James Tedisco explores his 2010 statewide prospects.
VOL. 1, NO. 4
A Tall Glass of David Paterson: mixing up a new classic to honor the new governor.
Norman Adler on semi-retirement and the new regime in Albany.
APR IL 2008
Tedisco Considering Running Statewide in 2010 Advisors hint at a run for governor, but say being Bloomberg’s LG could be perfect match BY EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE has been steamrolled out of Albany, the man who was on the receiving end of that famous comment more than a year ago appears to be feeling out the possibilities for a run for governor himself. Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco (R-Saratoga/Schenectady) is mulling a statewide campaign in 2010, according to several people close to him. His eyes are on the Executive Mansion, and the whispering campaign that he could be the candidate to win it back for his party has begun. Tedisco says he is a much bigger fan of his prospective opponent, new Gov. David Paterson (D) than he was of Eliot Spitzer (D), and that his focus for now is on collaborative governing rather than planning to run for governor. But he did not do much to tamp down on the rumors emanating from several close to him. “My philosophy has always been this: I think people move you from one level to another,” he said. “My real goal has always been [to be] a public servant, to be at the best place where I could serve the largest number of people at the best level of excellence. I think I’m there right now. Should that change because of discussion with others and the populace and the concern they have for moving forward, anything’s possible.” Tedisco catapulted himself into the statewide and national media twice in the past year, first by leading the opposition to Spitzer’s plan to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, then with his calls for Spitzer’s resignation or possible impeachment. Nonetheless, so far, several political consultants and observers told about the possibility of a Tedisco gubernatorial run have been unimpressed, just as they were with the news that Rep. Peter King (RNassau) might run for governor. The consultants generally agreed that Tedisco at the top of the statewide ticket would represent a similar sort of GOP capitulation as the gubernatorial campaign of John Faso, himself a former Assembly minority leader. Faso pulled just 28 percent of the vote against Spitzer. Like Faso, Tedisco has relatively low name recognition in the state as a whole and does not have the experience raising money on the kind of scale which most expect would be required for the 2010 gubernatorial race. Current estimates put the cost of a successful campaign at a minimum of $30-40 million. That has led to discussion of another idea, which Tedisco and his supporters seem to be considering more seriously: promoting him as the perfect lieutenant
OW THAT THE STEAMROLLER
Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco collected toy steamrollers to commemorate his famous conversation with then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Now, advisors say, he may be looking to drive the state himself. governor running mate for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, if Bloomberg decides to rejoin the Republican Party and make a run for Albany in 2010. To many state Republicans, Bloomberg would make the ideal candidate for the top of the ticket, with both high and favorable name recognition in many parts of the state and his largely lauded record of governing during his two terms as mayor. And at least as important, Bloomberg’s personal fortune would easily enable him to self-finance a campaign, if he chooses. He spent $77 million and $81 million on each of his mayoral campaigns. If Bloomberg does decide to run, many expect the willingness to seed money to state Republicans he has demonstrated while in office, most recently with his $500,000 donation to the GOP State Senate committee in February, will help clear his path to the nomination. Notably, Bloomberg has seen several of his biggest goals in office scuttled by the state government, with both his push for a new Jets stadium on Manhattan’s West Side and a congestion pricing system for New York City scuttled in the Capitol. With 26 years’ experience in the Assembly and two and a half as minority leader, he could be the man with the skills to help negotiate through Bloomberg’s agenda as lieutenant gover-
nor, according to those pumping up the minority leader’s statewide prospects. And he has proven the skills to be a good hatchet man when necessary as well. “If you’re looking for a pit bull, an attack dog good at getting media coverage, I think that makes a whole lot of sense,” said Democratic political consultant Steve Greenberg, considering the idea of a Bloomberg-Tedisco partnership. But his supporters are for now focusing on the possible campaign, arguing that Tedisco could balance a Bloomberg ticket in several important ways: Bloomberg is a billionaire, Tedisco is proudly working class. Bloomberg is a graduate of Johns Hopkins and Harvard, Tedisco of Union College and the College of Saint Rose. Bloomberg is known for his more placid public persona, Tedisco for a more aggressive approach. Bloomberg is Jewish, Tedisco is Catholic. One Tedisco backer described the idea as a perfect match. Tedisco agreed. “It’s hard to not say that. He’s downstate, I’m upstate. He’s more moderate to left, I’m a conservative. You need that balance, I think,” he said. Tedisco said he has yet to really discuss the idea of Bloomberg running for governor with the mayor himself. “I think I mentionedi it once, but no indepth talks,” he said. But he does like the idea of having Bloomberg as the GOP gubernatorial
candidate. “I think he could be, should be,” Tedisco said. Either way, said Republican consultant Bob Bellafiore, the state GOP should be happy to have Tedisco and his supporters making noises about the minority leader running statewide in 2010, for either office. Bellafiore has played basketball with Tedisco, who was once a star basketball player and coach, and said there are easy comparisons to be made to how Tedisco moves on the court and his approach to politics. “He’s diligent, he’s fast, he sticks his head everywhere it needs to go—he’s real tenacious. But when the game is on the line, he’s the kind of guy who is not afraid to have the ball,” he said. “All you can really say this far out is that he’d be an important guy to have in the debate. What we learned two years ago is you need a vigorous debate.” Tedisco said he does not expect announcements of any campaign to be made until the end of next year. But some of the strategic planning is underway, and some of the decisions are being made. “I think they started to get made before this whole situation took place,” he said, referring to the Spitzer scandal that led to the switch in governors. “There’s a lot of discussion, a lot of thought.”
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APR IL 2008
To Keep New York Green, Preserve Brownfields Tax Credits BY STATE SEN. CARL MARCELLINO 2003, I WAS SUCCESSFUL IN getting the Brownfield Cleanup Program signed into law. This landmark law created a hazardous waste remediation program with the most stringent cleanup standards in the United States. It offered tax credits to those willing to clean up and invest in abandoned brownfield properties. Before enactment of the New York State Brownfield Program, very few developers were willing to touch a New York brownfield site, regardless of location. Comprehensive tax credits were offered as an incentive to bring the developers to the table. Recently under the capricious label of “tax reform,” critics have suggested that the tax credits should be severely reduced. Unfortunately, if this were to happen the program’s environmental cleanup and economic development impact would be severely reduced. Critics have called for the tax credits to be targeted to areas in economic need. The current credits do just that. Developers can receive a greater tax credit if they clean up and build on sites in Environmental Zones with at least a 20 percent poverty rate and an unemployment rate of at least 25 percent higher than the state rate. For every dollar that New York State is providing through tax incentives, the private sector is spending over $6 upfront to clean up contaminated real estate they did not pollute. Over $6 billion worth of rede-
velopment projects have evolved from the first 59 projects that have made it through the program, generating over 2,000 permanent jobs and 800 construction jobs. To date, no other state development program has created more employment per incentive dollar. There is little question that the program’s large tax credits have attracted investment. A pattern of urban reinvestment is already taking place among developers who have participated in the program. As shown by multiple application submissions by the same development companies, developers are purchasing their next brownfield project in anticipation of their first tax credits. Some claim that the tax credits are too generous and are a loss to the state. They are wrong. These tax credits are not a loss, because they are being re-spent right here in New York State. The developers not only increase income tax revenue with the new jobs created but put abandoned properties back on the tax rolls. They are not only recycling the land, they are recycling the tax credit dollars also. Brownfield development helps eliminate the stigma of a blighted area and clearly results in increased property values for nearby sites as well as attracts new investment opportunities for the entire communi-
ty. These benefits have already occurred and should be part of any comprehensive evaluation of the program. In downtown White Plains, an urban area that has been depressed for decades and has finally started to revive, one of the most successful projects is the Renaissance Square mixeduse residential, retail, hotel and office complex in a designated blighted zone. State tax credits of $75 million have encouraged over $50 million in the cleanup of hazardous soils to the highest standards and $500 million invested in building construction. In addition, this one project has spurred over $2 billion in investment in adjacent properties that never would have occurred without the program. There should be no question about the Brownfield Cleanup Program also being an environmental justice program. Sixty percent of the sites with completed cleanups are located in areas with the highest unemployment and poverty rates. For every state dollar, close to five private dollars were put into cleanup and construction in underserved areas of our cities. For $367 million in tax credits, $1.8 billion in private investment were made in the state’s inner city areas that need the dollars the most. An example of this is the Clinton Green Development Project in Hell’s Kitchen, which involved the cleanup of an abandoned gas station, five industrial buildings and vacant lots, where illegal dumping
occurred. The site was remediated to the highest standards and all the contaminated soil was removed down to bedrock. Two new residential towers were constructed that include a community theater and extensive retail space. This investment resulted in 100 permanent jobs; 200 construction jobs over two years and buildings worth $270 million that are now on the tax rolls. Some people have asked, “Who can receive the Brownfield tax credit?” The credits are available to all those who receive approval from the Department of Environmental Conservation, and have properly and completely cleaned up contaminated sites. The law specifically prohibits sites listed on the State Superfund list and those under a court-ordered cleanup from entering the program. It is clear that the New York State Brownfield Program has the potential to be the biggest environmental cleanup program as well as the most effective economic development program in New York State history. The tax incentives are an integral part of that success. No developer has to redevelop a brownfield. It is easier, cheaper and faster to develop a “greenfield.” If New York State really wants the private sector to continue to “front end” all the cleanup costs and redevelop brownfields, the current tax incentives must remain. Carl Marcellino, a Republican representing parts of Nassau and Suffolk counties, is chair of the State Senate Environmental Conservation Committee.
On Environmental Policy, Stepping in Where the Federal Government Has Receded BY ASSEMBLY MEMBER ROBERT SWEENEY HE UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL
Protection Agency (EPA) delegates authority to New York to implement many programs that protect our air and water quality, as well as our natural resources. As a result, states like New York have had to pick up where the federal government has failed. New York State has taken the lead on many environmental issues, working alone when necessary, and in concert with other states whenever possible. For example, New York was among the first states to produce a plan to cut climate-altering emissions. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a partnership of nine Northeast and MidAtlantic states, establishes a cap-andtrade system aimed at limiting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The cap is scheduled to take effect in January 2009, and cap carbon dioxide emissions at 121 million metric tons through the end of 2014. In 2015, the cap would begin to decrease, so that by 2018 emissions will be capped at 10 percent below the initial level. Although the establishment of the
RGGI is an important step, the Assembly will be working on additional changes to make RGGI more effective, including bringing the revenue on budget. Efforts to address global warming and climate change did not stop with RGGI. Last year, I sponsored legislation, now law, creating the Sea Level Rise Task Force. The Task Force will evaluate ways of protecting New York’s coastal ecosystems and natural habitats and issue recommendations to the governor and Legislature by December 31, 2009. I have advocated for increased funding for water quality improvement, municipal recycling, oceans and Great Lakes, waterfront revitalization and municipal parks. The legislature has passed my legislation to adopt the provisions of an eight-state plan to enhance the management and protection of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin. Water quality improvement is an especially important funding category. Last year’s budget included $300,000 for the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to conduct an assessment of statewide wastewater infrastructure improvement needs. The assessment
focused on the need to upgrade existing wastewater treatment infrastructure, as opposed to constructing new facilities in undeveloped areas. The DEC released the survey on March 6, and the results are not encouraging. (The study is available on the DEC website.) According to DEC “the conservative cost estimate of repairing, replacing and updating New York's municipal wastewater infrastructure is $36.2 billion over the next 20 years.” The wastewater funding needs are not surprising. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released the Clean Watersheds Needs Survey. That report, which used 2004 data, estimated New York’s total documented needs at more than $15 billion. What is most disturbing is that at the time when needs are rising, federal support has nearly vanished. As a proportion of overall wastewater infrastructure spending, federal support accounted for 78 percent of funding in 1978, but
makes up just three percent today. In addition, 2007 saw the Clean Water State Revolving Fund capitalized at one of the lowest levels in history, and for 2008, the president has requested only $688 million for all of the states combined. New York State cannot fund these improvements alone and will need increased federal support. We have many environmental challenges facing communities across the state, but New Yorkers want and deserve clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and reduced exposure to harmful chemicals. As chairman of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee I am dedicated to helping make those wishes a reality. Robert Sweeney, a Democrat representing Suffolk County, is chair of the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee.
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NYSERDA’s programs save New Yorkers approximately $570 million in annual energy costs. NYSERDA has partnered with a host of colleges, universities, trade groups, and other training organizations in New York to develop a “green collar” workforce of qualified energy professionals. NYSERDA’s workforce development initiatives help make energy efficiency the statewide standard. Through its New York Energy $martSM Program, NYSERDA provides financial incentives and technical assistance creating an infrastructure of trained professionals who are changing the face of New York State. Learn more about NYSERDA programs, training, and career opportunities at
APR IL 2008
Finding (and Protecting) Nature’s Jewels—Right Here in New York BY REP. ANTHONY WEINER
ARTH DAY IS A TIME TO RENEW
our sense of connection with the amazing array of species with which we share this planet. For New Yorkers who want to do more than watch the squirrels play in Central Park or marvel and the endurance of the Columba livia—or pigeon for the non-ornithologists—there is a spot right in Queens where you can get up close with fully half of all the species of birds in the world. Not to mention 30 types of fish and 849 types of insects. Jamaica Wildlife Refuge, between Howard Beach and Broad Channel in Queens, is the most famous natural spot in the country that many New Yorkers have never heard of. Bird watchers and environmentalists visit from all over the world because of the amazing ecosystem that thrives there. Because of its size—approximately 19,000 acres—and its unique location on the north-south flyway, which so many birds travel each year, more than 330 species make a stop in Queens every year. It’s also a place to see why we need to be vigilant in protecting our open spaces. The bugs are there because the trees and
brush are so lush. The fish and birds are there for the bugs, and none of it would be possible were it not for our generational commitment to protecting our national parks. When I took office in 1999, I was amazed that such a remarkable asset had been so badly ignored. Now the refuge has a new $3.3 million Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Standard Welcome Center right off of Cross Bay Boulevard. There is a new greenway that connects the park
to the system of bike paths that snakes through all five boroughs. And if you don’t want your day to go to the birds, the other parts of the most-visited urban national park in the country have also seen a revival. A new boat marina, a new sports facility, a new cricket patch, a fixed-up Riis Park bath house and, soon, improved boardwalks and a welcome center at the historic Floyd Bennet Field. But Earth Day should be more than an opportunity to revel in the splendor of our natural world; it should also be a time to rededicate ourselves to protecting it. The species of Jamaica Bay are endangered because one of them is disappearing–the salt marsh. These grasses filter the water and provide a tidy home for crabs and shell fish. The marshlands of Jamaica Bay have been disappearing and we have a pretty good idea why: Hundreds of gallons of
wastewater rush into the bay every day. This runoff has caused nitrogen levels to spike in recent years and led to a twothirds reduction in marsh lands in the last 60 years. I have secured $14 million dollars to restore the ecosystem, through such measures as adding 900,000 plants, and laying down 270,000 cubic yards of sand to beat back beach erosion. The city has pledged to help by adding sewer retention tanks to limit wastewater dumping. Let’s use this Earth Day to enjoy the wonders of nature right here in New York and pledge to do what we can to make sure it’s here for our grandkids. Anthony Weiner, a Democrat representing Brooklyn and Queens, is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, and the Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials.
The publication for and about New York State Government www.nycapitolnews.com
U New Yorkers who receive home health care have a lot to be thankful for. U Senate Majority Leader Bruno, Assembly Speaker Silver, Governor Paterson and our legislators have restored vital home health care funding in the State budget. U On behalf of New Yorkers who depend on home health care, the Home Care Association of New York State says thank you. U We know there’s more to accomplish this session for New York’s patients and look forward to continuing our work together.
Home Health Care: New Yorkers Want it, Need it and Depend on it!
A Green Solution to a Dark Problem
The proposed New York Regional Interconnection (NYRI) transmission line would connect upstate New York’s plentiful renewable energy resources to downstate’s growing energy market. The line would help relieve some of the worst transmission bottlenecks documented in studies by independent experts.(1-3) Because it would encourage increased investment in renewable energy, the NYRI transmission line would help New York State achieve its Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) that require the state’s electricity to be generated from additional renewable sources. There’s no question that the aging U.S. and New York electrical transmission infrastructure is unequipped to meet current and future power demands, even with conservation. NYRI’s project is a responsible solution to what will become, if New York doesn’t act to address its aging electrical infrastructure, a very dark problem.
NYRI: Efﬁcient, Reliable, Safe and Affordable Energy Transmission for New York
1. The DOE National Electric Transmission Congestion Study (August 2006): http://www.oe.energy.gov/DocumentsandMedia/Congestion_Study_2006-10.3.pdf 2. The NERC 2007 Long-Term Reliability Assessment (October 2007): ftp://www.nerc.com/pub/sys/all_updl/docs/pubs/LTRA2007.pdf
For more information, visit www.nyri.us or call 1-877-FYI-NYRI.
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): http://www.empirecenter.org/ﬁles/Energy-02-08-2.pdf
APR IL 2008
ON/OFF THE RECORD BREAKFAST
Smith on the Spitzer Surprise and Smooth Sailing for Senate Democrats ours before Eliot Spitzer resigned on March 12, State Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith was the featured guest at the first “On/Off the Record” Breakfast hosted by The Capitol. In a wide-ranging interview conducted at 74 State, Smith discussed how he first heard about the scandal that ended Spitzer’s political career, what the political earthquake meant for him and his conference’s intent to take the majority in the fall, and what he expected the change in governors would mean for policy in New York State in the years ahead. What follows is an edited and abridged transcript.
Q: Where were you and how did you hear the news about Eliot Spitzer? A: It’s funny you ask that question. Governor Paterson and I always happen to be together when there are cataclysmic moments of late. We were actually in the Capitol in his office, we were meeting, going over some items regarding the budget, just sort of the future of the state, and an aide came through the door and said, “Lieutenant Governor, you have to take this call,” and he sort of motioned to them and said, “No, I’m talking to the Leader, I’ll be with you,” and they said, “No, you have to take this call.” And he walked out and I guess about two minutes later he came back in, he was standing there and he looked at me and right behind him came Charles O’Byrne, his chief of staff, and he said, “We have to tell you something. Now.” As a politician, I’m looking up thinking, “What else did I do? What happened? I thought my life was in front of everybody, what’s going on?” They both sat down and said, “We have to tell you something,” and I thought maybe something was wrong with David so I said, “What’s wrong with David?” and then they proceeded to say that the stories that had been out earlier about the incident involved the chief executive of the state. They were still straight-faced so I said, “Come on, that’s a joke, it just can’t be,” and they said, “No, it’s true, we’re not sure to what extent what occurred, but there was a problem.” So I, at that moment I said, “I need to leave,” and I left and went immediately over to my conference and kicked out all the staff and said, “I need to talk to the members.” We knew something was wrong but we didn’t know what was going on and I basically, not only did I kick the staff out but I told them to move faster, you have to get out right now, and the rest is history—just an incredible moment. Q: What does the end of Eliot Spitzer mean for the Democratic efforts to take the Senate? Will it effect things? A: No, quite frankly, and for those that may not realize this, for the Senate Democratic Conference has always been a six-year plan. Most people feel, as moments occurred, but we actually had a business plan about how we were going to do this from '04 to '08. If you know in ’04 we took two seats, in '06 we took two more. We did not anticipate Senator Balboni in the state government, but that occurred and we took that seat. Why we don’t think we’re off course is, if you remember, from the moment that Senator Craig Johnson got elected, a month or two later we had Troopergate and all this stuff that occurred during the year and everybody said, “Lose your strategy of the majority.” And then we went up to the North Country, where there were 30,000 more Republicans to Democrats and astounded the entire planet, because we did get calls from around the world about that race. Nancy Pelosi actually called. So, the lesson there is that all politics is local. Darrel
Aubertine was the right candidate. He was the person that they understood, and I think it was summed up in his theme, which was, “If you have to have somebody represent us, why not be one of us?” And that’s the same that’s going to go with Maltese, Robach, Alesi, DeFrancisco, Steve Saland, Seward. … It does not deter our plan. Our plan is probably accelerated, if you will. It is really a beautiful thing because people get a false sense of security from an event and that’s okay, but we are a very steady ship, we are sailing in the right direction, not only are we sailing in the right direction because of the compass and the mechanics of our ship are not only technologically perfect, but the wind is also in our favor. Q: Are you concerned about protecting any of the incumbent Democratic senators? A: Well, the concern is more about our resources and how they’re utilized. Because obviously we don’t have unlimited resources. We will have adequate resources and we may have a little more than we thought we would. It’s about how we strategically spend it becomes important. I will always work to protect the members of our conference. Q: When the House Democrats were running in 2006, they laid out an agenda if they won. Is that something you think the State Senate Democrats will do? A: Not only have we been preparing, we are ready. Most of our members over the last year, unbeknownst to most people, have been in what we consider Majority School. They were involved with intellectuals and academics and interest groups talking about their specific areas of expertise. We were preparing ourselves from an operational standpoint and going forward, we actually have, though I will not release today, a 20/20 plan for the State of New York—20/20 meaning the year 2020, also having 20/20 vision. We have a document that is about 200 pages that at some point you will be the beneficiaries of,
when we actually implement some of which is there. There are eight categories: education, housing, transportation, environment, health care, economic development, technology. And it lays out where we see the state not only in the long term, but in the short term. But we have already laid out part of how we move the state forward. One, if you recognize our conference has been the only conference that has been talking about cutting spending. It was our conference who came with a $2 billion cost-containment package that talked about, “How do we do that? How do we do it with attrition?” Yes, I got slammed by the unions for it, but our conference is bold and courageous and we are prepared to take tough stands. Now, all our members didn’t agree with that, and that’s the beauty of our conference, but we talked about that. We laid out a full plan on how you save $2 billion, and at the same time talked about the importance of cutting spending. $124 billion dollars is too much money. We are spending too much money. We can be a lot more efficient in our budget than just adding another billion dollars or $2 billion, so we could put a political year budget in place to help get elected or re-elected, there’s no question. But there can be some clear, efficient steps taken to do that. We laid out at the same time a “Right New York” plan. To the governor’s credit, he took a lot of that and put it in his budget. That $1 billion upstate plan? Well, that was our “Right New York” plan. Our “Right New York” plan was very simple. A billion dollars in technology, in agriculture, in higher education, in infrastructure. That would provide the kind of economic stimulus to the state of New York, that we would create 25,000 jobs just in a three-year period, and those jobs obviously are economic drivers to keeping us going forward, providing revenue. … We are spending too much money. There is no reason why this state cannot spend $120 billion and not still do the same thing. We are spending much too much money, and you just can’t continue to bond bad debt in the future—it’s bad debt. Now, I can’t take my credit card and take a loan out to pay my mortgage on my house. At some point, it’s going to crash. So we’ve got to make common sense, the call of the day and not just a short term expedient. Q: There has been concern expressed by some that Paterson is a more liberal person than Spitzer. Do you think there will be differences in legislation and in the agenda pushed, and the issues that are focused on? A: Well, listen, David is his own man, just as I am, and I can’t predict what the future will be for him in terms of what his agenda will be. I can only say that our conference will be there to support him. … Most people don’t realize, I believe, I haven’t done the research on it, but I believe Spitzer was the first governor in his first six months to have a veto override, that we did, that the Senate Democrats did. But no one published that. All they thought was that we were the group that would do anything he asked, and that just wasn’t so. I don’t want to get into David’s head right now in terms of future, and whether or not he’s more liberal than Eliot or not. Q: We’ve talked a lot about Eliot Spitzer, David Paterson, the Senate Democrats, how all this affects you in your various roles. Let’s talk specifically about you. If Hillary Clinton wins, then there will be a Senate seat open. The conventional wisdom was that if the seat was open, David Paterson would be the frontrunner for it. He now gets to make the decision about who it would be if it happens. Is that something you would be interested in? Would you put yourself in the running for that? A: No.
GOP Will Target Oppenheimer, Despite Democratic Enrollment Advantage Republicans keep quiet on their candidate to challenge longest-serving Senate Democrat BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS OPPENHEIMER (D-ROCKLAND), longest-serving Democrat in the State Senate, is preparing for her 13th bid for re-election. With a generally high approval rating in her district and a good working relationship with the Republican majority, she said she is looking forward to kicking off her campaign in mid-May. But in an election year as unpredictable as 2008 is already turning out to be, she has found herself the unexpected target of Republicans eager to maintain and expand their majority in the Senate. The state GOP is planning a competitive race in her district, although the party has yet to reveal its challenger. “We’re making the case that the votes that she’s taking and what she’s delivering, or more accurately failing to deliver, are not the best thing for the constituents in that district,” said Matt Walter, a spokesperson for the New York GOP. Last year, Senate Republicans unveiled www.NYinJeopardy.com, a website that cheekily derided Oppenheimer’s record on taxes, women’s health and public safety. Republicans plan to make her and nine other Senate Democrats the
focus of a media and advertising campaign throughout the year. And the party has settled on an opponent for Oppenheimer, though insiders are careful to reveal nothing more than that their candidate is a woman. As a long-standing member of the minority, Oppenheimer has been known to reach across party lines and work with Republicans to pass legislation. But that will do nothing to exempt her from the GOP efforts come November, Walter said. “When it’s time to govern, you work together to get things accomplished for people across the state,” he said. “But in an election, you’re running candidates and you run the one you think would most effectively represent the needs of the people. And in that district we think a Republican would be more closely aligned with the voters.” Oppenheimer has not faced a significant Republican challenge in such a long time that she has neglected to rack up the legislative victories that would make her look competitive, charge Republican operatives. But Oppenheimer’s roots in the district run deep, said Jeff Binder, a consultant for the Westchester-based Strategic Political Group. And that may make her a
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formidable opponent, he said. “Structurally, it would be next to impossible to defeat her,” Binder said. “She gets a lot of crossover support from Republicans.” Oppenheimer has a good working relationship with Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer), which may also protect her from an all-out Republican attack, Binder predicted. “She’s savvy enough to maintain good relations with the Democratic Party,” Binder said, “but also when she gets to Albany, she tries to get things accomplished.” Binder added, “She’s not a partisan bomb thrower.” That has led some people to speculate that the Republicans may this year try to woo her to their conference in an effort to bolster their slim majority. Oppenheimer and GOP operatives both denied that any discussions had taken place, or that there was any chance the senator would change parties. Even some Westchester Republicans believe that Oppenheimer would be difficult to unseat this November, especially considering that Democratic turnout is expected to be high due to the presidential race. Paul Noto, the former Republican
mayor of Mamaroneck, lost his bid to unseat Oppenheimer in 1990. He said Republicans would be unwise to spend too much money and resources to challenge her this year. “She’s been in office for more than 20 years,” said Noto, now an estate lawyer. “She’ll eventually retire, and when it’s an open seat they’ll have a better shot.” In her own race, Oppenheimer said she will attempt to steer clear of the bitter politics surrounding the fight for the majority. Instead, she said she will stress her bipartisan appeal and her record in education and the environment. “Most Republicans who do vote for me feel that I do try hard to serve my constituents,” she said. “I try to analyze each vote I take on the facts of the issue rather than on political considerations.” Oppenheimer said there was an attempt in the distant past to persuade her to join the GOP, but she declined out of respect for her parents, who were lifelong Democrats. “Oh, years ago they were attempting to tempt me,” she said, laughing. “But my parents would turn over in their grave!” firstname.lastname@example.org
APR IL 2008
The Race for the Seat Which Might Not Be At least nine candidates campaign to succeed McNulty, redistricting fears aside helpful to the party, both in terms of promoting the agenda and raising funds. “One’s profile in the delegation and how one represents the district is crucial to whether or not that seat should be lost in redistricting,” he said. But the prospects of losing the seat to redistricting and what could be done to prevent that from happening are not on every candidate’s mind. Phil Steck, an Albany county legislator seeking the Democratic nomination, said this was not at all a factor for him. “Why would I think about that?” Steck asked. “It hasn’t impacted our campaign at all.”
BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS RACE TO SUCCEED REP. Michael McNulty (D-Albany) is getting more and more crowded—already, there are seven Democrats and two Republicans vying for the seat, and presumed powerhouse Paul Tonko is still mulling an entry. They all want to win. They all want to stay in Congress for at least a few terms. But with standing to lose one or two congressional seats when redistricting rolls around after the 2010 census, they might not be there very long. If New York loses seats, newer members of Congress may have their districts 2009 axed first. With the winner of McNulty’s seat set to be among three freshmen elected this year, the Albany district may well be among those lost. But as the race heats up, the candidates say they are unfazed by the specter of redistricting. Instead, most used the possibility of having to fight for the existence of the seat to boost their own candidacies. Tracey Brooks, a former aide to Sen. Hillary Clinton (D) and counsel to the Assembly Judiciary and Codes Committee who has been endorsed by McNulty’s father and sister, said her relationships with state legislators would best position her to keep the seat alive if she wins the race. Together with Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-Saratoga/Rensselaer), she believes she should be able to keep both the capital region’s congressional seats mostly intact. “The way I look at it is having myself in the seat with Congresswoman Gillibrand to the north,” she said, “with the two of us who are very energetic, strong members, our seats won’t be the targets, I’m hoping.” Lester Freeman, the coordinator of the Equal Opportunity Program in Albany, is also seeking the nomination. He also believes he will be able to keep the seat from being eliminated, if elected. “It doesn’t concern me at all,” said Freeman. Freeman, who is African-American, said he would work with state legislators to retain the district, especially as the minority populations of Troy and Schenectady, two of the district’s cities, continue to grow. There are currently no minority members of Congress from New York north of the Bronx. “It is something we need to take a serious look at,” Freeman said. “To dismantle the district at this point, especially when we have all these candidates in the race, I may favor an independent commission
“One’s profile in the delegation and how one represents the district is crucial to whether or not that seat should be lost in redistricting,” said Darius Shahinfar, one of the Democrats seeking Rep. Michael McNulty’s congressional seat.
to come in and take a look at this.” Several bills are currently floating through Albany that would take redistricting out of the hands of the legislative taskforce and give it to an independent, non-partisan commission. The proposals have so far not drawn much attention or support. Without a change to the system, if Democrats control the State Legislature after the 2010
elections, most believe Republican House seats would be first to be lost in redistricting. But if the Republicans keep the State Senate, Democrats might have to compromise and give up one of their own House seats. Darius Shahinfar, a former Gillibrand aide also seeking McNulty’s seat, said Democrats will protect whichever member has proven the most
Also running for the Democratic nomination are real estate broker Arthur Welser and attorney John Aretakis. Schenectady County legislator Jim Burhmaster (R) and businessman Steven Vasquez are battling for the Republican nomination in this Democrat-heavy district. But no matter what happens in November or with the 2010 census, all may not be lost for the McNulty district, said Assembly Member Jack McEneny (D-Albany), the State Legislature’s unofficial redistricting expert. The area’s uniformity and strong urban populations may protect it. Gillibrand’s district, on the other hand, may be in more peril, McEneny said. “If a district is cohesive and it makes sense and you can describe it in a sentence, like the capital district,” he added, “you have a better chance of staying.” email@example.com
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Two Democrats Angling to Take on Former Democrat in Monroe County Dollinger’s attempt to return to seat ceded to Robach may be foiled by Frankel BY JOHN R.D. CELOCK AREA DEMOCRATS are poised to compete in a primary for the right to take on a vulnerable Republican senator in a race that could be key to Democrats taking control of the Senate this fall. Former State Sen. Richard Dollinger and Brighton Town Supervisor Sandra Frankel are both seeking the right to challenge Sen. Joseph Robach (RMonroe) this fall. Neither shows signs of dropping his campaign against Robach, a three-term senator, who switched parties to capture one of the more Democraticleaning upstate Senate seats. Dollinger preceded Robach in the Senate, but in 2002 chose to unsuccessfully seek a county judgeship rather than challenge the popular then-Assembly Member Robach. Democratic Party officials have placed Robach on their target list. Most of Rochester, the Democratic bastion in largely Republican Monroe County, is in the district, along with suburban Brighton, which is considered to be the most liberal town in Monroe. The western Rochester suburbs of Parma, Greece and Hilton are also in the district. These
tend to lean Republican. Dollinger, who spent a decade in the Senate, was recruited into the race by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) as part of Spitzer’s quest to claim control of the Senate. Dollinger, an attorney whose wife is a Wegman’s Supermarket heiress, resigned a part-time judgeship in Brighton in order to make the race. Dollinger said that he was promised party support and funds by Spitzer in January. He said Gov. David Paterson (D) has since reiterated that promise. “I am the only candidate who can do this,” Dollinger said, noting it will take $2 million to run the race. “It will take a Herculean effort.” With speculation that Spitzer lured him into the race with the promise of a judicial appointment in case he failed, Dollinger said he did not ask for a judgeship and was not promised one by either Spitzer or Paterson. A Democratic source with knowledge of Senate strategy has confirmed that Dollinger is the party leaders’ pick for the seat, though Frankel claims she has been told by Senate Democrats that she will receive party support if she wins the nomination. Frankel has been attempting to get to
Albany for a decade. Frankel was the 1998 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, pulling in 33 percent on a ticket with former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D-Queens), after winning 51 percent in a primary against two equally unknown candidates. She launched a second campaign in 2002, but dropped out of the race before the state convention after then-Comptroller Carl McCall (D) picked businessman Dennis Mehiel (D) as his running mate. She cited her 17 years in town hall and turning Brighton into a Democratic town since taking office as reasons why she would make a strong candidate. She also brought up the results of her 1998 race— when she polled 79 percent in Monroe County in the primary as the only candidate from Western New York—as part of the rationale for her candidacy. “It’s time for a new vision, direction and leadership,” she said. “Dollinger served in the Senate for 10 years and Joe Robach has served in the Senate for six years.” Despite their representation, she said, “upstate lags behind.” While Albany has been promoting Dollinger, local activists may have different thoughts. The Brighton Democratic
Committee narrowly chose to back Frankel for the seat, a result each is spinning differently. Dollinger said the endorsement was natural, given that Frankel is the party’s de facto leader and he has been barred by state law from attending committee meetings for the two and a half years he served as a judge. Frankel denied being in control of the committee, and said Dollinger has been involved in the town party for over two decades, his absence while on the bench regardless. The race between the two is also unusual, as Brighton Democrats normally run as a united team. In fact, Frankel and Dollinger were running mates in the 2005 town election. Dollinger said that while he created the team concept in the 1980s, he is not opposed to his competition with Frankel, who provided the same spin. That may be in part because the former Democrat could get help from a sitting Democrat, Rochester Mayor Bob Duffy. The two are known to be close—Duffy presented Robach with the key to the city just before the 2006 election. email@example.com Direct letters to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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APR IL 2008
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here is no excuse—not one—for the failure to hold a vote on congestion pricing. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to radically alter the traffic system in the Big Apple was far-reaching, and would undoubtedly have transformed Manhattan below 60th Street, as well as the surrounding area, and the lives of those who lived anywhere near where the cameras were to be installed. Whether that would have been a good or bad thing is a matter that could have been fairly debated. Which it should have been.
The Democratic conference and its leadership were entitled to oppose congestion pricing. But instead of letting the measure fail on the floor, they decided to skip the vote entirely. That strike against transparency and democracy—and the fact that this was acceptable in the Capitol—represents what is wrong with how the state government does business. It is time for this practice to end. Proponents and opponents of congestion pricing should have cast their votes for all to see, to let their constituents and colleagues know definitively where they stood. The rules must be changed to let
bills not sure to pass to come to the floor. That change will not be able to come in time to make a difference on congestion pricing. But if this outrageous debacle can be a catalyst for this crucial shift in the power structure, the positive impact on New York State will probably be greater than would have come from any system to charge drivers a fee to enter midtown Manhattan. There are a lot of legislators who like to call themselves reformers. Based on how they act in the aftermath of the congestion pricing vote, it will not be hard to see who the real ones are.
Making the Office of Lieutenant Governor What It Should Be avid Paterson campaigned in 2006 on the promise of adding substance and meaning to the office of lieutenant governor. The office, he insisted, would be forgotten no longer. Now, due to circumstances beyond anyone’s anticipation, the office will essentially cease to exist for three-quarters of what was to be Paterson’s transformative term. Sure, in the interim, Joe Bruno will handle the official responsibilities of the lieutenant governor: presiding over the State Senate and being next in the line of succession. He or whoever else serves as majority leader between now and December 31, 2010, will get to claim the title of governor if and when Paterson ever leaves the state. But the new, extra-Constitutional responsibilities Paterson had been building into the job—like convening meetings of the domestic violence advisory council and contributing to renewable energy initiatives—will presumably fall by the wayside. So much for making sure the lieutenant governor did more than just wave the gavel at the occasional State Senate session. And that is a shame. Even before the latest round of distracting frenzy of tabloid sex scandals, there was quite a bit that was not getting done as quickly as most New Yorkers would have liked or needed, and a whole lot more that was slipping through the cracks entirely.
Paterson’s willingness to take the lead beyond the bare minimum his office demanded of him was good news for New York State’s government and New York State overall. Paterson may try to incorporate much of what he had been doing while lieutenant governor into his agenda as governor. But there is more than enough to do within the existing responsibilities of being governor, especially in the wake of the Client 9 scandal and all that had come before it in the 15 months since Day One. Though Paterson’s gubernatorial administration may put added emphasis on funding stem cell research and backing minority- and women-owned businesses, this will not be the same as what would come from having these be the main items on an elected official’s agenda. In other words, the time has come for a multifaceted Constitutional amendment to permanently change the role of lieutenant governor. First, the law should be changed to allow an elevated governor to nominate a new lieutenant governor for the State Senate to ratify. That is how things work for the federal government. If this system is good enough to pick new vice presidents, it should be good enough to pick new lieutenant governors. Second, do not succumb to the pressure to create special elections for either an elevated governor or the new lieutenant governor. This suggestion was floated in the days after Paterson ascend-
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ed, with some arguing that this would be the only fair way to give the voters a governor they selected. That is ridiculous: voters elect a ticket every four years, just as they do on the national level. Did anyone who voted for Eliot Spitzer in 2006 expect that Paterson would be governor by 2008? No. But did anyone who voted for John F. Kennedy in 1960 expect Lyndon Johnson would be president by 1963? That, however, is a large part of why the number-two office exists. The stability of the executive branch should not be endangered because voters did not think through the different eventualities. No elevated governor should be up for re-election before the end of the term of the governor he or she replaces. Third, write into the Constitutional amendment actual roles that the lieutenant governor will have, whether elected to that office or nominated to it. Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor sits on the pardons commission. The lieutenant governor of Texas is an ex-officio member of all state commissions and committees. By looking at the gaps that exist in New York government, whether on authorities regulation or any of the other places where the state has faltered and failed, legislators should find ample responsibilities to hand over to the lieutenant governor. As the man who not so long ago was enhancing the office, Paterson should now take the lead on a Constitutional push to revolutionize what it means to be lieutenant governor in New York. “In this I am nothing, but I may be everything,” John Adams said of becoming the first vice president. Paterson could have himself spoken those words anytime before March 10 about being lieutenant governor in New York. Now that he is, following Adams’ phrase, everything, he and everyone else in Albany should work toward making his old office something.
OP-ED A Long Time Coming, County Executives Fire Warning Shot in Taxpayers’ Revolt omplaining about government is a favorite pastime of most Americans. But once we’re done grousing and blowing off a little steam, we usually get on with normal life. It takes a lot to get Americans in a rebellious mood. But when they get there, somebody had better start paying attention. Recently, a number of New York county executives and leaders did exactly that. They are justifiably angry over Albany’s latest budgetary slight of hand, which forces New York’s 62 counties to pay for a greater percentage of the state’s mandated programs. Last week, they held their first statewide conference call to air their grievances. There were over a hundred participants, who represented 85 percent of the state’s population and pay more than 85 percent of the state’s property taxes. And they were rip-roaring mad.
The conference call was open to the press, but the county executives didn’t mince words. Words like ‘liars,’ ‘hypocrites’ and ‘spendaholics’ were flying. One after another, county executives from around the state weighed in on what an overwhelming burden this will place on their constituents. Each one said he or she would have to raise property taxes, cut back on programs, K.T. McFarland or institute hiring freezes—and probably all of the above. Suffolk’s Steve Levy, whose cost-cutting measures earned him the endorsement of the Democrat, Republican and Conservative parties in 2007, said his county would see an increase of 10 to 14 million dollars next year. His entire property tax bill is around $50 million, he said, “so you do the math.” Chemung’s Tom Santoli called it the ‘Shift and Shaft’—Albany was shifting bills downward and shafting the taxpay-
ers. “They’re a bunch of ‘spendaholics’ who can’t stop spending and then insist on passing the bill on to the counties who have to pay for the state’s mandated programs,” he said. The state has more employees than ever, while counties have been doing the responsible thing for the last few years and cutting back. “It’s disgraceful,” he said with genuine disgust in his voice. He told reporters to look at the state budget—which is $125 billion and growing—and then look at every county budget and see where they’re cutting programs. Greg Edwards of Chautauqua said he and other county executives had to make some tough choices last year in order to cut spending. Yet they’ve refused to make tough choices in Albany. He said it was ‘hypocrisy’ for Albany to claim they weren’t raising taxes, because they were forcing the counties to raise taxes Putnam County will have to increase property taxes by double digits for the third year in a row, and anticipates the need to
Old Vegas bookmakers have been trumped by new technology, and dozens of websites exist to bet on the outcome of all sorts of things, including who will be picked to run for vice president. Intrade lets people buy shares in the candidates’ futures. Ladbrokes gives odds to bet against. Here are this month’s standings.
***2008 VICE PRESIDENTIAL ODDS*** REPUBLICAN 2008 VP NOMINEE Chris Cox Charlie Crist Lindsey Graham Sarah Palin Tim Pawlenty Rob Portman Condolezza Rice Tom Ridge Mitt Romney Mark Sanford
PRICE ON INTRADE
2008 DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE
PRICE ON INTRADE
Hillary Clinton Barack Obama
N/A N/A 3.8 N/A 15.7 N/A 8.1 N/A 18.9 N/A
ODDS ON LADBROKES
10 6 8 12 6 10 10 12 4 12
to to to to to to to to to to
1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
DEMOCRATIC 2008 VP NOMINEE Bayh, Evan Bloomberg, Michael Clinton, Hillary Gore, Al Claire McCaskill Obama, Barack Richardson, Bill Kathleen Sebelius Warner, Mark Webb, Jim
PRICE ON INTRADE
ODDS ON LADBROKES
3.9 N/A 9.9 9.8 N/A 6.9 13.6 N/A 4.5 11.9
12 14 8 16 14 8 3 6 16 8
to to to to to to to to to to
1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
ODDS ON LADBROKES
7 to 2 1 to 5
**DATA AS OF APRIL 7, 2008**
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increase taxes by 20 percent in 2009. Nassau County expects it might have to pay an additional $20 million, and will probably have to raise property taxes as a result. Rockland County’s Scott Vanderhoef said his office was facing a double hit, since they expected tax revenues to decrease because of worsening economic conditions. They’ve already had to eliminate 120 positions and cut back highway repairs and services to families, senior citizens and children to get their spending under control. With this new dictate from Albany, Rockland county will have to increase property taxes by six percent this year to pay for Albany’s latest dictate. He figures next year will be worse. It’s not clear where the county executives will take this, but they left no doubt that they would intensify pressure on Albany to get its budget under control. Banding together, Republican and Democrat, from Erie to Montauk, they insisted they would not stand by and let the state shift its spending burden to the counties. Some of the county leaders said they would have a bus tour up and down the state to tell the people the kind of ‘fast one’ Albany is trying to pull on property tax payers. They plan to have regular conference calls open to the press. The state cannot keep mandating programs and expecting counties to pay for them. Upstate already pays 51 percent more in property taxes than the national average. That’s why the region continues to lose population and business. In total, 13 of the top 20 property tax-paying counties in the country are in New York. Income taxes are among the highest. But Albany’s not cutting any programs. They’re not putting a freeze in hiring. They’re not engendering any special interest groups. New York is facing a fiscal train wreck. State spending is out of control. It has treated Wall Street’s decade-long bull market and consequent tax revenues like a guaranteed annuity rather than a fortuitous windfall. But the economy is slowing down, if we're not already in recession. Tax revenues, especially from Wall Street, will be down next year, perhaps significantly. Baby boomers are starting to retire. And all the while the state government has kept promising benefits and pensions to more and more state employees. Albany would do well to remember: Americans have been known to fight wars over taxes. Editor’s note: The headline for KT McFarland’s column in the March issue of The Capitol should have read “The Barclay Loss Should Be a Rallying Cry for Reform Republicans.”
APR IL 2008
Day 1-Day 442: The Spitzer Legacy
BY EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE
IGHT AFTER IT happened, no one seemed to notice. Eliot Spitzer announced his resignation at 11:44 a.m. on March 12. By 3:20 that afternoon, Aurelia Greene (D-Bronx), Assembly speaker pro tempore, was sitting in her spot in the speaker’s chair, her pencil hovering over a crossword puzzle, while a few determined Republicans went through the motions of arguing for their amendments to the budget resolution. Mark Weprin (D-Queens) was leaning back in his chair, the stem of the mini-American flag from his desk pressed against his teeth. Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) stood in the back of the chamber, giving an interview. The constitutionality of the first offered amendment came up for a vote. A few members leaned in to press the buttons on their desk immediately. A few more waited for the next break in their conversations. A few were so immersed in their newspapers or Blackberrys, their jokes or snacks, that they seemed not to notice anything going on around them. A lot of the tally board stayed unlit. Like an overworked high school teacher, Majority Leader Ron Canestrari (D-Albany/Rensselaer/Saratoga) rose to his microphone, begging his colleagues to pay attention. “This is our first vote of the day,” he said. “Members who are in the chamber, please vote. Members who are not in the chamber, please join us. We have work to do.” That was four hours after the governor announced he would step down. Four weeks after, they finished the budget he had laid out, although nine days past deadline and $10 billion higher than 2007’s. Wick’s Law reform, which Spitzer had pressed for, was part of the budget deal. Legislative pay raises, which Spitzer had initially resisted but had reportedly come to accept, were not. Perhaps the last chapter in one of the strangest stories in New York political history was closed. Now people can begin trying to understand what it all meant and what, in the lives of New Yorkers and the hallways of Albany, it will continue to mean.
ear One was a disaster. Everyone admits that. Year Two started off better, and with a couple of overtures to legislators and Darrel Aubertine’s win for the North Country State Senate seat two weeks before
Spitzer was revealed as Client 9, things were looking better. Where things might have gone, no one will ever know. Spitzer was governor for just over 14 months—less time than the term of just about any elected official in the world. He won in 2006 with 65.7 percent of the vote, a massive response to a campaign built on many specific promises, but more than anything, on promise itself. After years of knowing and being told about the sorry state of the state, Spitzer made voters believe that he was going to do something. State government would change. Albany would change. The lives of New Yorkers would change. And right away, too, as his campaign slogan famously declared. Day One started with an early morning jog and the signing of five executive orders. The first four dealt with reform, imposing restrictions on the relationship between lobbyists and government employees, preventing state employees from being in any way involved with his or the lieutenant governor’s campaigns, ordering state agencies to broadcast their meetings on the internet and establishing judicial screening panels. The fifth executive order renewed a slew of basic administrative actions from the Cuomo and Pataki administrations. The effort to bring reform to a government he would hours later compare to Rip Van Winkle had begun. Despite all his promises and plans, despite all the preaching and speeches, that is also where the effort to reform government effectively ended, said Lawrence Norden, associate counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice. Everything was supposed to change on Day One. After the 442 days Spitzer got, not much had, Norden said. Spitzer might have been on track to make progress, Norden said. He might not have been. He simply was not in office for enough time to tell. “It’s like trying to analyze a football game after looking at one quarter,” he said. That is a kinder analysis than that of others in and around state government. In terms of changing how things really got done, Spitzer accomplished nothing, many said. Some dismissed the possibility that he could have. Some laughed at the very question: in fact, by getting involved in the activities which spawned Troopergate and creating such antagonism in the capital, Spitzer inadvertently set back progress on reform, perhaps irrevocably. Greater transparency and openness, most agree, are at
least as far away now as when he first took the oath of office, if not further. Overall, Eliot Spitzer, to many legislators, is starting to almost seem like an odd blip between George Pataki (R) and David Paterson (D), especially with the budget done and the headlines about Paterson’s own extramarital dalliances faded. But over 14 months, Spitzer signed dozens of bills into law. Most are just now coming into effect, and are set to shape the legislative landscape and disburse hundreds of millions of dollars for years to come. Perhaps his biggest accomplishment as governor is the reform of the workers’ compensation law, which had long eluded state leaders. As the chair of the Assembly Labor Committee, Susan John (D-Monroe) was deeply involved in the negotiations. She believes elements of the final law, like the cap on permanent partial disability payments, bear his distinctive mark. But Spitzer’s greatest effect on worker’s compensation reform was that he was able to make it happen at all, John said. Convinced by conversations on the campaign trail that the issue desperately needed to be tackled, Spitzer met with Business Council president Ken Adams and AFL-CIO president Denis Hughes to begin the process the day after he won. The next day, he met with John. He insisted he could get an agreement even before he negotiated his first budget. He was being overly optimistic, she told him. He could not get a deal done that quickly. But he did, even with the first few weeks of the year lost in his fury over the battle to select a new comptroller. The law, signed March 13, 2007, increased benefits for injured workers while reducing employer costs by between 10 and 15 percent, and became the first major legislative victory of his time as governor. Day 72: workers’ compensation in New York changed. The size of his 2006 election win and the comfort many unions felt with having a Democratic governor take the lead on the issue enabled him to corral them and the various business interests toward resolution, John explained. Had he not gotten entangled in the scandals and struggles that marked so much of his abbreviated term, he would have been able to unlock other impasses in the same way. “There was a lot of desire to get an agreement, it was just nobody was willing to expend the effort or the political capital. And Eliot was saying, ‘Okay, I can
Day 1-Day 442: The Spitzer Legacy make some compromises and I can encourage these folks to make some compromises,’” John said. Civil confinement, negotiated simultaneously and signed into law the next day, helped move some of the resistant legislators toward passing workers’ compensation. After 13 years of debate, on Day 73, the government transformed the lives of sex offenders in New York, extending their mandated treatment and monitoring during and after their prison sentences. Even as he negotiated his first budget, Spitzer had managed to dispose of two issues that had stymied state leaders for years. But whether these actually make substantive differences in the lives of New Yorkers cannot yet be known, said Assembly Member Brian Kolb (RSeneca/Ontario). “Even now as we’re progressing through the worker’s compensation review, some companies have seen some savings, some have not seen any at all,” Kolb said. “The test of that bill is not about getting done, but whether it delivered the results that were promised.” The same is true of civil confinement, Kolb believes. “An accomplishment is only an accomplishment if we are able to say ‘This is where we were,’ ‘This is where we are,’—‘How do we compare?’” Kolb said. “You have to give it a little time for it to work or not work.” Whatever the ultimate outcomes, Kolb said that Spitzer’s very approach to the negotiations had transformed life in the Capitol. By cutting through the rhetoric on either side of the debate in favor of a focus on the facts and figures involved, Kolb said Spitzer had distinguished himself from other Albany leaders. If others follow Spitzer’s example on this, that will be his lasting effect. After all, Kolb pointed out, there was not much else Spitzer got done at all. Spitzer sliced through another tangle to get the human trafficking law passed in June, moving the Senate to action and getting the Assembly to pass a bill which survived in conference committee. The law he signed in early June catapulted New York past most of the country in the extent to which the state now addresses both sex and labor trafficking. Ironic in hindsight given what ended his career—that was Day 157. Going into the end of session last June, there was a lot more he wanted to get done. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan was on the table for the first time, as was an extensive campaign finance reform proposal, which Spitzer was adamant about getting enacted. Legislators wanted pay raises. Others wanted to expand DNA collection from criminals, renew Article X at long last and
extend paid medical leave for workers. As always, there were negotiations behind closed doors until the last minute. Everyone speculated about what would be part of the final deal. In the end, they got a simple answer: nothing. The Legislature went home, and though the Senate returned for two brief meeting over the course of the year, what would turn out to be Spitzer’s only full session had ended in a succession of stalemates. That was Day 172. Spitzer’s unwillingness to budge on his campaign finance reform proposals torpedoed everything else. Given how soon afterward he resigned, that stubbornness is ultimately what kept him from having much of a lasting legacy, said Kenneth Shapiro, a former counsel to three Assembly speakers and now a principal at the Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker LLP lobbying firm. “Yeah, he might have negotiated out a budget,” Shapiro said, “but when you look to see what happened at the end of the session last year, they had a lot of agreements, but nothing got done.” ROOPERGATE BROKE two weeks later, Day 186 All summer long, Spitzer was active and signing bills, though with Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (RRensselaer) successfully casting himself as a victim of a political hit job in the media, not many people were paying attention—even when Spitzer became
ting in several measures to increase the transparency and simplicity of the system. The next day, with Bloomberg, he created a local child care tax credit that is estimated to put more money in the hands of 49,000 low-income New York families, and two weeks later signed a law which will eventually pour tens of millions of dollars into funding increased shelter allowances provided for families on public assistance living in public housing. Three weeks later, he signed a bill to give rape victims access to the medical information of their attackers, revamped the process by which parents can protest their disabled children’s assignment of special services in public schools, and broadened what counts as discrimination against the disabled across the state. He approved contracts for low-cost hydro-power to go to Western New York and signed a law reducing school bus idling across the state. Small steps, most agree, some of them more important than others, and not much that was the result of his leadership either in negotiating or presenting program bills. There were no more breakthrough bargains, and with campaign finance reform scuttled on the rocks of his own rhetoric, he had no signature policy to push for, no case he could go before the public and prosecute. Giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, he seemed to think, would give him that big issue. Two months were consumed by his railing and berating, though more serious consideration was given to whether Sen. Hillary Clinton (D) approved than whether anyone else in New York government did. Then, as would eventually happen with Spitzer himself, the issue suddenly disappeared. In a microcosm of his time as governor, the proposal generated some fans and many critics, but, most of all, a whirlwind of anger and accusations, before Spitzer abruptly withdrew it. Much like in his resignation speech, he only barely admitted defeat, instead self-righteously trying to direct attention to what might have been.
“It’s hard to imagine the governor’s legacy is going to be much broader than his exit,” said Assembly Member Mark Weprin. one of the first and most prominent elected officials in the country to address the sub-prime mortgage crisis or spearheaded the call for President George W. Bush to sign an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Meanwhile, he increased the revenue of the state’s Environmental Protection Fund by $25 million for the 2008-2009 fiscal year, and to $300 million for every year after. By what would have been the end of his term in 2010, $175 million more will have gone to the fund. In August, he signed a bill radically redefining the relationship between managed health care plans and patients, doctors and hospitals, limiting the ability of any health plan to rescind payment for previously approved treatments and put-
HERE ARE REMNANTS of Spitzer in Albany. Not many. Like his press releases, still posted on the official governor’s website but no longer visible without a web search, though they are reluctant to admit it. The budget was his, mostly. The Wick’s Law deal, too. Beyond the policy—in the politics, in the atmosphere, in the predictions of what will come next—Spitzer still matters, and will continue to matter. He reinforced the most negative stereotypes about politicians. American voters always worry that their elected
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Day 1-Day 442: The Spitzer Legacy officials are involved with extra-marital sex, subterfuge, criminal activity and hypocrisy. The Spitzer scandal had all of these, rolled into one. Every other elected official will have to deal with the reverberations, especially in New York. They hope all politics really is local, that people will judge them each on individual merits and see the differences. They fear that people will not, instead conflating them with the Spitzer scandal, complicating relations with their constituents and hurting them at the polls. And thinking back to her own experience coming of age during Watergate, State Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) worried that the farthest-reaching effect of Spitzer will be disillusioning the best and brightest about getting involved in the first place. “Lots of good people chose not to go into politics because we had that bad taste in our mouth because of Richard Nixon,” she said. “Any of these events potentially set a number of young people away from ever imagining they want to go into government and politics. And that means their generation pays a huge price, at the end of the day.” Whether New Yorkers will ever believe in another self-styled crusader remains to be seen. In a society cynical about politics and politicians, Spitzer’s downfall may drain more out of an already shallow reservoir of trust. Someone will have to step forward, said State Sen. José Serrano (DManhattan/Bronx). The 3,860,709 New Yorkers who voted for Spitzer and his platform will demand it. “When you look at Governor Spitzer’s legacy, it’s so easy to look at how horrible things turned out, but you can’t sponge away the fact that an overwhelming majority of voters gave Eliot Spitzer a mandate to reform Albany,” Serrano said.
“You can’t discount that. So many folks were behind and rooting for Eliot Spitzer.” The scandal might even intensify the calls for reform. And despite how Spitzer’s political career ended, his 14 months was enough time to help shake up the way people think about state government, said State Sen. Eric Schneiderman (D-Manhattan/Bronx). Going forward, those in the state government will have no choice but to follow Spitzer’s example in not just trying to tackle the often-avoided big issues, but attempting to craft holistic solutions instead of tinkering around the edges. “What changed was the attitude,” Schneiderman said. “Eliot is gone, but I don’t think anyone thinks that we can go back to business as usual.” Upstate advocates are particularly concerned about how thoroughly Paterson will adopt Spitzer’s commitment to upstate revitalization. Aside from that, though, the new governor is expected to keep on most of Spitzer’s commissioners and pick up on most of Spitzer’s policies, though perhaps shifting the emphasis on some as he integrates his own agenda into the administration’s goals. Neither Paterson nor any successor for a very long time will make the mistake Spitzer did and fill administration posts with people inexperienced in the ways of Albany. Conciliation and collaboration from the executive will take on a greater value than ever in Spitzer’s wake, everyone seems to agree. Paterson undoubtedly understands this, having learned from his own two decades in the State Senate and by counterexample during Spitzer’s troubled 442 days. That
will help him realize whatever leftover Spitzer priorities he decides to pursue. In other words, the Spitzer agenda might fare better without Spitzer promoting it, said Amy Traub, director of research for the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, a progressive think tank which supports most of what Spitzer proposed. “I do think there’s tremendous popular support for this agenda, so I would hope that Paterson would be more effective than Spitzer in carrying it out,” she said. “Spitzer really set the agenda, and cer-
Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy and a longtime observer of state politics. His effect on the financial sector through his investigations and prosecutions of Wall Street firms while attorney general, though, will continue to matter, both in New York and across the nation. “That will be his big legacy: that he was an aggressive attorney general, and went after some large firms that generally have not been subject to being monitored by state government,” Zimmerman said. “But when you come to his role as governor, I suppose the only memory people will have, other than the scandal, is the fact that he tried to be a bulldozer.” People who underestimate Spitzer’s legacy are wrong, said John, the Monroe Assembly member. But it is not their fault: as after any loss, she said, they are still working through the stages of grief. Having gotten past Denial, Anger and Bargaining, they are only up to number four: Depression. She, though, seems to be all the way through to number five: Acceptance. And part of that is understanding that for good and for bad, Spitzer will have a long, strong shadow cast over Albany and New Yorkers for years to come. “There’s a lot of reasons why people want it to be forgotten about, but I do think that that’s people engaging in wishful thinking. This was such an extraordinary episode in state history, both because of the man involved and because of the almost Greek mythical tragedy of his exit from office, that it will not be forgotten,” John said. “And I think that for many years, there will be more senior politicians saying to more junior politicians ‘Remember the lessons of Eliot Spitzer and don’t reach for more than you can grab.’”
The Spitzer agenda might fare better without Eliot Spitzer the one promoting it, many seem to agree tainly Governor Paterson has an opportunity to add a lot to it.” Craig Johnson (D-Nassau) owes his Senate seat in large part to Spitzer, as does Darrel Aubertine. George Amedore (R-Montgomery/Schenectady) and Micah Kellner (D-Manhattan) would not be in the Assembly without the openings Spitzer created by administration appointments—or at least not yet. That may be the most concrete change he brought to the Capitol. “It’s hard to imagine the governor’s legacy is going to be much broader than his exit,” said Weprin, the Queens Assembly member. And if he does have any lasting impact at all, it will not be from anything that happened on Day One or since, said Joseph Zimmerman, a professor at
In Alabama, a Lieutenant Governor who Became Governor, then Lieutenant Governor Again OT MANY LIEUTENANT governors have ever risen to become governor in New York or elsewhere around the country, despite the recent history of changes in the tri-state area. Then there is Alabama Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom, Jr. (D). Back in 1993, Folsom was a two-term lieutenant governor when Gov. H. Guy Hunt (R) resigned after being convicted of misusing campaign funds. Unlike in New York, the governor and lieutenant governor are elected separately in Alabama, and so while Hunt was a Republican, Folsom was a Democrat. Like Paterson, Folsom is the son of a powerful political figure, Jim “Big Jim” Folsom, Sr. (D), a populist governor elected to two non-consecutive terms in 1946 and 1954. Folsom, Sr. was known
for his folksy approach to politics—like the vows to clean up state government illustrated by carrying around a mop and bucket at campaign appearances. Folsom, Sr. also gained attention for refusing to sign segregation bills and meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr. in secret during the Montgomery bus boycott. That helped lead to his New York connection, having shared a drink with Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (D) in the governor’s mansion during his second term. Folsom, Jr., or “Little Jim,” as he is known to many Alabamans, moved quickly once he became governor himself, winning a bid for the first Mercedes-Benz plant in America just weeks after taking the oath of office. But he also alienated many in the state by refusing to appeal a court decision
ordering the removal of the Confederate flag from flying above the state capitol. That contributed to his narrow loss in his bid for a full term in 1994 to Fob James, a Republican who went on to serve just one term himself. After the loss, Folsom stayed out of politics for 12 years, keeping a low profile as he pondered his next move. Then he returned in 2006, ready to run another race. And he picked a campaign for an office he knew well: lieutenant governor. He won, even as Republican Bob Riley was elected the state’s new governor. And his political resurrection may not stop there: Folsom is being discussed as the possible Democratic candidate for governor in Alabama in 2010. —David Colon firstname.lastname@example.org Direct letters to the editor to
Current Alabama Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom, a former governor and also lieutenant governor, may run for governor again in 2010.
Day 1-Day 442: The Spitzer Legacy
Questions Swirl Over Which Firms Stand on Solid Ground
Paterson expected to make few changes in consultants, but hire full-time fundraiser
HE WILD RIDE state politics has been on since March 10th shows no signs of stopping, as speculation runs rampant in the political world about which consultants will be in and which will not. Eliot Spitzer’s circle of advisors, many from outside Albany and personally loyal to him, is almost entirely gone, being replaced in many cases by veterans of legislative battles dating back to Gov. Mario Cuomo’s (D) occupation of the Executive Mansion. “It’s better for Democratic establishment types,” one party insider said. Gov. David Paterson (D) is known to have remained close to many of those who worked with him in Albany in the 1980s, when he first arrived in the State Senate, leading one consultant to predict that the new Albany regime will be similar to the deal-making days of Cuomo. But firms with close ties to Spitzer may not be out of luck entirely. The Global Strategy Group had long been close to Spitzer, and had hired his former campaign manager, Ryan Toohey, as a principal. In the private sector, Toohey was a prime architect of much of Spitzer’s political strategy and his efforts to win the State Senate. Toohey’s fate remains unclear, but one insider said Toohey has developed a new sense of humility as Spitzer plummeted.
Toohey declined to discuss his relationship with the new guard in Albany. Nonetheless, speculation that they will be banished under Paterson seems to have been premature. “There was a lot of hubbub that Global Strategy was out,” one Democratic consultant said. “But David has a lot of relationships with them.” Many believe their prospects are increasingly good now that Paterson has hired Risa Heller, a Global Strategy senior vice president and former aide to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D), as his new communications director. But change is definitely coming to the governor’s fundraising operation. Alison Giard, who was heading fundraising for the Spitzer 2010 committee, is still in place in her office at the state Democratic Party’s Manhattan headquarters. She is working to dismantle Spitzer’s campaign operation and providing advice to Paterson’s team. Giard, who was close with Spitzer and his team, is currently looking for a new position, outside of politics. “Despite the upheaval of the last few weeks, I enjoyed working with Eliot Spitzer,” Giard said, noting she had a good relationship with Paterson. “I am ready for a move to the private sector and plan to remain in politics as an outside interest.”
Giard does not expect to announce her next move for a few weeks and could leave before Spitzer’s campaign operation is completely dismantled, which could take several months. While Lisa Hernandez Gioia had been handling Paterson’s fundraising in the lieutenant governor’s office, her firm, the Esler Group, will apparently not serve as Paterson’s chief fundraisers. She said she had not heard who will be Paterson’s new fundraising director, but that while she will continue advising Paterson on fundraising, she has recommended that he hire a fulltime finance director for his campaign. Whether there will be a role for Spitzer’s longtime finance director, Cindy Darrison, who left for the private sector after his election as governor in 2006, is unclear. She most recently worked at North Fork Bank, the holder of the accounts with the transactions which ensnared Spitzer in the investigation into the Emperors Club VIP. Darrison had brought Spitzer into the bank as a client. Bill Lynch’s visibility in the opening days of Paterson’s administration is continued to be talked about by many consultants, who believe the former deputy mayor and his firm have been hurt by their willingness to promote themselves as being Paterson’s inner circle. One insider cited the new governor’s two rebukes of Lynch in the press, and refusal
to hire his former campaign manager Luther Smith for a Chamber job, as proof of Lynch’s current standing in Paterson’s office. But another insider insisted Lynch still had an in with Paterson, with a close relationship formed in generations of Harlem politics that will continue to give Lynch clout in Albany. What has become clear is that nothing is yet clear about the power arrangements--and in the absence of firm decisions, many are boasting of their own relationships with Paterson, but attempting to undercut the relationships others have, as in a rumor that top lobbyist Patricia Lynch is worried about her standing with the new regime. Former Spitzer communications director Darren Dopp, who has since offered testimony implicating Spitzer in the Troopergate scandal, is at the firm. She dismissed talk of any concerns she is said to have. “The governor is an old friend,” said Lynch, referring to when she first got to know Paterson as a Senate staffer in the 1980s, at the outset of her Albany career. “I would say that’s a rumor spread by a competitor.” —John R.D. Celock email@example.com Direct letters to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Day 1-Day 442: The Spitzer Legacy
The talk of who could succeed Hillary Clinton in the Senate if she pulls off a presidential win reflects some political reverberations of Eliot Spitzer’s resignation.
Now Who Would Get the Senate Seat? Despite Clinton’s declining chances, new potential list reflects changing political calculus under Paterson LIOT SPITZER’S resignation upturned the conventional wisdom that had David Paterson as Spitzer’s all-but-certain appointee to replace Sen. Hillary Clinton (D), should she be elected president. Even as Clinton’s path to the Democratic nomination appears increasingly difficult, the question of who Paterson might pick if Clinton does get to the White House has begun to circulate. Most believe that Paterson would be unlikely to appoint himself, though he could. While several other governors across the country have tried this, they have generally not fared well with voters in their next elections, instead finding their political careers cut short. Sources dismissed any speculation regarding Paterson’s potential Senate appointment. One source close to the governor’s office said that Paterson was still focused on the continuing transition and has not thought ahead to the potential impact of the presidential race for him. Others said there had not been much attention given to the prospect, considering what appear to be Clinton’s diminishing chances against Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's for the Democratic nomination.
“It’s ridiculous to speculate, because Hillary will be occupying Hillary’s Senate seat in January,” said one consultant. But the new potential list may nonetheless demonstrate a new organization of power and political calculus. People who were thought to be behind Paterson on Spitzer’s presumptive list are still being discussed. This includes Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan/Queens), Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan/Brooklyn), Gregory Meeks (D-Queens) and Nita Lowey (D-Westchester/Rockland). But especially with Paterson’s appointee forced to run for the remaining two years of the term in 2010 on a ticket with Paterson, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) and the other constitutional officers, ticket balancing concerns may well weigh heavily on Paterson’s mind if faced with making a choice. With or without a Senate seat to fill, the new thinking reflects the political reality now that Paterson is in the Executive Mansion. State Democrats may be looking for more upstate candidates, but with less emphasis on putting forward a non-white
candidate. But protecting the new governor will likely still be key. Cuomo is believed to be a top choice, to get a potential primary rival out of the way. This would be similar to a strategy employed by Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) in 2006, who helped engineer the Senate nomination for State Treasurer Robert Casey, Jr., his former primary opponent. Suozzi is believed to be the best choice to balance the 2010 ticket as a suburban candidate, in a time when suburban voters are dominating statewide politics. The next statewide Democratic ticket is guaranteed only one suburban politician— State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. “The advice with Suozzi is he’s a suburbanite, and that’s more important than an upstater,” said one Democratic consultant. A Suozzi selection would still keep the focus downstate, though. The leading upstate choice had been Brown, a former state senator who has been close to Paterson for years. Brown, Buffalo’s first African-American mayor, has seen his chances decline since Paterson’s elevation, since the push for an AfricanAmerican senator will likely be less
intense under New York’s first AfricanAmerican governor. That may pave the way for rising prospects for Rep. Brian Higgins (DBuffalo) as an upstate candidate. A Higgins appointment would open his House seat for a 2009 special election, which would draw competition from both parties. While Higgins is viewed as a heavy favorite to hold the seat when he runs, his longtime predecessor was Republican Jack Quinn, and Republicans have proven competitive in much of the district. Whoever Paterson picks could face a tough future in the Senate. Of the 16 appointed senators to serve between 1986 and 2006, 13 have sought election and only 7 have won, the most recent being Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ). The current Senate contains two appointees, Republicans John Barrasso of Wyoming and Robert Wicker of Mississippi. Both are seeking election for the remainder of their appointed terms in November, and are considered favored by national political handicappers. —John R.D. Celock email@example.com Direct letters to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Day 1-Day 442: The Spitzer Legacy
NY’s Energy and Environmental Goals Not Divergent By Arthur (Jerry) Kremer
Many years ago, energy policy was nothing more than making sure that enough coal was going to arrive at the local power plant. But today, as concerns about global warming and air quality are at the forefront of the public and legislative agendas, energy and environmental policies must be developed in consultation with the public and private sectors. Compared with the rest of the nation, New York’s energy portfolio has a low reliance on fossil fuel power plants. The U.S. Energy Information Association reported in May 2007 that 5,879 megawatt hours, or 51 percent, of New York State’s total electricity generation came from hydroelectric and nuclear sources, which have negligible carbon emissions.
The Next Step for the Career Cut Short
Developing new renewable energy while keeping our current hydro and nuclear facilities online sources is critical to meet the greenhouse gas reductions goals of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030, and the Ozone Transport Commission (OTC). Not only will these ambitious cuts in greenhouse gas emissions (up to 27%) improve our environment overall, but the improvements in air quality will benefit the health of the public. Millions of New Yorkers could be breathing cleaner air every day.
Eliot Spitzer will not have much trouble finding a new job—if he wants one, according to several career consultants.
While we need every available kilowatt of electricity to fuel our growing economy, to achieve better air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in New York, we must: • Promote new, clean energy technologies and renewable energy sources • Support conservation and efficiency initiatives • Increase the use of mass transit and reduce vehicular traffic on the streets and highways • Maintain all of our current base-load sources of power, especially clean hydro and nuclear facilities There is another side to the energy policy coin: How can we increase energy supply, meet our environmental goals, and at the same time foster economic growth and job creation? The options to meet these goals are fairly straightforward. However, putting these options into practice requires tough decisions and firm leadership. Renewing the Article X power plant siting law would be a big step forward in New York State, allowing us to develop muchneeded power sources and paving the way for development of new, more efficient and cleaner sources of power.
LIOT SPITZER HAS resigned from the state’s top job and may yet be disbarred if indicted, but his professional life need not be over, according to several top professionals. “He’s rich, famous and, frankly, does not need the work,” said legal recruiter David B. Sarnoff, a partner at Morandi, Taub & Sarnoff. “But he has a Rolodex with the names of the most powerful people in the city. That’s worth something.” Despite Spitzer’s extensive experience as a prosecutor, Sarnoff believes Spitzer would be relegated to the back office of firms looking to have access to his contacts and not suffer from bad press due to the former governor’s ethical lapses. And Spitzer is not, after all, the first attorney who has had a fall from grace, nor will he be the last, said Tricia McGrath, an attorney recruiter at BCG in Manhattan. “Lawyers get caught for things like this and worse all the time,” McGrath said. “Believe me: he’ll do just fine. He’s probably gotten tons of job offers already.” Spitzer could also turn to his 84-year-old father, real estate developer Bernard Spitzer, who helped finance his son’s political career starting with his first run for attorney general in 1994.
“Unlike us normal humans, he’s got a fortune,” McGrath said. “He could take his own millions and start a foundation or just work with his dad.” Whatever he wants to do, several life coaches interviewed agreed that Spitzer may need some help moving beyond the effects of his exposure in the press. “Spitzer cannot restructure his past,” Siegel said. “He made poor decisions because his personal views did not match his private ones, but if he can acknowledge that and move on, there’s nothing stopping him.” But according to Dr. Marianna Lane, a licensed life coach who currently teaches at New York University, Spitzer may need something more than a life coach if he seeks to work again. “Coaches do not tell people what to do,” she said. “We rely on our clients to ask themselves the tough questions. If someone like Spitzer cannot look at his situation objectively and come up with solutions for himself, he may have to find a therapist.” —Carl Winfield email@example.com Direct letters to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org.
New York’s energy and environmental agendas are not divergent. With that in mind, let’s put some realistic options on the table and move forward with new policies to keep New York State a national leader. Arthur (Jerry) Kremer is Chairman of the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance and a co-author the Article X Power Plant Siting Law. He served in the State Legislature for 23 years, 12 as Assembly Ways and Means Chair. S P E C I A L
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
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Day 1-Day 442: The Spitzer Legacy
Unlike Silda Wall Spitzer, Michelle Paterson, as first lady, has only one employee and only one item on her agenda: childhood obesity.
Silda Wall Spitzer’s Effects and Michelle Paige Paterson’s Prospects Paterson plans a less active and extensive role in her husband’s administration EW YORK DID NOT just lose a governor when Eliot Spitzer resigned. The state lost a first lady, too. Like her husband, Silda Wall Spitzer came into Albany as a strong-minded reformer. She did not have another job, intent instead on transforming the first lady’s office to enhance its responsibility beyond the kind of advocacy work her predecessors had done. Two of Wall Spitzer’s initiatives were an outgrowth of her husband’s agenda: improving the environment and upstate economic development, which she often spoke about as being directly related. Her extension of Spitzer’s agenda earned her comparisons to Hillary Clinton, and the Spitzers as a couple nurtured the “two-for-one” reputation. Wall Spitzer, while not paid by the state, had three fulltime staffers on the state’s payroll. The new first lady, Michelle Paige Paterson, has limited the scope of her office. She has only one employee, a chief of staff. In her official capacity, she will focus exclusively on childhood obesity. She will be keeping her job as an executive at the Health Insurance Plan of New York (HIP). “Childhood obesity is one of the serious issues facing our state and nation,” said Paterson in a statement. “As first lady, I plan to work on several initiatives to get kids eating right and enjoying exercise.”
Meanwhile, Wall Spitzer’s lasting legacy remains unclear. Robin Schimminger (D-Erie/Niagara), chair of the Assembly’s Economic Development Committee, said he believes she was integral to the efforts to improve upstate. “There’s no handbook on the role of a first lady, whether in Washington or Albany,” Schimminger said. “These are areas she chose to be involved in, much to her credit.”
YLC, which she chaired, to try to fix upstate New York’s “brain drain” of young talent fleeing the area for job opportunities. “Her ‘I Live NY’ initiative was ingenious and well placed,” said Schimminger. “It was a real bonus for an initiative like ‘I Live NY’ to have her arms around it.” Due to the renewed efforts to attract recent college graduates to upstate New York, by several lawmakers, Schimminger said that the program could survive without Wall Spitzer. “The program is not necessarily defunct,” he said. Tying green technology to a new job market upstate, Wall Spitzer proposed environmental initiatives such as making the governor’s mansion the first in the nation to be green and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified. “She was very realistic about saying, ‘If we’re going to talk the talk we need to walk the walk,’” said Peter Arsenault, a Rochester-based architect for Stantec Sustainable Solutions. The greening of the mansion seems set to continue under the Patersons, but there is not likely to be the kind of press or fanfare for the process that Wall Spitzer fostered. Arsenault said the lasting impact of
The new first lady, Michelle Paterson, has limited the scope of her office. Wall Spitzer’s “I Live NY” campaign, which led to the creation of the Young Leaders Congress (YLC), was an extension of the $1 billion dedicated to upstate economic development her husband had proposed. A member of the YLC declined comment on the future of the organization, but mentioned that possible plans are being discussed. Wall Spitzer appointed 15 people to the
Wall Spitzer’s emphasis on greening the mansion is showing that environmentallysound living is achievable, which was a task placed mainly on businesses and corporations. “It was certainly sending the right message to New Yorkers that sustainability starts at home,” Arsenault said. “I give her a lot of credit for that.” On the state level, Wall Spitzer promoted a policy by the state Dormitory Authority that required all new state construction projects managed by the public benefit corporation to be LEED certified. “It is leadership at that level that will help drive the green building market forward,” said Tracie Hall, executive director of the upstate New York chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. Hall is confident that Paterson will also be committed to improving the upstate economy, and she believes the new administration will continue to focus on green technology. She called this a testament to Wall Spitzer’s initiatives. And, she hopes, Wall Spitzer will continue to be involved herself. “People who adopt these types of agendas don’t do it for political purposes,” Hall said. “We hope that as a private citizen, the former first lady will continue her passion and advocacy.” —Dan Rivoli email@example.com
Day 1-Day 442: The Spitzer Legacy
The other thing Spitzer did in Washington LOT OF ATTENTION has been spent and will continue to be spent on what Eliot Spitzer was up to at the end of the day on Feb. 13 in Room 871 of the Mayflower Hotel. But officially, at least, Spitzer was in Washington to kick off his Valentine’s Day morning with testimony to Congress, using his prominence as governor to warn of an impending massacre of the municipal bond market. Municipal bonds themselves were solvent, Spitzer explained, and local governments were in no danger of defaulting on the promises made to municipal bond holders. But, he told the Capital Markets Subcommittee, the financial instability at monolines—insurance companies that underwrite municipal bonds—threatened to damage the credit ratings at these insurance companies. Without reliable insurance, municipal bond credit ratings would devalue, increasing the difficulty and expense of local governments’ efforts to issue bonds and raise money. That afternoon, State Insurance Superintendent Eric Dinallo stepped in to explain the nuts and bolts needed to avert disaster. The issue is of particular concern for New York, where most insurance companies are incorporated and regulated, Dinallo said, reflecting on why he and the then-governor brought their case to Congress. “I think that there is a good-faith discussion to be had about whether there ought to be federal backstops for municipalities,” Dinallo said. Dinallo believes that Congress could have effectively ended the municipal crisis by simply following a comment made by Financial Services Committee chair Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts), and making a $10 billion guarantee to ensure no municipality defaulted on its obligations. “That’s all that the market needed,” Dinallo said. Issuing bonds is a common way for local governments to raise money, but the credit rating for those municipal bonds determines how much it is going to cost local governments to pay the bonds back when they mature or come due. The better the rating— AAA being the best—the easier for a government to raise money without raising taxes. The question of the ratings could effect many billions of dollars in New York and other local governments across the country. Frank did not commit the federal government to be a guarantor, but Dinallo and Spitzer found the needed money anyway by facilitating $7 billion dollars worth of fresh capital into the monoline industry to stabilize credit ratings. With the immediate security that insurance underwriters were not going to collapse provided, Dinallo turned his attention to new regulations specific to the monoline industry. Noting how much monolines rely on their credit ratings, Dinallo saw what he says is an important difference between them and most insurance companies, which base their financial strength on how much capital they have available to pay off claims. By selling what is essentially their good names, monolines are particularly susceptible
to sudden dips in investor confidence. “What we never really focused on was that for these few insurance companies, out of the thousand that we regulate, was that their rating was part of the business model,” he said. “They were selling their rating.” On March 14, the day Spitzer announced his resignation, Dinallo testified before the Assembly Insurance Committee, outlining new regulatory proposals designed to restore confidence in the companies. If adopted, these would prevent monolines from underwriting certain types of collateralized debt obligations. Dinallo said he plans to have new regulatory proposals fully ready by the middle of the year. Congress has been taking what happened on the morning of Feb. 14 more seriously than anything that might have happened the night before, Dinallo believes. He laughed off concerns that Spitzer’s personal problems diverted focus from the issues in their testimony. “To be fair to them, they’ve spent a lot of time on this,” he said. “I think that they’re taking it very seriously.” Dinallo expects to testify again in front of Congress in April, but said he has yet to discuss any of the issues with new Gov. David Paterson (D). Meanwhile, Assembly Insurance Committee chair Joseph Morelle (D-Monroe) is in the process of determining if new legislation is needed to ensure that municipal bonds are backed up with reliable insurance. “What I want to make sure we don’t do is come up with a solution that is unique to this problem, and miss the larger question,” Morelle said. Morelle said that could prompt him to call a second round of Assembly hearings on the rating agencies’ processes. Dinallo believes the Assembly should instead hold hearings about how important these agencies are to businesses in the state. “The problem is, before we all trash the ratings agencies, I’d like to know who would have done it better? It’s not like Bear Stearns got it right, and they’re a bunch of experts, the last time I checked,” Dinallo said. “Maybe Larry Fink of Blackrock would do it better, but the last time I checked, he’s paid a bit too much to come work for a ratings agency.” Morelle insisted that his only goal was to fix the problems going forward, and not to assign blame for what has passed. “I’m not really interested in sort of an ‘I gotcha’ sort of thing,” he said. “I don’t want to fight the last war; I want to fight the next war.” But the last war might not be over just yet. On April 4, Fitch Ratings—one of the three major American ratings agencies—downgraded the rating of giant Wisconsin-based insurance company MBIA to AA. —Elie Mystal firstname.lastname@example.org Direct letters to the editor to email@example.com.
Environmentalists Must Focus on Real Solutions By: Dr. Patrick Moore
From my work as a co-founder and former leader of Greenpeace to my current focus on sustainability, I have witnessed many in the environmental community say no to wind energy, no to hydro power, no to wood burning, no to fossil fuels, and no to nuclear energy. Considering that these power sources make up over ninety-nine percent of all power generated worldwide, the obvious question is: How do environmentalists propose that we get electricity? Some environmentalists want to shut down the 99% of power that allows our society to run. They won’t tell you that the things they support are technologically unachievable in this day and age. They even want to halt wind farms, complaining about “so-called” visual pollution offshore and on ridgelines, the ideal locations for wind energy. But there is more than one perspective. And as an environmentalist I believe that hydro and nuclear energy are crucial energy sources that must play a role in handling the environmental challenges that we face today. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and electricity generation are real threats to the ecosystem. Other toxic emissions from these sources, such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter are linked to health complications such as asthma and heart disease. From an environmental standpoint, a mix of nuclear and renewable energy sources like hydroelectric, wind, and geothermal is the best combination to meet energy demand while working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As a high-capacity, base-load energy source, nuclear energy is the most efficient source of energy available and produces near zero carbon dioxide emissions. In many parts of the U.S., hydro has already been built to capacity, thus limiting its expansion. New York State would be wise to keep its six nuclear reactors on-line, as they play a key role in meeting the state’s energy needs while mitigating millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions that would otherwise result from fossil fuel power plants. If New York State is serious about reducing greenhouse gases and improving the environment and air quality, retaining its current clean energy sources while working to integrate renewable sources is critical. Overlooking the importance of nuclear energy in today’s energy mix could be a costly mistake. A co-founder of Greenpeace, Dr. Patrick Moore is Chair and Chief Scientist of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. and an adviser to the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (www.area-alliance.org).
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APR IL 2008
Day 1-Day 442: The Spitzer Legacy
Signs of Change LIOT SPITZER’S RESIGNATION last month upended Albany’s political universe, reset the clock on budget negotiations and left Gov. David Paterson (D) with less than five days to prepare for his new job. But the state’s bureaucracy churned onward. “It was our normal work that had us panicked,” said Karl Felsen, a spokesperson for the New York State Office for Technology. “The whole thing seemed almost routine.” First, his office sent out an email blast to other state agencies reminding them to post Paterson’s name and picture on state websites after the governor’s inauguration. They also contacted readMedia, the Albany firm that does their media advisories, to update software for the office’s letterhead. Then it was back to planning for their quarterly broadband meeting, Felsen said. Other state agencies described a similar nonchalance, comparing Spitzer’s abrupt resignation to ordinary administration
transitions. Claudia Hutton, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, said that when Spitzer first came to office she was instructed not to throw away reports or old promotional material with former Gov. George Pataki’s name on the cover. The department was given the same advice by Paterson’s team, Hutton said. “The information isn’t wrong just because an old governor’s name is on them,” she said. Hutton added that her department would not have to spend money to remove Spitzer’s name from things like birth and death certificates since the governor’s name does not appear on such documents. Hunting and fishing licenses, driver’s licenses, SUNY diplomas, and most department or agency staff business cards are also exempt. While many governors put their names on welcome signs for visitors on highway billboards, Spitzer had declined to add his name to New York’s, said Department of Transportation spokesperson Carole
Some changes in signage since Eliot Spitzer’s departure have been more professional than on this sign at the EmpireFulton Ferry State Park in Brooklyn.
Breen. So far, Paterson has followed suit. Breen also said that Paterson’s office sent a digital picture of the new governor to print out and swap with Spitzer’s, which went into the office recycle bin. If many agencies and departments said they incurred no extra cost or did not make an extra effort to scrub away vestiges of the Spitzer administration, one exception was the Office of General Services. They had from Wednesday, March 14, when Spitzer announced his resignation, to the next Monday, when Paterson was sworn in, to remove Spitzer signage from 44 state office buildings, at a cost of $2,300, according to OGS spokesperson Brad Maione. Adjustments are also being made for the signs at the 178 state parks and 35 cultural sites that are managed by the Department of Parks, many of which bore Spitzer’s name. This will mean repainting signs, as well as smaller changes, according to Department spokesperson Eileen Larrabee, who said that new governors and commissioners are often accounted
for by simply putting stickers on old brochures. “It is a matter of course for the agency,” she said. At the Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park in Brooklyn, a makeshift change now has Paterson’s scrawled on over a brown patch on the orange sign. Larrabee said she was unfamiliar with that sign, but was not surprised to hear of it. “Staff has been asked to make changes to reflect Gov. Paterson,” she said. “This sounds like it may be a temporary solution.” But the transition was not all easy on the bureaucratic front. There was at least one detail to double-check that no one stumbled over before moving on to other state business: making sure no one spelled Paterson with two T’s. —Daniel Macht firstname.lastname@example.org Direct letters to the editor to email@example.com.
Environmental Benefits for Each and Every New Yorker
Day 1-Day 442: The Spitzer Legacy
Once Governor, Always Governor, Etiquette Experts Must Insist HILE LATE-NIGHT comedians and tabloids can make jokes about “Client Number 9,” “Tainted Gov” and the “Luv Guv,” polite society cannot. So said etiquette expert Letitia Baldrige, former White House chief of staff to Jacqueline Kennedy, when considering how people should now refer to Eliot Spitzer. Former elected officials are traditionally still referred to with the office they once held, and, scandal and resignation regardless, Spitzer should still be referred to as “Governor,” and no one, under any circumstances, add “ex-” to the title, Baldridge said. “To call him ex-Governor, in my eyes, would be unpardonable. You don’t call a priest who left the church ex-Father O’Brien,” she said. Scandal, she said, is best left unmentioned. “Put the scandal behind you, ask him what he’s doing with his life now,” she said. “To ask about the scandal at all would be rude and cruel.” Emily Yoffe, who writes the “Dear Prudence” column on Slate.com, noted that since America is not as title-conscious as other nations, referring to him simply as “Mr. Spitzer” would hardly be a sign of disrespect. She agreed, though, that bringing up the scandal should as a rule be off-limits, with some exceptions based on venue. “If he stands up at a sex addicts meeting, obviously it’s okay to ask about it,” she said. Otherwise, said Peter Post of the Emily Post Institute, only friends and family can politely discuss the scandal with Spitzer. “Everyone thinks etiquette is just this book you flip open and reference, but it is not black and white—it takes into account the situation you’re in and your relationship with the person,” he said. But Post said this would not hold for elected officials who committed worse offenses than being implicated in a prostitution ring. “If a governor goes to prison for an atrocious murder, the guards probably will not be calling him governor,” Post said. “There’s no definition in any etiquette book for how to deal with someone who’s committed heinous crimes.” The experts also weighed in on how to now refer to Silda Wall Spitzer. Whether or not to call her former First Lady is the “elephant in the room” in terms of etiquette, Yoffe said. Baldrige said the answer was simple.
By Norris McDonald
To address the challenges associated with global climate change, as well as improve air quality in general, the need to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other harmful pollutants is more important than ever. Carpooling, buying hybrid cars, retrofitting older buildings with more efficient technologies, reducing waste and using mass transit are but a few ideas that can help reduce emissions.
Fossil fuel burning power plants account for approximately one-third of total carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. This ratio is unlikely to change drastically in the near future. However, thought must be given to developing clean and more efficient sources of energy while at the same time keeping clean sources of power like hydroelectric and nuclear power plants online. Unfortunately, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and others are advocating closing two of the state’s six nuclear reactors at Indian Point, even though they produce no carbon dioxide emissions or air pollution. Given New York State’s growing demand for electricity and the fact that it would take four to five coal or natural gas-powered plants to replace Indian Point, shutting down that facility would increase carbon dioxide emissions by 14 million tons each year. Communities of color are the ones subjected to the highest degree of nitrogen oxide and other toxic emissions that come from the older, dirtier power plants, bus depots, industrial and chemical factories. Heavy industry and power plants are almost exclusively placed in the poorer communities. As a result, asthma and other respiratory illness are more prevalent among our children. Does anyone honestly believe that a new power plant will ever be sited in the affluent communities of Westchester? Instead of focusing on trying to shut down clean sources of energy, the DEC should be taking measures to clean up our environment. With all the plans to mark Earth Day, there has been little talk on how to improve the environment of minority neighborhoods.
It is true that there continues to be no single answer to address the challenges posed by the growing demand for electricity and the need to reduce greenhouse gases and air pollution. But the first step is to promote a balanced approach that will guarantee we can improve the environment and air quality for each and every New Yorker.
“Since she doesn’t have a title, you refer to her as Mrs. Spitzer if you don’t know her, or Silda if you do,” she said, adding, “Silda happens to be a lovely name.” Post had another idea. “If you can, find out from someone ahead of time what she prefers to be called,” he said. For either member of the couple, he advised that perhaps no rule of etiquette is more important than the Golden Rule. “You are not trying to make them uncomfortable, you are trying to get things off on the right foot,” Post said. “Ask yourself how you would like to be treated in the same situation.” —David Colon firstname.lastname@example.org
Norris McDonald is the president and founder of the African American Environmentalist Association and an Advisory Board Member of the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance www.area-alliance.org. S P E C I A L
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APR IL 2008
Targeted Again, This Year Valesky Fails to Draw Top Tier GOP Challenger With two candidates in the wings, Republicans play up senator’s Spitzer connections BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS SEN. DAVID VALESKY (D-Madison/Onondaga/Oneida) won a surprise victory in 2004, defeating a longtime incumbent in a closely watched race. In 2006, Valesky held onto his seat. He has yet to start campaigning for reelection this year, but he is definitely running. And Republicans are already gearing up to mount a challenge, though a heavyweight like Valesky’s last two GOP opponents has not yet emerged. County Republicans still have to decide between two possible candidates. That has not stopped the state GOP from starting its own campaign against Valesky, attacking his record and playing up his connections to former Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) and his replacement, David Paterson. “He has been tied far too often to the Spitzer-Paterson team and their wishes rather than the needs of the people in his district,” said Matt Walter, a spokesperson for the state committee. Spitzer endorsed Valesky in his 2006 re-election campaign against Republican Assembly Member Jeffrey Brown, and shot several campaign commercials for the targeted senator. The state party has already gone negative, attacking Valesky for opposing tax cuts and what Walter called “certain criminal justice measures.” The two potential candidates, though, are focusing on the positive. The Republican nomination will rest
largely on the endorsement decision of the Republican organization in Onondaga County, where much of the district’s population is centered. Jim DiStefano and Kirk Bristol will be making their cases to the local party during the next few weeks. DiStefano, a former supervisor in the town of DeWitt, said that if he won the nomination, he would run on a platform that emphasized reducing the tax burden in the state. “No one seems to be focusing on the issue,” he said. “Everyone’s talking about bringing money back to the districts.” DiStefano, who now represents accident victims as a civil litigation attorney, said he has some funds left over in a political action committee from his years as town supervisor, but not enough to mount a Senate campaign. He plans to start fundraising aggressively if and when he gets the nomination. He stressed his high opinion of the man he is looking to beat. “David Valesky is a good fellow,” he said. “I know him and he’s a likeable person.” Bristol, a retired school administrator from Onondaga County, was slightly more critical of the incumbent. He said he was seeking the Republican nomination because he perceived a general disconnect between voters and their elected representatives in Albany. “Very seldom do we have any communications from the present senator,” Bristol said of Valesky. “Twice we might get a mailing, and that’s after the fact on a lot of the issues.”
Bristol, a former guidance counselor who said he has no experience in politics, is casting himself as an outsider candidate who might not be totally aligned with the Republican Party’s agenda. “My needs may not meet their needs,” he said, predicting how his forthcoming meeting with the county party leaders might go. John DeSpirito, chair of the Onondaga GOP, said party leaders have a nominating convention planned for May. Either Bristol or DiStefano would be a formidable opponent for Valesky, he said, though he hedged his enthusiasm. “He’s an incumbent, but they’d work hard to give it better than a good shot,” DeSpirito said. Enrollment numbers in the district, which includes four mainly rural counties, may complicate Valesky’s re-election efforts. Democrats have a slim, 2,000voter registration edge on Republicans. In the 2006 election, the district’s rural areas went heavily for then-incumbent Sen. Nancy Hoffman (R), while Valesky won big in urban Syracuse and the surrounding suburbs. Since arriving in Albany, Valesky has spent a great deal of time working on issues that affect the rural portions of his district, as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agricultural Committee. Late last year, he sponsored a rural field trip for his Senate colleagues from New York City in an effort to emphasize the plight of small-town farmers. Ruddy said Valesky was considered a top target by Republicans in 2006, but
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still managed to win re-election by a 15point margin. That may have dissuaded potentially stronger Republicans from making the race, though Valesky is again listed as a top GOP target. “We don’t take anything for granted in this office,” Ruddy said. “But the way the senator deals with that is by focusing on serving his constituents and representing the people the best way possible.” Fundraising is also an ongoing process, Ruddy said. In January, Valesky reported having just over $128,000 in his campaign fund. Jeffrey Stonecash, a political science professor at Syracuse University, said Valesky is probably safe with voter dissatisfaction with Republicans at an alltime high. “The Republican Party does not have a good image right now, and as the economy tanks, there’s all the possibility in the world that Republicans could be blamed for it,” Stonecash said. “It’s a bad set of conditions.” Valesky will be strong going into November, Stonecash predicted. And, he warned, efforts to attack Valesky by mentioning his past support by Spitzer will probably backfire. The former governor did campaign hard for Valesky, but he did that for many Democrats, Stonecash explained, and attempts to tar Valesky by linking him to Spitzer would require Republicans to show that the senator had some direct involvement with any of the Spitzer scandals. “Unless they’ve got some real evidence,” Stonecash said, “I’d call that a serious reach.” email@example.com
APR IL 2008
Determined to give Democrats control of the State Senate, the WFP steps up its statewide operations BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS AN CANTOR, EXECUTIVE DIRECtor of the Working Families Party, is in a good mood these
days. Party enrollment across the state is higher than ever. The February special election victory of Darrel Aubertine (D-Oswego) was attributed in large part to the WFP’s young and energetic ground operation. And with control of the Senate up for grabs in November, scores of candidates across the state are vying for the party’s endorsement. This could help the party, which generally cross-endorses rather than fielding its own candidates, continue to augment its power far beyond its Brooklyn headquarters. But he and the WFP are not magicians, Cantor insisted. They are simply following what he believes is common sense. “It’s not like we’re brilliant new thinkers,” he said. “This is Social Democracy 101.” The WFP originated in 1998 as a coalition of labor unions, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) housing activists and other community organizers. After a decade of involvement in New York City and some local races across the state, the party is now working overtime to pump up its operation beyond the Big Apple in the hopes of helping deliver the Senate for the Democrats. State chapters will be screening candidates through May, with endorsement decisions to follow based on candidates’ answers to a 20-page questionnaire and performance in an inperson interview. The party will likely back at least some candidates in contested Democratic primaries. Cantor would not comment on which candidates, or how many, the WFP was likely to endorse, but said he expects the party to be active in races in every corner of the state. A WFP endorsement can generate support in two ways: some voters simply prefer to support candidates on a line other than the Democratic or Republican, some are simply drawn to candidates because they see the endorsement as a signifier of a commitment to progressive, pro-union policies. Those who get the nod will be at a major advantage, said Aubertine, looking back on the party’s role in his own win. Not only did the WFP help generate interest and financial support for his candidacy, but the ballot line gave him 2,016 votes in a race with a 2,842-vote margin. “They’re certainly recognized as the party that’s carrying the issues of working class people here in the state,” Aubertine
said. “They’ve been a real asset.” Even though the WFP has the stated goal of giving Democrats control of the State Senate, Cantor said that the party will not necessarily back only Democratic candidates—especially after Senate Democrats failed to back up Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) on the WFP’s plan to increase taxes on millionaires. “We were very disappointed with the Senate Democrats’ failure to stand up for solving the budget crisis the only way that’s fair, by rolling back a fraction of the massive tax cuts the super-wealthy have enjoyed in this state over the last 10 years,” Cantor said. The death of the tax plan was music to the ears of Mike Long, chairman of the New York State Conservative Party, which holds the Row C ballot line the WFP would like to claim for itself. That would take a stronger showing than the Conservatives in the 2010 statewide elections, which, Long says, they might just have the organizational ability to achieve. “I don’t like to admit this, but I think they have an edge on us,” Long said. “They actually put labor unions in the street to go to work, door-to-door. They have a pretty wellfinanced operation.” The ability to tap union members to go door-to-door and work the phones during campaigns is at the core of the WFP’s canvassing operation, said election campaign director Emma Wolfe. For the Aubertine race, party members mounted an ambitious and expensive cam-
“We’re involved in a lot of campaigns, especially upstate, where we have close relationships with a lot of big unions,” she explained. “Part of our voter mobilization is helping big unions deploy their members out into the field.” The ground operation is where the differences between campaigning in the city and upstate are most pronounced, said Mike Boland, the party’s buzz-cut-sporting canvassing director. To cover rural districts spread out over many miles, the WFP mostly recruits college-aged volunteers, while maintaining a reserve unit of about 100 dedicated supporters for last-minute activities. Unlike in other political organizations, every member is asked to help, Boland said. But as the WFP makes a bigger play in races beyond New York City, its union roots
cies,” he said. “I don’t think they’re fated to be anything other than marginal.” But the WFP’s enrollment continues to grow across the state: there are currently 37,000 registered members, up from over 15,000 in 2002. Today, chapters exist in New York State’s western, central and southern tiers. Nascent groups are starting in Ithaca and Utica, while longstanding chapters continue to operate in New York City, the Hudson Valley, Long Island and Albany, for about 17 active chapters. The party is also attempting to gain a foothold in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon and California. Michele Iannello, an Erie County legislator seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat being left vacant by retiring State Sen. Mary Lou Rath (R-Erie/Genesee), said she is seeking the WFP’s endorsement not just because the party’s agenda mirrors her own, but because she believes they could put her campaign over the top. “They’re an organization that, once you get their support, they go all in,” Iannello said. A WFP endorsement has been known to tip the scales in tight races. State Sen. David Valesky (DOnondaga/Oneida) pulled off a surprise win in 2004 with the help of a WFP endorsement, and this year, with Republicans targeting his seat, is hoping to get the party’s support again. In 2004, the party helped David Soares (D) score a stunning primary victory against Albany District Attorney Paul Clyne. This year, he is aiming for the WFP endorsement again in what may be a tough re-election battle. “A line I like to use is, ‘You walk in and it’s WFP and you walk out and it’s WTF,’” Soares said, referring to what happens when the party gets involved in a race. “They create upsets in places where people are never expecting it.” firstname.lastname@example.org
Even though the WFP has the stated goal of giving Democrats control of the State Senate, Cantor said that the party will not necessarily back only Democratic candidates—especially after Senate Democrats failed to back the WFP’s plan to increase taxes on millionaires. paign strategy in collaboration with big upstate unions like the United Auto Workers and the Communication Workers of America, as well as the New York State Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. In the Aubertine race, WFP-organized volunteers knocked on over 14,000 doors, dialed almost 7,000 phone numbers, handed out over 350 signs and sent out more than 1,700 letters. All told, the WFP spent $145,000 on the Aubertine campaign. The State Democratic Party spent over $1.1 million. Wolfe said the WFP helps provide the framework for the unions to be most effective.
and the policy those promote may resonate as much as the party believes, warned E.J. McMahon, director of the conservative Empire Center for New York State Policy. “The Working Families Party finds its fullest expression in the day-to-day legislative agenda of the New York City Council,” McMahon said. “That’s pretty markedly to the left of the political mainstream in New York.” By favoring big government programs and higher taxes, policies that even the Assembly Democrats are often unwilling to support, the WFP is doomed to fail in attempts to broaden its reach. “They favor very heavy regulatory poli-
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Guardian News v. Amicone Decided By: New York Southern District Federal Court, March 3 Yonkers Mayor Phillip Amicone was the subject of withering attacks in the Westchester Guardian, a free weekly newspaper, throughout his ultimately successful 2007 re-election campaign. He apparently did not want to read the coverage, and sought to make sure no one else read it either. He ordered the removal of as many as 56 Guardian drop-boxes throughout Yonkers, including the ones outside of City Hall. Amicone also enforced a city ordinance which prohibits distribution of printed material in
Major Court Decisions Impacting New Yorkers This Month any public place. The court determined that Amicone’s actions were unmistakably unconstitutional. Judge Charles Brieant found that Amicone was selectively enforcing Yonkers laws against the Guardian in response to its content. Amicone’s defense against this First Amendment violation was that the paper’s content was propaganda, and therefore ineligible for First Amendment protection normally accorded to newspapers. Brieant interpreted that defense as further indication of Amicone’s hostility to the Guardian, which strengthened the paper’s winning claim. Notably, an April 12, 2007 story in the Guardian featured effusive support for a previous Brieant decision which overturned an assault charge against a corrections officer. The story said of Brieant that he “once again, summoned the courage and the wisdom with which he has graced the Westchester Community for some thirty-six years, handing down a decision the like of which is all too seldom seen.”
Hed: A Principal, Principles, Punishment and the Post Almontaser v. New York City Department of Education Decided By: Second Circuit Court of Appeals, March 20 T-shirts bearing the phrase “Intifada NYC” caused a brief public uproar last year when a group named Arab Women Active in Arts and Media began selling them. At the time, Debbie Almontaser was the acting principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, a public New York City high school that specializes in Arab language and culture. New York Post reporter Chuck Bennett sought an interview with Almontaser, who, though an Arab-American woman, had no connection whatsoever to the T-shirt-selling group. Unsubstantiated internet reports, however, had linked her with the offensive propaganda. Almontaser’s superiors at the Department of Education eventually forced her to give the interview, over her objections. Bennett’s August 6, 2007 story ran under the
www.nycapitolnews.com headline “City Principal Is ‘Revolting’” and, according to the court decision, mischaracterized and misquoted Almontaser’s statements in a way which made her appear supportive of the message on the T-shirts. Though the Department of Education knew that Almontaser’s representation in the Post article was inaccurate—a Department official was listening in on the interview—she was forced to resign two days after Bennett’s story appeared. Almontaser sued the city on First Amendment grounds, but the court rejected her claim. The court determined that her statements to the press were not protected by the First Amendment because she was a public employee speaking as part of her official duties. The court made a similar argument just last month in Ruotolo v. City of New York, which found that freedom of speech does not protect public employees in the course of their official duties. But the court declined to make any ruling at all on whether a public employee can be sanctioned for being misquoted and mischaracterized in the press when her employer demands that she speak with the press in the first place. Citing the complexity of this issue, the court sent the case back to a lower court to determine if Almontaser has any non-First Amendment grounds to sue the city.
A Tall Glass of...
If All Your Friends Jumped off the Empire State Building Would You Do That Too? People v. Corliss Decided By: New York State Supreme Court, First Department, March 4 Jebb Corliss is famous for jumping off things and not dying. On April 26, 2006, the renowned Building Antenna Span Earth (BASE) jumper attempted to leap from the 86th-floor observation deck of the Empire State Building with a parachute. Corliss scaled the fence and was preparing to jump when an alert security guard handcuffed the would-be jumper to the security fence from the other side. Corliss was charged with reckless endangerment in the first degree. But the indictment was dismissed when the trial court concluded that the city failed to prove that he acted with complete disregard for the lives of those below him. The trial court decided that since Corliss was wearing a parachute, he evidently cared about the safety of those on the streets. On appeal, the State Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of the first degree charge, but said that Corliss could be guilty of reckless endangerment in the second degree, and sent the case back for a trial on that charge. The State Supreme Court decided that jumping off of the Empire State Building is manifestly unreasonable, so would be eligible for a second degree recklessness charge. This charge is applicable when dangerous conduct deviates from what a reasonable person—with or without a parachute— would do in a similar situation. There is no law specifically prohibiting people from jumping off of anything in New York. The court argues that the reckless endangerment statute makes such behavior essentially illegal, but New York City Council Member Peter Vallone, Jr. (DQueens) wants additional clarity. Vallone introduced a bill on March 3 that would outlaw climbing and jumping off any structure taller than 25 feet. —Elie Mystal firstname.lastname@example.org
28 APR IL 2008 Ripped in the Headlines
Kevin Tighe, head bartender at 74 State Street, said that his new drink, the David Paterson, could also be called the Silver Apple. Similar to a Bellini, the drink features all New York products: Glenora Brut, cortland apple puree and simple syrup infused with Madagascar bourbon vanilla. Tighe encourages that the drink be lightly stirred because of the sparkling wine.
The David Paterson: 4 oz. Glenora Brut 1 oz. Cortland Apple Puree 1 oz. Simple Syrup infused with Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla
Trying to Change County Government for $1 a Year Taking cues from Jack Welch, Chris Collins pursues his agenda in Erie BY JOHN R. D. CELOCK YEAR AGO, NO ONE THOUGHT
a Republican could be elected the next Erie County Executive. A budget crisis, presided over by twoterm Republican Joel Giambra, led to an unprecedented shut down of county government and the installment of a fiscal control board. In an already Democratic county, this seemed to make a Democratic victory all but certain. And with an unknown businessman as the GOP nominee, Democrats were starting to pack their boxes for a move back to the 16th floor of the Rath County Building. That is where Chris Collins now sits, after pulling 63 percent of the county and every city, town, village and hamlet outside Buffalo, along with parts of Buffalo itself. A multimillionaire taking a $1 annual salary, Collins has been trying to implement an agenda out to change the core of how county government operates. Vowing to operate government like a business, he recruited private sector executives to staff top roles in his administra-
tion. His deputy county executive, budget director and county attorney all come from the private sector. He talks in corporate speak, referring to himself as the “upfront and visible CEO,” while his deputy, Mark Davis, is the inside-operations man. Collins has made Six Sigma, the corporate training and metrics measurement program championed by former General Electric Chairman Jack Welch, his mantra. Speaking with the zeal of a preacher, Collins declared that the program will upgrade the skills of the county workforce and allow them to feel good about coming to work each day. “Six Sigma is a business method and works in service industries all the time,” he said. “We all are human beings and all want to feel good about what we accomplished.” Intergovernmental communication has been central to his approach as well. Since taking office in January, he has led monthly meetings of all the countywide elected officials and legislative leadership. There will also be quarterly meetings of the county’s mayors and town supervisors.
But some derided him for overreliance on private sector principles. And, in private, several Republican activists have expressed unhappiness over his hiring without regard to party affiliation. Meanwhile, Buffalo residents have hit Collins for spending much of his time, and holding his inaugural, outside the city. While the lopsided Democratic county legislature has been generally supportive of Collins, the body has started to push back in several ways, such as its unusually intense review of Collins’ appointee as county attorney. Legislature Chairperson Lynn Marinelli said the body wants to work with Collins, but will not serve as a rubber stamp corporate board for him. Last November, Giambra said he believed Collins would grow frustrated in government and resign by the end of his first year. Upbeat, like the longtime Boy Scout leader he is, Collins quickly brushed aside Giambra’s resignation talk. “I am not resigning in a year,” Collins said. “I am energized. I am more con-
Chris Collins has tried to bring business principles to the county government in Erie. vinced, after three months, than ever, that the county can run like a business.” email@example.com Direct letters to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Providing a Voice in Albany for the Voiceless A former Special Ed teacher with an autistic son, Weisenberg works to make himself a resource for colleagues BY DAN RIVOLI OCTOBER, AT AN EXTRAVAGANT ballroom in the affluent south Long Island town of Atlantic Beach, Assembly Member Harvey Weisenberg (D-Nassau) was commemorated for his 31 years of public service. But the guests—some 40 children with developmental disabilities—were the focal point of the night. The children performed songs for the crowd, showcasing the talents that others rarely see. The children’s feats were also reminders to Weisenberg that the days of children being drugged and in effect imprisoned in institutions are gone. Even at fundraisers, Weisenberg invites the children to perform. “My theme was, look at what our children can do, not what they can’t do,” Weisenberg said. Assembly Member Joseph Saladino (R-Nassau), who attended the fundraiser, was surprised at Weisenberg’s dedication to his cause. “Instead of the room being filled with attorneys and lobbyists, the room was filled with autistic children. I have never seen this before,” Saladino said. Weisenberg has also sought more money to help health care professionals, frequently by working with Assembly Republicans. “Harvey Weisenberg stood side by side
with us to get our voice out there, which has resulted in more money in the budget,” Saladino said. This year, the executive budget has cut approximately $40 million from the Department of Mental Hygiene. These cuts, Weisenberg said, will affect the direct care providers that are underpaid. “Everybody that I know has to work two jobs to provide for themselves and their families,” Weisenberg said. In the beginning of the year, Weisenberg requested a budget of $1 billion, but instead received a cut. “The severe economic times that
after an autistic, nonverbal boy that was killed by a health care provider who was working 10 consecutive double shifts. The Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities refused to give Jonathan’s parents records relating to their son. The chair of the Assembly’s Mental Health Committee, Peter Rivera (DBronx), said that Weisenberg has always been on the forefront of issues that affect people with developmental disabilities. “Look at fingerprinting of staff. He was years ahead before it eventually passed the Assembly,” Rivera said.
“The most discriminated population in our society is the disabled,” said Assembly Member Weisenberg (D-Nassau). “This is why it’s so important for people to have a resource center for support and guidance.” we’re living in, revenues aren’t there. Instead of raising taxes, we had to cut programs and cut services,” he said. Weisenberg couples his advocacy with crafting legislation that has tangible affects on people with mental disabilities. Last year, then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) signed Jonathan’s Law, which allowed parents and legal guardians to access medical history records and child abuse investigation files. The law was named
Fighting for legislation, Rivera added, is only part of Weisenberg’s effectiveness. He often sees the bills through the committee process, making sure the legislation becomes law. “It’s one thing to say we need a law that requires special education professionals to be fingerprinted,” Rivera said. “But the question is, how do we pay for it. He fought for the legislation and the ability to pay for it.”
His years of advocacy for people with mental disabilities, starting from his career as a police officer and a special education teacher, resulted in the Harvey Weisenberg Resource Center in Harlem. “The most discriminated population in our society is the disabled,” Weisenberg said. “This is why it’s so important for people to have a resource center for support and guidance.” Since entering the Assembly in 1989, Weisenberg became the go-to person for mental health. His autistic 50-year-old son, Ricky, has lived through the abuses of mental institutions that made headlines in the 1970s. Before autism awareness proliferated in the past few years, Weisenberg was a valuable source to legislators who knew little about the disorder. He was the person who explained autism to then-Gov. George Pataki (R), Weisenberg said. Today, legislators from both parties, representing districts from North Country to the South Shore of Staten Island, seek the counsel of Weisenberg on a plethora of mental health issues. “I know that when he stands up in the Assembly chamber and speaks about these issues,” said Assembly Member Barbara Lifton (D-Cortland/Tompkins),” I pay attention.” email@example.com Direct letters to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org.
APR IL 2008
POWERGRID Per Capita State Budget Spending
This year’s state budget came in at $124 billion dollars. That makes New York Introthe third-highest state spender in the nation, and represents about a $10 billion jump from last year. But considered per capita, New York ranks behind several other states, including Alaska, Hawaii, Wyoming and Vermont. This position may yet change—the budget numbers used for the 49 other states is from last year’s numbers. New York finalizes its state budget earlier than any other state in the nation, and well before the end of the fiscal year on June 30, which all other state governments wait for before determining their spending. Texas waits until the end of August to finalize its budget. Alabama and Michigan wait until the end of September. New York, though, missed its March 31 deadline again this year, making for late budgets 21 of the last 24 years.
$4,228 $4,2 2 228
M MA C CO
$4,163 $4,1 163
$3,552 $3,55 52
VA A $4,888 88
UT U $4,347 $4
AL MN $3,500
*Data provided by budget offices in each of the 50 states.
: Norm-ative Philosophy t the beginning of the year, Norman Adler sold his ownership stake in Bolton St. John’s to his partners, entering what he calls his “semi-retirement” period. But he has not disappeared just yet, keeping on several high-profile lobbying clients and consulting with several politicians, including five Republican state senators. He took a break from his still-busy schedule to talk about what prompted the decision to retire, the end of the pay phone and handshake era of politics, and how to score a good political quote. What follows is an edited transcript.
TC: Why retire now? NA: Well, you know, I’ve always said, and I’ve been in this business a long time, and my mother was in this business before me. … And my mother always said, and I’ve always said it too, that politics is really a young man’s game. I know there are some old lobbyists, but things change all the time, and I’m not just talking about new administrations, I’m talking about technology and new approaches and the things like that. And unless you’re prepared to continually change and adapt with them, at some point along the way, you’re singing a song and nobody’s listening, and I don’t want to get there. But more importantly, I always said, I’ve always loved politics, it’s always been fun. So I said to my wife, “When I get up one morning and say, ‘This is not fun anymore,’ I’m gonna leave.” And I got up one morning about a year and a half ago and I said, “I don’t want to go to work.” And I never had that feeling before. TC: So you decided to sell? NA: We had a couple of offers to buy the firm. … And then I thought, when I decided the time had come to do this I said, you know, I’ve got these employees, they’ve made a lot of money for me, and they ought to have the opportunity to make money for themselves. So, I said to the employees, “You guys want to buy the firm? I’ll give you favorable terms, we’ll spread out the payments over a number of years, and, you should do this.” And so it took them awhile to get their act together, but they did, and they bought the firm, and they own it, but then they said one of the conditions was that I had to stay on as a consultant and I said I’ll agree to do it for ’08 and then let’s talk when we get towards ’09. TC: Do you think politics has changed more rapidly in the past few years than they had previously? NA: In my political lifetime, politics is, it’s less collegial and less congenial. It’s much more sharply partisan. The technology has been good in some ways. There’s much more transparency in the system because of what you guys do and bloggers and 24-hour news stations, the internet and everything, which has got some advantages and some disadvantages. But it’s also become more intrusive. I remember being in Albany and waiting outside the telephone booth with 25 dollars in quarters in my pocket so I could call back the clients; when things got hot, racing back and forth from the Senate to the Assembly chamber. Now you have this, you have walkie-talkies, you have Blackberries, you have all kinds of stuff giving
The Capitol: So, how have you taken to retirement or semi-retirement? Norman Adler: This is more semi- than it is retirement, but we’re getting there.
for the business practices of some of their high-powered clients, but they do. I have always separated out, as best I could, I’ve tried as best I can to separate out my own predisposition. TC: So it is all business? NA: Part of it is a business, although I’ve come to, I don’t work long for people I don’t like, because the politics is not where the money is. So if I don’t care for you, either I won’t take you or I’ll do the one race and then say, “I’m not interested anymore.” TC: You are a favorite for political reporters to call on for a quote. NA: Sure, because I use seven words or less. you instant information—which is frequently instant misinformation. TC: A lot of people feel that there has been more turnover among elected officials in the past few years. Do you agree? NA: You’ve got some that have been around a long time, but most of the high-quality ones, except the ones that work for the speaker and the majority leader are, generally, they’re in and out because they find other things to do. It’s more—maybe you get older and you think things were better—but a deal used to be a deal. And for a number of years now at the Capitol, I think largely because of George Pataki, but other factors as well, you got a deal, and then it fell apart, you got a deal and it fell apart—a handshake wasn’t good enough. TC: How do you think Spitzer not being in office will effect that? NA: Big advantage. Paterson’s got to get his sea legs, and clearly he doesn’t have them yet, but he comes from a pretty good political family and he’s a very bright guy and he’s been in the legislative process. Mario Cuomo was contemptuous of the legislators, George Pataki was the outside guy when he was a legislator. … This is not true of the governor. He was a legislator for many, many years, and even though he was in the minority, he knows the drill, and I think it will mean, I still think there’s going to be major differences of opinion on stuff and contests for offices and control, but I think it’s going to be at a different level. TC: You have consulted for Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans. Did that ever cause problems? NA: No, in fact, it was just the opposite. Since both houses and both parties understood that I talked to the other side from time to time, I could act as an intermediary or as a conduit. TC: But as a Democrat, has helping out people who do not share your views ever been a personal conflict? NA: There are criminal lawyers who do not support murder, kidnap and robbery, and yet they represent people that do. There are CPAs who don’t have sympathy
TC: You often manage to get a good turn of phrase in to your quotes. How much do you think about how you will say what you say ahead of time? NA: A lot. Now it isn’t always true. … Sometimes a reporter will call you and they’ll be doing a story— either it’s the story and it’s an interesting angle, or it’s something where it’s not one of the mainstream stories and then, of course, I haven’t had a chance. But sometimes I’ll carry a quote around in my head for a couple of weeks and to pick the right reporter who I think will play the quote. And sometimes something will just pop out. TC: Your mother often factors into your quotes. NA: Well, my mother was, if you talk to the old timers who were around when my mother was around, they will tell you that my mother was one of the true characters of New York politics and one of the really smart political people. And growing up in a family with somebody who for a number of years made a living off of politics, you learn a lot of stuff that you don’t have to be taught in school. TC: Do you think being around so many years has been an advantage? NA: We’re in the beginnings of what I think is going to be a replication of the ’70s … having seen that, it’s like, “been there, done that,” and it’s a lot easier to apply some of the rules. On the other hand, because the times they are achanging, if you merely apply those rules, you’re an idiot, because things are not the same, they’re different. Different personalities, different relationships, a different nature of the federal system than there was before—so you’ve got to kind of temper one with the other, and it’s very hard to do. TC: So this is a good moment to be starting to make your transition out? NA: I think it is. I think it’s a good moment. I think especially with a new governor coming in, a new administration coming in, some changes, I think we’re going to see changes in some of the legislative leadership in the next two or three years, maybe even a shift of power in the Legislature. I was a lot more sure of it before Spitzer’s inglorious exit than I am now. Direct letters to the editor to email@example.com.
THE DOCTOR IS “IN”
Don’t believe everything you hear about a shortage of physicians in New York. Because when you look at the overall numbers, you’ll be happy to learn that it is not true.
state in droves – and that this alleged exodus can only be averted by changing laws to reduce the legal rights of patients who fall victim to malpractice.
Our state’s wealth of physicians is the envy of the nation. According to the latest statistics published by the American Medical Association:
The medical societies point to Texas as an example of how laws should be changed to attract doctors. What they won’t tell you is that Texas still ranks 44th in the nation in physicians per population, according to AMA statistics. Or that New York has 85 percent more doctors per capita than Texas.
• New York ranks fourth out of 50 states for the highest ratio of physicians per capita – and near the top for every medical specialty. • New York’s ratio of doctors per capita is 43 percent greater than the national average. • Each year, the number of doctors in New York increases at a faster rate than the state’s population. Since 1980, the ratio of physicians per capita has risen by 55 percent. “New York’s supply of doctors is growing and is the healthiest it’s been in at least a decade,” concluded consumer watchdog Public Citizen in a report last November. Despite such sound numbers, organized medicine is mounting a massive campaign to convince New Yorkers that a crisis is imminent.
To be fair, New York and most other states do suffer from an uneven distribution of doctors. Physicians often choose to practice in CHƀWGPV WTDCP EGPVGTU CPF UWDWTDU Ō KPUVGCF QH TWTCN EQOOWPKVKGU CPF impoverished neighborhoods. Governor David A. Paterson, the Senate and the Assembly have agreed on a cure that should work. “Doctors Across New York” Ō YJKEJ YKNN QHHGT ſPCPEKCN KPEGPVKXGU HQT RJ[UKEKCPU VQ RTCEVKEG KP underserved areas – was approved this month as part of the state Health Budget. This is the type of pro-consumer solution that New Yorkers need. In contrast, any proposal that would reduce the rights of patients should be exposed as unnecessary surgery.
6JGKT OQVKXG KU UKORNG 6JG[ YCPV WU VQ DGNKGXG FQEVQTU CTG ƀGGKPI VJG A message from the New York State Trial Lawyers Association Protecting Consumers and Civil Justice Since 1953 132 Nassau Street New York NY 10038 Tel: 212-349-5890 www.nystla.org
© 2008 NYSTLA Lagerkvist/Breytman
Published on Apr 1, 2008
The April 1, 2008 Issue of The Capitol. The Capitol is a monthly publication, targeting the politicians, lobbyists, unions, staffers and is...