: being in the minority is nowhere as near as bad as everyone outside the conference thinks. Nonetheless, at the moment, most admit it seems to be getting worse. The loss of the Senate weighs heavily on their minds—because their ideological allies are out of power, because they worry that they will be more vulnerable to eviscerating redistricting come the next census, but most of all, because it has the potential to radically rewrite the rules of the bizarre legislative game they have learned to play in order to get things done. They have been effective in recent years. Almost as often as the corporate-speak which peppers their reflections on their place within state government (“there’s no ‘I’ in team” is a favorite), minority members recite a quote from Samuel Adams that some of them have even framed and put up on their walls: “It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.” Proudly, they recount how many of the biggest ideas in state government originated within their ranks, from civil confinement and the property tax cap to the successful effort to humiliate then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) into rescinding his plan to issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Now, they hope against hope, fiscal restraint and lower taxes will be the next thing to percolate upward in the decision-making process. “It’s exciting to maybe lose a lot of votes but win the debates,” Tedisco explained. “Maybe we don’t win them all, but we win a lot of them.” But these are ultimately small victories, though they have taken on greater proportions in the peculiar minority member psychology. Civil confinement sat inert for 13 years before it gained any traction. The driver’s licenses initiative only disappeared because they were able to pummel Spitzer and the Democrats in the press. Overwhelmingly, though, for the over $9 million New York State spends on salaries and other expenses for Republican members each year, they get officials who are relegated to constituent services and lives as secondclass citizens in Albany. They do get fewer staffers and member items and, especially as Silver has gained power under a flailing governor, have been forced to take a back seat on just about everything. That makes getting anything done often depressing and always difficult.
“You’ve got to bust your ass to change things,” said Assembly Member Jack Quinn (R-Erie). “I don’t know how some guys sit there for 26 years in the minority, with no hope of getting into the majority.” In the absence of Spitzer, who was a much easier foil for the opposition than Paterson, getting attention has been harder. But that is not their only problem in Albany these days. Over the years, many of them became adept at overcoming the restrictions that keep minority members from introducing bills by giving legislation they wrote to Democratic friends in the chamber, then lobbying their fellow Republicans in the Senate majority to pass the bill. When George Pataki was governor, they would take the lead on lobbying the second floor as well. Over his 20 years in Albany—a stretch that makes him the longest-serving member of the conference other than Tedisco, who has been in office since 1982—James Conte (R-Suffolk/Nassau) said he had become used to and skilled at this odd legislative game. But with the Senate gone Democratic and no fellow Republicans in power at all, he said he is worried about being heard, even on the kind of less controversial matters like creating the taskforce on autism, which he accomplished last year. “I’m in a little bit of a quandary about how to begin to lobby on our behalf,” he said. “I have a lot of anxiety now.” More often, though, the guidance flowed in the other direction. Mired in the inescapable minority while their counterparts were still in control of the Senate, the Assembly conference had little choice but to follow rather than lead. More than a few members waited for word from their senator before deciding how to vote and, generally on controversial bills, marched in lockstep with their senators. “We have an environment here which is much like the feudal era,” said Assembly Member Peter Lopez (R-Schoharie/Greene), who served as an aide to three senators at the outset of his political career. “You swear loyalty to the lord of the realm, and if you break that, you’re cast out of the realm.” But these days, with everyone in the minority, the Assembly Republicans are feeling empowered, no longer forced to do what the Republican senators or Republican governor say, though the emphasis in the party remains on retaking the Senate and perhaps putting at least one of the statewide offices in party hands. More importantly, several members confide that they are actually glad to see the Republican majority gone in the short term, arguing that the ideological compromises made to hold onto power are to blame for leading the state party astray and the subsequent losses at the polls. With the Senate majority no longer able to push them around or take the lead, there is a bittersweet feeling of liberation within the conference.
“It’s exciting to maybe lose a lot of votes but win the debates,”Tedisco explained. “Maybe we don’t win them all, but we win a lot of them.”
ow the trick is learning what to do with that freedom. Assembly Member Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Suffolk), for one, believes they should use it to start to say no. Generally the conference’s most conservative member—his dot is red on the Assembly vote board more than any other— Fitzpatrick is out to convince New Yorkers that if the government does not take drastic action, the state will end up reeling from the kind of deficits that have plagued California and led many residents to move away. This is the time for the Assembly Republicans to be bold about standing up for fiscal responsibility and reap the electoral benefits that will naturally follow, Fitzpatrick said. The conference should become the ideological heralds of the state GOP, he said, blazing the path for the
party’s Senate and statewide candidates to follow. “As Reagan did, we have to speak to New Yorkers and not to interest groups,” he said. “If we speak to the people who are paying the bills, we can do very well.” Preaching this message, Fitzpatrick has put himself into the running to succeed Tedisco, should he win the Congressional race, along with David Townsend (R-Oneida/Oswego) and Daniel Burling (R-Wyoming/ Livingston/Allegany). But many members are already supporting Brian Kolb (R-Seneca/Ontario/Onondaga), the affable floor leader and former businessman from the Finger Lakes whose squinting, smiling manner and voice could almost be mistaken for a man doing an impression of George W. Bush. The new leader will have the tall order of continuing the media success they have enjoyed under Tedisco that has allowed them more attention than under the quieter leaders who preceded him. Fitzpatrick, Townsend, Burling and Kolb are all different personalities than the man they want to succeed, not as prone to stunts like Tedisco’s YouTube video singing along to Frank Sinatra to protest the iTunes tax or stealing the spotlight at leadership press conferences by hamming it up in front of the cameras with his property tax baseball cap. Whoever wins the leadership race, if there is one, will have to find some way to get attention as proficiently for the conference—a task that may be complicated if Tedisco takes his media team with him to the Congressional office, should he beat Democrat Scott Murphy at the end of March. But what many members, especially the younger ones, are looking for in their next leader is someone who will be able to focus them on a few Newt Gingrich-style basic principles, as well as turn the Assembly conference into the kind of farm team, perhaps with regional captains, that Silver has constructed among his ranks for the Democrats. Tedisco is running for Congress after 26 years in the Assembly, but they want to see more of their own be groomed more quickly for Congress, State Senate and other offices to save the state party in peril. The lack of a clear successor to State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Queens), who barely squeaked through his re-election last year, puts a sharp point on the problem. After all, succeeding in the Assembly minority can be turned into a political asset in itself, said Assembly Member Marcus Molinaro (R-Dutchess/ Columbia), who, many expect, is among those who will soon move up into the seat of State Sen. Stephen Saland (R-Dutchess/Columbia). He may not be the lead sponsor on any bills or get as much member item money allocated to the district, but succeeding against all odds can make him seem more appealing on the campaign trail. “Going home and saying, ‘I worked with the majority to pass this,’ is just as good as saying I sponsored it,” Molinaro said. “In fact, it’s almost better, because it shows an ability to work in a non-partisan way.” At the same time, members are looking for a much more aggressive effort to develop candidates-in-waiting to retain seats when these incumbents move on and when seats open in favorable districts like David Koon’s (D-Monroe) and William Magee’s (D-Madison/Ostego). If they were to return to the pre-2004 levels, with enough members to deprive Democrats the ability to override vetoes, they believe they would be able to have a real say in proceedings, force more debates and perhaps nurture more competitive races, as they narrowed the wiggle room available to marginal Democrats. “Unless you get into the 50s, you have no role except to be a bomb thrower,” said Quinn, himself expected to one day be a candidate for Congress or mayor of Buffalo. The task of getting there falls to Will Barclay (ROnondaga/Oswego) and Bob Oaks (R-Oswego/Wayne/ Cayuga), the yin-yang co-chairs of the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee (RACC), with a
$104,175.20 account balance. The contributions tell a more depressing story, with just $868,052 in contributions over the course of last year, as compared to the $2,540,120 the Democrats did. In many ways, Barclay and Oaks have had their hands tied: George W. Bush did not help his party anywhere in the country, and certainly not in New York. The damage he did to the Republican brand has created a hole out of which many candidates have struggled to climb. Fundraising has run increasingly dry the further away they have slipped from the majority, and the recession has not exactly bred optimism that this will change soon. November’s surprise loss of Thomas Kirwan, yanking them ever further toward the periphery of relevance, was another depressing cut. But while no one in the conference was happy to see another seat go, they dismiss talk of any greater significance in the loss. Yes, he was one of their members and he was defeated, but, they point out, he refused RACC’s help and lost to a candidate who was not prioritized or heavily funded by Silver and the Democratic campaign operation. Meanwhile, they defended their incumbents and got Tony Jordan (R-Rensselaer/Washington/Saratoga) elected to Roy McDonald’s targeted seat. All but bragging about the power of the Republican message and the sophistication of their campaign operations, the story of the 2008 election Barclay, Oaks and Tedisco like to tell is not that they lost a member, but that they returned 41.
THE CAPITOL said this homogeny is just another example of the greater disconnect between the leadership in Albany and reality. Casting himself as the messenger of the concerned citizen out to spread the word about how bad things are in Albany, Amedore said he believes his success will only be replicated if the conference starts not only to include people from more walks of life, but to reflect the concerns of this wider range of people. “Some of these Republican Party members better wake up, and they better get engaged with what society looks like,” he said. The RACC chairs agree that this should be a goal. “We would love to have more diversity,” Oaks said. “We have tried hard.” As of now, though there have been some initial meetings with potential candidates they are hoping to sway into the 2010 races, Oaks said neither he nor Barclay has yet met with any groups or civic organizations which might produce a viable non-white candidate. In the meantime, reversing the tide is less an issue than holding back the floodgates. “We’ve just been on the defensive,” Barclay said. “Target races? My god, we’re just trying to keep our own guys here. But these things go in a cycle, and I suspect that the brand name will not be as bad in future elections. Maybe that would be the time when we can start.” Greg Ball (R-Putnam/Westchester/Dutchess), a young Assembly member who has often sparred with his fellow Republicans, lacks that patience. At the outset of a congressional bid himself, he said he would like to see a more aggressive RACC go after the 15 Democratic seats, at least, outside of metropolitan New York he has identified as vulnerable, provided enough cash is generated by members who are forced to pay high RACC dues and the campaign committee prepare to fight. “We should not view RACC as an insurance program for members that are inactive,” Ball said. “Having members that have $10-15,000 in a bank account— and they’re in leadership positions—when your typical race now costs half a million dollars is insanity.” But with registration numbers where they are—70 districts with over 70-percent Democratic registration, 29 of them with over 90-percent Democratic registration— all the money in the world may not be enough to make a difference. So whatever hope there is may lay in making hay of another shortfall: the state government’s. Trying to envision the future of the conference he hopes to soon lead, Brian Kolb is trying to be optimistic. He believes the recession will soon bring a reckoning for New Yorkers about the size and role of their state government, with political opportunities for him and his colleagues to follow. Paterson and the Democrats in the Legislature taxing and spending will give New Yorkers reason to vote against them, and continuing to shunt them aside will give the Assembly Republicans the perfect argument to make on the campaign trail. Kolb said he is confident that there are more campaign dollars, and in turn votes, and in turn members, on the horizon for the conference. “We’ve always had the right side of the issues, but it’s been more now that people are really starting to look at it, because people are in distress right now and they’re saying, ‘Who’s got the right ideas? Who’s trying to lower my tax bill? Who’s trying to shrink government?’” Kolb said. “And the Assembly Republicans are that for sure.” firstname.lastname@example.org
“We’ve just been on the defensive,”
said RACC co-chair Will Barclay. “Target races? My god, we’re just trying to keep our own guys here. “It is pretty amazing—Kirwan was the only Republican we lost in two extremely toxic election cycles,” Barclay said. “We’re pretty proud of that. If we have the resources, if we have the candidate, we can be pretty competitive.” Getting the candidates they want, though, has often been the problem. Some may look fondly at Sen. Charles Schumer’s (D) renowned method of inserting himself into primaries around the country during his two cycles of chairing the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, but RACC has been consistently unable to get local Republican organizations to follow their picks for Assembly candidates. As a result, RACC is often left halfheartedly supporting second- or third-rate candidates, whose eventual, predictable losses still sting the leaders frustrated by the fantasies of how things could have gone differently. They want to start recruiting candidates earlier, and so far have had a handful of meetings with prospects, though they have yet to seal any deals. But the most pressing need in changing the face of the conference is literally changing the face of the conference, which is almost entirely male—only six of the 41 are women—and with the exception of Peter Lopez’s half-Puerto Rican heritage, staunchly white. George Amedore (R-Montgomery/Schenectady), whose local celebrity from an appearance on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and outsider message helped win him a seat that had been Democratic for three decades in the conference’s sole recent success story,
Paterson’s Mystery Advisor Diagnoses and Defends Jon Cohen, the vascular surgeon who says he has Paterson’s ear on everything BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS ith Gov. David Paterson’s (D) poll numbers slipping amid reports of inner turmoil within the executive chamber, new light is being shined on those senior advisors that seem to have less well-defined job descriptions. Jon Cohen, a top aide to Paterson, is one such enigma. A vascular surgeon from Long Island, Cohen was instantly catapulted from an unpaid position in Eliot Spitzer’s administration to reporting directly to Paterson a mere 10 days after the new governor’s swearing-in. Since then, legislators and Capitol insiders have seen and heard little of Cohen, leaving many confused as to who exactly he is. “Other than once saying ‘hi’ to him, I don’t think I’ve spoken with him since he’s joined the administration,” said one longtime Albany Democrat. “I don’t know what he does.” Other legislators declined comment, citing a lack of familiarity with Cohen. Few in and around state government seem to know what Cohen does for his $160,000 salary, or what falls into his portfolio. But in an interview, Cohen said his job description has been clear since day one. Cohen said he is a professional wrangler of sorts, helping to tap various experts and officials from around the state to assist in developing and formulating the governor’s policy agenda. He claimed to be instrumental in helping Paterson select Robert Wilmers as the new chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, as well as the agency’s president, Marisa Lago. “I do help, when he needs me to help, look for people and recruit people to different levels of the second floor,” Cohen said. Cohen also described himself as a confidant to Paterson on a wide range of issues, advising the governor on everything from energy policy to the environment to homeland security. He serves as a surrogate for Paterson, speaking to various business groups around the state. He also aided in putting together a panel of economic advisors for Paterson over the summer, and played a role in selecting members for both the state’s volunteer and arts commissions. Cohen reports to both Paterson and Secretary to the Governor William Cunningham. He has an office on the second floor and in the governor’s midtown Manhattan chambers, but asked what his specific responsibilities were, Cohen answered broadly that he is tasked with developing “long-term strategic planning” for the governor. Among the things that he is not deeply involved in, despite his long career in medicine and health administration, is dispensing health policy advice. “I will participate in the discussion, certainly,” Cohen said, “but I’m not here as a driver of health policy.” Cohen had a robust medical career before getting involved in politics. He published over 100 peer-reviewed articles and two books during his teaching career. After some time spent as a surgeon, Cohen became the executive vice president of the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, where he oversaw its merger with North Shore University Hospital. He also briefly managed PricewaterhouseCoopers’ health insurance portfolio. Cohen said he derived most of his policy-setting expertise from his time managing the nation’s third largest health care system. He then switched to politics, serving as the senior health care advisor forH. Carl McCall’s gubernatorial run in 2002, and helped draft Massachusetts Sen.
Infrastructure is the Nation’s Backbone By John H. Banks
In good times or bad, when people flip a light switch, they expect results. Since reliable energy fuels our nation’s economic engine, maintaining and expanding local, regional, and national energy infrastructure investments are more important than ever.
President Obama, Governor Paterson, and Mayor Bloomberg all stress this need. We couldn’t agree more. If the nation’s financial collapse has taught us anything, it’s that we must have a strong public-private sector relationship that works. Business needs government. Government needs business.
Jon Cohen described himself as a wide-ranging confidant to Gov. David Paterson. John Kerry’s health care platform for his presidential campaign in 2004. McCall said Cohen’s experience as a practitioner helped shape his belief that the health care system had to be reformed, ultimately steering down a more political path. “That’s how he got the political bug,” McCall said, “that landed him in Albany.” Cohen ran for lieutenant governor in 2005 on the single issue of health care, but bowed out as soon as Eliot Spitzer chose Paterson as his running mate. He immediately threw his support behind Paterson, and within 48 hours the two had their first dinner together. In the past year, Cohen said he has been struck by the uniqueness of the Paterson administration. “David is an extraordinary individual,” he said. “How he gets his information, how we get him accurate information, how we have the discourse with him, it’s very different than anything else.” But after bungling the selection of Hillary Clinton’s Senate replacement earlier this year, the executive chamber has been in free fall. Polls show 2010 rivals like Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (D) with a crushing lead over Paterson. The governor’s budget proposal is being picked apart by legislators and advocates for its reliance on new taxes and cuts to health and education. And anonymous reports of chaos and in-fighting among Paterson’s top staff seem to be surfacing daily. Cohen at first dismissed such reports as “rumor and innuendo,” but when pressed on the matter, he opened up about the inner struggles of a still-new administration that was forced to hit the ground running from day one, all under a dire economic cloud. “Here’s a guy who’s the first African-American governor who happens to be blind, who gets parachuted into being governor, with no campaign run-up and no policy run-up,” Cohen said. “I would challenge anyone to do this as well as we’ve done it.” As he labors to assist Paterson in getting his administration back on track, Cohen said his main focus is on the budget. And what he has to offer in that respect, he said, should be a mystery to no one. “I think I’m a data-driven, information-seeking person, for whatever that’s worth,” he said. “You bring yourself up to speed, you bring in a lot of people, you talk to a lot of people and you present a balanced approach. ” email@example.com
As the stimulus bill moves through Congress, President Obama is committed to investing $150 billion and leveraging billions more in private capital to build a new energy economy and create 5 million new jobs. The President believes in major investments in the nation’s utility grid employing smart metering, distributed storage, and other advanced technologies. In New York City, electricity usage increased 20 percent in the last ten years. We also have to prepare for the possibility of a new peak-use record every year. Con Edison invests more than $2 billion every year in New York’s electric, gas and steam delivery systems. That investment meets current needs and prepares us for inevitable growth, notwithstanding today’s stagnant economy. Green jobs. Plug-in hybrids. Renewable energy. R&D. All of it can flourish here in New York. Keeping our utilities in a strong financial position lowers the cost of capital for the infrastructure investments, allows us to be more flexible in structuring payment programs for those in need, and helps keep costs as low as possible for ratepayers, too. In 1961, John Kennedy committed the United States to reaching the moon by the end of the decade. With everyone pulling together, we did it. We now have the opportunity to ensure that the energy delivery infrastructure – our nation’s backbone and an essential element of our economic recovery – is ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Working together, we can accomplish this, too. John H. Banks is Vice President of Government Relations at Con Ed and the Former Chief of Staff at the NY City Council.
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S P O N S O R E D
S E C T I O N
The New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (New York AREA) is a diverse group of business, labor, environmental, and community leaders working together for clean, low-cost and reliable electricity solutions that foster prosperity and jobs for the Empire State. W W W. A R E A - A L L I A N C E . O R G
Stengel Steps In, Defending Democrats’ Delay B y C hr is B r a g g
hen Still Broken: New York State Legislative Reform 2008 Update, a scathing report on dysfunction in state government, came out last month, Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) dismissed it as “nonsense.” But Silver’s counterpart Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) apparently had the opposite reaction. Weeks into his tenure as Senate majority leader, Smith hired the report’s author, Andrew Stengel, as a senior advisor to the newly created Senate Temporary Committee on Rules and Administration Reform. Stengel is in charge of coordinating the bipartisan panel, which has until Mar. 15 to write recommendations on how to increase the influence of the Senate’s rankand-file members, the minority party and the committee system. The Democrats have not, however, simply adopted Stengel’s recommendations, voting down a resolution introduced by Senate Republicans Jan. 12 that would have essentially implemented the recommendations of Still Broken. They created the temporary committee to produce recommendations instead, a move Stengel defended because there will now be time for more hearings.
Lawrence Norden, another author of the Brennan Center report, disagreed, calling the hearings primarily a means for Smith to buy time. He blamed the delay on politics, specifically on the time spent bringing the Gang of Three back into the Democratic fold. “My read on this is that they delayed because of the uncertainty about who would lead them until the very last minute,” he said. To ensure that the reforms are implemented by the end of the session, State Sen. Daniel Squadron, (D-Brooklyn/Manhattan) said the committee’s recommendations must remain narrowly focused, with an emphasis on the kinds of fixes to arcane Senate procedures outlined in the Brennan Center report. “When we started the committee, people said it shouldn’t be a place where ideas go to die,” Squadron said. “One way to ensure that something gets done is to make the mission and the focus of the committee very specific.” One idea is to put more information about Senate committees on the web. The reform committee’s own website, which includes video and photos of prior hearings and a regularly updating schedule, could be used as a model. A more ambitious and costly idea in the same vein that’s not in the Brennan Cen-
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ter report is the creation of a so-called “CSPAN for New York State” that would offer constant coverage of the Legislature. Meanwhile, there is the thornier question of allocating resources to Senate Republican offices now in the minority. Republicans remain concerned about the disbursement of “member items”—or pet projects—that Republicans had promised to provide their districts but which the transfer of power may threaten. “Real change means equal staff allocations. Real change means that if the member item process continues, it must be fair to all the people of New York,” said State Sen. John Bonacic (R-Delaware/Ulster/Sullivan), the committee co-chair. “The hearings are helpful, but the proof will be in the results.” This is not Stengel’s first time in Albany. In 1993, he worked for a year as an aide to Gov. Mario Cuomo (D). Stengel later served as an advisor to Eliot Spitzer (D) during his run for attorney general. He also worked as political director for Harvey Weinstein, the founder of Miramax Films. Before coming to the Brennan Center, Stengel worked for People for the American Way, a group founded by TV producer and writer Norman Lear that attempts to rebut attacks from the religious right against the LGBT community.
Brennan Center report co-author now says waiting makes sense
Formerly one of Albany’s toughest critics, Andrew Stengel has been hired by Senate Majority Malcolm Smith to help reform the Senate. When Stengel was asked to return to Albany, he says he had no hesitation. “The answer was ‘yes,’” he said, “in capital letters.” firstname.lastname@example.org
With Gillibrand’s and Smith’s Support, High-Speed Rail Project May Be on Track Even with stimulus, full plans and sufficient cash are still in the distance B y Julie S o Be l
This year, the political calculus may be in the idea’s favor. Championing a major upstate infrastructure investment, with all the economic and environmental benefits, might bolster downstate Democrats’ claim that they are not focused only on New York City.
ucked into Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D) speech about her background and biography at her appointment press conference last month was one clear statement of policy: Gillibrand wants to build the long-discussed high-speed rail link between New York City, Albany and Buffalo. Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (DQueens) started nodding so hard his head almost popped off. Smith has been advocating for a high-speed rail line for years. From almost the moment Rochester Buffalo his party won enough seats to take the Senate Syracuse majority, Smith was publicly promoting the Utica Albany project as a priority. Seeing the economic rationale is easy: Upstate New York’s struggling economy would benefit from a high-speed train connecting the cities, both from the new jobs it would create and from the EMpirE Corridor New York City ability it would give people to work farther from Major cities: New York City, Albany, Buffalo their homes. The thinking has some support: a Progressive Policy Institute report released last STaTiSTicS year not specific to the New York proposal found Segment: Mileage: Top Speed: that every $10 billion invested in high-speed rail New York, 439 125 mph Albany to Buffalo projects yield 40,000 construction-related jobs and 112,500 permanent jobs. Increasing the speed and the reliability The proposed high-speed rail line between New of train service could enable people to live in York, Albany and Buffalo could cost up to $15 bilrelatively inexpensive areas upstate and still work lion. The federal stimulus package provides $8 in the state’s major cities, potentially countering billion for 11 projects around the country. upstate’s dwindling population, while at the same time boosting tourism to Niagara Falls, the Finger Lakes and the wine country. Yet even with the caucus, the support from Gillibrand has continued pressing the case, Gillibrand in her new position and the State Senate sketching out the details of her ideal scenario at her majority leader, few transportation experts have a full Feb. 9 speech to the Association for a Better New handle on what the project would look like, when it York. would be completed and how much it would cost. “If we can have a high-speed rail line that goes “From what I know, there really is no project,” said from Manhattan straight to Montreal, stopping in Yoav Hagler, an associate planner with the Regional Albany, and then go west to Buffalo, what you do is Plan Association. “For an entirely new high-speed open up the whole northern part of the state for not rail line from New York to Buffalo, we’re still talking only economic growth but to have partnerships with about years.” downstate,” Gillibrand said. Federal funding for high-speed rail got a boost with Moreover, she said, the rail link would create the passage of President Barack Obama’s (D) stimulus opportunity for companies to move their back offices package, which includes $8 billion for high-speed rail, from Connecticut or New Jersey to New York State. though how this money will be allocated and whether In January, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-Erie/Monroe) any will come to New York remains unclear. Some created the Upstate New York Congressional Caucus. The estimates put the projected cost of the New Yorkbipartisan group, which includes all 11 House members Albany-Buffalo connection at $15 billion. from upstate—Gillibrand was among the founding In response to a call from the U.S. Department members before getting the Senate appointment—has of Transportation for public or private proposals to made high-speed rail a top priority, she said. “finance, design, build, operate and maintain” high“We’ve been dying up here economically, partly speed trains in 11 select areas around the nation, the from lack of transportation,” said Slaughter, who has state Department of Transportation is submitting a 20been working on the issue since she was first elected year forecast for the building and operation of highto Congress in 1986. “High-speed rail would bring us speed rail in the Empire Corridor. The agency has until into this century.” September to make the case in competition with the Slaughter is not the only one: while Japan and other projects. many European countries already have high-speed Assembly Member Sam Hoyt (D-Erie), co-chair of rail transport between cities, the larger discussion the Assembly’s Task Force on High-Speed Rail, said about the proposed rail link has dragged on for years. that the emerging political consensus in the state Gov. Mario Cuomo (D) talked up a high-speed rail in would show the federal government that New York is his 1994 re-election campaign, but he lost to George serious about rebuilding the upstate economy. Pataki (R), who mostly let the issue die. In 2005, then“New York State needs to make clear that we’re Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Rensselaer) not just looking to grab money here,” Hoyt said, “but created a task force to study the issue and make we’re ready to move forward.” recommendations. email@example.com
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Assisting in all aspects of planning and executing press events Writing and editing press releases Drafting talking points, speeches, remarks Communicating with broadcast, print, radio and electronic media Other duties as assigned The Assistant Press Secretary will contribute to all media efforts of the Office of the Public Advocate. Areas of responsibility include writing and editing, pitching, research, message development, press event planning and implementation, and collaboration with policy staff. Additionally, the Assistant Press Secretary will be responsible for advancing media events on behalf of the Public Advocate’s press office as needed and arranging phone and on-site interviews with the Public Advocate. Skills: Strong writing and editing; excellent computer and research skills; organized, conscientious and detail-oriented. Must be able to multi-task. Knowledge: Understanding of media and communications, general knowledge of NYC media market, as well as NYC political landscape and local current events. Experience with podcasts, rss feeds, blogging, java/html script, indesign, and video editing a plus. 1-2 years in public relations, news media or public affairs preferred. Fluency in Spanish a plus. NEW YORK CITY RESIDENCY REQUIRED TO APPLY FOR CONSIDERATION, PLEASE MAIL YOUR RESUME TO INDICATING THE JVN#: Office of the Public Advocate 1 Centre Street, 15th Floor North New York, NY 10007 ATTN: Elba Feliciano, Director of Human Resources firstname.lastname@example.org
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Testing out ’10 Rhetoric, Republicans Aim to Stop ’09 Drug Law Reform
Democratic tough talk threatened by narrow Senate majority, Paterson’s troubles B y S a l G e nt ile
t was a provocative plan from one of the fiercest critics of the Rockefeller Drug Laws in the state. It called for slashing the penalties for non-violent offenders, restoring sentencing discretion to judges and expanding treatment options. It was cheered by reform advocates and liberal politicians who had been fighting for such a plan for years. And it was written by David Paterson. Paterson, then the State Senate minority leader, said at the time of the report’s release in 2004 that he would “do more than just ‘talk the talk’ of reform,” and promised that “the time for change has come, and it starts today.” Five years later, in arguably the only clear policy statement of his State of the State Address, he thrilled reform advocates by declaring that he had not seen a policy “that has been more unsuccessful than the Rockefeller drug laws.” But the change is still facing resistance. This was supposed to be the year for a sweeping overhaul of the draconian drug laws, but in the midst of a spiraling fiscal crisis and with a closely divided Senate, advocates are beginning to fear the moment will be lost. Both Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) have expressed their support for wide-ranging reforms. State Sen. Eric Schneiderman (D-Manhattan/Bronx), who has long helped lead the charge for Democrats demanding changes, took the gavel of the Codes Committee, which would spearhead any reform effort. And the fiscal crisis seemed to give the Democrats the opening they needed to initiate costsavings measures like closing prisons. Even public opinion seemed to be on the side of reform. Polls have shown anywhere from 60- to 80-percent support for various elements of the Democrats’ proposals, such as shifting responsibility for sentencing to judges. But just as public support for reform has swelled, Paterson’s approval ratings have tanked. And Democrats, conscious of the fact that they will have to defend a handful of seats in conservative districts in order to retain control of the Senate, are already beginning to signal their willingness to shift away from radical reform. “We’re probably going to have to come up with something that’s more moderate than what I would want, and what the governor would want,” Schneiderman said. “Some of the more conservative voices will be heard.” Republicans have already begun sketching the outlines of a campaign theme modeled on the stinging law-and-
order attacks candidates used when crime was at its peak in the 1970s and ’80s, complete with slogans. “This is just another excuse of that ‘turnstile justice’ that we’ve witnessed in the past that’s caused crime, caused havoc, caused death,” said State Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), a former police officer and the Republicans’ point man on public safety issues. “Whose family is going to be the next one that’s going to be attacked by one of these parolees?” Golden said the party was gearing up to use Rockefeller Drug Law reform as a major campaign issue in 2010. “The state is crying for leadership right now,” Golden said of Paterson’s low approval rating. “I believe we have some conservative Democrats that are there, that are new to the Senate, [who] would be hard-pressed to vote for this policy. Can you imagine them voting for a policy that could increase the crime in their town, their village, their cities?” But the Senate Republicans aren’t the only political challenge the Democrats face in passing a major overhaul of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. The state’s 62 district attorneys have come out in force against any attempt to weaken the laws, and are using their harshest rhetoric yet to argue that softening penalties for drug offenders would lead to an increase in crime and drug violence. “There was times in the late ’80s and ’90s when people in some neighborhoods in New York City used to put their children in bath tubs to protect them from the stray bullets that might come through their windows,” said Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan, a Republican and president of the New York State District Attorneys Association. “We don’t have that anymore. Why is that? Because of the way we’ve been able to handle the drug trade.” In order to counter those blistering attacks and shore up Democrats in conservative districts, Democrats acknowledge that they will have to reformulate their message to appeal to white, suburban voters easily riled by law-and-order issues. But Robert Gangi, executive director of the Correctional Association, has not given up hope. In lobbying for sentencing reform, he has been arguing that Democrats could make the case that locking up non-violent offenders iws a waste of resources that does nothing to stop violent offenders from repeating their crimes. “I think there are ways to present repealing the Rockefeller Drug Laws to conservative constituencies,” said Gangi. “They can frame it in ways that appeal to conservative constituencies on the basis of public safety.” email@example.com
Rapidly Growing List of “Shovel-Ready” Projects May Pose Problems for Paterson Paterson’s list of 40 could grow to 5,000, potentially hobbling stimulus help BY CHRIS BRAGG
ew York has 40 shovel-ready road, bridge and transportation repair projects and over 60 water waste-treatment projects ready to go right now—shovel-in-the-ground-ready—if we can get the money from Washington,” Gov. David Paterson said during his State of the State address. But by the time Paterson made his speech, his office had collected a list of at least 1,922 projects New York State considered “shovel-ready,” including 382 transportation infrastructure projects. The list has continued to grow rapidly since, with 1,600 more requests rolling in from around the state after governor’s office advertised that they were taking submissions in response to the passage of the federal stimulus bill. And New York City is about to throw another wrench into the works. The city’s wish list of projects was not included on the state’s initial list, even though the city says it has $5 billion in projects that could begin in 180 days. The exponential growth of the state’s list of “shovelready” projects over the past year raises questions about whether the state has been overly generous in defining projects as “shovel-ready”— and whether the list has grown too unwieldy for the state to be able to adequately manage the spending of billions of dollars. “It can be very difficult to discern whether a project is ‘shovel-ready’ or whether it’s one, two or three steps away,” said Chris Keeley, associate director of New York Common Cause. “It’s obviously going to be difficult to really figure that out with so many projects.” Adding extra difficulty, Keeley said, is the imperative in the stimulus package to get the dollars out quickly. The initial—and incorrect—numbers that has since repeated several times were derived from a January 2008 survey conducted by a lobbying group called the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). Paterson spokesperson Erin Duggan said the governor was simply misspeaking in quoting that outdated number, which was not in the prepared text of his State of the State. Duggan also said the state’s response to the AASHTO survey a year ago dramatically underplayed the number of “shovel-ready” projects. In the months since the prospect of federal stimulus cash emerged, the governor’s office has reached out to numerous state agencies and municipalities who have added their projects to the list. The criteria used by the governor’s office to consider a project “shovelready” also became less strict during that time. When responding to the AASHTO survey a year ago, the state decided a project had to be “ready to go” in 90 days to qualify. In building the more recent list, however, the
governor’s office has looked at whether projects can be started in 180 days. Now that Congress has passed the $787 billion federal stimulus bill, New York will be required to have half its transportation infrastructure projects ready to begin within 120 days. The other half of the projects will have to be lined up by September. Speaking for Paterson, Duggan declined to say whether knowing Congress’ criteria would expand or contract the governor’s list. Keeley, however, said that in a meeting with the governor’s staff after the passage of the stimulus bill he was told the list of potential “shovelready” projects would likely balloon to 5,000— but that only around 2,000 projects would ultimately receive funding. Based on funding requests made in the state’s initial list of 1,922 items, however, it appears unlikely that there will be enough money. The state will receive $1.25 billion for the mass transit projects, for instance, but the MTA submitted $1.66 billion in project requests. $1.1 billion will be available for highways and bridges, but the New York Department of Transportation made $1.88 billion in requests. And the New York State Thruway Authority submitted $325 million in requests that would compete for the same pot of money. Paterson has created a specialized cabinet made up of heads of state agencies and senior members of his staff to prioritize projects and divvy up stimulus money. The federal bill requires information from all contracts the cabinet approves posted on the Web, though there are no such requirements for subcontractors. Also still not entirely clear is whether the cabinet will only deal with transportation infrastructure projects—with money for other types of projects doled out through the budget process—or if the cabinet’s charge will be broader. Pointing to one potential problem with this arrangement, Assembly Member Richard Brodsky (DWestchester), who chairs the Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee, recently wrote a letter to the head of Paterson’s infrastructure cabinet, Timothy Gilchrist, questioning why spending decisions for mass transit projects will likely be made solely by the MTA Board with no input from elected officials. Brodsky expressed concern that because of internal MTA politics, the board would divert money for more pressing projects like finishing the Fulton Street Station, for instance, and instead use it on less pressing projects like an extension of the No. 7 subway line on Manhattan’s far West Side. “They’ve decided to create a Soviet-style bureaucracy to make these decisions,” Brodsky said. “I give great credit to the governor for trying to get the money out quickly. But I never thought the state’s economic recovery would be left up to a bunch of people we’ve never heard of.” firstname.lastname@example.org
An Energy Plan for all New Yorkers By Gavin J. Donohue
Governor David Paterson deserves great credit for leading the charge towards establishing a new energy plan. Indeed, a comprehensive approach must be taken when developing energy policy, and Independent Power Producers of New York (IPPNY) is pleased that the Governor and his team have welcomed input during this critical process. .We look forward to continuing our dialogue with the State Energy Planning Board in the coming months. For any energy plan to be successful, it is critical that policymakers encourage adequate supplies of generation and facilitate the development of transmission and distribution infrastructure without ignoring energy efficiency. Additionally, lawmakers should re-affirm a commitment to the competitive market model as the best vehicle to satisfy New York’s longterm needs for reliable energy at the lowest possible cost. The results have clearly shown that competitive markets have spurred energy innovation and efficiency, increased consumer choice and encouraged economic growth from Niagara to Nanuet to Nesconset. New York State’s energy plan must also reflect a balanced approach towards efficient and reliable electric markets, environmental stewardship, and improving the state’s economic health. The plan should set a clear, long-range direction that balances sustainable energy policies with key environmental and economic development initiatives, and must assess the cumulative impact that all existing and pending environmental regulations may have on economic development, energy costs and reliability. Promoting fuel diversity is an essential element of any reliable energy portfolio. A new comprehensive, fuel-neutral power plant siting law is a critical component of this effort. IPPNY has long supported fuel-neutral legislation, and we recognize the vulnerability of New York’s energy supply without the presence of an expedited review process for the development of new power plants. As part of facilitating new sources of generation to bolster the state’s power supply, passage of such a law will create new jobs and help stabilize utility costs. Fortifying our state’s competitive markets and providing balance between economic growth and environmental protection are the keys to securing our state’s energy future. Gavin J. Donohue is President and Chief Executive Officer of Independent Power Producers of New York, Inc. (IPPNY), and an Advisory Board member of the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance S P E C I A L
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Obama’s Man on Long Island Eyes Congress as the Promised Land If Israel moves on, Jon Cooper hopes to become first gay congressman in state BY SAL GENTILE h, to be Jon Cooper: The 54-year-old majority leader of the Suffolk legislature is fabulously wealthy from a fortune made in manufacturing, has a beautiful young family, and, due to an early endorsement of Barack Obama, is now one of the most sought-after men on Long Island. “He could write his own ticket,” said Suffolk Democratic Chairman Richie Schaeffer, who added that Cooper has been talked about for a job in the administration or for a position with the Democratic National Committee. But what Cooper says he really covets is a seat in Congress. To many, Cooper would be the ideal candidate to replace Steve Israel (D-Suffolk) should the congressman seek higher office. For now, the speculation is somewhat academic: Israel was unsuccessful in his bid to get picked for the open Senate seat, and has not made any real indication that a race for anything other than re-election is in his near future. But if Israel does decide to jump, there will almost certainly be a tough fight to succeed him. The seat is in a traditional Republican stronghold and was held by Rick Lazio before Israel, but Cooper would be an attractive candidate for several reasons: He could put up a lot of his money for a campaign, in addition to being able to tap into the sprawling donor network he helped assemble as a member of Obama’s national finance team. And he is a Democrat with a largely centrist record and demonstrated support among conservatives in a predominantly white middle-class district. But Cooper is also openly gay, a fact that is well known to his constituents, but one that he has avoided advertising throughout his career so far. Local political insiders are unsure whether the suburban voters that dominate Israel’s district would be ready for an openly gay congressman if an opening arose. “It’s probably 9.8 on the Richter scale of local politics,” Schaeffer said, describing the idea of electing an openly gay congressman in Suffolk County. “We’ve elected an African-American as president, and it’s breaking another one of those barriers that’s out there.” Cooper knows he would be breaking barriers. In fact, that would be part of the appeal. In many ways, Cooper’s politics are reminiscent of Obama’s and of the other so-called “post-racial” black candidates that have outdistanced the older generation of civil rights leaders. He rarely talks about his sexuality at all, in campaign material or other conversation. Even the way he leads his personal life, he argues, is a marked contrast from that of the traditional gay politician. “We obviously have other openly gay congressmen, but I don’t think we have any
Jon Cooper was an early and ardent supporter of Barack Obama who hopes that the popularity and access he now enjoys will help him in a race for Congress at least several years down the line. openly gay congressmen who’ve been in a relationship for 25 years and have raised five kids,” he said. “Having that image, just like having Barack and Michelle with two beautiful kids—intact, intelligent, beautiful African-American family—in the White House that the whole country is going to be seeing every day for the next eight years, I suspect. What’s that going to do?” Cooper has never had an overriding interest in LGBT issues in office. In fact, though he is a favorite of progressive groups on Long Island, he has sponsored some of the most conservative measures in the Suffolk legislature. He took the lead on a bill that required employers
to track their workers and certify their immigration status, which landed him on the cover of El Diario, the Spanishlanguage daily, under the screaming headline, “No Se Peude” (No We Can’t). “Jon has been involved in one of the most conservative movements there is, and that’s called e-verification,” said Bill Fries, the vice chair of the Suffolk Conservative Party, referring to the system for tracking illegal workers. “Jon took the first steps.” As a result, the Conservative Party offered to let Cooper run on its line in his unopposed 2008 election, but he declined for fear of alienating his progressive allies. Cooper will hardly need the
Conservative Party, anyway, if he decides to run for higher office. His early endorsement of Obama, after a brief encounter with the then-junior senator in a Manhattan townhouse in early 2007, has won him entrée to some of the most powerful political circles in Washington and New York. These days, sitting in his business office in Westbury, Cooper trades e-mails with the president’s senior advisers in the West Wing of the White House, exchanges text messages with William Cunningham, secretary to Gov. David Paterson, and chats with the new DNC chair, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine. His newfound access to power has not been lost on others, either. Since Obama won, the requests for favors have been rolling in. Cooper relishes the swell in popularity. He beams at his Blackberry or desktop as the invitations to events and fundraisers for candidates across the state flood his inbox. He is the man with the donor network, the Rolodex and the e-mail rolls that politicos seek. He is badgered for tickets to the inauguration, jobs in the Obama administration or posts at the DNC. The question for Cooper is whether he can parlay those requests into a political edge years from now, if and when an opportunity arises. “It’s the power of this base,” he said. “The real question is whether that will translate into real results the next time.” firstname.lastname@example.org
Obama Grassroots Look to Seed Local Elections Across State arack Obama’s New York campaign has been officially dismantled. The staffers have moved on, and the reams of e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers have been integrated into the national database. But the grassroots organizers who made up that infrastructure remain, and are intent on influencing local races across the state now that the presidential campaign is over—to an even greater extent than the supporters of Howard Dean were able to through Democracy for New York. “If we pick the next one and we win, and you pick another one and you win, then you’re really taken seriously as a force. Then it may be that, next time, you don’t even have to fight the battle,” said Suffolk County legislator Jon Cooper, who served as the Long Island campaign chair for Obama. “If it doesn’t work that way and it becomes a pitched battle, then we’ve got to make sure we have our forces organized, because our losing the first time out is not good.” The network has stayed active and in touch. “We stayed on conference calls together, we call each other for advice, we watched each other’s groups on my.barackobama.com,” said Diana Cihak, the organizer of Buffalo for Obama. Cihak is helping round up support among Obama-ites across the state for Albany Councilman Corey Ellis, an early and vocal Obama supporter who is running a primary campaign against Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings (D) this year. Cihak and other Obama organizers have already begun tapping into the Obama donor network, holding a fundraiser for Ellis in New York City earlier this month and planning several more across the state later this year. “I put it out to the other grassroots leaders around the
state that one of our own was stepping up to run for mayor of Albany,” she said. She is not the only one. “People are beginning to hear about our network and the phone is beginning to ring a lot,” said Virginia Davies, an Obama organizer from Manhattan who also served on the campaign’s national finance board. “We have to be judicious, because we also have to be concerned about our credibility.” That sudden swell of popularity has forced the Obamaites to reconsider whether they should centralize their loose confederacy into a coherent, hierarchical structure, or integrate with the state Democratic Party. “At some point it will become institutionalized,” Davies said, though adding, “I’m not frightened of us becoming mainstream.” Whether or not that will work remains to be seen. The 2009 races will serve as the first real test of the grassroots Obama infrastructure after the presidential election, and the credibility of the Obama base depends largely on whether its canvassers and donors have an impact on local elections. On Long Island, Democrats are looking at the race to succeed State Sen. Brian Foley as Brookhaven Town Supervisor on March 31 as the first real bellwether for the reliability of the Obama grassroots in local elections. “We’re testing that now,” said Suffolk Democratic Chairman Richie Schaeffer, a former supporter of Hillary Clinton who is trying to incorporate the Obama supporters into the campaign effort. “But we’re trying to explain to them that the only way that Obama stays strong is if we keep strong local organizations going. —SG
isconsin Democrats introduced a bill at the start of this legislative session which, if passed, could index the minimum wage to inflation. Wisconsin would be the eleventh state to tie the minimum wage to an everfluctuating national economy. New Yorkers might see similar legislation passed out of the State Assembly within the next few years, and an indexed minimum wage by the year 2013. The proposed bill by Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker (D) would increase the minimum wage from $6.50 to $7.60 per hour, and subsequently increase wages each year with the changing rate of inflation. “People who make these kinds of wages spend all of their money,” said Carrie Lynch, spokesperson for Decker. “Everyone who works 40 hours a week should be able to support themselves.” Wisconsin state would join Washington, which became the first state to index minimum wage in 1998, along with Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon and Vermont—all of which have
ElsEwhErE Madison, Wisconsin
Democrats in Dells Promote Minimum Wage Push
From Nuremberg to Nigeria Abdullahi v. Pfizer
Decided by: Second Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, Jan. 30 In April 1996, three physicians from the drug company Pfizer traveled to Nigeria to test a new antibiotic, Trovafloxacin (Trovan), during a spinal meningitis outbreak. Pfizer recruited 200 children sickened with meningitis and, without alerting the families or children that they were participants in an experiment, gave half of the children Trovan and the other-half the FDA-approved Ceftriaxone. To increase the apparent efficacy of Trovan, those who received Ceftriaxone also received less than
the recommended dose. Moreover, Pfizer never informed families receiving its drugs that Doctors Without Borders was providing safe and conventional meningitis treatment at the same location. According to the families of patients who received Trovan, eleven children died and a number were rendered blind, paralyzed, or disabled from Pfizer’s drugs. After the nature of the experiment was revealed in 2000, dozens of Nigerian families brought suit against Pfizer in Manhattan federal court for the tribulations of and following from involuntary drug
By Nicole Turso indexed their state minimum wage to the federal Consumer Price Index (CPI). Washington State now has the highest minimum wage in the country, with an increase of 48 cents per hour at the beginning of this year bringing it to $8.55. The federal minimum wage is just $6.55 per hour. But the increases have not come without opposition. Elaine Fischer, communications manager for the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries said during the state’s latest gubernatorial election, reversing minimum wage yearly hikes was a pressing issue, especially for local business interest groups who said the current hikes have hit local businesses experimentation. The federal trial court dismissed their claims, finding that although non-consensual medical treatment was a violation of international customs, it was not remediable in the United States. The district judge found that no international conventions signed by the United States prohibited experimentation, and, thus, American courts could not hear the suit. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the trial court’s decision. Focusing on a number of international declarations decrying nonconsensual experimentation as well as American law requiring patient notification, the appeals court said the families could pursue their claims. Tracing the prohibition on non-consensual experimentation back to the Nuremburg trials, the appeals court warned that Pfizer’s behavior, if true, threatened “international peace and stability” and American “national security.” Therefore, it was appropriate for the American courts to hear the claims of the families. Despite the appeals court’s ruling, a trial for the families will not happen soon. The Nigerian government has sued Pfizer for $7 billion over the testing after a Nigerian ethics panel concluded that Pfizer violated Nigerian Law and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. An American trial would likely not start until the Nigerian proceedings conclude.
1000 Feet From Everywhere? State v. Oberlander
Decided by: Supreme Court, Rockland County, Jan. 23 The number of laws limiting where sex offenders can live in New York State is
hard with additional costs. Proposed changes could include a complete reversal of the initiative, freezing the minimum wage, or specialized training wages for teenagers, said Fischer. Groups like the Washington Restaurant Association have charged that indexing minimum wage ultimately hurts businesses and low-income workers, but a study by Washington State University showed minimum wage hikes did little to harm businesses, and, in fact, have had a mostly positive effect on the state’s economic standing, Fischer said. Other studies, however, like that of the National Federation of Independent Business, found the opposite. These arguments are very much on the mind of opponents to the change in Madison, with people like Wisconsin State Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R) arguing that higher costs for small businesses if the bill were to pass would lead to more layoffs. But the Democrats there are confident they have the votes in both chambers of the legislature to pass the changes. And Assembly Member Susan John (DMonroe) thinks that her colleagues in Albany should follow suit and jump on the indexing bandwagon. multiplying—with more than 80 new local ordinances passed in the last few years. These laws set up “child safety zones” in an effort to keep sex offenders and children apart. Extending 1,000 feet in every direction from parks and schools, safety zones are off-limits to all sex offenders. For people like Yoel Oberlander, a registered offender, the proliferation of such laws has limited his freedom to work, travel and, most importantly, practice his religion. As an Orthodox Jew, Oberlander must live within walking distance of a house of worship. When he was rejected from 15 different housing choices in Rockland County, Oberlander challenged the constitutionality of the county’s NIMBY law, claiming it violated his free exercise of religion and was preempted by New York State law. After rejecting his religious challenges, the Rockland County trial court, somewhat surprisingly, agreed with Oberlander that state law preempted the county’s ordinance. The trial court wrote that New York “has one of the strictest sex offender residency laws in the nation,” although “local legislatures continue to approve residency ordinances while apparently unaware of it.” But, because the New York legislature intended the state law to supersede all local ordinances, the Rockland County regulation was void. In striking down the local law, the court drew inspiration from a recent New Jersey appeals court decision, which struck down a similar law in that state in 2008. The trial court noted that the myriad of local ordinances made compliance difficult and enforcement uncertain. The ruling will certainly head to the Appellate Division and possibly higher, as the validity of every municipal sex offender law in New York is now in doubt.
John, the chair of the Labor Committee, is sponsoring a speaker-proposed bill to increase the minimum wage in New York State. Currently, the wage stands at $7.15 per hour. Allan Richards, spokesperson for John, said the bill would increase the minimum wage by 25 cents per hour each year through 2012. Then, beginning Jan. 1, 2013, the minimum wage would be indexed to the CPI. “Most of these folks are working three jobs just to make ends meet,” said Richards. “Not only does this benefit those families, it also provides economic development in the community.” John and her team have yet to reach an agreement on the bill with her colleagues in the Senate. Richards cited “a different philosophy” on how to help families financially in New York State as the cause. As for small business woes, John’s office has heard the debate, but does not think those concerns will prevent getting the bill passed. “When the minimum wage was raised, there weren’t massive layoffs or any of those concerns,” Richards said. “I think the bigger cause of layoffs at this point are the decisions made by the previous administration on the federal level.”
Music and the Mind People v. Wallace
Decided by: Appellate Division, Fourth Department, Feb. 6 What song should one listen to after committing murder? Maybe Cat Stevens. Or better yet, Kenny G—no lyrics there. Joseph Wallace, the Buffalo man convicted of second-degree murder last year, learned the hard way that next time he might want to switch to easy listening. At his trial, the state introduced evidence that in the moments after the murder, Wallace repeatedly played his favorite rap song, “How I Could Just Kill a Man,” while joyriding in his car. Unfortunately for Wallace, the lyrics of the song bore a remarkable resemblance to the murder he had allegedly just perpetrated. The trial court admitted the evidence to show Wallace’s link to the killing. Following his conviction, Wallace appealed, claiming admission of the rap song prejudiced his right to a fair trial. The Appellate Division rejected Wallace’s argument that the song gave some insight to his mind at the time of the killing. The court said the song showed Wallace’s “consciousness of guilt.” Although “consciousness of guilt” evidence, such as fleeing from a police officer, cannot be used as evidence that one committed a particular crime, the court felt that the similarity between the murder and lyrics called for an exception in Wallace’s case. By expanding the evidence a jury can hear about what a criminal does after a crime, the Fourth Department may be stepping on a slippery slope in criminal law. For instance, if evidence that someone appeared “nervous” when arrested can be used to prove commission of an earlier crime, earning acquittals in New York will be a difficult task. —James McDonald
Spitzer Reemerges, Adjusting to New Life on Sidelines A political return likely impossible, former governor seems to chafe as policy wonk
B y C hr is B r a g g
hree months into the experiment, Eliot Spitzer’s new bosses at Slate say they are quite happy they hired the disgraced former governor to write for them. Their readers seem to be, too. “What’s been striking to me is that the reaction to Eliot’s columns have been like the reactions to all of our columns: Very focused on the arguments for and against the policy,” said David Plotz, the editor of Slate, where Spitzer began writing his biweekly column called “The Best Policy” in December. “There are not a lot of personal attacks on him or about what happened to him as governor.” The former governor seems to have eased back into public life writing for the online opinion magazine. (Despite the cruel irony that Spitzer happened to drop by the magazine’s Christmas party held at a former massage parlor in Chinatown called Happy Ending.) Spitzer himself has for the most part steered clear of the kind of personal attacks that characterized his behavior as governor. But Plotz says he is not opposed to Spitzer eventually stirring up more controversy. “We didn’t bring him in to run for office,” Plotz said. “We brought him in because he’s a smart guy with compelling ideas.” In several public statements since
leaving office, Spitzer has said he would rather still be in office than working as a pundit. “Sure, it’s never fun to be on the sidelines, when you and I both know the feeling and excitement of being a participant,” Spitzer said during an interview on Air America with former New York City Public Advocate Mark Green, who is himself attempting a comeback campaign this year. But a life on the sidelines as a policy wonk, most agree, is all that could possibly await the former governor, though some speculation has floated about a possible return sometime in the far future. Asked what Spitzer’s political prospects might be, Quinnipiac pollster Mickey Carroll said, “my guess, in one word, would be: Zilch. But you never know.” Others agree. “I don’t see a political campaign any time in the near future,” said State. Sen. Eric Schneiderman (D-Manhattan/ Bronx), a friend of Spitzer’s. “But he has been interested in public policy his whole life. I never thought he would remove himself from it completely.” Spitzer would famously study Foreign Affairs each day during high school in preparation for verbal combat with family members during dinner. That carried through to Spitzer’s adult life, said Brooke A. Masters, author of Spoiling for a Fight: The Rise of Eliot Spitzer. “When he ran for attorney general
the first time, his friends were shocked,” said Masters. “They thought he was always going to be a policy wonk, and it never occurred to them that he would actually have political ambitions. He’s the kind of guy who can spend hours talking about greenhouse emissions or the exact structure agreements of mutual funds.” Second acts in American life do happen for politicians—especially when they are willing to accept a less partisan role. Former Illinois Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, for instance, who was indicted for swindling money during the “Congressional Post Office Scandal” in 1994 and later pled guilty to mail fraud charges, has regained some measure of respectability. These days, Rostenkowsi is a political commentator and a guest lecturer at Northwestern University and Loyola University Chicago. Though Rostenkowski angrily denounced any comparison between him and Spitzer—in part, because their respective falls from grace were for very different reasons—he did offer Spitzer advice on how to regain the public’s respect. “Tell the governor to keep his pecker in his pants,” Rostenkowski said. Less clear is whether Spitzer’s new role in the commentariat will ever allow him to be taken seriously by a broad audience. Davidson Goldin, of the media strategy consulting firm DolceGoldin, said Spitzer should have at least waited until after the 2010 election cycle to reemerge. Not enough time has passed since the prostitution scandal to demonstrate that Spitzer is regretful, he argued. “There’s no question Eliot Spitzer can join in the tradition of great second acts in American life,” Goldin said. “But a truly compelling performance follows a prolonged intermission. My sense is the former governor should spend a little more time behind the curtains before he attempts his comeback.” Spitzer has tried to reemerge in other ways besides writing for Slate. Spitzer was scheduled in March to participate in a debate on the economic crisis at Intelligence Squared, a series of intellectual debates sponsored by the Rosenkranz Foundation. But Spitzer has canceled for unknown reasons. (An Intelligence Squared spokesperson
would not comment on whether Spitzer canceled because the debate following Spitzer’s centered on whether or not it is wrong to pay for sex.) In the year since his resignation, every time Spitzer has tried to reestablish his respectability, there has always been a constant lapping of new waves of bad publicity holding him back. Fresh comedic fodder became available recently when Kristin Davis, the madam whose escorts served Spitzer, published her tell-all book detailing Spitzer’s shocking alleged sexual quirks. Several other tell-all books are in the works. During Fashion Week, Spitzer escort Ashley Dupré was granting interviews to whomever wanted one. And the legal travails of those caught up in the FBI sting of the Emperors Club VIP continue to be in the news, with the Feb. 19 order from a federal judge to unseal the records for the case likely to keep the stories coming. One major problem for Spitzer is that people still feel compelled to make a joke when his name comes up in conversation, said political strategist Norman Adler. “It’s very hard to be taken seriously when people laugh at you,” said Adler. “It’s easy when people hate you, like they hated him before.” Adler suggested that Spitzer follow in the footsteps of ex-Bronx Democratic boss Stanley Freidman, who followed up time in prison on racketeering, conspiracy and mail fraud charges by opening a motel chain. Even before he became “Client 9,” Spitzer didn’t have a lot of goodwill in New York political circles, which might complicate Spitzer’s efforts to regain credibility. “Some of us still have post-traumatic stress just hearing his name,” said one Democratic lobbyist. Assembly Member Mark Weprin, (DQueens), a friend of Spitzer’s, said he feels the role of policy wonk might anyway suit Spitzer better than being governor. “Eliot was always maybe better at finding creative ways to do things than he was at running things,” he said. Still, even though Spitzer’s friend wishes him the best, Weprin could not refrain from making a joke at Spitzer’s expense—perhaps demonstrating the difficulties Spitzer faces in getting back into public life. “Certainly I can see him remaining in the public eye, because he’s a passionate guy—,” Weprin said, pausing as he caught himself. “Maybe I shouldn’t say passionate.” email@example.com
: Staying On Board TC: What was it called? MH: I don’t even remember the title now. It was a mystery novel. But it was a great time—I actually ended up driving a school bus for a while to put food on the table. It was for New Lebanon Central School, east of Albany. It’s near the Massachusetts border. And later my wife actually served on the School Board there for 12 years, and was president. So we actually have some experience with that in the family. I’m amazed—I often tell people I meet now that are on School Boards, “I know what you do.” They work these long hours—no pay, of course—and it’s all volunteer service. I’m always impressed by it. I used to say to my wife, “Sometimes I think you’re crazy, but thank God you are.”
fter 30 years covering Albany for the Associated Press, Marc Humbert seemed ready to ride off into the sunset in July 2007. But after six months in retirement, Humbert decided he could not leave just yet, and took a job writing the biweekly New York State School Boards Association newspaper On Board, which covers education issues around the state. Even in that job, though, he keeps scoring scoops with all the state’s major players—most recently, that Malcolm Smith is not looking to stay majority leader for long. He explained how. What follows is an edited transcript.
TC: How do you think the press corps in Albany has changed since you started? MH: The most noticeable change when you walk into the State Capitol, into the press room, is that there are fewer people. It’s a very sad thing. When I went to the State Capitol, there were probably 50, 60 reporters at the height of session. And now you may have 15 or 20.
TC: Were you bored during retirement, or did you just miss writing? MH: No, I wouldn’t say bored. My wife and I did some nice traveling. But I really did miss the writing, the deadlines—that sort of thing. I Retirement did not stick for longtime AP reporter Marc don’t particularly miss the 24/7 nature of the AP. Humbert, who explained how he gets his scoops writAfter 30 years of 24/7, it was nice to get back ing for the School Board Association newsletter. to working for a newspaper that publishes every that’s interesting. I guess I’m not going to sit down for two weeks. Although, even here, we’re trying to Thanksgiving dinner right now.” And he said, “Me too, break news. that’s what I’m doing. I’m starting to call people to let TC: It does seem like On Board is breaking more them know. And I guess that we’re both going to miss Thanksgiving dinner.” news with you on staff. MH: We are perhaps breaking more news on the state government/political front because of my old contacts, TC: Besides Bruno, who stands out in your mind but there’s also a great tradition at On Board and it’s a among the characters you have known? good publication. It gets much respect in the education MH: I think the most impressive in some ways for community. But it has been fun. My old contacts have me, always, was the late Stanley Fink, who was the Democratic leader of the State Assembly when I first helped. One of the most fun things, of course, was when I did came to the Capitol in 1980. A brilliant guy and tough an interview with Joe Bruno and we had the story that as nails. He was considering running for governor when he was refusing to commit to running for re-election. Mario Cuomo decided to run and stepped back because And it turned out to be the first inkling that anybody had he was one of the people who thought nobody was going to be able to beat New York City Mayor Ed that he was going to Koch. Cuomo, of course, did take down step down and quit as Koch in the Democratic primary. And later Senate majority leader. I remember talking to Gov. Cuomo about it That was kind of fun. and he said the person he had actually feared in that race most was not Koch—that he had TC: What did you feared Stanley Fink. And that if Fink had think of Bruno? run, he felt, Fink might have actually walked MH: I’ve known him for away with the nomination. pretty much forever, at least his whole political career. I remember the day that he ousted Ralph TC: Where did you start your journalism career? Marino, his fellow Republican, as majority leader. It was MH: In the ’60s, I started my career with the Saratogian on Thanksgiving Day—it was called “The Thanksgiving newspaper, in Saratoga Springs. I worked there for a Day Coup.” And I remember I was just about to sit down number of years, and then I actually took some time off. to have dinner with my family and the phone rang, and it I was going to go off and write the great American novel, was Joe Bruno. And he was calling me to say that he had and lived in Europe for awhile, and did all kinds of things. I the votes lined up to take Marino down. And I said, “Oh, wrote the novel—it was not great. It never got published.
I often like to tell people—and I think it’s true— that I worked for the original blog.
The Capitol: Do you like working at On Board? Marc Humbert: Well, yeah. I worked for AP for 30 years. It was a wonderful career. I had a great time. And then I took six, seven months off for retirement—and decided retirement wasn’t for me. And fortunately, the state’s School Boards Association had a job open; they were looking for a writer. And it was basically want I wanted to do—get back into writing stories. And so I’m back writing news stories, focusing more on education issues.
TC: As someone who was writing about New York government before the Internet, what do you think of the advent of blogging? MH: I often like to tell people—and I think it’s true— that I worked for the original blog: the AP. I mean, that’s what we did. You get it fast, you get it first, and you get it out there. When I first started at the Capitol in 1980, United Press International was still viable as a wire service, and the competition was tremendous between AP and UPI to not get beaten on a story. It was wonderful. I mean, God, did it keep you sharp. You were hustling all the time. You didn’t want to get beat by UPI if you were the AP guy, and vice-versa. You see the same thing today with the blogs. That energy coming back. Liz Benjamin from the Daily News—darn it all, she doesn’t want to get beaten by Jimmy Vielkind from Politicker. And there’s Irene at the Albany Times Union. They don’t want to get beaten by each other. So it’s nice to see that competition back. TC: Looking back on all your years covering New York politics, is there one story in particular that was your favorite to cover? MH: I guess covering Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the Senate seat in 2000 stands out, because through the second half of ’99 and all of 2000, we were on the road constantly. Your whole time was covering that story. There was so much national and international interest in what Hillary Clinton was doing. And initially in the race, of course, you had this other huge figure going up against her, Rudy Giuliani. You have to remember, Rudy didn’t pull out until May of 2000. And, I might add, I broke that story that he was leaving the Senate race. That was a high point. I remember standing with Hillary Clinton on that trip. We were at Letchworth State Park—we were staying there overnight on some campaign stop. Early in the morning we happened to both be out just for a little walk and we saw each other. And we’re standing there looking out at the gorge, at the beautiful waterfalls there. The morning mist was rising off the water in this big gorge. And she turned to me and she said, “Marc, stay with me and we will see all of New York. Isn’t it great?” And it was. And we sure did see all of New York. My God—every little town. —Chris Bragg firstname.lastname@example.org
N EW Y ORK S TATE T RIAL L AWYERS A SSOCIATION Protecting New Yorkers Since 1953
Too Wrong for Too Long “[This case] should be included as a class of cases subject to the discovery rule.... It is the function of the legislature to right [the] unjust, illogical, and cruel result of the effects.” Helgans v. Plurad, Supreme Court, Suffolk County, October 22, 1997 (Justice Seidell)
New York’s statute of limitations governing medical malpractice is one of the most unjust in the country: 2½ years from the date of the negligent act. Only a handful of states have a shorter time period in which a victim of medical negligence is allowed to bring a claim against the negligent practitioner. Under current law, the victims of a misread test—such as a mammogram, PAP smear or prostate test—or a botched surgical procedure often face fatal consequences. Uncaught or misdiagnosed, a curable disease becomes a symptomfree killer. Treatment is foregone. When the symptoms do appear, the disease may be so advanced that treatment is futile. The law, however, says no one can be held responsible and victims lose their access to justice. Only a handful of states (AR, ID, ME, SD) are like New York — lacking some rule that says that the clock starts running when the wrongful action is discovered, either specifically to medical negligence or generally to all cases. It’s been 11 years since Justice Seidell called New York’s backwards statute-of-limitations rule “unjust, illogical, and cruel.” Please support the Date of Discovery Law (S.1729/A. 4627).
It’s Time for a Change. A message from the New York State Trial Lawyers Association Nicholas Papain, President 132 Nassau Street New York, NY 10038 Tel: 212-349-5890 www.nystla.org
© 2009 NYSTLA
The February 23,2009 Issue of The Capitol. The Capitol is a monthly publication, targeting the politicians, lobbyists, unions, staffers and...
Published on Feb 23, 2009
The February 23,2009 Issue of The Capitol. The Capitol is a monthly publication, targeting the politicians, lobbyists, unions, staffers and...