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Thomas DiNapoli keeps his eye on the economy.

Marc Molinaro, Jack Quinn and Rob Walker hit the road.

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VOL. 1, NO. 7

Joseph Addabbo gets ready to run for Senate.

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JULY 2008

★ THE STATE SENATE★

Springfield produced a presidential candidate— could Albany?

Experts rate the top contenders.

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THE CAPITOL

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JULY 2008

Gone But Not Forgotten, Spitzer to Be a Factor in Fall Races Prostitution ring will be implied, policies and power grab will be point of attack BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS IGHTINGS OF ELIOT SPITZER SINCE HIS RESignation in February have been rarer than UFO encounters. He has been spotted in public only a handful of times, mostly jogging in Central Park or strolling with his wife, Silda. But as the summer wears on, voters can expect to see and hear a little more of the ex-governor. He may be gone from public life, but his specter has a full schedule of cameo appearances between now and November. Before his resignation, Spitzer made no secret about his desire to see the Senate go Democratic. Now, Democrats are already distancing themselves from him and his policies. Republicans, meanwhile, are portraying him as a poster child for unchecked power in state government. Matt Mahoney, executive director of the New York State Senate Republican Committee (SSRC), said Senate Republicans will invoke Spitzer during the campaign as an example of what can happen without a partisan balance in Albany. The argument will be made that the Republican majority offers an important check on the Democratic Assembly and executive branch, Mahoney said, “because without it, Spitzer would have done A, B, C and D.” But while Spitzer’s political legacy and the threat of what he might have accomplished will be a campaign issue, Mahoney said, the prostitution ring which ended his career will almost certainly not be. Trying to make an issue out of morality by bringing up the Emperor’s Club would hardly resonate with the voters, Mahoney said. “I don’t think any poll would show that. I don’t think any focus group would tell you that,” Mahoney said. “And if you wanted to do it, I’d say raise the money for it yourself.” But Spitzer’s driver’s license plan will be featured prominently on the campaign trail, Mahoney said. Eager to show off their accomplishments, Republican incumbents will tout their success in killing the plan, which Spitzer introduced then withdrew late last year. And there will be other specific attacks as well. State Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Queens), a major target of Democrats, began running television ads in early April, weeks after Spitzer resigned. But the ads—run unusually early in the cycle for a State Senate race—made no mention of the resignation.

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piece, I feel that it’s appropriate to mention Governor Spitzer was the architect of many of these failed schemes.” Maltese also attempted to link his main opponent, City Council Member Joseph Addabbo (D-Queens), to Spitzer. Addabbo said back in April that he had been in discussions with Spitzer to headline a fundraiser, but that those talks failed to materialize after the scandal broke. “One of my opponents had indicated that he had the support of Governor Spitzer,” Maltese said, “although he does seem to be stepping away from him now.” But Maltese said he would stay away from any direct mention of the prostitution ring.

State Sen. Serphin Maltese and Rep. Kristen Gillibrand are among the people looking to make former Gov. Eliot Spitzer into a campaign issue this November.

“Certainly his personal predilections, everyone’s aware of them and you don’t have to mention them,” Maltese said. “Certainly not appropriate in my campaign.” Democrats have also signaled a willingness to drag Spitzer into the campaign. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-Saratoga/Rensselaer), expected to face a tough race this year against candidate Alexander “Sandy” Treadwell in a district that heavily favors Republicans, has been leading the charge. In early May, a pro-Gillibrand political action committee issued a mailer touting the fact that she was the first Democrat to oppose Spitzer’s driver’s license plan. While the mailer made no mention of Spitzer, the group used the governor’s plan as a counterpoint to highlight Gillibrand’s anti-terrorism record. GOP insiders say that Democrats use Spitzer at their own risk. But a Gillibrand spokesperson said the congresswoman is unconcerned with the negative connotations associated with Spitzer’s image. “The congresswoman was very clear when she embraced his policies,” said Gillibrand spokesperson Rachel McEneny. “And when she disagreed, she was very vocal as well.” McEneny added that the mailer should not be characterized as Gillibrand distancing herself from Spitzer. “It’s just how the congresswoman feels on a certain issue, that’s all,” she said. But Democratic strategist Doug Forand said candidates running this year would be advised not to bring up Spitzer at all. “I don’t see him as a particularly good validator for a Democratic candidate running,” said Forand, who left

Any mention of Spitzer on the campaign trail, State Sen. Serphin Maltese said, is fair game. “When Governor Spitzer tried to slash $440 million in local education funding,” the narrator intones, “Serf Maltese fought back and won.” Any mention of Spitzer on the campaign trail, Maltese said in an interview, is fair game. “I think it’s appropriate because we’re talking about last year’s budget, which was an attempt by Governor Spitzer to steamroll the State Legislature,” Maltese said. “Since it’s a re-election piece and not a government

the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee in March to start his own consulting firm, Red Horse Strategies, LLC. Forand charged that Republicans who dredge up Spitzer on the campaign trail do so to distract from their own legislative records. “While the Republicans may be out there saying, ‘Eliot Spitzer was this, and Eliot Spitzer was that,’” Forand said, “voters are smart enough to know that doesn’t mean a Democratic candidate for Senate necessarily agrees or disagrees with those positions.” But the SRCC’s Mahoney disagreed, saying Democrats are stuck with Spitzer’s legacy. “People kind of throw the baby out with the bathwater with him,” Mahoney said of Spitzer. “And I think that that’s something all these guys, as they try to defend policy positions, are kind of stuck with.” Sen. Darrel Aubertine (D-Oswego), for example, may have to confront his connections to Spitzer this November. Spitzer provided crucial support in Aubertine’s February special election victory, helping him raise money and connecting him with Jerry Siegel, the advertising wizard responsible for creating all of Spitzer’s 2006 commercials. David Renzi, a Watertown attorney who plans to challenge Aubertine in November, said he will strive to make his campaign mostly positive. But even without him saying anything, Renzi indicated, Aubertine’s ties to Spitzer may be an issue. “I think it speaks for itself,” he said. “People understand it and it speaks for itself.” ahawkins@nycapitolnews.com


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JULY 2008

THE CAPITOL

ON/OFF THE RECORD BREAKFAST Rethinking State Finances and the State Budget in a Struggling Economy n the melee of Albany life over the last year and a half, Tom DiNapoli—himself the cause of an unusual amount of excitement and attention around the office of comptroller when he was selected—quietly set out to change the course of his office. On July 8, he joined City Hall and The Capitol at the law offices of Arent Fox for an On/Off the Record breakfast to discuss the Open Book Initiative, the economy’s effect on pension investments, how his own political philosophy informs his approach to the job and what might make him rethink his own self-imposed campaign finance restrictions. What follows are selections from the transcript.

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Q: You criticized state budget spending almost as soon as the budget was finalized. How much worse is the situation now, three months later? A: It’s still early, so we can’t give a judgment yet as to whether those revenues are being realized or not, but we do know that going into next year’s budget, conservatively, there’s going to be another $5 billion budget gap, and over the next three years a cumulative gap, again conservatively, of $21 billion. So we still have this problem in New York, and it’s not a new problem, it’s just, we feel it a little more in these difficult times, where we’ve made commitments to spending on programs and many of them are very worthy and ones that we would like to see happen, but we don’t have the revenue to sustain it. … We need to start preparing for what is obviously going to be more than a one-year challenge for us, and I think that means the budget process for next year is going to be as contentious, if not more, than this year— probably tougher choices than we had this year, without the pressure of an election coming around the corner. That somehow has a way of people coming up with decisions rather quickly. Q: How has the current economic situation affected the performance of the pension fund investments? A: We’re valuing our numbers right now. … But the long and the short of it is, this has been a tough year. We are still going to end up ahead of our peers. So I think that it shows that we’re on the right track. The real question becomes, if this is going to be a sustained challenge in terms of getting the rate of return that we’d like to get, at what point will that have an impact in terms of driving up contribution rates—something we’d like to avoid. We probably need to work with our legislature next year. People don’t realize that New York State operates under a legal list system, so there are limitations by statute on where we can put our investment dollars. As I mentioned,

ANDREW SCHWARTZ

Q: Your Open Book Initiative put 113 state agencies’ budgets and 60,000 contracts online. Why do you think this kind of transparency makes government function better? A: Well, part of it has to do with accountability, and accountability starts with information. And, too often, for Albany and state government it’s been too mysterious a process about how money is spent, how decisions are made. … As we continue to be in a time of financial challenge, to put it mildly, where tough choices have been made this year, will have to be made next year by the Legislature and the governor, we need to get more information out there, to democratize the process so that people at the grassroots level can see how their tax dollars are being spent so they’re better equipped to give feedback, input, recommendations to their state officials as they’re making those tough choices, so they can be more involved in the process of state government.

that fine line in a responsible way, and I’m going to continue that.

the strong performers have been private equity and real estate. Those are still going to categorize as alternative investments. And we have a statutory cap on how much we can put there, we’re getting close to that amount. We may need to go back to the Legislature and the governor and suggest raising that cap so we can put more money into those categories to continue to be ahead of the curve, as far as our pension fund. Q: You are a committed Democrat. How does your political philosophy inform the job as comptroller, whether through the auditing or the investments? A: That’s an interesting question. You know, it is by definition a partisan office at the end of the day. With the comptroller’s office, one thing I enjoy about it is that it is viewed as the office in state government that needs to be above the partisan fray as much as possible. And that actually fits pretty well with my personal style of leadership in terms of how I conducted myself in the State Assembly. … So this position, I think, enables me in an institutional way to continue that style of leadership. When we get a call for an audit, from a Republican or a Democrat, if on the merits it is an audit we should pursue, we do it. We do audits on local governments all across the state. Some of them are Democratic. Some of them are Republican. It’s not done in a partisan way. … If we are viewed, or I am viewed, simply as someone who’s carrying a partisan agenda, I have no credibility as the independent watchdog. The fine line, of course, is that I am still a Democrat, as you point out, I do have to run for this office and no, it’s not a non-partisan election. And it won’t be a bi-partisan endorsement. The two-party system will at least produce some opposition. So there is that fine line to walk. But I’d like to think my time in the Legislature has helped me learn how to walk

Q: About a month ago, you proposed a program of selfimposed campaign finance restrictions that significantly cut the maximum contributions you would accept. Others, like Andrew Cuomo, have resisted self-imposed limits. Are you more willing because you are anticipating being spared a tough challenge in 2010? A: When you look at the limits for statewide office, you’re talking between primary and general, on excess of $50,000. That’s a lot of money to get from one person or from one source. The other challenge, though, is that I think we are coming to a time—and you used the example of someone waking up and spending $10 million, if someone had $10 million to spend, I’m not sure they’ll spend it to be comptroller—but it’s possible. It’s possible. It does get to the issue of whether high office in this state and in this country should only be the purview of people who have $10 million lying around and can self-fund their campaigns. As a middle-class person with neither a family estate, nor a big family bank account or a big personal bank account—and I’m not alone in that regard—it seems to me that having some kind of a system of matching funds, where you raise a certain amount of money and then you have some public dollars put in, would be a way to level the playing field and encourage people to participate in the process. And that would be the kind of reform I’d like to see. That’s not happened so far. … I am confident we’ll be able to raise enough money, even with our limits, and be able to win in 2010. That’s just a basic faith that I have. I also want to point out that we did put, in our self-imposed limits, a caveat that if at any time we need to reevaluate those limits to keep the level playing field intact, we would. I don’t anticipate a need to do that. But if the $10 million person sitting in this room decides they want to run, and we’ve got $5 million and we want to reevaluate, we will. I don’t anticipate that that’s going to be the issue, and I am hoping, not expecting it, but hoping before 2010 there will be some campaign finance reform. Governor Paterson has put forward some proposal. Governor Spitzer was close at one time, it didn’t quite happen. We’ll see what happens after the next elections this November. And I know it’s an issue New Yorkers would still like to see Albany address, so hopes spring eternal that there’ll be some statutory changes that will also help keep it a level playing field.

To view the video of the whole On the Record portion of the interview, including the comptroller’s take on changing state investment strategy in the current economic situation and how much transparency is too much transparency, go to www.nycapitolnews.com.


THE CAPITOL

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Dispute Over Municipal Funding May Decide Who Wins Winner Race Tonello hopes to topple Investigations chair and get leaders’ attention BY JOHN R.D. CELOCK SPITZER’S CHIEF TORMENTOR in the State Senate has a new tormentor himself. Elmira Mayor John Tonello (D) has announced his underdog candidacy against Sen. George Winner (R-Chemung), who rose to fame chairing last year’s Troopergate investigation into the then-governor. Tonello, in the middle of his second two-year term as mayor, said he decided to enter the race based on what he sees as Winner’s failure to address the needs of his community and other cities in the district, including Ithaca. He argued that Winner has not delivered funds for Elmira and Ithaca simply because the cities have Democratic mayors. Tonello said that while Winner had deliv-

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tory of the State of New York that has helped Elmira more than me,” Winner said. Outside of funding issues, Tonello said he plans to focus his campaign on economic development and agriculture issues, along with the favorite topic of Democratic challengers statewide: reforming Albany. As a senator, he said he would look to develop ways to prevent the harvesting of natural gas under the Southern Tier from negatively impacting local farmers. A former journalist who now works in public relations for Cornell University, Tonello added that he would like to put more focus on the connection between higher education and economic development. Though he was not recruited into the race and admits his is a long-shot race, Tonello has drawn the attention of top

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The right kind of cap

Winner had been expecting Spitzer to target him as payback for helping lead the charge on Troopergate as chair of the Investigations Committee ered money for non-profit organizations in the two cities, the respective municipal governments had not received funds. A search of the Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s (D) Project Sunlight database confirms that none of the member item funds Winner has obtained in his four years in the Senate has been directed to the two city governments. Winner has obtained funds, though, for various town and village governments in his district, along with non-profit groups in the two cities. While Tonello said the non-profit funds, which includes a workforce development group in Elmira, has benefited his residents, there are projects the city government needs to address as well. He said these projects, mainly roads, sewers and technology-related, could improve economic development in the economically battered region. “Our infrastructure is some of the oldest in the nation,” Tonello said. “In Elmira, our sewer system is from the turn of the last century.” Winner disputes Tonello’s opinion of his record on Elmira funding issues and said that the city, his hometown and Ithaca have prospered under his time in the Senate and previous service in the Assembly. He points towards his funding of the workforce development center, along with the other non-profit groups he funded through his member items. In addition, he said he has worked to obtain state grants outside of member items to fund projects in Elmira and Ithaca, and redirected revenue-sharing grants to the cities. “I don’t think there is anybody in the his-

Senate Democrats. He has had preliminary discussions with Minority Leader Malcolm Smith’s office about the campaign, but says he has at this stage been focused on introducing himself to local Democratic activists and beginning fundraising. Senate Democratic insiders said that while there have been some discussions about the race amongst the party hierarchy and it will be monitored, the race does not break in to the second tier of watched races and will likely not be targeted. Fundraising ability may also play a factor, especially given Tonello’s late start. As of the January filing, Winner had $244,106 in his campaign account, while Tonello had just $1,555 in his mayoral account. Winner said he is not taking the race for granted and will run a hard race. But he did acknowledge the easier time he expects with David Paterson as governor rather than Spitzer. Winner had been expecting Spitzer to target him as payback for helping lead the charge on Troopergate as chair of the Investigations Committee. Though this, too, has drawn attacks from Tonello, who argues that the money Winner spent on outside attorneys and investigators could have been better spent on Elmira projects, Winner says he believes he will now be spared major interference from Democratic leaders in November. “I have a good relationship with Governor Paterson and his staff,” Winner said. “I don’t think he’s out to get me.” johncelock@aol.com Direct letters to the editor to editor@nycapitolnews.com.

We all want to reduce the tax burden on hard-working New Yorkers. But the tax cap being considered by some Albany lawmakers doesn’t offer real tax relief. Instead, it dictates revenues a school district could raise locally, jeopardizing the progress students across the state are making. Voters want a say in what happens in their schools. They want a voice in deciding what programs and services are offered to their children. And they want to be the ones to decide just how much their school district should spend. The proposed cap would rob communities of a local voice, while doing nothing to address rising fuel costs and other expenses beyond schools' control. It would lead to program cuts, shortchange the neediest districts and leave students without the resources they need to succeed. And all this, without relieving anyone’s tax burden.

New York State United Teachers represents more than 600,000 professionals in education and health care. Richard C. Iannuzzi, President

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JULY 2008

The Search for More Money More cuts and tax hikes likely, but dispute over which will actually help BY RACHEL BREITMAN ITH THE FISCAL YEAR 20082009 budget topping out at a record $121.6 billion amid worries over the economy, Gov. David Paterson (D) pushed through $500 million in cuts through the Program to Eliminate the Gap (PEG) initiative, forcing agencies to slice spending by 3.35 percent before the legislative term ended. Continuing to deal with the fallout from the budget he inherited two weeks before the deadline from Eliot Spitzer, Paterson has since announced more agency spending cuts in an effort to prevent the state from going into the red. “We’ve been very satisfied with the plans we’ve received, including some creative savings programs,” said Matt Anderson, spokesperson for the New York State Division of Budget. Among the little cost-saving measures, Anderson said, were directives to switch the stock of paper in government printers and limit the number of mailings sent to constituents. Between the larger cuts and the smaller initiatives, Anderson said, “the budget for the current fiscal year is projected to be in balance.” But other lawmakers have worried that the 2009-2010 budget’s anticipated $5 billion shortfall could hit the state early, making this year’s expenditures unsustainable. “We believe that the state is facing fiscal challenges,” said Scott Reif, spokesperson for the new Senate Majority leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre). “We’ve had budget gaps in the past that we faced, and we expect to do so again.” Reif said that to prepare for a potential shortfall, the Senate has reduced spending by leaving positions unfilled and cutting back on supplies and travel. Others in Albany did not mince words about their fears for the budget. “Many of our revenue projections

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Gov. David Paterson has proposed an aggressive program of spending cuts, but state revenues are still likely to fall short of levels necessary to pay for the spending approved in this year’s budget. were off, including cigarette taxes and real estate profits,” said State Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn), arguing that at the time of final budget negotiations, Albany was focused on simply finishing on schedule after Spitzer’s sudden resignation. She expects the Legislature will be forced to reconvene budget discussions in November, or possibly sooner. Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco (R-Schenectady/Saratoga) has predicted that the Legislature may need to reconvene to pass tax increases to provide the revenue for allotted spending. Shrinking expectations for state tax revenues from sliding profits from Wall Street banks and brokerages added to these concerns as the Dow fell 13 percent in the first two quarters of 2008, with some stocks hitting their lowest levels in over 10 years. Almost as soon as the budget was released, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli (D) warned that there were up to $1.5 billion in expenditures based on revenue projections unlikely to materialize. “The reality is that the economy is in rough shape and the worst may still be around the corner,” DiNapoli warned at the time. The economy has worsened since, with recent drops on Wall Street igniting new fears of recession. Several economists in the state considering which areas might be hardest hit if the money runs dry mid-year say the greatest risk is to state infrastructure. “The state highways and bridges are

under-funded,” said E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center for New York State Policy, part of the fiscally conservative Manhattan Institute. “Something has to give. The PEG program is a small down payment in what they need to be doing.” The Metropolitan Transit Authority’s budget is already ailing. The agency’s revenues through the state mortgage tax have already twice this year missed projections. To deal with the shortfalls, the agency proposed deferring $2.7 billion in planned initiatives, postponing the purchase of new city buses and the renovation of 19 subway stations and the Henry Hudson Bridge toll plaza. New York City’s transportation hubs could be particularly weakened by the state’s falling revenues. “There is a day of reckoning that will be coming pretty soon,” said Jonathan Bowles, director of the Manhattan-based Center for an Urban Future. With the state’s fiscal problems increasingly in focus, New York City passed a $59.1 billion budget—keeping spending close to flat from the previous year, unlike the significant spending increases in the state budget from last year. Bowles also foresaw the potential for cuts in higher education funding, which might force state and city universities to raise tuition and lose new research grants from the New York State Commission on Higher Education. New York is hardly alone in being forced to choose from a host of unappealing options if mid-year tax revenues prove insufficient. A 2008 survey by the Center on Budget

THE CAPITOL and Policy Priorities found that 29 states were dealing with budget shortages totaling $48 billion. Of those states, 17 have proposed cuts in services for children, the poor, elderly or disabled. New York might be required to consider some of the same grim realities seen by states around the country in 2003, when the states’ total budget shortfall hit $80 billion—up from $40 billion in 2001. “California was particularly hard-hit,” said Elizabeth McNichol, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington, D.C.,-based think tank studying federal and state fiscal policies affecting low- and moderate-income people. The 2003 shortfalls “resulted in hiring freezes and layoffs, and class sizes got bigger. Some people didn’t get the medical care they needed and Medicaid eligibility standards changed,” McNichol said. “A number of states reduced eligibility for childcare assistance and had to postpone maintenance on infrastructure like highways and bridges.” According to the Albany-based Rockefeller Institute of Government’s latest quarterly report, state tax revenues across the country declined by 5.3 percent for the third quarter in a row and sales tax revenues stayed flat. State tax revenues year-over-year grew by barely one-third of the historical average of the previous nine years. While many agree that the worsening situation in New York and nationwide may force legislators to come up with some unpopular solutions, there is disagreement about which direction state lawmakers will take. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) suggested that the Legislature might have to reconsider a tax hike for millionaires after second-quarter estimated tax returns have been filed. “The issue is, ‘How much of a pie do we have to slice up before we can figure out the slices?’” said Silver spokesperson Dan Weiller. Economists on the left join the Assembly speaker in warning that spending cuts could deepen the state’s economic wounds. Trudi Renwick, senior economist at New York’s Fiscal Policy Institute, said she believes tax hikes must be pursued instead of targeted budget cuts to keep things from getting worse. “If we cut schools, they need to lay off teachers or librarians, and then their families won’t be able to spend money, which will hurt all the things they spend money on, and it becomes a downward spiral,” she said. “And if municipalities are forced to lay off snow plow drivers, or choose to not repair the roads, or cut local police officers, that would have the same reverberating impact on the economy.” rachellbreitman@yahoo.com Direct letters to the editor to editor@nycapitolnews.com.


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Young Assemblymen Hit the Road to Keep Young Professionals from Hitting the Road Hearings and research statewide will focus on rebranding SUNY, promoting internships BY JOHN R.D. CELOCK REPUBLICAN Assembly Members are taking a statewide road trip this summer. Marc Molinaro (R-Dutchess), Jack Quinn (R-Erie) and Rob Walker (RNassau) are not out to party and hit the beaches, but to begin researching why their young professional peers are leaving the state. Walker said the three, who are all in their early 30s, plan on holding forums in several regions of the state to talk to young professionals and their parents about what can be done to make the state more friendly to young people. While they have their own thoughts on what the state needs to do in each region, they said they want to listen to residents in order to build a legislative agenda to address these issues. The first forum will be held on July 17 in Elmira. Forums are also planned in Buffalo, Syracuse, the Hudson Valley, Long Island and the south shore of Staten Island. According to Walker, 19 Republican Assembly members have expressed an interest in hosting the trio during their trip. Most of the trips will include multiple hearings, including on college campuses and at libraries. In addition to talking to young professionals, students and parents, the group plans to meet with nonprofit groups around the state devoted to helping young professionals gauge their opinions. Several stops will take more than one day, including a planned threeday stop on Long Island in September. The plan picks up on former First Lady Silda Wall Spitzer’s “I Live New YOUNG

York” initiative. Wall Spitzer had made the program, which was aimed at stimulating the upstate economic and cultural sectors to make the region more appealing to young professionals, a cornerstone of her husband’s administration. That initiative was one of the casualties of the Spitzer administration’s surprise collapse in March. While Molinaro said that their program has many similarities to Wall Spitzer’s program, the idea was developed separately. He did, however, credit the former first lady for bringing statewide attention to the issue and helping young professional advocacy groups around the state. The group has several ideas in mind to jumpstart the discussions. They note the differences in each region—from lack of employment opportunities upstate to high property taxes and expensive housing downstate—and have been formulating some of their own solutions. One of them is rebranding the SUNY system. Quinn said that many alums of the SUNY system decline to say they graduated from a SUNY school, instead opting to use individual names like the University at Buffalo or Binghamton University. He said this shows a lack of pride in the SUNY schools. Molinaro said that many of the high school students he talks to in his districts believe that SUNY is where SC

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Marc Molinaro, Jack Quinn and Rob Walker are taking road trips across the state this summer in search of new ways to retain young professionals in New York. they go to if they cannot get into another college. “We want to make SUNY and CUNY sexy and attractive,” Molinaro said. Another area they want to address is promoting the various regions and the cultural centers and activities in those regions as anchors for providing good quality of life and recreational opportunities closer to home in new corners of the state. This is a pet issue for Quinn, who despite representing rural Erie County talks passionately about many upstate cities, particularly nearby Buffalo. Other ideas for the initiative include finding ways to address the lack of affordable housing in downstate areas, an issue Walker said is paramount to many of his constituents. In addition, the group plans on working with local businesses to develop internship programs

for college students across the state to help them get directly connected to jobs in the state for after graduation. At least one Democrat has already signed on to the idea behind the effort. “It’s a broad problem that requires a broad solution,” Assembly Member Kenneth Zebrowski (D-Rockland) said, pointing out that his caucus has already been working on a variety of related issues, including using higher education to make the state more friendly to young professionals. A statewide listening tour to collect various regional opinions on solutions is important, according to Zebrowski. With such a major problem retaining young professionals across the state, he said, “there is no one silver bullet.” johncelock@aol.com Direct letters to the editor to editor@nycapitolnews.com.

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JULY 2008

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In Queens, the Campaigning in the ThreeWay Senate Showdown Finally Begins

ANDREW SCHWARTZ

With Maltese now back in his district, the race for the “tipping point” takes off

“Whether Serf’s in the district, whether Baldeo’s around,” said City Council Member Joseph Addabbo, “it doesn’t matter.” Maltese disagrees. BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS COUNCIL MEMBER JOSEPH Addabbo (D-Queens) glided over the green linoleum floors at the Howard Beach Senior Center, stuffing fliers about an upcoming town hall meeting into every wrinkled hand he saw. Big band music played softly in the background. Red, white and blue streamers dangled festively from the ceiling. The scene was ripe for politicking. One man in a tan nylon vest asked Addabbo to name the prominent state senator who had just retired. “Joe Bruno?” Addabbo asked, referring to the departed Senate majority leader. “No, the other guy,” the man said. “Serf Maltese?” Addabbo said. “I don’t know if he’s retiring—but I am running against him.” “He’s retiring,” said another man in a blue polo, laughing asthmatically. “Oh, he’s retiring!” Maltese, a 10-term Queens Republican, is not, in fact, retiring, but engaged in an intense fight to hold onto his seat, which spans Maspeth and Sunnyside in the north to Ozone Park and Howard Beach in the south. That is what he was up to a few days earlier, less than a mile away. With the

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session in Albany over, Maltese had finally embarked on the beginning of his own ground campaign, holding a small town hall meeting at the Ozone Howard Little League field—one of seven meetings he holds annually to inform residents about government services available to them. As sprinklers watered the baseball fields outside, Maltese was inside, working the crowd: seniors, veterans, men and women with Italian accents and cell phones with The Godfather theme music ring tones. In the corner of the meeting hall, Maltese had put a sevenfoot-tall, nearly life-size photograph of the Senate chamber to use as a backdrop for photos with attendees. “Yes, we’re traveling to Albany,” he said, smiling broadly. “Saves you driving four hours.” In November, Maltese will find out whether these same smiling residents will vote to send him back to the Capitol. But if he was concerned about his campaign that night, he did not show it. His arm around a woman in a green dress, Maltese was all one-liners. “Looks like we’re getting married,” he said as the camera snapped. She smiled.

In 2006, Albert Baldeo, a relatively unknown Democrat, shocked many by coming within 800 votes of defeating Maltese without any support from the Queens county party. Baldeo is running again this year. He plans to stay in the race even if Addabbo, the party-preferred candidate, wins the primary, by seeking out a third ballot line. Addabbo considered running against Maltese in 2006 but opted not to, reportedly because of a truce between Democrats and the senator. This year, the Council member said there was no way a deal

as majority leader led many to speculate that a Democratic takeover is all but certain. The Queens Democratic Party has made claims that Baldeo sought a judgeship in exchange for dropping out of the race. And Maltese’s campaign was emboldened by Republican Anthony Como’s victory in a special election for the City Council district that overlaps Maltese’s. For several months, Addabbo practically had the district to himself. But with the end of the legislative session in Albany, he now shares the district with Maltese, who plans to crisscross the area, touting discretionary funds he has won for various community groups. Addabbo said he plans to employ a similar strategy. “Whether Serf’s in the district, whether Baldeo’s around,” Addabbo said, “it doesn’t matter.” Maltese disagrees. By spending the summer cultivating his base, which includes Irish and Italian Americans, conservatives, seniors and veterans, he believes he will be able to ward off both challengers. Just as important, though, will be his outreach out to new voters, mainly immigrants who have flooded his district in the past decade, in an effort to offset the appeal of Baldeo, an Indo-Guyanese lawyer. “I am aware the district is changing,” Maltese said. “I also believe that they feel that they are well-represented by me, no matter what their ethnic background.” All three candidates are looking to beef up support in the immigrant community— a crucial voting block in a district where the foreign-born population has jumped from 29 to 39 percent since 1990. Addabbo, who has been criticized by his opponents for not having a diverse enough staff, said his appeal in the immigrant community is solid. “I have one qualification when it comes to staff, and that is, when they answer that phone, they have to be as dedicated as I am,” Addabbo said. “I’m color-blind.” Although Addabbo trailed in campaign cash for the first part of the year, he said his fundraising is on target. But regardless, he said, his focus is on issues, not money. Baldeo, on the other hand, cites his fundraising as an advantage over the two party stalwarts. He raised almost $400,000 by January, thanks in large part to a $300,000 loan to his own campaign. Baldeo has been more freewheeling

For several months, Addabbo practically had the district to himself. could be struck. If Democrats grab the Senate majority in November, as Addabbo hopes, district residents will need to be represented by a Democratic senator, to do best. Several events in the last few months have changed the dynamics of the race. The City Council slush fund scandal has opened up a new line of attack on Addabbo. Bruno’s decision to step down


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with his criticisms, accusing Addabbo of being an unserious candidate, running just to keep Maltese in office. He also blasted the Democratic county organization, which did not consider him for an endorsement, as a “country club engaged in cronyism.” Taking a theme from the presidential campaign of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, Baldeo said if he loses the primary, he would run on an independent ballot line called “the Hope and Change Party.” Maltese, for one, is delighted by the split between the two Democratic candidates. Between that and what he says have been new Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ (R-Nassau) assurances that his campaign will be a priority in the fall—and a commitment to spend up to $1 million protecting the seat—Maltese is feeling optimistic. But the Democratic leadership has also focused on the race, with Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) going so far as to call Maltese’s seat “the tipping point” between a Democratic and a Republican State Senate. “I like the fact that my constituents will feel that they are in the most important, hotly contested district in the City of New York,” Maltese said, responding to Smith’s assessment. The senator corrected himself. “Actually, he’s saying in the whole State of New York,” he said. “Even better.” ahawkins@nycapitolnews.com

State Sen. Serphin Maltese is trying to get voters to send him back to Albany for an 11th term. “I like the fact that my constituents will feel that they are in the most important, hotly contested district,” he said.

Moratorium Foreclosed from Subprime Deal, Despite Senate Democrats’ Insistence With Paterson and banking industry opposed, grace period falls through BY SAL GENTILE JUNE 18, SENATE MINORITY Leader Malcolm Smith (DQueens) called on the Senate majority to pass legislation instituting a one-year moratorium on home foreclosures, a big-ticket policy proposal pushed by Democrats nationwide and included in a bill passed by the Assembly in May. “New Yorkers are facing an ongoing mortgage crisis and a crushing property tax burden. I am calling on the Senate Majority Leader to urge his members to stand up for New York homeowners and taxpayers. Our constituents need relief,” he said. The next morning, Gov. David Paterson (D) was joined by then-State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (RRensselaer) and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) in a hastilyarranged press conference to announce that they had reached agreement on the measure, which included a reconfiguration of state mortgage laws and a 90-day pre-foreclosure period. “Albany has come through,” Paterson pronounced. Missing in the final deal: the moratorium. That missing plank would have frozen foreclosures for people already in the process of losing their homes, giving them

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the breathing space to work out a payment plan or perhaps even renegotiate their loans. Without it, moratorium advocates say, homeowners already caught up in the worst of the subprime mortgage crisis will go without relief. How the moratorium, which has been supported in various forms by national Democrats—including Sen. Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign—fell out of favor in the last-minute shuffle seems a question less of priorities than of politics. Paterson, though, was never sold on the idea. The executive proposal on the bill, which he shepherded from its conception during the Spitzer administration, lacked a moratorium and he was open in his opposition to one. State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Queens), who introduced a bill with a moratorium in the Senate, said he and other legislators knew the measure would never be included in the final agreement. “He said ‘this bill is unacceptable to me,’” Padavan recalled, explaining his own decision to abandon the moratorium. “We knew we had to involve the governor, otherwise we would end up with a bill that was going to be vetoed.” The Assembly went ahead and passed a bill in May that included the moratorium on strong Democratic support, despite Paterson’s disapproval. However, many

Assembly Democrats began to back away from the proposal between then and the end of the session in order to clear the way for a last-minute compromise. “The direction changed when addressing subprime as opposed to just keeping people in their homes for another year,” said Darryl Towns (D-Brooklyn), chair of the Assembly Banks Committee. But Senate Democrats continued to push for the moratorium up until the day the compromise was reached. They were ultimately left out of the negotiations, and were forced to settle for what the Assembly and Senate majorities agreed to. Even though there was considerable interest among Senate Republicans in a one-year moratorium, banking interests and their advocates in the Legislature were worried such a measure would make offering mortgages in New York harder for lenders. “The financial industry was very, very concerned about it,” said State Sen. Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester), sponsor of a failed amendment that would have restored the one-year moratorium. As a result, the moratorium—which would have been one of the strongest antiforeclosure provisions in the country had it passed—was set aside. The few changes that were made in the final deal include increased standards of

care for lenders when providing mortgages to subprime homeowners, as well as leeway for the Superintendent of Banks to adjust the definition of “subprime” according to changes in the market. According to Jonathan Rosen, a spokesman for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), the low- and middleincome housing advocacy group, these victories for Democrats might not have been won at all had they not been able to use the moratorium proposal as a strong bargaining chip to win concessions from Republicans. “The governor’s program bill became a moderate compromise,” Rosen said. “I don’t think that would have been possible if there hadn’t been a more radical alternative on the table.” Despite those changes, Democrats and housing advocates who favored the moratorium said the bottom would continue to fall out from under homeowners currently fighting foreclosure. “People who are actually in court fighting foreclosure don’t get as much help from this bill as I would have liked,” said State Sen. Martin Connor (DBrooklyn/Manhattan), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Banks Committee. “At the end of the day, you’re forced to take what you can get.” sgentile@nycapitolnews.com


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THE STATE SENATE

Now he is the Democratic nominee and presidential frontrunner, but until just four years ago, Barack Obama was the state senator from the 13th district on the South Side of Chicago. ¶ Strange turns in Illinois politics put him on track to win the U.S. Senate seat in 2004 after seven years in Springfield, and a masterful keynote address at the Democratic National Convention that August sparked the beginning of his presidential campaign. ¶ Obama is clearly a unique political figure. But nonetheless, now that Hillary Clinton is out of the race, his meteoric rise leaves just one question for New Yorker politicians: how do our own state senators compare? ¶ In consultation with the experts, The Capitol picked 15 of the New York State Senate’s most promising, then had a panel of 10 consultants rate each on a 1-5 scale for Style, Substance and Savvy. ¶ Top score in each category: 50. Top combined score: 150. ¶ The result: the totally unscientific New York State Senate Obameter.

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ARACK OBAMA spent seven years in the Illinois State Senate before becoming the unexpected frontrunner for the U.S. Senate nomination in 2004. Those were a busy seven years, especially after the Democrats seized the majority from the Republicans in the 2002 elections. After running for his first term on a platform of fixing government and restoring voters’ trust, Obama quickly earned praise for his efforts to reform Illinois government by trying to reduce outside influence and create more transparency in Springfield. Right after coming into office, Obama helped write an ethics reform bill that the Associated Press quickly hailed as one of “the most restrictive ethics bills since Watergate.” Among the many restrictions, the bill bans legislators from accepting gifts from lobbyists or people doing business with the government. In addition, campaign contributors have to disclose their profession and employer to the government. He also focused on legislation to help the economically depressed and disadvantaged. Days after being elected, he told the Chicago Sun-Times that he wanted to create a “progressive state coalition that can serve not only Chicago’s interests but those who lack opportunity everywhere,” and, over his time in the State Senate, tried to increase government action for his progressive agenda on health care, poverty and crime—culminating in his chairmanship of the State Senate Health and Human Services Committee during his last two years in the state capital. In 2003, he raised the insurance eligibility limit for the Children Health Insurance Program to 200 percent of the poverty line. The increase allowed for previously uninsured children to be covered by the act.

Obama’s State Senate web page, circa 2004 Given his South Side Chicago district, Obama naturally gravitated toward crime-fighting legislation, sponsoring or co-sponsoring 112 bills in the area, including as chief sponsor of legislation that requires prospective gun owners to sign a waiver disclosing mental health records. Designed to reduce the gun violence caused by the mentally ill, the bill denied gun permits to people with such a history. He established a community reintegration program for juvenile offenders who finished their sentences, then, two years later, introduced a bill that would have required schools to give expelled and suspended students an alternative school to attend. That stalled in committee, as did many other bills that the man who is now the Democratic nominee tried to push

forward. While he sponsored over 800 bills in his State Senate career, many bills never emerged from the Rules Committee. Growing seniority did not help much—during his last year in the State Senate, 99 of the 147 bills on which Obama was the chief sponsor floundered in committee. Undeterred by this or by being in the minority for much of his time in Springfield, Obama employed the same kind of unwillingness to bide his time which has so thoroughly defined his presidential campaign. And he has used the legislative record he was able to amass in those years as a major selling point for his campaign, often referring to the ethics reform bill that helped burnish his reformist image. “He was a very ‘eager-beaver’ to have something to do as a rookie state senator,” said State Sen. Kirk Dillard (R), who represents a district near Obama’s old one, southwest of Chicago, and has worked with Obama on the ethics reform bill. “A charming personality and intellect which Mr. Obama has used to captivate Americans,” Dillard said, “are the same skills he used to work with different political parties and geographic legislators.” —Michael Szeto

OUR PANEL:

Norman Adler Bob Bellafiore Susan Del Percio Tom Doherty Steve Greenberg Kyle Kotary Bill O’Reilly Evan Stavisky Ryan Toohey Kevin Wardally


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THE STATE SENATE

JOSÉ SERRANO AGE: 36

BA, MANHATTAN COLLEGE

11

JULY 2008 150 140

STYLE

37

SUBSTANCE

30

SAVVY

37

104

130 120 110 100 90 80

ANDREW SCHWARTZ

The son of a longtime fixture in Bronx politics, Serrano is “somebody who’s grown up in and around politics. He knows all the right things to do and say.” He “likes the spotlight,” said one consultant, but another pointed out that he used it well to jump from the New York City Council to the Senate by beating the party-switching Olga Mendez in 2004. “I think when you defeat a 26-year incumbent, that says to me the guy knows what he’s doing,” said one consultant. But while he “looks the part,” another warned that he needs to do more to build a record, calling him a “great guy, but not a good coalition builder.”

70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0

CRAIG JOHNSON AGE: 37

BA, AMHERST JD, ST. JOHN’S UNIVERSITY

150 140

STYLE

29

SUBSTANCE

34

SAVVY

35

98

130 120 110 100 90 80

BARRY SLOAN

The whole state watched as this Nassau Democrat won the battle for the Republican seat that brought in nearly the entire political world in the beginning of 2007. “When you talk about savvy, he’s been in the political life long enough to take on the Republican machine out there,” said one impressed consultant, but another said he has not yet “made a splash.” While one called him “a schlump” and another points to a “nasty streak,” he has gained some new fans. “He’s surprised me tremendously,” said one. “He actually is pretty substantial,” admitted another reluctant admirer. And to one wooed consultant, Johnson might actually fit the Obameter bill. “When I think of inspirational leaders like a Senator Obama here in New York, I think of Craig Johnson.”

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JEFF KLEIN AGE: 48

BA, QUEENS COLLEGE MPA, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY JD, CUNY LAW

150

STYLE

35

SUBSTANCE

37

SAVVY

36

140

108

130 120 110 100

ANDREW SCHWARTZ

90

After winning a Republican Senate seat and successfully defending it, this Bronx-based politician who “lives and breathes this stuff” quickly rose through the ranks to deputy minority leader, but so quickly that now he “can’t get rid of the rumors he wants to take out Malcolm Smith.” Helping craft the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee effort this year is just part of his recognized ability to be “always looking at the big picture,” though one consultant referred to his approach to politics as “all talk, no action.” He briefly toyed with a run for attorney general in 2006, and some see him as headed for other offices, but others disagree. Klein is “at home in the Legislature,” according to one, and according to another “will be there ‘til death.” “At some point, it’s safe to say, he will be the majority leader,” said yet another, “whether it’s done cordially or not.”

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THE STATE SENATE

JULY 2008

ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN AGE: 53

BA, AMHERST COLLEGE JD, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL

150 140

STYLE

40

SUBSTANCE

41

SAVVY

38

119

130 120 110 100 90 80

ANDREW SCHWARTZ

“One of the brightest guys in Albany, and, unfortunately, he knows it,” said one consultant, “this is a guy who should have been majority leader,” said another about the Manhattan Democrat with “big ideas” who so annoyed the then-leaders during his first few years in Albany that they tried to get rid of him by drawing part of his district into the Bronx. A “pure political animal” nicknamed “Schneidermonster,” his “very glib” approach “gets people annoyed.” But though he grabbed high scores in every category, “he’s missing that Obama-Bill Clinton-Joe Bruno element, the quality that allows people to think he’s just an average guy.”

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DIANE SAVINO AGE: 43

BA, ST. JOHN’S UNIVERSITY CERTIFICATE, CORNELL SCHOOL OF INDUSTRY LABOR RELATIONS

150 140

STYLE

32

SUBSTANCE

31

SAVVY

36

99

130 120 110 100 90 80 70

ANDREW SCHWARTZ

This former union leader is “incredibly savvy,” said one consultant, who noted that “she picks her battles wisely and she knows her issues.” Though she has “impressed her fellow members in the delegation,” earning her a spot as the head of recruitment for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, said another consultant, even long-term “I don’t think majority leader is going to happen.” Though she suffered on style ratings, most think she is able to make up for this with her other strengths. “She’s got her own style,” said one defender, but while another insisted she has “horrible style,” overall, “she gets it.”

60 50 40 30 20 10 0

ERIC ADAMS AGE: 46

AS, NEW YORK CITY TECHNICAL COLLEGE. BS, JOHN JAY COLLEGE MPA, MARIST COLLEGE

150

STYLE

43

SUBSTANCE

30

SAVVY

32

140

105

130 120 110 100

ANDREW SCHWARTZ

90

After only one term in Albany, this former head of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement whom one consultant called “one of the most articulate people in politics” has already established himself as “one of the most credible messengers on any issue,” according to another. High marks for style—he “likes his suits,” said one—help give people the sense that he “knows how to leverage everything he’s got.” But though one consultant said that, taken together, this makes him “the kind of guy who could break out of the pack,” another said that what could hold him back is that “he’s too much of a single-issue guy who likes going after the spotlight, but isn’t willing to work and negotiate.”

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THE STATE SENATE

JULY 2008

JOSEPH GRIFFO AGE: 52

BA, SUNY BROCKPORT

150 140

STYLE

29

SUBSTANCE

36

SAVVY

33

130

98

120 110 100 90 80

Getting higher marks for substance than anything else, Griffo is “a lunch bucket senator,” says one consultant: “he’s not flashy, but he’s a good public servant, a good guy and tries to do the right thing.” “Not the statuesque 6’4” politician,” Griffo is “an interesting character” who “takes interesting positions on things.” “A good legislator,” said one, and “a communicator,” said another, “he actually works really hard.” That “savvy to understand where his bread is buttered,” said yet another consultant, “helps him survive in a district with a Democratic Assemblywoman and a Democratic Congressman.”

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JOHN SAMPSON AGE: 43

BA, BROOKLYN COLLEGE JD, ALBANY LAW

150

STYLE

34

SUBSTANCE

26

SAVVY

32

140

92

130 120 110 100 90

Though he has already served six terms in the Senate, Sampson scored much higher for style and savvy than substance. “He’s a good guy, but there’s no ‘there’ there,” explained one consultant. Another offered a kinder assessment, saying “substance is difficult in the minority. He’s not a blah, blah, blah guy.” This could be the foundation for something more, depending on the circumstances. “He plays his politics well inside the conference as well as in his district,” one said. But another warned that he needs to do more to raise his profile if he wants that potential to be realized. “If I really don’t know him,” a consultant said, “he can’t grab much spotlight.”

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JOHN FLANAGAN AGE: 47

BA, WILLIAM & MARY JD, TOURO LAW

150

STYLE

42

SUBSTANCE

37

SAVVY

40

140

119

130 120 110 100 90

There are bright things ahead for this “smart guy” and son of an Assemblyman who himself moved from the Assembly to the Senate in 2002, and has built a bedrock of “strong constituent services” in his Suffolk district. “Substance was a weakness of his campaign—he won with style and savvy,” said one consultant, paying a backhanded compliment to a man who another said has “got it down.” But Flanagan’s savvy was questioned by one consultant who pointed out that he “lost the minority leadership in the Assembly by one vote, which means somebody lied to him and he didn’t figure out his votes.” But despite that, and despite another who insisted that he “doesn’t reach across the aisle well,” there is a feeling that with a little more time to grow in office, Flanagan is “possible governor material for 2014.”

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THE STATE SENATE

JULY 2008

BILL PERKINS AGE: 59

BA, BROWN UNIVERSITY

150 140

STYLE

39

SUBSTANCE

28

SAVVY

34

101

130 120 110 100 90 80

A leader in the field for style ratings—“it’s the fedoras,” says one consultant, “the best lids in Albany,” says another—Perkins trails in the substance category. “He came in, did a solid job as a freshman, but not a standout,” said one consultant, assessing Perkins’ performance since taking over the Senate seat once held by David Paterson. Though he gained much attention for being one of the first and only New York politicians to come out in force for Obama during primary season, this man, known to be hoping for the Congressional seat now held by Rep. Charlie Rangel, has battled with the Harlem establishment and “does not work well with others.” He speaks well, said another, but he is “known to open mouth, insert foot.”

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CATHARINE YOUNG AGE: 47

BA, ST. BONAVENTURE UNIVERSITY

150 140

STYLE

35

SUBSTANCE

35

SAVVY

31

101

130 120 110 100 90 80 70

This major in the Civil Air Patrol, who first came to Albany in 1999 and moved to the Senate in 2005, is both “nice” and “right out with the voters,” said one consultant. Given her natural media appeal, said one consultant, Senate Republicans “could have utilized her more,” explaining “she’s well-spoken, has style, good-looking and has grace.” The explanation, said another, is that “she’s beloved in her district, but on the issues, she’s not viewed as any sort of a heavyweight.” The biggest problem, however, may be that as a representative of Western New York “she’s literally from the middle of nowhere.”

BARRY SLOAN

14

60 50 40 30 20 10 0

JOSEPH ROBACH AGE: 50

BS, SUNY BROCKPORT MPA, SUNY BROCKPORT

150

STYLE

30

SUBSTANCE

32

SAVVY

39

140

101

130 120 110 100 90

This once-Democrat is a “classic .285 hitter—doesn’t wow you, but does what he’s supposed to do” who “made a smart move at the right time” to win his Senate seat, but if he wins re-election, “his savvy is going to come into question if the Democrats take over and he switches parties,” said one consultant. According to another, though, “you can’t be that savvy if you switch parties” even once. But this “operator” and “total survivor” with “great relationships in the community” “understands the inner workings of Albany and knows how to balance the politics and take care of his constituency,” though he be thought of in some quarters as “not a fighter.”

80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0


THE CAPITOL

STATE SENATE

JULY 2008

15

150

ANDREW LANZA

140

AGE: 44

STYLE

BS, ST. JOHN’S UNIVERSITY JD, FORDHAM LAW

34

SUBSTANCE

29

SAVVY

35

130

98

120 110 100 90 80 70

Though one consultant called this freshman Staten Islander “an empty seat,” and another dismissed him as “kind of bland,” the reason, said yet another, is that “the issues he has been confronted with in committees have not allowed him to be a press person.” Others say his youth and political skills point to potential. “He makes a great image, right off the bat,” said one, “no sleaze factor there,” added another. “If he was in a more Republican state,” one mused, paying Lanza something of a compliment, “he’s a guy who could be governor.”

60 50 40 30 20 10 0 150

CHARLES FUSCHILLO

140

STYLE

AGE: 48

BBA, ADELPHI UNIVERSITY

37

SUBSTANCE

37

SAVVY

36

130

110

120 110 100 90 80 70

An “up and comer” who is “one of the most attractive members of the Senate,” this lifelong Long Islander with strong marks across the board has “got a little game.” A bid for county executive might be ahead for this senator with “good leadership qualities” whom one consultant affectionately called “Chucky boy,” but, said another, “the problem with Fuschillo is that he doesn’t want to make this his life’s calling.”

60 50 40 30 20 10 0

ANTOINE THOMPSON

150

STYLE

AGE: 38

BA, SUNY BROCKPORT

37

SUBSTANCE

37

SAVVY

140

39

120

130

113

110 100 90

ANDREW SCHWARTZ

80

This freshman senator earned major points for being a “very sophisticated person” and “good political guy”—which explains his very fast ascension to his leadership role. The “shaved head works” for this man, who is “smart enough to identify the issues,” according to one consultant. Already, another said, he has “a hell of a lot of potential,” while another lauded him as a “guy with a future.” Like Byron Brown, whom Thompson succeeded in the Senate, said one consultant, “he’s going to be mayor of Buffalo.”

…AND MORE MAY BE COMING Up-and-coming State Senate candidates to watch for

By Andrew J. Hawkins January is shaping up to be a big month for change in government. In New York, with control of the State Senate hanging in the balance, many promising candidates have burst onto the scene and are already earning rave reviews from party insiders. Republican candidates to look out for include: • Yonkers Council Member John Murtagh (R), who is run-

70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0

ning against Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester) • Larchmont Mayor Liz Feld (R), who is challenging 12term Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer (D-Rockland) • David Renzi, an attorney and member of a prominent North Country family, who is running against freshman Sen. Darrel Aubertine (D-Oswego) • Dennis Delano, a former cold case detective, who is taking on Sen. William Stachowski (D-Buffalo) With their party energized by the prospect of winning control of the Senate, many Democratic candidates are also turning heads. They include: • Daniel Squadron, a former aide to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D), who is mounting a rare primary challenge against Sen. Martin Connor (D-Manhattan)

• Former boxer “Baby” Joe Mesi and Erie County Legislator Michelle Ianello (D), both running to succeed the retiring Sen. Mary Lou Rath (R-Erie/Genesee) • Caroline Town Supervisor Don Barber (D), who is hoping to unseat Sen. James Seward (R-Oneonta) • Elmira Mayor John Tonello (D), who is challenging Sen. George Winner (R-Steuben/Chemung) • Brookhaven Supervisor Brian Foley (D), who is running against 36-year GOP veteran Sen. Caesar Trunzo (Nassau) Obama had to spend seven years in the Illinois State Senate before he got the chance to break out onto the national scene. New York’s crop of Senate candidates may have a similar growth period ahead of them. ahawkins@nycapitolnews.com


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www.nycapitolnews.com

CIVIL SERVICE AND PENSIONS The Truth About Public Employee Pensions

ISSUE FORUM:

BY ASSEMBLY MEMBER PETER ABBATE VER THE PAST YEAR, THERE

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has been a lot of negative rhetoric regarding the public pension system as well as the civil service rights of public employees. Most of the criticism is generated out of half-truths and misinformation about pensions and the rights of our dedicated public workforce. It is easy to point fingers and play the blame game about the fiscal problems the government faces these days, but it is neither fair nor is it accurate to say that public employees are the problem. While there are some business interests that would have us believe we need to end the current system and favor a retirement model that the private sector uses, this is not the right way to go. The first and most important thing to remember is: just because private sector employers treat their employees one way, it does not mean the government should follow suit. For starters, given the current economy, the many corporate scandals involving pension fraud and outright pension abuse, it is hard to say that private employers are running the best show in town. While there are many good employers and good private retire-

ment plans, it is not fair to say we should follow the business model, given these problems. Furthermore, when you look across the country and the benefits that some employers provide their employees, the reason why public employees have become the target is because some of them are granted fair and just benefits. It is not to say that fair and equitable benefits are not offered to private sector employees; but, more often than not, private businesses keep a strong eye on the bottom line—and not necessarily on what is fair and equitable. Working families who need to retire and whose sole source of retirement income is a defined contribution plan will find it hard-pressed to make ends meet. The value of their investments is based on 401(k), IRA accounts or other defined contribution plans—which continue to dwindle in value—and many of these people are worried about how they will live in their golden years. The public pension system is a defined benefit plan that guarantees a monthly benefit for retired public employees. As good as that sounds, the average pension for public employees is just under $20,000 per year. While we seem to hear a lot these days about abuses and some outrageous pensions, the

fact is that the vast majority of public pensioners are ordinary people simply trying to make ends meet. It is not right that we try to further cut the benefits that they worked all their lives to earn. Furthermore, you hear localities across the state and business stating that they are “running in the red” due to public employees’ pensions and fringe benefits. The truth is, unlike private sector pension plans, the public pension systems are at or near full funding. They are run efficiently and will continue to provide fairness and dignity to thousands of employees across the state. In fact, in the final FY-2008 budget, the appropriation for pension benefits was $936 million, reflecting a normal contribution rate of 8.8 percent of salary, and the appropriation for “fringe benefits”—such as health insurance—was $1.1 billion. If you combine these two costs together, the total cost for pension and fringe benefits for public employees make up less than 2 percent of the state’s $121.6 billion budget. As you can see, it is a complete fabrication for localities and businesses to state that their fiscal woes are due to the benefits public employees receive. People say that Albany “gives away the store.” That is obviously not so true

with the staggering facts stated above. Albany does not give away the store; it’s just that private employers offer less to their employees. Providing public employees, on whom our communities rely most, with simple benefits that are just and fair is the only way for this state to continue to provide its constituencies with the vital services they require and deserve. Peter Abbate, a Democrat representing parts of Brooklyn, is chair of the Assembly Committee on Governmental Employees.

Branding New York State as an Employer of Choice BY COMMISSIONER NANCY GROENWEGEN YORKERS WANT GOOD government services as much as they want affordable government services. Delivering both is a particularly daunting challenge today, because many of those veteran employees who have formed the backbone of the state workforce are retiring—just as gloom descends on New York’s financial outlook. Nearly a fifth of the state’s workforce will become eligible to retire in the next five years. And that includes almost half of all upper-level managers. Another 20 percent have left over the last six years. This represents an enormous drain on the reservoir of talent and experience that state agencies rely on to manage and deliver critical services from bridge inspections and patient care to insurance regulation and tax collection. The average age of workers at 17 State agencies is over 50. Only 13 percent of the overall workforce is under 35. Such demographics might normally suggest the need for a massive recruitment effort to rebuild the State workforce. Grim fiscal realities, however, necessarily temper such ambitions. Gov. David Paterson has told agency heads to reduce their spending plans by 3.35 percent for the 2008-2009 fiscal year. He further has instructed us to fill only those job openings that are “absolutely essential to

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your agency’s operations and protecting the health and safety of New Yorkers.” A hiring spree is not possible, but nor is it necessary. The Department of Civil Service, as the State’s central human resource agency, and other individual agencies must be judicious, targeted and strategic in the way we rebuild the State workforce. We must also have the understanding and support of the Legislature, employee organizations and the general public to ensure that the level of services New Yorkers have come to expect does not erode. Here are some of the things we’re doing.

Since recruitment and retention problems tend to span multiple agencies, we’ve established interdepartmental working groups centered around hard-tofill positions such as engineers, nurses, accountants/auditors and information technology specialists. Another concentrates on problems unique to agencies with many institutions, particularly in remote areas. Internship programs, ondemand testing and, in selected cases, higher salaries are among the initiatives coming from these workgroups. Government recruiters, according to a Time magazine article, “need to wake up to the modern age” if they are to compete for top talent. While mass advertising is beyond our means, we have established a small recruitment unit within the Department of Civil Service whose message at job fairs and college campuses is that government work is rewarding, secure, diverse and well-compensated. A one-stop recruitment portal is being created for all state job-seekers and marketing materials are being developed. We want to brand New York State as an employer of choice, not of last resort. Since a more diverse workforce is a more innovative workforce, we are aggressively reaching out to every community in search of talent. The web has become an invaluable tool in this effort. We’ve established an outreach center on the campus of Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn. The

Legislature has voted to nearly double the size of a program to enlist the talents of veterans with disabilities. We are working to make the state hiring process less elaborate and lengthy. We’re looking for the Legislature’s help again in easing the onerous rules regarding certain employee transfers and in opening up certain examinations to qualified workers at other State agencies as well as those outside of government. Artificial barriers that screen out certain individuals with the skills and experience to perform a job are a luxury we can no longer afford. Continuity and knowledge-transfer are important considerations while the State workforce undergoes this historic transformation. Mentoring programs, “shadow” jobs and other measures will give the new generation of managers access to the experience and wisdom of their predecessors. No enterprise delivers quality services without a quality workforce. New York has been fortunate in that regard. If the state’s finances won’t permit a bigger workforce, it’s imperative that the new workforce be a talented one, fully capable of meeting the many complex challenges of a new century. Nancy Groenwegen is the commissioner of the New York State Department of Civil Service.


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Anti-Gay Marriage Effort Gears Up for Role in Senate Battle Paterson directive mobilizes political, financial support for vulnerable senators Libous. Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco also spoke. McGuire said his group had already UST BEFORE THE END OF SESSION, identified key seats held by Republicans pastors, reverends and priests gaththat it would help defend in order to keep ered in the Well of the Legislative Office the State Senate in Republican hands. He Building to rail against that constant declined to comment on specific races, political flashpoint: same-sex marriage. but said his group and its allies were Their voices echoed down the building’s actively interested in energizing voter marble hallways. They blasted horns. turnout for select Republican candidates. Events like these, sponsored this time Some of those candidates are facing by New Yorkers for Constitutional tough re-election battles. Shoring up supFreedoms (NYCF), an evangelical lobbyport for vulnerable ing group, accompany the Republicans like start of every election Shoring up support for vulnerable Maltese has become cycle. The difference this Republicans has become particularly particularly urgent this for groups like time is that they had Gov. urgent this year for groups which see year NYCF, with members David Paterson’s (D) late a potential Democratic State Senate seeing a potential May directive to state State agencies to recognize outas a major threat to their agenda. Democratic Senate as a major threat of-state same sex marto their agenda. riages to rail against. And “I think people realize that this is very they drew several prominent and targeted elected officials to the rally to join McGuire, legislative director for NYCF. “I close to tipping, and that, if the Senate think it’s going to bring people to the tips, that would be a whole different ballthem. game,” McGuire said. As State Sen. Serphin Maltese (R- polls.” In order to prevent that, NYCF and its Others at the “Power in the Pulpit” Queens), one of the featured speakers at the rally, told them, they did so at a cost. rally included State Sens. Mary Lou Rath, allies will use a two-pronged approach. “We are jeopardizing our political James Seward, Thomas Morahan, Joseph First, they will use churches and minfutures by being here,” he said, referring Griffo, Frank Padavan, Martin Golden, istries throughout the state as a loose to the dozen or so legislators—all but George Maziarz, Hugh Farley, William network of organizing cells, urging their one, State Sen. Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx), Larkin, James Seward and Thomas members to support certain candidates

BY SAL GENTILE

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Republicans—who stood and spoke at the event. If so, they were also getting a sizeable return: the political and financial support of a network of deeply motivated grassroots activists stretching throughout the state. “Same-sex marriage is an issue that our base gets passionate about, and as they see it, this is a real issue, not just something that’s under the carpet, that they need to be engaged in,” said Jason

who oppose same-sex marriage. They will also act as intermediaries between donors, fundraisers and selected candidates, in order to stoke the cash flow necessary to defend against significant Democratic momentum. NYCF has a political action committee that it intends to use as well, routing funds to candidates they want to defend. Ethan Geto, a Democratic consultant and longtime LGBT activist, disagreed that same-sex marriage would help vulnerable Republicans. “While of course there are a number of conservative voters who are hostile to same-sex marriage, in New York State in particular, it is not a significant determinant of voter choices among competing candidates,” he said. “The same-sex marriage issue is secondary at best as a factor in voter decisions.” That does not seem likely to stop opponents of same-sex marriage from trying. “We are not pleased with what the governor has done,” Michael Faulkner, a pastor from Harlem, shouted into a microphone in front of the applauding crowd which gathered in the Well in June. “And we intend to let him know that.” sgentile@nycapitolnews.com

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THE CAPITOL

ISSUE FORUM: CIVIL

SERVICE AND PENSIONS Protecting the Temp Workers of the Public Service Industry BY STATE SEN. DIANE SAVINO

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HE

CIVIL

SERVICE

SYSTEM

HAS

been a pathway from poverty to middle class for millions of New Yorkers, providing equal opportunity and protection from political patronage and corruption. Its creation was a response to Tammany Hall-style politics, when jobs were awarded based on favoritism and partisan loyalty as opposed to an individual’s ability to do the job. There was no job protection, as with each election government employees were routinely replaced by party loyalists or friends of the incoming elected official. Referred to as the “spoils system,” the practice was rampant during the 19th century and reached its zenith when New York City government was under the control of the corrupt political machinery, Tammany Hall and William “Boss” Tweed. Millions of taxpayer dollars were swindled by Tweed and his cronies, aided and abetted by municipal appointees and employees. Good government reformers produced the Pendleton Act of 1883, which created a civil service hiring system based on merit and fitness, rewarding jobs to qualified individuals who had successfully passed civil service examinations. This was the beginning of true citizenship government.

Case

There are several types of public service employees, but the majority is in the competitive or non-competitive classes. Competitive class employees have passed the required exams, serve a probationary period and, upon completion of such, are provided with due process rights under section 75 of Civil Service Law. Non-competitive employees hold specific licenses or meet particular criteria, but are not afforded due-process rights against disciplinary actions or firing until after five years. Technically, a competitive-class position can be filled, without testing, when there is an immediate need. These temporary employees, called provisional employees, must eventually be replaced by workers who have been tested for merit and fitness. Provisionals are easy to fire and have no job security—an attractive feature to employers who want a disposable workforce that can be easily downsized. In recent years, we have seen the number of provisional employees soar in the competitive-class position. This has created a vulnerable workforce, 30,000 strong, in New York City—the “temp workers” of the public service industry. Throughout the years, many provisional employees won some measure of job treatment. According to the court, Reddington was “besieged with complaints of inadequate and non-treatment, abandonment and failure to provide a translator.” Her reports of these problems to management went unaddressed. When her supervisor terminated her employment “due to probationary failure,” Reddington sued claiming, among a number of allegations, that she was terminated for reporting the patient complaints. The Court of Appeals held that New York’s Whistleblower Law is not meant for employees like Reddington. Importantly, the Court stopped short of holding that the law is available only to individuals who hold professional licenses such as doctors and nurses. Instead, the Court said the law is for those “who are qualified by virtue of training and/or experience to make knowledgeable judgments as to the quality of patient care, and whose jobs require them to make these judgments.”

POINT in

Major Court Decisions in New York This Month Whistle Blown on Whistleblower’s Law Reddington v. Staten Island University Hospital Decided by: Court of Appeals, July 1 In a decision likely to reduce reporting of errors and problems at New York health care facilities, the Court of Appeals recently held that hospital workers not performing “health care services” are not entitled to the protection of New York’s Health Care Whistleblower Law. The ruling arises from the troubles of Carmel Reddington, who sued Staten Island University Hospital when she lost her job as Director of the International Patient Program. Primarily an administrative position to facilitate international patient travel to Staten Island, Reddington’s job involved coordinating travel arrangements and services for international patients and receiving feedback from those patients about their

Assurances on Terrorism Insurance TAG 380, LLC v. ConMet 380, Inc. Decided by: Court of Appeals, June 3 After the Sept. 11 attacks, American insurance companies began writing poli-

protections at the bargaining table. However, in response to a New York State Court of Appeals ruling challenging those protections as non-bargainable, the State Legislature passed a law requiring New York City and other civil service organizations to develop a plan to reduce the number of provisionals within five years. Rather than take this as an opportunity to develop a comprehensive plan with scheduled examinations, protecting the merit and fitness system, the city has proposed a plan that would reclassify hundreds of these titles into the non-competcies excluding coverage for damages resulting from “terrorism.” Unsurprisingly, tenants in some New York skyscrapers did not want to pay the hefty additional premiums for “terrorism” coverage. Equally unremarkably, the landlords of these buildings did. Sheldon Solow’s TAG 380 company occupies the building at 380 Madison Avenue in New York City. ConMet 380, a real estate investment trust, owns that building. The lease for the building requires TAG 380 to purchase fire insurance sufficient to meet New York’s Standard Fire Insurance Policy, which is specified in the Insurance Law. When Solow’s company purchased a new policy in 2002, it contained an exclusions section entitled the “War Risk and Terrorist Exclusion.” This section exempted coverage for any losses resulting from terrorism, even damages only remotely attributable to terrorism. As the Court noted, “Indeed, the new policy explicitly stated, “TERRORISM IS EXCLUDED.” When ConMet balked at the idea that this new policy met the terms of the lease, the parties went to court. After split rulings in the lower courts, the Court of Appeals found that although Solow’s company was required only to obtain a “named-perils policy” covering fire and specifically named types of damage, because terrorism “is not limited to a specific type of harm (e.g. fire, explosion, collision with an aircraft) . . . a policy that excludes from coverage all meth-

itive class, which would take us back to the days of Tammany Hall. Proposed by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), this is a cynical attempt to create an atwill workforce, without protections of due process or promotional opportunities. In response, I, along with Assemblyman Peter Abbate, have introduced a bill that would give DCAS six months to develop a plan to reduce the number of provisionals within the fiveyear time limit, by coming up with a comprehensive schedule of examinations. It would also further limit the reclassification of jobs into the non-competitive class. Unfortunately, the Senate did not vote on it this session—but we will make it a top priority when we reconvene. Allowing DCAS to proceed with this plan will undermine our merit-based system and turn our backs on the principals of good government. Furthermore, it will deprive thousands of future New Yorkers access to that pathway into the middle class. Diane Savino, a Democrat representing parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island, is the ranking member of the State Senate Civil Service and Pensions Committee. ods potentially used by terrorists” was too broad and violated the lease.

Liable from the Front End Tutrani v. County of Suffolk Decided by: Court of Appeals, June 12 For reasons which still remain unclear, Suffolk County Police Officer Lee Weidl abruptly brought his cruiser from 40 miles per hour to a dead stop in the middle lane of a three-lane road in March 2003. Pamela Tutrani, traveling directly behind Weidl, sharply braked and stopped inches from Weidl. Darlene Maldonado missed the cue, rear-ending Tutrani. After Tutrani sued both Officer Weidl and Maldonado for the damages to her car and won, her jury verdict against both defendants was thrown out by an appellate court. In a victory certain to complicate and expand potential liability for drivingrelated lawsuits in New York, the Court of Appeals reinstated Tutrani’s verdict finding that Officer Weidl’s irrational braking “set into motion an eminently foreseeable chain of events that resulted in the collision.” Although New York law presumes that the person rear-ending a vehicle is at fault, the Court found this did not absolve Officer Weidl, whose role as a catalyst for the accident was independent of whether his car suffered damage. —James McDonald Direct letters to the editor to editor@nycapitolnews.com.


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adjusting to a new job at the most precarious moment in his conference’s recent history. If he really wants to be Senate majority leader for more than a few token months, he should make the case that New Yorkers’ best interests are served by Republicans retaining the majority. Simply presenting themselves as a check on power—though sometimes

ference have been careful not to be too definitive in what kind of legislation they would pass if they get control of the chamber. They have laid out some general ideas, and some specific plans are being developed. Now the Democrats should go public with the details of what New Yorkers would get with them in the majority. With all the talented, fresh voices they have brought to Albany in recent years, laying out a vision for change and reform in New York should be easy for them to do. If they cannot, they do not deserve to take the majority. There is going to be a lot of politics this fall. And though the 2008 legislative session proved to be more productive than many had expected, the 2009 and 2010 sessions should and likely will be time for true legislative debate and negotiating on larger issues, from campaign finance reform to gay marriage to a property tax cap. Clearly, it matters which way things go. The Republicans and Democrats looking to lead the Senate through these crucial debates each owe the voters a full explanation of what their direction is and why that direction is better for New York.

The Republicans and Democrats looking to lead the Senate through these crucial debates each owe the voters a full explanation of what their direction is and why that direction is better for New York. obstructionism can be valuable—is hardly enough of an argument to preserve the status quo. Senate Republicans have years of collective institutional memory, courtesy of their many long-serving members. Laying out a bold, clear agenda with big ideas and specific policy proposals should be easy for them to do. If they cannot, they do not deserve to keep the majority. Senate Democrats have an equal burden. So far, Malcolm Smith and his con-

ODDS&Ends

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*** LAST MONTH

CURRENTLY

LAST MONTH

CURRENTLY

REPUBLICAN 2008 VP NOMINEE

PRICE ON INTRADE

PRICE ON INTRADE

ODDS ON LADBROKES

ODDS ON LADBROKES

Mitt Romney Tim Pawlenty Mike Huckabee Charlie Crist Bobby Jindal Lindsey Graham Rudy Giuliani

20.5 15.8 13.1 N/A N/A 1.9 2.7

5 to 1 6 to 1 10 to 1 N/A N/A 14 to 1 20 to 1

3.5 to 1 7 to 1 9 to 1 11 to 1 9 to 1 17 to 1 51 to 1

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Charlie King discusses his new life outside politics and his interest in running again.

Curse Clinton falls to the 2012 her of Dewey, and may be Senate campaign in the rough, too.

Gov. David Paterson strikes into unfamiliar territory upstate.

ow that the legislative session is over, the battle for the State Senate shifts to individual races. With senators back in their districts, goes the conventional wisdom, the contests will inevitably focus mostly on local issues and on the candidates themselves. This might prove good news for the Republicans, many of whom believe that voters will favor incumbents who have been fixtures of their districts for decades. Or maybe the focus on candidates will favor the new Democratic challengers, who might be able to capitalize on the national political inclination toward change. But though the voters will be electing individual senators in November, they will also be electing pieces of a majority or minority. The Congressional Republicans had their Contract With America in 1994. The Congressional Democrats had their 100Hour Agenda in 2006. Republicans and Democrats alike in the Senate should follow suit. This should be the first priority for Dean Skelos, who has the difficult task of

DEMOCRATIC 2008 VP NOMINEE Hillary Clinton Chuck Hagel Bill Richardson Kathleen Sebelius Joe Biden John Edwards Al Gore

24 14 11.1 9 4.1 3 0.2

LAST MONTH

CURRENTLY

LAST MONTH

CURRENTLY

PRICE ON INTRADE

PRICE ON INTRADE

ODDS ON LADBROKES

ODDS ON LADBROKES

7 to N/A 10 to N/A N/A 10 to 12 to

6 26 13 6 13 13 13

22.1 N/A 8 N/A N/A 3.1 5.2

15.6 12 7.5 7 6.9 5 5

Sign-up for e-mail updates at

1 1 1 1

to to to to to to to

1 1 1 1 1 1 1

www.nycapitolnews.com

**DATA As of July 7, 2008


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OP-ED Skelos Needs to Rebuild the House or Risk Losing the Chamber enator Bruno’s departure from the State Senate offers a unique opportunity for the New York Republican Party to reinvent itself—an opportunity which may be the last one for a generation to reverse the party’s steady decline. As Senator Skelos takes the reigns, he also becomes the leading Republican official in the state, and the only one in a position to take the Party in a new direction. One thing is clear: if he does not reform the Republican Party and its message, Senator Skelos’ tenure

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as Senate majority leader could be one of the shortest on record. We all know the reasons for the ill fortunes of the New York GOP: the failure of former Gov. Pataki and his colleagues to groom a farm team to succeed them; party leaders who sacrificed Republican princiK.T. ples of good govMcFarland ernment and fiscal responsibility for campaign contributions from lobbyists and unions; officials who routinely handed out taxpayers’ dollars to special interest groups to ensure their own reelection; and a national political environment toxic to

all Republicans. While New York voters have little faith in Republicans, they don’t have much faith in the Democrats, either. Poll after poll shows New Yorkers are fed up with both political parties: they think Albany is dysfunctional and the State has been going in the wrong direction for years. And, up until now, they’ve felt powerless to change it. But voters are in a revolutionary mood. Confidence in their elected officials is at an historic low. The presidential election has energized the electorate. A year ago, no one would have predicted Senators McCain and Obama would be their parties’ standard-bearers, or that

An Approach to Fighting Domestic Violence Aggressively BY STATE SEN. RUTH HASSELL-THOMPSON ationwide, one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. The numbers, quite simply, are staggering. In New York State, about 400,000 domestic incidents are reported to police departments each year. In New York City, the NYPD responded to nearly 230,000 violence calls in 2007—more than 600 incidents a day, on average. In response to this, six months ago, Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith (D) asked me to head up the Senate Minority Task Force on Domestic Violence. In addition to Senator Smith, the panel includes Senators Eric Adams, Darrel Aubertine, Neil Breslin, Efrain Gonzalez, Jr., Liz Krueger, Suzi Oppenheimer, Kevin Parker and Eric Schneiderman. The fact that there are upstate and downstate lawmakers on this task force is no accident: Domestic violence is a statewide problem. It touches every town, village, city and region. Our primary objective is to examine the causes and effects of domestic violence, explore policy initiatives, and foster community partnerships, ultimately reducing the number of incidents. An Advisory Committee will collaborate with experts in the field of domestic violence to assist in the development and implementation of our goals. Indeed, we have our work cut out for us. A 2003 Bureau of Justice study found that only 48 percent of all incidents were reported to the police. One of the major issues surrounding domestic violence is the reluctance of victims to seek help. Despite the prevalence of domestic violence programs and service centers and the formation of specialized courts to help such victims,

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these resources are not being utilized to their full potential. Awareness is critical: The more people know about domestic violence, the more victims will seek help and protection. Therefore, public education is a major objective of the Task Force and the Advisory Committee. We also seek to increase the number of Domestic Violence Courts, Integrated Domestic Violence Courts and Family Justice Centers, which will provide a targeted approach to monitoring domestic violence offenders and family issues.

The Task Force has identified a series of domestic violence-related bills in both the Senate and the Assembly, which include but are not limited to: • S.3330-Montgomery/A.2027Robinson, which creates a community services response program • S.3163-Montgomery/A.7237-Paulin, which directs social services districts to contract with non-residential programs for victims to provide outreach and education in high schools • S.3708-Oppenheimer/A.7099O’Donnell, which provides that a victim forced to leave certain housing accommodations shall be deemed to be occupying such accommodations as a primary residence, preventing landlords from forcing out tenants who have to leave rent-controlled homes due to domestic violence • A.2209-Schimminger, which classifies any murder preceded by, and is the product of, a pattern of domestic violence as first-degree murder and lets a jury choose a subsequent sentence of less than life imprisonment • A.2294-Ortiz, which requires physicians, law enforcement personnel and other officials to file domestic violence reports Additionally, we will look to support other measures that have bicameral sponsorship and work on their passage with lawmakers from both political parties. This issue is non-partisan—but it is preventable, if we work together.

On domestic violence legislation, New York lags behind. That needs to change. The Family Justice Center in Brooklyn is a perfect example of what we hope to accomplish. Opened in July 2005, it serves over 1,000 clients a month and coordinates services between the Kings County District Attorney, city and state agencies and 25 community-based organizations, providing a streamlined approach for victims seeking help. As we help the battered, we must also put focus on the batterers and bring them to justice. We also believe that abusers would be better served by participating in support programs that help them understand, manage and redirect their anger. New York lawmakers must also be willing to pass legislation to better protect victims of domestic abuse. Enhanced penalties for incidents in which children witness domestic violence are on the books in 19 states. So are statutes that address victim confidentiality. New York lags behind those 19 states. That needs to change.

Ruth Hassell-Thompson, a Democrat, represents parts of Bronx and Westchester Counties.

two out of the three statewide officials New York voters elected in landslides just 18 months ago would be forced to resign in disgrace. Voters are fed up with politicians who seem to care more about perpetuating themselves in office until they die or are indicted. Senators Obama and McCain are starkly different candidates running on very different platforms, but they are both perceived as serving a higher purpose than their own self-interest. All of a sudden, it seems like anything is possible in politics, in Washington and even in Albany. New York is ripe for change, and the leaders who first champion a reform agenda are the ones who will seize the initiative. There isn’t room for two Reform parties, the party which is not the party of reform is by default the party of the old and corrupt ways. And the old and corrupt ways are exactly what voters are jettisoning as fast as they can. One of the saddest comments on the change of leadership in the State Senate was a sentence at the end of a recent New York Post article: “The change in guard will also likely mean the millions of dollars in state funding and projects Bruno steered to his Albany area district will now go to Long Island if Skelos and the GOP keep the majority.” Is that what elected office in Albany boils down to? That the man who sits at the head of the Grand Old Party in one of the greatest, most powerful states in the Union is thought of as nothing more than a bagman for special interests in his district? No wonder voters are disgusted. The New York GOP is like an old family living in the decrepit mansion the forbearers bought. Nobody has made money in generations. Slowly, but surely, the heirs have been selling off the carpets on the floor, the paintings on the walls, and now the furniture and silverware to stay in the mansion. No one in the current generation has said, “heck, we can’t go on like this. If we don’t do something drastic we’re going to be evicted in another year or two.” But no, we keep hanging on, thinking if we just sell another piece of furniture we can live here a little longer. As majority leader, Senator Skelos has a choice: he can try to sell off the last of the furniture and hope the eviction notice doesn’t come on his watch. Or he can stand tall, throw open the windows to change and start rebuilding the mansion.

welcomes submissions to the op-ed page. A piece should be maximum 650 words long, accompanied by the name and address of the author, and submitted via email to editor@nycapitolnews.com to be considered.


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THE CAPITOL

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THE

JULY 2008

POWERGRID York

691

967

811

342

984

One House Bills

2007

861

2008

* as of July 10

2005

2006

Assembly One-house

h

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d b h hd b

768

621

141

879

760

377 bl

770

890

733

186

2003

2004

699

Signed by Governor

750

963

433

Bills that passed both houses

855

Senate One-house

780

New


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J U LY 2008

23

: Chair Grilled une O’Neill, St. Lawrence County Democratic Committee chair, was named co-chair of the Democratic State Party in 2006, and became the sole chair in April, after Dave Pollack’s resignation. Looking forward to the fall elections, she took some time to reflect on strategies for November, pushing her 62-county effort and her work as chair to increase enrollment, funding, visibility and candidate recruitment. “The only way to eat an elephant,” she said, “is one bite at a time.” What follows is an edited transcript.

cases, the Democratic candidates ran two years ago and came within a whisker of defeating the then-incumbent, and did it without a lot of help from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the State Committee or, frankly, anybody else. Those have now become top-tier races. And now we have the Fossella seat, which is of course in play, and the DCCC has already moved that in the Red-to-Blue column.

J

The Capitol: Did the State Committee’s 62-county party idea come out of Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy? June O’Neill: It partly came out of that, and it partly came out of the fact that I am from an upstate, rural area and know that we have to be strong everywhere in order to keep winning elections. I think it’s the unique role of the party to be concerned with races all the way up and down the ballot. TC: St. Lawrence County is so much different from Erie County, from the Bronx. With Democrats hoping to gain the majority in the State Senate by winning seats in so many corners of the state, how will the party remain unified? JO: We’re really one state. In another life, I was part of Mario Cuomo’s cabinet, and I was director of the Office of Rural Affairs. It was the first cabinet-level office of its kind in the country, and I know that it’s not that the problems are different necessarily between urban and rural areas. It’s that the solutions need to be different. TC: Do you think those differences might lead to party infighting over legislation?

JO: I don’t know that it’s necessarily infighting on the legislation. The problem is that in a state as large and diverse as New York, one size does not fit all. The trick is that making sure that when we look at legislation, that we’re concerned about the fact that it’s going to have the intended effect everywhere. So, for example, in my county, whenever a law or regulation is passed that says, “in order to do this, you must go over there,” whether it’s the motor vehicle bureau or for unemployment insurance, it immediately becomes a problem for large areas of the state where there isn’t public transit. There are different challenges in different parts of the state, and I think, frankly, that as Democrats we do a better job of being mindful of those challenges. TC: Are there any elections in New York that you think are particularly interesting, that perhaps others have not been paying as much attention to? JO: At the Congressional level, we have the Tom Reynolds and the Jim Walsh seats that are open, and in both of those

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TC: Sen. Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic nomination. Has the absence of a New Yorker in the White House made Washington ignore or more slowly respond to New York’s needs or issues? JO: Hillary is still our junior senator, and of course we have Chuck Schumer as our senior senator. It’s very hard to ignore one, never mind both, of them when they are strongly advocating on our behalf. And they’ve done a terrific job in spite of the fact that we’ve had a deaf ear in the White House in the past eight years.

think we established that I was the first person from St. Lawrence County to ever have been a member of the Electoral College. It was really an honor, coming from such a rural part of the state, and I understand that I’m only the second person from a rural county to ever chair the state party. … It’s just that in recent years because of the disputed results of the presidential elections the role has been highlighted. The same is with the superdelegate role. TC: Your former co-chair, David Pollack, resigned from that position in early April. How did your duties, or the duties of the state chair, change? JO: The duties have changed to the extent of event coverage. Dave graciously volunteered to be our new voter outreach coordinator. And he’s still a very good Democrat. We’re still working together on voter outreach, because that’s critical. This is going to be a tight presidential race nationwide. We obviously have to do our part. We’re also in a strong position to help other states by sending volunteers, perhaps into Pennsylvania, to do some voter registration. We’ve had lots of people in New York volunteer to do phone calls into other states. They did it in the primary, and they’ll do it in the general election, as well. New York has a critical role to play, and we need to make sure that our base, our new Democrats and the people who are just sick and tired of the mess that the Bush administration has gotten us into are going to get out to the polls and translate to help all of those downballot races which are so critical.

“The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.” TC: Are there any issues with a specific impact on New York State that you think should be addressed by Congress or the next president? JO: Well, I think they absolutely have to do something about energy. And I think the issue that Pat Moynihan brought to the floor, the fact that historically New York State has paid more in federal taxes than we’ve received back in aid. TC: Who do you see as some of the upand-coming leaders within the party? JO: We have people from all over the state. For example, Long Island, which used to be solidly Republican, we’ve got the legislatures, we’ve got both county executives. This past November, we picked up a lot in Dutchess County—I believe we have the legislature there for the first time in 40 years. We elected a district attorney right in Rensselaer County, which is Joe Bruno’s home county, over his hand-picked candidate. In Monroe County, we’re now within one seat of taking the legislature. TC: There has been a lot of debate about preserving the Electoral College. You were an elector in 2004 and will be again this year. Has the experience of being on the inside of that process changed your views of it? JO: It really didn’t. It was very exciting. I

TC: Are there any differences in the way the office is being run now, with only one person at the top as opposed to two? JO: Well, Dave’s title was co-chair, but according to the party rules, we were not co-chairs. So, in terms of administration and so forth, no, there isn’t any administrative change. It’s mostly a function of being able to be in two places at one time, and so forth. Dave is still, as I said, a volunteer helping us with new voter outreach and actively involved with the blogs and helping to get our Facebook up—I’m on Facebook. TC: Are you a Facebook addict? JO: I was an addict the minute that I signed up for it. There’s so much going on right now between the elections and the convention—they’re totally consuming us. I get my Facebook messages on my Blackberry. —Susan Campriello scampriello@manhattanmedia.com Direct letters to the editor to editor@nycapitolnews.com.


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The November 18, 2010 Issue of The Capitol