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Carl Kruger explains himself.

Buffalo’s Canadian future begins to take shape.

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VOL. 1, NO. 12

Dan Maffei considers where he is headed.

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DECEMBER 2008

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Battle for Long Island After decades of Republican dominance, Democrats have the old stronghold in the crosshairs—and it may tip the balance of power in New York for good Manhattan Media 79 Madison Avenue, 16th Floor New York, NY 10016

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Anatomy of a Senate Renegade

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Carl Kruger explains his rebellion, and himself By Andrew J. HAwkins

daniel s. burnstein

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or someone who is causing such a big commotion, State Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn) occupies a very small office. The room is roughly eight by eight feet. There is a picture on a bookshelf of Kruger smiling with Bill Clinton, a bust of John F. Kennedy, various letters scattered across his computer-less desk, two purple chairs for visitors and room for little else except Kruger’s stockiness. While talking about the roots of his insurrection in the Senate, Kruger comes off as equal parts charming, selfdeprecating, angry and disappointed. His eyes can go wide behind gold-colored frames and his voice high-pitched when he is being particularly emphatic. He is used to being the punching bag, the pariah, the odd man out, Kruger said. But he also relishes his role as the leader of the gang of renegade senators who have thrown the leadership of the Senate into turmoil and capped what was already one of the most tumultuous years in New York political history. This is all, he said, part of the plan. “A good sea captain for 90 percent of his journey never sees land,” he said, “but always knows where he’s going.” Jabbing a thick finger at his desk, Kruger said his colleagues should have seen this rebellion brewing. Kruger, along with his fellow agents of chaos Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr. (D-Bronx) and Senator-elect Pedro Espada, Jr. (D-Bronx), have been involved in a weeks-long battle of wills with Senate Democratic Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) that has enraged many of their colleagues, confused others, delighted Republicans and captivated political circles across the state. “This is not new,” he said. “People want to make this out to be a power grab. A food fight. An opportunity to gain some traction. This is a well-thought-out lifetime commitment by somebody who has always walked against the wind.” Kruger defended his method of extracting leadership positions and promises of rule changes from Smith in exchange for loyalty. “This is a barter system,” he said.

Sen. Carl Kruger is unapologetic about standing in the way of an orderly transition for the Democrats. “There will be trade-offs.” And yet while he engaged in closeddoor meetings that centered on an apparent quid pro quo for him and his fellow dissidents, Kruger still talks of reforming the political system by throwing open the windows and casting sunlight on the process. Kruger’s roots are in the political shops of Anthony “Big Tony” Genovese and Stanley Fink, both former Assembly Democrats and allies of old-school Brooklyn Party Boss Meade Esposito. As assistant director of member services in the Assembly, Kruger said he was adept at picking up long-held Republican seats for Democrats. After years of running other people’s campaigns, he won his own in a 1994 special election for Senate. Once elected, Kruger said, he sought out ways to buck the system. Newly elected Gov. George Pataki (R), who ran and won on his promise to restore the death penalty in New York, sent a bill to the legislature as one of his first acts as governor. Even though Kruger’s political mentors were staunchly opposed to the death penalty, he voted for the bill, explaining it was what his right-leaning constituents wanted. “That sort of set up my maverick status,” he said. “I wasn’t going to do what I was told, but I was going to do what I thought was the right thing.” In 2002, Kruger fought to prevent the redrawing of his district to include more minority communities. He characterized the reapportionment as an effort to pencil him out of his own district, but he declined to assign blame to any one party. “They thought they had an opportunity

“This is a barter system,” Kruger said. “There will be trade-offs.”

to extract their pound of flesh, and there’s quite a few pounds,” he said, looking down at his protruding stomach. Kruger went to Pataki and thenSenate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Rensselaer) and struck a deal that would keep his district intact (and mainly white). Kruger maintained a beneficial relationship with the Republican majority over the years, endorsing Pataki and other Republicans over their Democratic opponents. While his colleagues languished in the minority, Kruger was given the chairmanship of the social services committee. This year’s election put Kruger in a spot. With registered Democrats in 32 of the 62 seats in the Senate, he either had to make a move or risk the wrath of his resentful colleagues. He dismissed the idea that his power play was more out of self-preservation than a desire for real reform, citing the hundreds of thousands of dollars he has given to his fellow Democrats as proof of his loyalty. “I think what’s happened here is good for everybody,” he said. “If anybody’s upset, it’s because they think somebody is muscling in on their territory.” But Democrats were also in a bind. They needed Kruger to solidify their control of the chamber. Plus, Kruger’s popularity in his district and his $1.7 million war chest made him a difficult target for a primary challenge. Still, many were left wondering why progressive groups like the Working Families Party went after Sens. John Sabini (D-Queens) and Martin Connor (D-Manhattan/Brooklyn), both of whom were reliable Democratic votes, instead of Kruger, whose role as a troublemaker for the Democrats hoping to take power is hardly surprising. Some theorize that the WFP’s presence in his district, which

consists of ultra-orthodox Jews and rightleaning Russian immigrants, would only have bolstered Kruger’s position. And if he was challenged and still managed to win, Kruger would have been even more resentful than he is now. For his part, Kruger is unapologetic about standing in the way of an orderly transition for the Democrats. He also feels that the economic crisis has afforded him a special opportunity to force the Democrats to concede to his demands for reform. “I was so committed and I felt so strongly about what we could accomplish here, I didn’t care if we closed down government, because sometimes you have to take drastic steps when you’re trying to make drastic changes,” he said. As far as drastic goes, Kruger talks of destroying the old partisan divides, allowing Republicans to chair committees in a Democratic chamber and reseating the Senate in alphabetical order. In deference to Espada and Diaz, he says he wants more Hispanic lawmakers in leadership positions. But what he can actually accomplish now that the deal with Smith is suspended, and perhaps dead, is unclear. Before the deal vanished, Kruger was looking forward to chairing a more powerful Finance Committee. He said he wanted to make the redistricting process less vengeful. Campaign finance reform was on his list too. He was not thinking so much of running for Brooklyn borough president as he once was. Even though he appears to enjoy the attention all this has brought him, Kruger says he tries to remain modest, which has been difficult given his central position in the upheaval. “The Krugers come and go, they don’t mean anything,” he said, flashing a gaptoothed smile. “What matters is the system. And the system has to work.” ahawkins@nycapitolnews.com


DECEMBER 2008

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SCOTT WILLIAMS

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Joseph Addabbo and Hiram Monserrate are about to increase the number of New York City Council members turned state senators to nine, and many of the veterans already there are saying they hope to turn the Senate experience into something more like the jobs they once had on the Council.

State Senate Pros Welcome Two More Council Rookies to Albany With expanded squad, hopes raised for New York City-style reforms BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS his January, the number of state senators who got their starts in the New York City Council will swell to nine. Those senators who made the leap years ago say they are looking forward to showing the newest members, Joseph Addabbo and Hiram Monserrate, both Democrats from Queens, how to navigate the halls of the Capitol and to help them quickly acclimate to a new legislative body that has much different rules and customs than the more transparent, less partisan Council. But Addabbo’s and Monserrate’s experiences will be unique, presuming Senate Democrats can hold onto the majority. Bills will be easier to pass. Committee chairmanships will be up for grabs. In fact, they may find the experience not unlike their time on the City Council.

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“They will come in as chairs, they will come in as the majority,” said Sen. Bill Perkins (D-Manhattan), who had eight years as a Council member under his belt prior to being elected to the Senate. “They will come in with a greater opportunity to be effective.” In addition to Perkins, former Council members turned senators include José Serrano (D-Bronx), Martin Malavé Dilan (D-Brooklyn), Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island), Thomas Duane (D-Manhattan) and Ruben Diaz, Sr. (D-Bronx). (The odd club has two other members: Larry Seabrook (D), who served on both the Assembly and Senate before being elected to the New York City Council in 2001, and Senator-elect Pedro Espada, Jr. (D), who served on the Senate for three terms before being elected to finish out Diaz’s term on the Council, which he held for less than a year.)

There will of course be a few shocks and disappointments for the new members. Serrano, who served on the City Council for three years before defeating Sen. Olga Mendez (R-Bronx) in 2004, said he misses being on the Council, where he was in the majority party and chaired his own committee. Council members would often split up by borough or ethnicity to debate certain issues or comb through the budget with finance staff, Serrano recalled. “I was disappointed to then go to the Senate and not see any of that,” he said. Serrano’s concerns about a lack of transparency and inclusiveness were echoed by many of his Democratic colleagues. Under 40 years of Republican rule, Democrats have largely been unable to chair committees or bring bills to the floor without a member of the majority as a sponsor.


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THE CAPITOL Another difference between the two chambers is the clear and often bitter divide between parties. Some Democrats recalled being shocked by the blatant partisanship of the Senate coming from the Council, where their party controlled every seat save a few. “I was kind of taken aback by the dysfunction of how the body worked,” said Duane, who served for seven years on the City Council. Duane said Addabbo and Monserrate will be integral in the coming months as the new Democratic majority looks to change the way Albany does business. “Being on the City Council, you’re sort of on the frontlines everyday you’re there,” Duane said. “That immediacy those new members will be bringing to the Senate is actually very good because we have some problems we have to deal with right away.” Taking their cue in part from how the New York City Council operates, the Council veteran Democrats have vowed to improve the way the Senate does business by making the process more open and themselves more accountable. They want to rework the committee process to make them more relevant and lift the old restrictions on who can bring bills to the floor for a vote, empowering rank-and-file members in ways never seen before. But come January, the new senators by way of Council will face a much different legislative pro-

cess. In the Council, legislation is generally written by Speaker Christine Quinn’s (D-Manhattan) central staff, while in Albany, bills are often produced by the Legislative Bill Drafting Commission, a group of lawyers and other staff appointed by the leaders of the Assembly and Senate and charged with drafting bills and amendments. “You have more independence in that sense,” said Dilan, who served on the City Council for 10 years before being elected to the Senate in 2002. “But the process in

December 2008



“When I was in the City Council,” Serrano said, “I was Johnny-on-the-spot in my district. Here I am in the Senate with a district three times as big, and I’m limited to how much I can do because Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I’m up in Albany.” But for Addabbo, the prospects of more time away from his district, different legislative rules and a heightened sense of partisanship have not soured the deal. The soon-to-be senator beat 20-year incumbent Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Queens) in a race that was widely seen as the victory that sent Democrats into the majority. The opportunity to make decisions that affect the whole state is exciting, Addabbo said, as is the chance to work out of a Senate chamber that is a bit more ornate than the Council’s, which is desperately in need of a renovation, with peeling paint on the ceiling and worn, almost transparent curtains hanging on the windows. “City Hall fit to me like an old shoe,” Addabbo said. “But am I going to miss the chipped paint on the ceiling or the worn-out curtains and rugs? I don’t know.” Monserrate, who was briefly involved with a group of dissident senators looking to stall the leadership vote, said he felt his time on the Council has adequately prepared him for the challenges ahead. “Having seven years on the City Council in New York,” he said, “prepares you for any legislative body.” ahawkins@nycapitolnews.com

“Here I am in the Senate with a district three times as big, and I’m limited to how much I can do because Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I’m up in Albany,”said State Sen. José Serrano

Triggering a New Definition of Attempted Murder People v. Naradzay

Decided by: Court of Appeals, Nov. 21 In February 2004, Jason Naradzay wrote out a “to-do” list detailing his plan to break into a home and kill a Syracuse woman, her husband and their three kids. The woman, who Naradzay met on vacation, had recently informed Naradzay that she no longer wanted to see him, finding the frequency of their “chance” encounters to be suspicious. Naradzay’s to-do list laid out eight steps to complete the crime: (1) “pick up 7:00,” … (7) “make children look ... ” (8) “final shot!” On the night of Feb. 5, Naradzay purchased a gun with a check that later bounced, borrowed a car and drove toward the woman’s home, following the steps on his list. Unsure precisely where the woman lived, Naradzay parked his car and walked down the woman’s street. At this point Naradzay, who long suffered from bipolar disorder, began to reconsider killing the woman and considered suicide. Meanwhile, a passing motorist noticed Naradzay with a shotgun and immediately called the police. When a deputy arrived, he found Naradzay in the street just east of the woman’s home with the gun now leaning against a snowbank. Thinking Naradzay had called the police, the deputy asked if he was the complainant and Naradzay responded: “I’m not the complainant, but I have a complaint to report. I have mental problems.” When the police found the to-do list, Naradzay was arrested, charged with attempted murder and robbery, and, eventually, convicted.

Albany needs to be more transparent.” Some Council members turned senators said they felt more involved in the budget process in the Council than in the Senate. The “three men in the room” dynamic largely excludes rank-and-file members from that process, they say. While they acknowledged the benefit of having larger districts, more staff and more money to dole out to community groups, some senators complained about feeling more removed from their districts while in Albany.

Naradzay appealed to New York’s highest court, arguing that his behavior that night did not reach the level of “attempt” under New York Penal Law. After all, Naradzay stated he was also considering killing himself that night and, when caught, was standing in the middle of the street unarmed. The Court of Appeals, over two dissenting justices, disagreed—this was attempted murder. The Court, pointing to the to-do list, said there comes a point when it is “too late in the stage of preparation for the law to conclude that no attempt occurred.” The ruling broadly expands the meaning of attempt in the law: after all, had Naradzay fired the gun and missed the woman by one inch, he would be guilty of the same crime.

Broken Back Ruling Will Help Shield Undocumented Workers Coque v. Wildflower Estate Developers

Decided by: Appellate Division, Second Department, Nov. 12 Luis Coque left Ecuador in 2000 and entered the United States as an undocumented immigrant. While he probably never considered New York employment law as a factor before settling here, his decision to choose New York allows him to survive today. In July 2001, while working on a condominium, a bundle of shingles weighing 80 pounds slid off a roof and struck Coque in the back. The impact caused the scaffolding on which Coque was standing to collapse, and he fell 25 feet. He broke his back, rendering him paraplegic.

barred where an innocent employer is duped by an undocumented worker into believing the worker is legal.

Blacking Out the Legislature’s Role in Reading Knowledge or Consent into Law

Kopsachilis v. 130 East 18 Owners Corp. After Coque won a negligence lawsuit against Wildflower Developers, his employer, for his injuries and back pay, Wildflower appealed. The company argued that since Coque was an illegal alien, he was not entitled to lost wages under the Federal Immigration Reform and Control Act (they even argued this status barred damages for his injury). Indeed, in 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court held that undocumented aliens were not entitled to back pay if they submitted fraudulent documents to their employer. But the New York court felt such a result was unjust. In a ruling certain to shield undocumented workers from unscrupulous employers, the Appellate Division sided with Coque and ruled that a worker does not forfeit his rights to lost earning by virtue of being an undocumented worker. Since Wildflower knew that Coque was an undocumented worker and failed to fulfill the company’s own verification duties under federal law, the court saw no reason to distinguish between Coque and his employer—both broke the law. The court said Wildflower “should not be rewarded for its failure to comply with federal immigration law,” and that recovery is only

Decided by: Court of Appeals, Dec. 2 When Northeast Blackout of 2003 darkened New York City, Christine Kopsachilis, a commuter, stayed with her friend in the city, unable to return home. The building owners offered to escort residents up and down the stairs, if they requested assistance. In the morning, Kopsachilis, who did not call for a flashlight escort, headed down the windowless fire stairs, missed a landing, fell and was injured. Alleging that the building owners violated New York Dwelling Law that “[e]very light in every fire-stair . . . shall be kept burning continuously,” Kopsachilis sued for her injuries. After the lower courts found that fire stairs were required to be continuously illuminated, the Court of Appeals reversed, throwing out Kopsachilis’ suit. It did so by reading a “knowledge or consent” requirement into the law: “Defendants here obviously did not ‘consent’ to the blackout that darkened the staircase in which plaintiff fell. They therefore have no liability under Multiple Dwelling Law § 37.” Turning against the plain meaning of the statute, New York’s highest court steps into the Legislature’s domain with a bit of twisted logic—after all, how often does one consent to a light bulb burning out? —James McDonald


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DECEMBER 2008

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For Buffalo’s Future, Western New Yorkers Look to Canadian Connection Hopes emerge that Bills playing in Toronto will help Ontario change the game for region BY KAREN ZRAICK

plans to expand its capacity have been flummoxed by complicated negotiations for over 20 years. “Here you are, the busiest northern border crossing, and 50 percent of the time you’re down to one lane of traffic,” said Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Erie/Chatauqua). “With the Peace Bridge, because it’s been so congested for such a long period of time, the mindset in Buffalo and West New York is to avoid a cross-border trip at all costs unless you absolutely have to. It’s the wrong message to be sending.” That political and logistic bottleneck has long frustrated local officials and residents—but many are hoping that a new federal administration will mean a fresh approach to managing the northern border, which is often forgotten in the emotional debate over immigration and security on the U.S.-Mexico border. “I think there’s going be a whole new approach to the way we run our borders,” said Maryscott Greenwood, executive

he Buffalo Bills will play their first regular season home game in Toronto this month, marking a new chapter in a long history of links between the economies of Western New York and Ontario. To observers, the team’s efforts to build a fan base in a city so close and prosperous is smart business—as it stands, Canadians make up 15 to 20 percent of the crowd at home games. And since Toronto is a regional destination, the team expects American fans to take up some of the 46,000 seats at Toronto’s Rogers Centre. But in a situation that seems somewhat symbolic of the connection between the cities in recent decades, traffic jams could stymie the binational football fervor. The Peace Bridge, which links Buffalo and Ontario, has only three lanes of traffic in either direction and has been jammed on game days. It was the busiest U.S.-Canada border crossing over the last six months, but

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In Buffalo and Beyond, “This was a test of how Democrats can perform and in some of these Republican districts,” Thompson Western New York’s Political compete said. “We were within striking distance, within five or six points in all the races.” Future Also in Question But many attributed Democratic gains to “the Obama estern New York was flush with political cash and attention last election day, leading many to expect upsets in local races. But there were few surprises once the votes were tallied, as Democrats struggled to make significant inroads in heavily Republican rural areas. Democrats were especially disappointed by Joe Mesi’s loss to Michael Ranzenhofer for the State Senate seat of retiring Sen. Mary Lou Rath (R-Erie/Genesee). Mesi, a former heavyweight boxer, was crippled by lukewarm support from local Democrats after a bruising primary, despite major attention from the Senate Democratic conference. Even a reported $700,000 cash infusion from Rochester billionaire Thomas Golisano did not help put him over the top in the heavily Republican district. Less of a surprise was Alice Kryzan’s loss to local businessman Christopher Lee for the seat of Rep. Thomas Reynolds (R-Erie). Kryzan edged out two opponents in a divisive and scandal-ridden primary, and was significantly outspent in the general election. There were a couple of notable Democratic wins: Eric Massa narrowly beat Rep. John “Randy” Kuhl (RCattargus/Allegany/Steuben), with financial help from Golisano. Republicans had held the seat since the Civil War. And for retiring Rep. James Walsh’s (R-Wayne/ Onondaga) seat, Democrat Dan Maffei defeated county legislator Dale Sweetland to win a seat that had been in Republican hands for almost 30 years. “The Democrats didn’t have a bad year,” said Kevin Hardwick, a political scientist at Canisius College. “They just didn’t have as good a year as they did in other places.” State Sen. Antoine Thompson (D-Erie) said he believes local Democrats have the momentum to take two or three more Senate seats in the next four years, and noted that most Democrats who lost last November did so by narrow margins.

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effect.” “[Upstate Democrats] rode a massive surf wave in, with Barack Obama at the top of it,” said Paula Snyder, chairwoman of the Cattaraugus County Republican Committee. In the long-term view, the area’s political demographics are changing. Western New York’s cities have long been Democratic, while rural areas tend to be solidly Republican. But Democrats are gaining ground as longtime party members from Buffalo and other big cities migrate to the suburbs, diversifying districts that were once solidly red. Coupled with the

Dems were hopeing Joe Mesi could pull off a win upstate, but he lost badly.

Democrats’ statewide gains on Election Day, this has some local Republicans worried that they may not be able to hold other seats or win some of the lost ones back. “Our work is cut out for us,” said Henry Wojtaszek, the Niagara County Republican committee chair, who cited candidate recruitment as the number-one priority going into the next election cycle. Other Republicans interviewed said that sticking to a clear message of job creation and lower taxes will help the party maintain their ground. The GOP must act quickly, Hardwick said, or they could lose a lot more ground once districts are redrawn following the 2010 census. Golisano’s organization, Responsible New York, had put money behind both Republican and Democratic candidates. Observers expect the group to play a significant role in the next cycle. State Sen. William Stachowski (D-Erie), another major recipient of Golisano’s funds, successfully fended off a challenge from celebrity cold-case detective Dennis Delano. Under the leadership deal that fell through, though, Stachowski would have been denied the chairmanship of the Finance Committee that he had been expecting in exchange for being named deputy majority leader. Whatever leadership deal is ultimately struck, including one with a senator from outside New York City—and likely from Western New York—in a senior position will likely remain a priority. And with ambitious politicians sizing up the chances of being appointed to Hillary Clinton’s (D) Senate seat, there have been calls for Gov. David Paterson (D) to pick someone from Western New York like Buffalo mayor Byron Brown (D) or Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Erie/ Chautauqua). Hardwick said such an appointment would help the Democrats make more inroads in Western New York in future elections. “It would blunt Republicans’ criticism that Democrats only care about New York City and downstate interests,” Hardwick said. —Karen Zraick


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director of the Canadian American Business Council. But with Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) nominated as homeland security secretary and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D) nominated as secretary of state, Greenwood is feeling optimistic. Napolitano took a pragmatic approach to border management, Greenwood said, while Clinton has a deep understanding of the issues facing Western New York. That could make a big difference for the area: Canada and the U.S. are each other’s largest trading partners, moving approximately $1.5 billion worth of goods across the border each week, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. But many in the business community say a one-size-fits-all approach to border management—along with inadequate infrastructure— has hindered cross-border trade and tourism. “We’re dealing with pre-NAFTA infrastructure in a post-NAFTA world,” said Stuart Johnston, vice president for policy and government relations at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “Border crossings are economic lifelines, but all too often they become the chokepoints of our economy.” Experts say Western New York’s best hope is a diversified economy built on services, tourism and banking. Manufacturing has been in decline since the 1950s; the population of Buffalo has been steadily decreasing since then. The city has fared even worse than other Rust

Belt towns like Pittsburgh and Detroit, said Peter Lombardi, a policy analyst at the University at Buffalo’s Regional Institute. But Lombardi cautioned against exaggerating the city’s much-chronicled decline. Jobs have remained steady, as manufacturing losses have been offset by growth in health, human services and education, though those sectors do not offer the same wages manufacturing once did. The local economy has become somewhat dependent on Canadian consumers, with the burgeoning and relatively prosperous population of

to ensure both safety and efficiency. But balancing security and business concerns, as well as accommodating both freight and passenger traffic, has been a challenge. Higgins had strongly supported a proposal for Shared Border Management, a scenario in which both U.S. and Canadian customs operations would have been based on the Canadian side of the border, in order to expedite crossings. Despite strong support for the proposal in Western New York, the Department of Homeland Security shelved the plan in April 2007 when negotiations for security clearance procedures reached an impasse. Higgins and Sen. Charles Schumer (D) have said they doubt the plan will be revived, and a Government Accountability Office report on the negotiations released last September concluded that there were irreconcilable differences between U.S. and Canadian border protocols. There was a grab bag of sticking points, from differences between the Canadian and American constitutions and laws concerning gun control to disagreements on fingerprinting visitors and other matters. However, Rep. Louise Slaughter (DNiagara/Erie/Orleans) and some locals continue to hope that the plan will be revived or tweaked to become a viable option again. “I think that the prospects are very good,” Slaughter said. “I’ve talked

“Let’s move ahead with this already,” said Andrew Rudnick, the BuffaloNiagara Partnership CEO. southern Ontario drawn to Western New York by considerably lower sales taxes and close proximity. But easing passage from one country to another is spectacularly complicated, given the dozens of agencies and levels of government that are involved. Crossborder trade was severely affected by tightened security concerns after the Sept. 11 attacks, said Andrew Rudnick, president and CEO of the BuffaloNiagara Partnership, a regional chamber of commerce. In the years since, local, regional and national governments have been in talks to revise security measures

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to people in the Federal Highway Administration and they are very interested in it, as well as other people from Homeland Security.” Slaughter also noted Clinton’s support for the proposal, which she said was “unilaterally” dashed by outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. Having the customs operations in Canada might make the bridge more palatable in Buffalo, where under the current plan some homes in a historic waterfront district would be razed to build an entrance plaza to the new crossing. At the end of the day, there is not even a finalized design yet for the Peace Bridge; the Federal Highway Administration rejected the latest blueprint because the soaring heights of the bridge could endanger migratory birds. The plans are being revised and will then be put before the cities of Buffalo and Fort Erie, Ontario, and the Public Bridge Authority for final approval, Higgins said. From there, the decision would move to the Federal Highway Administration, which could green-light the project within the next six months. Construction could begin in late 2009 and be completed in four to five years. “Let’s move ahead with this already,” said Rudnick, the Buffalo-Niagara Partnership CEO. “It’s been a political issue for the last nine years. We’re certainly hopeful that it will be brought to the forefront given the delay.” Direct letters to the editor to editor@nycapitolnews.com




December 2008

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ISSUE FORUM: TelecommuNicaTioNs

Next Generation Telecommunications Offer Unique Challenges By AssemBly memBer Audrey Pheffer

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ew technologies, such as high-speed internet, fiber optic television and digital telephone services now offer consumers remarkably fast, reliable access to voice and television networks and the internet. Consumer should be aware, however, that switching communications service providers, or upgrading their service with their current provider, can, in some instances, lead to problems in the future. The latest telecommunications technology uses advanced fiber optic networks to deliver television, telephone and high-speed internet services to customers. In New York State, Verizon has begun offering fiber optic communications service under the moniker FiOS. According to published reports and company spokespersons, upon installation of FiOS service in neighborhoods with overhead wiring,

a portion of the traditional copper wiring connecting the customer’s house to the

wiring above the street is removed. Since many telephone and internet service providers rely on copper wires to provide their service to consumers, the removal of this wiring may limit a consumer’s ability to switch to another provider. According to published statements issued by Verizon spokespersons, the company offers homeowners the option of leaving their connection to the existing copper network in place. Furthermore, in the event that a new resident desires copper-based telecommunications service, or an existing FiOS customer would like their copper restored, the company will restore the wiring without charge. Lastly, the company states that FiOS contracts contain a disclosure stating that the installation procedure may affect a customer’s ability to receive other services. As with any agreement, it is important to read the terms and conditions carefully before signing on the dotted line.

It is also important to be fully aware of any potential limitations associated with a new product or service. Some telecommunications technologies, for example, lack safety features consumers often take for granted. Some voice over internet protocol, or VoIP, telephone services lack Enhanced 911 (E911) functionality. E911 systems automatically transmit a caller’s number and location information to emergency service personnel. Consumers should be sure to ask VoIP providers whether they will be able to take advantage of the advanced functions of E911, and realize that, in the event of a power outage, VoIP phones and phones connected to a fiber optic network without a backup power supply may not work. Audrey Pheffer, a Democrat representing parts of Queens, chairs the Assembly Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee.

Advancing Universal Broadband Initiatives Throughout New York State By dr. melodie mAyBerry-stewArt

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id you know? in New York State 48 percent of households are not high-speed internet subscribers. There is little disagreement as to the important role the internet plays in our everyday lives and in the nation’s leadership in technological and economic initiatives. However, the reality is millions of Americans have no universal access to fast, reliable and affordable broadband. So this begs the question: how do we keep the nation and New York State on the cutting edge of technology while bridging the cyberspace divide that is still prevalent throughout New York and beyond? And what steps does New York need to take to expand access to broadband services for all New Yorkers from prosperous suburbs to disadvantaged urban and rural neighborhoods? Our global economy is becoming more competitive every day. For New York State to thrive, we need to become more competitive, more productive and more efficient. One key component for a thriving environment is to ensure access to high-speed broadband for everyone. However, for many, broadband service is inaccessible and unaffordable. U.S. broadband service is two times more expensive than China, eight times more expensive than South Korea and 30 times more expensive than Japan. Under the leadership of Governor David Paterson, the Office of the Chief

Information Officer and the Office for Technology (CIO/OFT) are working to ensure there is affordable, universal broadband access to all communities. Thanks to a unique partnership between New York State agencies, private companies, academia and nonprofit groups in New York, the State is making strides toward the goal of ensuring every New Yorker has access to high-speed broadband service. The strategic goals of New York’s broadband initiative are designed to accelerate the use of the state’s online e-government services offered through the internet for citizens, businesses and visitors; create jobs through innovative community-based digital literacy and technology training programs; and ultimately close the digital divide by increasing digital literacy levels in unserved and underserved urban and rural communities. Strategic oversight for the broadband program is performed by the NYS Council for Universal Broadband. The 28 members of the council represent state and local government, libraries, municipal associations, economic development groups, industry associations, as well as secondary and higher education institutions that have come together out of a shared vision to improve the economic vitality of New York’s communities and to create a strong digital economy. New York State’s Universal Broadband

Initiative is comprised of five “Action Teams” formed to work on various aspects of the broadband strategy—broadband network infrastructure access, digital literacy and community outreach, egovernment applications for low-income households, economic development and IT workforce development, and government policy initiatives. Each Action Team has specific goals, deliverables and performance success measures to help New York reach our ultimate goals. These Action Teams are one of the most effective ways to optimize the talent and resources. The teams are inclusive and we welcome new members. To further our broadband strategic goals, the state’s broadband initiative has a grant component. In March 2008, Governor

Paterson awarded grants totaling $5 million to winning public/private partnerships. These grants will be used to increase accessibility to broadband services and to increase digital literacy in towns, cities and counties in urban and rural underserved or unserved communities throughout New York State. The need for increased access to affordable high-speed internet technology is vital to our global competitiveness. There is still much work to be done. CIO/OFT will continue to educate state and federal legislators on broadband initiatives and advocate for the development and adoption of broadband policies at the state and federal level to remain competitive. The state’s Universal Broadband Initiative will have an effect on government and our society, and will foster economic development impacting New York State’s economy. If we achieve this vision, we have a vibrant future in rural and urban areas alike. Under Governor Paterson’s direction, together with our committed partners, we have the power to jumpstart economic growth, create new jobs and improve the quality of life for our citizens by removing all remaining barriers to the “digital have-nots” still prevalent in New York State. Melodie Mayberry-Stewart is the state’s chief information officer and the director of the Office of Technology.

The Publication for and about New York State Government www.nycapitolnews.com


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December 2008

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ISSUE FORUM: TelecOmmUnicaTiOns

We Can Avoid Stumbling Blocks To Transition from Analog to Digital

By Rep. eliot engel

O The Capitol and City Hall are seeking a knowledgeable

sales executive.

Due to our tremendous growth over the past 12 months we are seeking to expand our team. Prior sales experience and knowledge of New York City & State politics is a plus. Compensation includes base salary depending on level of experience, commissions as well as bonus opportunities. Benefits include 401k, health & dental. Only serious candidates need apply.

Please send rĂŠsumĂŠ and cover letter as a PDF or Word document format only to aschweitzer@manhattanmedia.com. No phone calls or faxes please.

cityhallnews.com

nycapitolnews.com

n Feb. 18, 2009, the United States will make the transition from analog to digital television. This changeover will free up valuable wireless spectrum and offer the nation many exciting benefits: Television pictures will become more clear and crisp, electronics and wireless companies will provide innovations to consumers and first responders will be able to get new interoperable radios and communicators. However, in our research into the transition, we have found a number of potential stumbling blocks that need to be addressed. It is critical that everybody who owns a television be informed about the transition. It is not easy to inform 300 million Americans of such a momentous change. That is why I wrote the Digital Television Consumer Education Act, to provide money to tell people about the change. And with the assistance of broadcasters, cable companies, nonprofits and government notices, we are well on our way to reaching everybody. We also have to tell people how to set up for the transition, what to buy, and about the government voucher program to buy the needed equipment. But, even if people know that it is coming, we also have to make sure that they know how to set up their TVs for digital broadcasts. That is a huge challenge, and it will require education as well. My district presents special challenges for the transition. In the Bronx, we have high-rise apartment and condominium buildings that require a powerful signal to reach inside, while in Rockland and Westchester Counties we have a more

suburban area. Making sure that every one of my constituents is informed of the transition and the deadline will be one of my highest priorities in the next two months. Wilmington, North Carolina, was a valuable test case for the country. Wilmington agreed to shut off their analog signal on Sept. 8, 2008. In this test, we discovered that although an increasing number of consumers are aware that the transition will occur, they still lack information on how to purchase and set up a digital converter. Knowing this, we can include that information in our educational outreach. We must also make sure that people will be able to watch television even in case of an emergency. In disaster situations, television broadcasts can be critical for the survival of many people. For example, my constituents live not far from Indian Point, a nuclear power plant. In case of an emergency at the plant, everyone should be able to turn on the TV to get instant information about the emergency. It is unacceptable that they turn on their sets in the event of an emergency and see only static. With the education program, on February 18, 2009, every American should be able to turn on their television and see a flawless, digital broadcast. The government has set up a website, www.dtv2009.gov, with additional information about the transition. Rep. Eliot Engel, a Democrat representing parts of the Bronx and Westchester counties, is a member of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.

More on the web at

www.nycapitolnews.com


The New York State Association of Wholesale Marketers and Distributors thanks the New York State Legislature for the passage of S.8146-B and A.11258-A sponsored by Senator Michael Nozzolio and Assemblyman William Magee. We anticipate that Governor Paterson will exhibit his wisdom and courage, and sign this bill into law as quickly as possible in this time of economic stress, and collect the revenue for the good of the people of the State of New York. ARTHUR H. KATZ Executive Director NYS Association of Wholesale Marketers & Distributors (New York State Cigarette Tax Collection Agents)


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DECEMBER 2008

F The

Battle for Long Island After decades of Republican dominance, Democrats have the old stronghold in the crosshairs— and it may tip the balance of power in New York for good By Sal Gentile

or 16 years, Nassau Republican Chairman Joe Margiotta was the king of the Long Island GOP and, by extension, Long Island. The old myths about his influence were true: all the time, countless Nassau residents approached him in supermarkets and restaurants, in airports and on the street, thanking him for changing their lives. Most of them were strangers. For decades, he and other power brokers gathered in the Republican headquarters on Post Avenue, plotting to keep Democrats out of power in Nassau and the rest of the Island. And on Dec. 4, they gathered again—without Margiotta—to remember the chairman and what he had done. But only Sol Wachtler, the former town supervisor of North Hempstead and chief judge of the Court of Appeals, openly mourned the clear subtext of Margiotta’s passing. “The Nassau County Republican Party fostered by Joe Margiotta,” Wachtler said, “was interred with him.” Two hours later, Dean Skelos conceded the State Senate majority. The two seats the Democrats had won in the past two years by breaking the Republican stronghold were the margin.

I

f the I-4 corridor in Florida is the perennial front line for presidential elections, then the I-495 corridor on Long Island, teeming with young commuters and new immigrants from the city, is the battleground for control of New York politics. Democrats have encroached along the edges of the Long Island Expressway and built unprecedented inroads into the heart of Long Island’s historically conservative shores: Islip, Brookhaven, Huntington, Hempstead, Uniondale, Merrick. That slow but persistent infiltration into Nassau and Suffolk, underway for years, has only recently become serious cause for panic, as the party has slowly come to realize the consequences of failing to build the infrastructure and the future through keeping up party registration or recruiting new candidates. Even as Democrats took roughly half the Assembly seats, all but one congressional seat, both county executives’ offices and the majorities in both county legislatures, Long Island Republicans prized their monopoly in the State Senate as a sign of their continuing power. But now that has begun to slip and, with it, Republican hopes of regaining control of the chamber or doing much else in 2010 has become increasingly difficult. In addition to having to defend vulnerable incumbents, they face the worrisome prospect of two or possibly even three more longtime incumbents retiring from districts that have changed under them. Two others, Sens. Charles Fuschillo and John Flanagan, are relatively young and seen as politically ambitious. And when faced with the prospect of sitting in the powerless minority, stripped of their powers and staffs, they might be ready to bolt. In 2006, Flanagan thought about running for governor, but thenMajority Leader Joe Bruno vetoed the idea. The seat would have been too difficult to defend. But since the election, calls have been streaming in to Flanagan, asking him if 2010 will be his year. He has not ruled it out, and when asked about the possibility looks and talks very much like a potential candidate. Fuschillo, meanwhile, has been mentioned as one of the stronger potential Republican candidates for county executive in 2009. Their seats are safe so long as they hold them, but if they bristle at staying in the minority and go for higher office next cycle, Democratic strategists would lunge after their spots. “It would be a dogfight,” Flanagan admitted. Any one of these scenarios would spell trouble for Long Island Republicans. But the convergence of two or three could cause a tectonic shift that would reshape the state’s political landscape for a generation. To start, Jay Jacobs wants to beat Kemp Hannon. When Jacobs, the chair of the Nassau Democratic Party, first spoke


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Rep. Peter King and State Sen. John Flanagan may be able to escape to statewide races in 2010 as the prospects of Dean Skelos and the Republican State Senate majority sink on Long Island.

to Kristen McElroy about taking on Hannon, a 20-year Republican incumbent in a district that had up to that point been locked in a Republican chokehold for as long as anyone could remember, he skipped the soaring rhetoric about “change” (anyway, he was an early—and close—supporter of Hillary Clinton). Jacobs is “a numbers guy,” as McElroy put it, and the numbers painted a stirring portrait of what was happening in Hannon’s Hempstead-dominated district: the terrain was shifting under Hannon’s feet and his seat, Jacobs argued, could be won. “He did spreadsheet after spreadsheet with numbers and, you know, if the turnout was this, if the ‘stay the line’ was this,” she said, referring to the number of people who might come out for the presidential election and vote Democratic down the line. “He really ran with this campaign.” Jacobs plotted his strike into the heart of Republican territory from an airy, oak-paneled corner office on the sprawling campus of a private day school he owns in Glen Cove, tucked behind winding back roads along the tony North Shore. “One of the reasons I like this office is nobody can find me,” he joked. He lent that same air of anonymity to the campaign he built for McElroy, which, if he had had his way, would

have stayed out of public view until the day before the election. “The strategy here was, we thought we would have a better chance of beating Kemp Hannon the more we kept it under the radar screen and allowed the more obvious battles to take shape,” Jacobs said. McElroy’s biography seemed to make her an attractive candidate: a former prosecutor, mother of three and daughter of a one-time Republican activist. But the blueprints Jacobs laid out would have worked with any candidate—and, in fact, were designed to operate independent of one. They were based on extensive turnout models, stay-the-line projections and demographic trends. The confluence of those three factors, he calculated, would have made McElroy a senator by about 6,000 votes. Jacobs’ projections turned out to be prescient, if perhaps overly ambitious. A Republican internal poll taken in October showed McElroy down by just three points, confirming the long-held fears of party strategists that the seat would soon be blue (former Nassau Sen. Michael Balboni had been privately predicting the loss of Hannon’s seat for a year and a half). Republicans panicked and ran a negative ad against McElroy modeled on the infamous ads John McCain had been airing against Barack Obama (“Ever hear of Kristen McElroy?”). In the end, despite Democrats hoping on election night that they had pulled off an upset, Hannon won by the three-point margin Republicans had projected in October, though tighter than any of them wanted—“Whew, that was close,” was his reaction, in one of the conversations he had in the days after the election. Hannon and other Republicans dismissed McElroy’s strong showing as the result of an “Obama landslide,” a onetime phenomenon unlikely to reshape the political reality on the ground and tip the balance of the Senate. “You had a presidential candidate that was enormously popular. He won by an overwhelming margin in certain areas,” he said. “And that’s basically it.” But Democrats have seen this before: In 2006, when little-known Albert Baldeo came within 800 votes of toppling 20-year incumbent Sen. Serf Maltese. Two years later, Joseph Addabbo beat Maltese by 15 points. In 2010, Democrats say, that will be Hannon. “When you come in with that kind of margin, you’re automatically on the target list next time around,” said a senior Democratic strategist. “Three percent is not a comfortable place for any longtime incumbent to be, and every day those seats are more and more Democratic.” So Republicans and Democrats are already eyeing candidates that fit their criteria for the seat, preferably someone who can appeal to and energize the burgeoning minority community there while marshalling an established electoral and fund-raising base. (Dave Mejias, a young Cuban-American County Legislator who ran for Congress in 2006, is one of the Democrats’ favorites.) Democratic strategists have also cast their eyes on the next front in the battle for Hempstead, and a key test, they say, of the minority turnout: a March mayoral race in the Village of Hempstead, which is majority AfricanAmerican and a third Latino. If the new energy among minority communities and

DECEMBER 2008

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their increased participation in the political process can be sustained in a non-presidential election, it will open vast new opportunities for the Democratic Party on Long Island. Shifting demographics have unlocked new avenues into Republican strongholds like Hempstead, historically closed off to Democrats. “It’s the minority community, whether we can keep a foothold there,” Jacobs said. “If we lose that, it’s hard to make the argument, ‘oh, well, we’ll recover in a few months and win the whole thing.’”

“You had a presidential candidate that was enormously popular. He won by an overwhelming margin in certain areas,” said State Sen. Charles Fuschillo, dismissing Democrats’ showing this year. “And that’s basically it.”

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ut already fissures have begun to show in the Long Island Democratic Party. In order to sustain their successes on historically conservative Long Island, Democrats have had to straddle the divide between the new immigrant enclaves they rely on and the white working-class electorate they need. The party has patched together an ideological coalition that fuses traditional suburban values (less government and lower taxes) with a progressive agenda that appeals to poor and working-class immigrants (government services, social welfare). Whether that will hold is another story. Phil Ramos, an Assembly member from Suffolk, was the first Latino elected official in Long Island history. The son of a police officer who moved to Brentwood from the Bronx just as the town was becoming a major hub for new immigrants and ex-urbanites, Ramos’ biography has made him a natural leader among Latinos, who have in recent years begun to exert their increased political influence. Years ago, he founded the Long Island Latino Elected Officials Association, which he still chairs and which has been steadily growing. “What has happened is many people of color have now joined the party ranks to work behind the scenes,” he said, “and have been more proactively involved in the party, to really move it more towards the middle and away from the conservative stance of the few.” The “few” are led by County Executive Steve Levy, an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration and chief political rival of Ramos. Levy, a conservative Democrat, is viewed suspiciously by some in his party as a closet Republican due to some of his views and his crossendorsement for re-election in 2007. Levy and his allies have feuded with Ramos and his allies over immigration and taxes, among other issues. The political back-biting has resulted in an identity crisis for Suffolk Democrats. Levy personally recruited and backed a more conservative candidate to run in a Democratic primary against Ramos in 2006. Levy’s candidate lost, and by a lot. Levy and Ramos have also fought proxy wars over a Levy-backed bill to increase the sales tax in the Assembly last year, which Ramos helped defeat, and former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan to issue drivers’ licenses to illegal


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DECEMBER 2008

immigrants, which Levy opposed. Suffolk Democrats say Ramos’ string of political victories over Levy have further consolidated the political clout of the Hispanic constituency there and perhaps marginalized Levy within the party. Levy, for his part, suggested the party’s ideological fractures—especially over the issue of immigration— were not as much political as geographic. “That split is more depending on the district that you’re living in,” he said. “Some of the wealthy districts that don’t have 60 people living in a single-family home next door have a different perspective on that issue.” The ideological confusion Democrats are experiencing on Long Island threatens to undermine their concerted effort to anchor the party in the middle, where they believe they can appeal to both the growing minority population and the traditional suburban base. The victories of Craig Johnson in the 2007 special Senate election and Brian Foley on Nov. 4 seemed to prove the wisdom of that strategy to Democrats. Foley and Johnson won in two districts with vastly different racial and economic profiles, but both embraced a cautious, suburban ethos, though one which would be thoroughly upended if the city Democrats who run the party were to pull left on issues like gay marriage and taxes. “People on Long Island are going to be paying very close attention to whether this new Democratic, citycentric majority in the Senate is going to start shifting money away from the suburbs,” Levy said. “And if that happens, that majority will be short-lived.” Levy, who ran against Sen. Caesar Trunzo in 1990 and lost, suggested that the party’s recent breakthroughs were the result of Democrats who finally learned from a string of electoral defeats that they needed to reorient themselves. “The rather far-left Democrats from the city who wanted to run [my] campaign only wanted to talk about gun control and abortion,” he said. “I tried to tell them that’s not the issue that’s resonating out there. It’s all about property taxes.” Ramos agreed that Democrats should focus on the quality-of-life issues that appeal to suburban voters, but warned his party against heeding Levy and his allies lest they risk alienating their growing Hispanic base. “It was largely my district that defeated a 30-year reign of the Republicans,” he said of Sen. Caesar Trunzo, whom Foley defeated. “Because, if you look at that Senate district, most of it is Republican. My area is the only Democratic part of that district.”

Long Island Senate Districts

Long Island Assembly Districts

SUFFOLK

NASSAU

Long Island Congressional Districts

SUFFOLK Huntington

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NASSAU

Long Island—especially one as widely electable as Israel or Suozzi—to such a high-profile post would instantly consolidate many of the gains Democrats have there and allow them to make even more. If he does pick one of them, Paterson would be making an overture to moderate suburban voters across the state, showing them that the Democratic Party is not only literate in, but champions, their values. That political goodwill would no doubt bleed into the races for governor, attorney general and comptroller. More importantly, the votes would, too. “If you can’t win Long Island, it means you can’t win suburban voters elsewhere,” Israel said. “If you lose Long Island, you’ve lost the suburbs and upstate, which means you’ve lost the election.” Which is what makes Rep. Pete King, the Island’s last remaining Republican congressman who announced he is considering a Senate bid rather than waiting to be redistricted out of his seat, so much more threatening to Democrats and appealing to GOP. He could perhaps stop the Democratic movement on Long Island and put the brakes on the bluing of New York. Things have come a long way for Long Island—and also for King and Israel. In the 1970s, they were town committeemen from the same district in Seaford, a small suburban village along the edge of the South Shore. King was the politician on the rise. Israel was a Democrat in a place where Democrats were scarce.

“It’s the minority community, whether we can keep a foothold there,” said Nassau County Democratic Chair Jay Jacobs. “If we lose that, it’s hard to make the argument, ‘oh, well, we’ll recover in a few months and win the whole thing.’”

J

ust as Brian Foley needed Brentwood in 2008, Democrats will need Long Island in 2010. A Democrat who could consistently win Long Island in statewide elections would make a credible Republican candidacy impossible. A Republican running statewide who cannot win Long Island is like a Democrat running for president who cannot win California. Which is why it comes as no surprise that two of the leading contenders for Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat— Rep. Steve Israel and Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi—are Long Island Democrats. State party operatives are well aware that Gov. David Paterson’s possible appointment of a Democrat from

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Reflecting on those days in Seaford, King seemed flummoxed by the reversal. “When some guy announced he was not going to run again, my God, there was a list of at least four or five people lined up for it,” he said, discussing the Republicans at the time. “That’s the way it was when I was coming up.” Israel, now the congressman from the neighboring district, remembers what it was like as well. “Those days, the joke was the Democratic Party would nominate a candidate based on who was the last one left in the room. You turned off the lights, and you started getting your petitions,” Israel said. “That’s how hard it was to find Democratic candidates.” In the days of Joe Margiotta, King would have already been crowned the next Republican nominee for Senate, and would be well on his way to a statewide win. But today, King, who represents the old turf of Al D’Amato, would probably face an uphill battle, while it is Israel, who holds what was Rick Lazio’s House seat, who is being talked up as a major contender. But Israel cautioned that the war is not yet won. Even by 2010, he said, the Republicans can mount a comeback. The ground that they have won in local offices, in the State Senate, in grabbing three of the Island’s four Congressional seats, could be lost, as could their chances of swinging the statewide elections to the Democrats if Long Island Democrats shift away from the middle ground they have so cautiously staked out, he said. “My guess is that some of the seats that we won are going be tough to defend at the state level, in the State Senate,” he said. “I frankly believe the pendulum’s going to start swinging back.” sgentile@nycapitolnews.com


ANDR E W S C HW AR TZ

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The End of the Affair

I

n June, Hillary Clinton spoke at the graduation of the senior class of the Pelham Preparatory Academy in the Bronx. The event marked the senator’s first public appearance in the state after the end of her epic presidential campaign, and local reporters and photographers were not about to let her escape—though she left before the ceremony was over, they had staked out the exit doors, ready to shout questions at the inevitable one as soon as she appeared. What was she going to do about her multimillion-dollar campaign debt? Did she plan on campaigning for Obama? What were her future plans? She hustled past in her teal pantsuit, cordoned off by aides as she climbed behind the tinted windows of her SUV, ready to speed off. “I’m very happy to be here,” she said. But was she really? Not six months later, and again hightailing it out of here, she is leaving behind her adopted home

By David Freedlander

and a million unanswered questions. For one, what did it all mean? Like a shy co-ed at a drunken mixer, New York was flattered when Hillary first pointed to us across the crowded dance and said, “You—you are where I will embark on my listening tour.” There were, after all, 49 other states, all vying for attention, even if they could not promise the same combination of media spotlight, easy residency requirements and a retiring senator. But she picked us, and though we knew we were special, and we knew we were the only ones who could give her the kind of love she needed, and we were used to obsequious pols coming to us to refill their coffers or for their second acts (see Nixon, Richard or Kennedy, Robert) she really seemed to want to dance. There was the house in Chappaqua. Bill’s offices in Harlem. On Letterman, soon after she announced, she knew the state bird (the red-breasted bluebird) and could name the state tree (the sugar maple.) She pledged allegiance to the Yankees. She visited all 62 counties and

even seemed to like most of them. But just like that, it is over. New Yorkers knew she wanted to be president and supported her doing it, supported her finding her voice. She cruised to reelection even as everyone knew she was plotting the beginning of a presidential campaign that would be kicked off less than three months later. And when the campaign did not work out, the state welcomed her back. Hillary Clinton, Senator from New York. It just felt right. Meant to be. And now we wake up again and she is gone, off to the State Department and Georgetown and Jerusalem and Dar-es Salaam and wherever else they need her to swoop in and set everything aright. But what about New York? Just when this relationship was starting to get serious again, she is gone. In her wake, there is an empty chair and a list of people looking to fill it who are not quite up to the star caliber. Names have been floated—nothing serious yet, just people maybe New Yorkers should meet.

T

he story of the indomitable, indefatigable Hillary, the one that carried through all 17 months of her presidential campaign, was wellestablished long before she set her sights here. Ten years ago, when her husband was mired in a White House mess, Hillary barnstormed around the country for Congressional candidates, including Charles Schumer (D), who went on to upset Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R). Then talk of a Senate campaign began in earnest. By February 1999, she was campaigning in Bed-Stuy—for the social programs her husband included in his budget, not for any office—and was greeted by rapturous crowds and throngs of press and was back at the White House conferring with retiring Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D), county and labor leaders and her New York consigliore Harold Ickes about her next move. Democratic political operative Basil Smikle got his start as an advance man in the Clinton White House and signed on to work on Hillary’s Senate campaign as


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DECEMBER 2008

soon as she did. He remembers working an event at Hobart College in Geneva. “I’ll never forget, it was a town hall meeting at the school with 2,000 people and she stayed and shook everyone’s hands until the last person left. And she shook the hand of all the janitors that were cleaning up. She made sure that she met every single person in the room. That was phenomenal. I’d never seen even a local elected official do that.” That kind of head-down, steely-eyed attention on people and their issues became her calling card. Hillary never needed attention. She needed to convince people that she cared, that the drama of her husband’s White House was his, not hers.

HILL facts

“She came in in 2000 and people were highly critical of her when she was talking about going and listening to what concerned people,” said Geraldine Ferraro, who herself tried for the Senate twice. “I don’t know too many politicians who have ever done that before her—really listened to the problems. Most of us tend to like to talk a lot and require others to listen to us. She listened.” Listening became her calling card, the balm to soothe concerns that she wasn’t from here, that she was too radical, or that she was too moderate or too ambitious. It became an end unto itself, the perfect antidote to detractors who screamed around her.

Number of Senate offices in New York:

10

Number of government staffers employed since 2001:

167

But listening worked. It kept her from answering questions. On that very first listening tour, in Pindars Corners, Elizabeth Kolbert lamented in the New Yorker, “So far, Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy is based on logic that is, quite frankly, circular, or, in its maddening topology, perhaps more like a Mobius strip … she has come to New York not to impose her view but to ‘listen to New Yorkers.’ She talked throughout the day about the issues she is committed to, which, she suggested, were the very same issues she is hoping to learn about.” In November she beat Long Island native son Rick Lazio, who campaigned on the idea that he was a “real New Yorker,” by 12 points. As she has prepared to resign, everyone seems to remember her as a hard-working, diligent senator who reached across the aisle and delivered for the state. Her time on Capitol Hill began roughly, though. There were stumbles. The hangover of the Clinton White House had not worn off. There were unsavory pardons. There were the nearly $200,000 in gifts the Clintons received in their final months in office. There was the huge advance for her memoir

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and the timidity, many diehard Democrats felt, in her opposition to John Ashcroft’s nomination, her tepid public support for gay rights. A month after she was sworn in, her approval rating had sunk to 38 percent in a Quinnipiac poll. A New York Times editorial at the time opined, “In most states of the union, of course, citizens can simply register their weariness with the Clinton era and go on to other matters. But in New York, questions about Mrs. Clinton’s involvement in her husband’s decisions and whether she will adopt his lax leadership standards now bear on the performance of a sitting senator. Mrs. Clinton has said she wants to leave the turmoil of the last eight years behind, but her behavior since the election and even since her swearing in has sent a different message.” Things got better. After the Sept. 11 attacks, she, like George W. Bush, found her footing. No longer hamstrung by being a junior senator in a closely divided body, she became a New Yorker and for once escaped her husband’s shadow, working to get air quality tested downtown and bringing aid to relief workers and area businesses.


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www.nycapitolnews.com This is the senator whose hard work and determination are her lasting legacies, not any specific legislative accomplishments. “The expectation in her case was that she was the wife of a former president and she was a star and you don’t expect stars to work that hard,” said Bob Kerrey, former Nebraska senator who, as former president of the New School, frequently worked with Hillary. “But she came in and worked her tail off. She wasn’t a show horse—she worked.”

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This kind of work she could do—no parliamentary procedure required, just hard work, an eager clump of microphones and knowing where the cash lay. She became the Hillary that marked her Senate career, growing into a fierce critic of Bush and a legislator who received high marks from one-time Clinton antagonists like Lindsey Graham and Bill Frist and Newt Gingrich. “When she was considering running, I had long talks with her and I told her she shouldn’t do it,” said Norman J. Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a longtime Congressional watcher. “Not because I thought she wouldn’t win—I thought she’d win easily— but because then she’ll be elected and then you’ll have to be spinning your wheels in the Senate, for Chrissakes.” This was the Hillary that emerged later on the campaign trail, the one that downed boilermakers with the hardhats in a Scranton bar, the one that “works the late shift too.” This was the Hillary no longer entwined with Ron Burkle and Barbara Streisand but was the woman who won the “Friend of Farm Bureau” award for her work on behalf of state agriculture.

ore than any policy, though, her greatest legacy may be the political. Perhaps precisely because she was not a local Democrat, but she managed to do what no New York Democrat had: woo upstate. By eschewing big-city glitz in favor of a deep understanding about the region and its issues, she showed other Democrats how to do it. In some ways, the blue tide that has washed over the state in the years since her first election is the wake off of her campaign. “She went to upstate New York, which at that time was thought to be all Republican territory,” remembered political consultant George Arzt. “She won a lot of counties upstate, which set up the run for Eliot Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo and put a belief into people’s minds that a Democrat could win upstate.” Nonetheless, few were surprised when Hillary announced that she was running for president, or, as she put it in the softlit YouTube announcement made that day, “I’m not just starting a campaign though, I’m beginning a conversation.” Her listeningonly days were done. Her critics were incensed, since they had cast themselves as Cassandra, screaming that was going to happen all along—“I’m the only one standing here today that wants to be a U.S. senator for the next six years for the state of New York,” GOP challenger John Spencer said in one of their 2006 debates, landing his sole memorable line. (She trounced Spencer, winning 58 of the state’s 62 counties, and most New Yorkers greeted the suspicions about her presidential campaign with pride and her ultimate announcement with a shrug. This is the nature of stars—they burn out. Anyway, despite her enthusiasm for Fifth Avenue parades, she still belonged as much to the nation as to us. “She passed through,” said Doug Muzzio, political science professor at Baruch College. “She rented the state for eight years and then moved on. We knew what we were in for and we didn’t care.

facts

One big question looming with Hillary Clinton leaving to be secretary of state is whether they will keep their $1.7 million, 11-room house in Chappaqua. Though somewhat convenient to Bill, who is expected to keep his office in Harlem, the semi-secluded property is still a 50-minute drive from the city—much less convenient than a midtown hotel room. Despite that, Assembly Member Adam Bradley (D-Westchester), who represents the area, said he would hate to see his most famous constituents go. “I think they love this community,” Bradley said. “I certainly hope they will be staying.”

She was a national figure who lived in New York. So what? She was an effective advocate for the state, even if it was always considered a way-station or a fall-back.” As the presidential campaign wore on, Hillary’s no-nonsense image began to fade. The more she talked about the hard-working white Americans, or made comparisons to Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, the more her campaign got mired in the kind of backbiting and infighting her Senate office assiduously avoided. Insiders began to whisper that she might struggle to win the Democratic primary when she ran for reelection if the tone continued, and outsiders wondered what happened to the supercompetent senator they had known. As the primaries wore on into June, the prospects for a presidential library in Chappaqua dimmed, as did the romance. But New York welcomed her back, and loved her even more than before. Reunited, the love was stronger than ever. She was now a full-fledged national hero, and where else do superheroes live if not Gotham? That she had taken her lumps and come back bruised only made her seem more natural, more connected to New York. And she came back that drizzly June day in the Bronx and seemed genuinely relieved. Even her most ardent foes had to concede begrudging respect for her. She always had that quality that made people rush to her at the moment when she was at her lowest. Eight years before the tears in New Hampshire, there was Lazio looming over her, shaking a piece of paper in her face, and New Yorkers rushing to pull the battered candidate from the depths. That is at the heart of how Clinton works, said Susan Morrison, editor of Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary: Reflections by Women Writers. “The most interesting thing about Hillary Clinton, if you look at her whole

introduced since 2001:

367

Total signed by President Bush:

3

17

A House Divided

Total number of bills

HILL

DECEMBER 2008

Total num ber of resolution s introduc ed:

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career, the times when she’s most successful and gets the highest approval ratings is when she’s seen as a victim— after the Lewinsky thing happened, even after Obama really started pulling ahead, something authentic in her comes out and that’s when she connects with people,” Morrison explained. Even so, New Yorkers knew in their hearts that she would not stick around for long. Sure, there were those rumors that she would grow old in the Senate, maybe even become majority leader and steer so many Washington goodies back home. But even at that first dance, we could see her looking over our shoulder. It was part of that irascible Clinton charm, where they say one thing and mean something else, and everyone looks the other way—like when she reportedly was conferring with aides during the Democratic convention right around the time when she arrived on the convention floor at the center of a cluster of New Yorkers, formally nominating Obama. At the same time, though, she sunk back into the life of a junior senator, assessing damage done to upstate apple orchards after a heavy hailstorm, and secured $675,000 for transportation improvements in Oneida County. A month before election day, her office sent out a 16-page memo highlighting all her accomplishments in the Senate over the past year, even as she was busy stumping through Texas and Pennsylvania. In retrospect, the massive release seems a little like an extended Dear John letter. She did all that she said, but she was not really going to stick around and do all that forever. As soon as Obama called, she was ready to go, and off to Chicago she flew. And now we are alone again, Hillaryless. Like after all break-ups, we hope we have learned something. We know New York does not mind carpetbaggers or celebrities. In fact, the state seems to love them, deserve them, even, since they are the only ones who satisfy the need to gawk and since they are the only ones who make us feel important. But they better have something else too, some combination of pluck and grit and a willingness to carry the Quality Cheese Act (S. 530) through Congress.

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dfreedlander@nycapitolnews.com


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DECEMBER 2008

THE CAPITOL

The Kaye Factor

With two posts to fill, Paterson is in a political pressure cooker BY EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE

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avid Paterson, the man who was never elected governor, is set to make a little more history as the first governor to appoint both a United States senator and the chief judge of the Court of Appeals. Paterson has said he will not make a Senate appointment until Hillary Clinton vacates the seat, expected to happen on or after Barack Obama’s inauguration Jan. 20, and must present a court nominee to replace Judith Kaye, who is being forced off by mandatory retirement, by Jan. 15. Making two choices for such significant positions would be difficult enough, but Paterson’s hands are tied in replacing Kaye by the law which requires him to choose from among the seven finalists presented by the Commission on Judicial Nomination. As Paterson has publicly lamented, the finalists are all male and, except for one, all white. Five of them are from New York City. That severely limits Paterson’s ability to use the Kaye replacement pick as cover for a Senate pick—faced with replacing the state’s first female senator and first female chief judge, Paterson may be reluctant to choose two downstate white men as successors. That will be complicated even more because one of the two judge finalists from outside New York City, Court of Appeals Associate Judge Eugene Pigott, was appointed by Republican Gov. George Pataki. The ongoing effort to lure the renegade Latino state senators into supporting the Democrats for the majority adds another complication. Court of Appeals Associate Judge Carmen Ciparick, a woman of Puerto Rican descent who has served on the court for longer than any judge but Kaye and was widely expected to be a finalist, was not on the list. Though Paterson initially asked Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to investigate going outside of the Commission finalists—perhaps to free him to pick Ciparick—he has since relented. That he cannot pick a woman or Latino for the Court may intensify the pressure to pick a woman or Latino for the Senate. Since the Court nominee must go to the State Senate for confirmation, though, the ultimate decision of the so-called Gang of Three on whom to support for the majority could have a real effect on Paterson’s choice for this spot. Confirmations have rarely been contentious—Kaye was reappointed in 2007 for her final two years on the bench

Judith Kaye swore in David Paterson as governor in March, but now picking her successor has put him in a bind. with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) over picking Alan Hevesi’s replacement as comptroller at the outset of his term. Ultimately, that proved to be the first battle in what became Spitzer’s ongoing war with the Legislature, setting a tone that crippled him for the rest of his 15 months as governor, and undoubtedly would have continued to had he made it past Kristen. As happened in the selection of Thomas DiNapoli (D), many expect that Silver, who would control 110 of the 212 votes in the Legislature, would be partial to picking one of his own members for a statewide opening. That could add yet another wrinkle if there is a leadership coup among the Senate Democrats and State Sen. Jeff Klein (DBronx/Westchester) becomes leader. An Assembly veteran who at one point considered running for attorney general in 2006, Klein might seem like a natural pick for the job if Cuomo vacates it, but that would set off even more turmoil

with just two dissenting votes—but if the Republicans are able to keep their grips on the majority and want to flex their muscle, shaping the future of the state’s top court could be a good place to start, potentially increasing the chances of Pigott, given his GOP credentials. Other factors might shape the decision as well. Cuomo is seen as a leading contender for the Senate seat, both because of his proven electoral viability statewide and because an appointment would remove him as a potential primary opponent to Paterson down the line. But if he is picked, then the search would have to begin for a new attorney general. Not only would this leave Sen. Charles Schumer (D) as the only statewide official in the office to which he was elected by the voters, but it could leave Paterson in an uncomfortable position: the Legislature would be empowered to pick that replacement, but the governor might be expected to weigh in, as happened when Spitzer struck a short-lived deal

The

Gifts

She

Carried In trading Senate for State, Hillary will have to leave behind her foreign gifts

within a conference that has had a very difficult few months since election day. Clinton’s successor will serve at least until 2010, when there will be a special election. Whoever wins will have to run again in 2012, when there will be the regularly scheduled election. But despite a sample group statistically too small to mean much, political history favors the appointed senator, since no Democrat has ever lost statewide for Senate. Kaye’s successor is technically eligible for a 13year term, though several of the finalists would be forced off the bench early by mandatory retirement at age 70. Spitzer, the last attorney general before Cuomo, served eight years, and previous attorney generals have stayed even longer (Robert Abrams spent 16 years in the job, Louis Lefkowitz spent 20). As if things were not intense enough already then, Paterson has to face history: whomever he picks in these next six intense weeks will likely be with the state for many years to come.

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The days of foreign nations raining moderately priced gifts on Sen. Hillary Clinton are over. In fact, as secretary of state, one of Clinton’s official duties will be publishing an annual list of gifts received by all federal employees in the Federal Register. While in the Senate, Clinton reported receiving 20 trinkets from foreign admirers, including two golden replicas of sailboats. By contrast, Senate colleagues such as Charles Schumer and Majority Leader Harry Reid received only one or two tokens in so many years. Of course, neither of them would have looked as good in a Hermes scarf. Clinton was allowed to keep anything that was valued under $335, and can take it with her to the State Department—where she will not be allowed to keep any gifts. Some of the most interesting items:

By Andrew J. Hawkins Date 3/3/2002 1/28/2003 1/28/2003 4/10/2003 1/1/2004 4/28/2005 7/29/2005 9/16/2005 1/1/2006

Donor country Luxembourg Liberia South Korea South Korea Afghanistan French Polynesia Kuwait India Bangladesh

Item Hermes scarf Gold pin in the shape of a drum Small handbag by artist Geon Man Lee Copy of earrings in exhibition case for the 5th/6th century Afghan rug Carved wooden bookends from Tahiti Display replica of a Kuwaiti sailboat, a Sambuq, with gold plating Perfume oils in Taj Mahal presentation case Silver replica of a rickshaw

Value $275 Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed $400 $200


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or years, the Democratic members of the State Senate have been complaining about the Republican majority, and the state’s downward trajectory that they argue has been the result. No doubt, few could say what exactly the senators in the Republican conference stood for or did in recent years, yet just about everyone knew that they had bigger offices and lulus, power to redraw their own districts and to keep Democratic senators’ names from being on passed legislation. Meanwhile, the state budget got more bloated, the economic crisis loomed larger and the population of the state shrunk. Industrial towns across whole regions of the state grew emptier while classrooms in the city grew ever more crowded and dangerous. The Republicans had made an art out of sacrificing governing and accomplishment for the sake of holding onto political power. And while Democrats insisted they would do differently, the cynics suspected otherwise. But who would have guessed that they would have been proven right so soon? The start of the legislative session is still weeks away, so judging their approach to governing may be somewhat premature. But if Malcolm Smith and his fellow new members of the majority were trying to instill confidence in their competence from how they have so far approached the Gang of Three holdout, they failed, and quite soundly. This should have been the time

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agenda, the Democrats need first to get the majority, and that meant satiating the three senators who for the sake of a power play rather than deep ideological reasons decided to hold out support for the party in which they are registered and which had supported them. That is simple politics, and no one involved was ever naïve enough to believe that the State Senate was somehow above these kinds of negotiations. The problem is that this is only simple politics at its most simplistic level. There is very little policy involved. There is no substance. On the contrary, what has become clear is that the Democrats seem ready to subsume everything to politicking for the sake of having and holding power. Instead of spending the weeks ahead just making announcements of positions and committee chairs, then restating these announcements as deals are struck and restruck, the conference needs to actually start announcing policy. Prospective new committee chair

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Will U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia be the new GOP sheriff in town for 2010?

THE CAPITOL

EDITORIAL Barely in Power, and Off to a Disheartening Start

ANDREW SCHWARTZ

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This should have been the time when Smith and his purportedly strong and prepared members were charting the course for the months ahead, finally unveiling the supposed plans they kept so bizarrely under wraps during the election cycle. when Smith and his purportedly strong and prepared members were charting the course for the months ahead, finally unveiling the supposed plans they kept so bizarrely under wraps during the election cycle. They should have been setting goals, announcing plans to get those goals accomplished and reassuring New Yorkers that they were fit to lead at this dire and potentially pivotal moment for the state. Instead, we know that at least one key element of its promised agenda is ready to be sacrificed for the sake of getting power, and that reform can be defined as giving out new titles and changing the seating order. That is not bold legislative leadership. That is summer camp. Of course, in order to get to their

should step forward with an in-depth agenda, detailing bills that might be introduced and helping point the state in a new direction. They need to show themselves capable of doing more than just playing games—or, in the words of one Democratic senator dissatisfied with how things are shaping up, demonstrate that they all actually believe “sometimes personal power isn’t as important as what we promised the voters of New York.” At the moment, that senator is, apparently, of the minority opinion. After years of Senate Democrats blaming the ineffectiveness of Albany on the partisan divide, of arguing that they were better fit to lead, that is a very sad statement. By Jan. 7, and hopefully long before, they need to start convincing people that they are saying something else.

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OP-ED What You Don’t Have Can’t Leak—Or Be Blown Up by Terrorists BY PAUL ORUM n New York and across the country there are manufacturers, water utilities and other chemical facilities that threaten surrounding communities with the possibility of a catastrophic toxic gas release. New York alone has some 120 facilities that each threaten at least 1,000 nearby residents. According to the Department of Homeland Security and numerous security experts, terrorists might view facilities like these as attractive targets and attempt to use industrial chemicals as pre-positioned weapons. The good news is that this threat can be substantially reduced. Many highhazard chemical facilities can convert to safer and more secure chemicals or processes that remove the possibility of a catastrophic release. Unfortunately, current temporary federal chemical facility anti-terrorism standards, set to expire in October 2009, are fundamentally flawed. In par-

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ticular, these standards: • Exclude water utilities, which together endanger millions of people; • Don’t hold companies accountable for chemicals they ship or receive— arguably the most vulnerable point in the supply chain; and • Make no structured effort to remove unnecessary chemical targets. A recent report I authored for the Center for American Progress, “Chemical Security 101,” identified alternatives that could remove the most dangerous chemicals from most of the nation’s 101 highest-hazard chemical facilities—including sites in New York and New Jersey that endanger millions of New Yorkers. These alternatives could remove such dangers from bleach plants, water utilities, paper mills, petroleum refineries and a variety of manufacturers. For example, since 2001, a number of New York water utilities have converted from chlorine gas to liquid bleach, removing the danger of a gas release to

workers and surrounding communities. These utilities include drinking water plants in Poughkeepsie and Auburn and wastewater plants in Buffalo, Utica, Lackawanna, Angola and Niagara Falls. The Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant formerly endangered 1.1 million people before it converted from rail shipments of chlorine gas. Other New York facilities continue to pose unnecessary dangers. The Surpass Chemical Company Bridge Street Plant in Albany produces liquid bleach from chlorine gas received by rail. An accident or attack on this facility threatens more than a half million people. A similar bleach producer, JCI Jones Chemicals in Warwick, endangers over one million. These facilities could manufacture bleach without ever storing or shipping chlorine gas, as other facilities do already. Thus far, the chemical industry has fended off any requirement to evaluate and develop safer, more secure alternatives. Instead, the Department of

CUNY and SUNY Budget Cuts Threaten a Viable Future for New York BY ASSEMBLY MEMBER JOSÉ PERALTA he Federal government recently gave $700 billion dollars to bail out multibillion-dollar business empires after their head-in-the-sand chiefs arrogantly collected million-dollar bonuses for the poor decisions and oversights, to steer their businesses and the entire world into a freefall rollercoaster ride, which perilously put us all in financial oblivion. Soon after, Wall Street came begging for money, America’s Big Three automakers, Ford, GM and Chrysler, went to Washington, D.C., with hats in hand on a private jet, asking to be bailed out after decades of bad business decisions. America’s Big Three, once the reigning leaders of the automotive world, failed to properly

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protect their companies by being competitive, innovative and relevant. Long before oil prices skyrocketed to the obscene, America’s Big Three continued making poor-quality, gas-guzzling vehicles, while Japanese car makers built fuel-efficient cars that were built to last. America’s Big Three shipped jobs overseas and the Japanese brought their plants to North America, where they not only built fuel-efficient vehicles, built to last, but patriotically employed the same American work force abandoned by the Big Three. Our current economic climate requires serious and drastic financial decisions that will require all Americans, including New Yorkers, to make sacrifices for the greater good. However, these sacrifices should not affect or be

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.

done by students or the parents of college-bound students. Students must be considered capital projects for the future of New York, and therefore must be properly funded. The proposed CUNY and SUNY budget cuts are detrimental to the future of our country and New York. The city will not be a relevant player in world affairs if its citizens are uneducated and untrained for the future ahead. We cannot and should not support failed businesses at the sacrifice of our future, the future of an educated work force. At the present moment, our educational institutions are suffering a fiscal crisis and experiencing service cutbacks unseen in decades. Superior New York institutions will have to cut back on their outstanding service; libraries, course offerings, capital improvements, prominent staff, recruiting and retaining practices will all be negatively affected and have serious current and future adverse effects, on our nation, our economy and our vitality as a world leader. New York colleges cannot afford budget cuts and service cuts, along with tuition increases and financial aid decreases, and continue being relevant to the future of New York. What does it say us when we are willing to financially bail out poor business practices over a viable and educated future? Let’s get our priorities straight! José Peralta is a Democrat representing parts of Queens in the Assembly.

Homeland Security is focused on physical site security, such as guards and gates. Plant site security, however important, may fail and does nothing to protect Americans from chemicals shipped over railroads and highways. Safer, more secure technologies remove the hazard altogether. Converting to alternatives is often cost-effective. A prior survey by the Center for American Progress found that a third of some 225 facilities that had converted to safer and more secure alternatives expected to save money, and half did not anticipate an increase in costs. Some 87 percent of the facilities converted for less than $1 million. Approximately four dozen water utility plants in New York still use large amounts of chlorine gas. The $300 million or more spent each day on the war in Iraq—ostensibly looking for weapons of mass destruction—could instead easily convert these facilities to safer, more secure alternatives, such as liquid bleach, ozone and ultraviolet light, as appropriate. Federal action may be on the horizon. This year, the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee voted out a comprehensive chemical security program in H.R. 5577, a likely starting point for deliberations in 2009. As Senators, both Barack Obama and Joe Biden sponsored legislation to remove unnecessary chemical hazards through safer and more secure technologies. In order to generate effective solutions, any chemical security program should require chemical facilities to review alternatives that can reduce or remove the potential consequences of a terrorist attack. The program should involve employees in security planning and inspections, and include sufficient administrative transparency to ensure government accountability. A federal program also should not preempt the right of states to set more protective standards—something the Bush Administration asserted under the current temporary standards until Congress intervened. One state, New Jersey, currently requires chemical facilities to assess safer and more secure alternative technologies. New York could take similar steps if the federal government fails to act. If a chemical facility endangers its neighbors, it is reasonable and attainable for the facility to review and use practicable alternatives that remove the danger. What you don’t have can’t leak—or be blown up by terrorists. Paul Orum is the author of “Chemical Security 101,” a recent report prepared for the Center for American progress.


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THE CAPITOL

The 2008

Hit List

They left us too soon. Some were the victims of their own self-destruction. Others went out on a high note, leaving people wanting more. A few may still have a second act in the works. But while every year has its share of martyrs, this year, for whatever reason, seemed to have more than most. Some of the politicians whose faces we will see no more:


THE CAPITOL

I

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December 2008

: From Loss to Boss

n 2006, Dan Maffei came extremely close to toppling his Republican predecessor, retiring Rep. James Walsh (R-Onondaga/Wayne/Monroe). But with Walsh choosing retirement this year, the second race was the charm for the young Democrat. Running for the open seat, Maffei scored a decisive victory against a former Onondaga County lawmaker. Maffei entered Congress as one of four new additions to New York’s Democratic Congressional delegation, a group whose senior members are gaining powerful leadership positions and clout in the House. But Maffei is not planning to sit on the sidelines: like his upstate House colleagues, Maffei said he will push for a fairer allocation of federal funds to the state and job creation through public works projects to fix a crumbling upstate economy marred by state budget cuts and a declining population. Taking a moment out of preparing for the transition to Washington, Maffei discussed how his journalism background will prepare him for the duties of Capitol Hill, why he is staying mum on his preferred committee assignments, and how inexpensive fancy cheese factors into the revitalization of the upstate economy. What follows is an edited transcript. The Capitol: You started out as a staffer on Capitol Hill. How did it feel to be on this side of the transition? Dan Maffei: It was surreal, in a good way. TC: What are your expectations for the new Congress as a newly elected Democrat from New York? DM: We have a Democratic president that understands urban issues, is from a big state like New York, a big diverse state like New York, we have two senators, and we have the 26 Democrats from New York, we have only one-tenth of the majority caucus. Just being from New York, I think that we’ve got to be bullish, we’ve got to push a little bit as New Yorkers, because New York is such an important part of our country, both upstate and downstate, and investment in New York has always paid off in terms of the overall economy of the United States. So, for the good of the country and the good of our state we need to be bullish

kind of home-grown products that people are now looking for—organic stuff. And it’s not going to go away—as long as we protect our water supply we’re going to be in good shape, so it’s really a matter of leveraging our diverse land and water to sort of create a region that can really develop a 21st-century economy, and that means things like growing biofuels and having refinery facilities, and then being able to get those to where they’re needed, whether it’s New York or Boston or Canada or what have you. It means being able to make sure the farmers can make a good living growing crops like organic crops or, you know, or what have you, and farms, and people know they don’t have to necessarily go to Europe to buy fancy cheeses when they can buy it from New York for much lower prices.

assignments, for a couple of reasons. I think it’s important to a few people, but it’s very “inside baseball,” most people in the district wanted to know what I stood for, regardless of what committee I’d be on, and also that gets into a lot of things, the prerogative of the leadership and the delegation. Obviously I have some preferences over others, but I think one of the advantages that I have, having worked on the Hill, is that I think I can do a lot with a variety of different committees—and obviously I’m not going to get some of the top ones like Ways and Means, where I worked on, or Appropriations, where my predecessor served on, but no freshmen do. I think I’ll be able to do a lot with whatever committee I get. And, clearly, the leadership is going to go out of its way to help me and the other freshmen from New York to make sure that we secure our districts, you know, that we do what we need to do. TC: You’re entering Congress at a time when the upstate economy is hurting. How does upstate’s fiscal health affect the rest of New York? DM: Historically, New York has always done well when you’ve had a synergy between upstate and downstate. The great era of the Erie Canal, for instance. When the Erie Canal was developed and the upstate began to emerge—that’s when New York City really started to boom. Even in more recent times, when you had the railroads and you had, you know, the financial center in New York City, but great manufacturing centers across upstate New York. So, really, I think that the current congressional delegation, all 26 of us, you know, from the most senior to the new members, understand that, and you’ve got a very pragmatic delegation. That’s just the Democrats—I frankly think the three Republicans understand it too. I think we’re going to have a lot of working together, at least in Washington—you’re not going to see people talking about upstate-downstate interests, we’re going to be talking about New York interests.

Clearly, the leadership is going to go out of its way to help me and the other freshmen from New York to make sure that we secure our districts. on that. As far as being an upstate New Yorker, you know, again, this is a region that has been underserved and, frankly, has underperformed compared to its potential. We still have tremendous diversity of resources. … When it comes to energy, I think we’re going to make a big contribution in the next century. The biofuels, wind, water, solar, even possibly nuclear—it all sort of comes together in upstate New York, there’s some real economic advantages of doing these things there, not the least of which is not being so far from where the power is needed. TC: What committees did you have your eye on during the campaign or are hoping to join? DM: You know, I didn’t talk a lot about committee

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TC: Your district contains rural areas northwest of Syracuse. What problems or issues are unique to the state’s rural areas? DM: Our rural areas actually present a huge opportunity to us because there aren’t too many places that have city centers, relatively skilled workforces, large research universities, that also have access to land that could be used for, say, growing biofuels, for tourism-type things, or to grow the

TC: With the state slashing the budgets and municipalities following suit because of that, where can the federal government come in? Is it just a matter of more money? DM: Well, you know, it is a matter of fairness in many ways. You know, I worked for Pat Moynihan … and Moynihan used to come out every year with an analysis of the central resources put into the federal government and the federal resources got out of the federal government. … New York was always on the downside of that. In other words, we always paid far more than we got back, and that’s still very much the case. If anything, it’s become more the case. We are put at a disadvantage by several federal funding formulas that don’t necessarily make logical sense, either. The biggest one is the Medicaid formula—and you’ll hear this from everybody in the delegation. We in New York need a formula that makes more sense per capita population, per capita Medicaid population, we have so much of the Medicaid burden on our local governments and state government, it just doesn’t make any sense. This is a national responsibility, these are national mandates, so in that sense I’m not talking about throwing money at a problem, but about basic fairness with the Medicaid formula. Similar, less, a little bit less so, but similar on education. Homeland security—I mean, here we are in New York State, we’ve got Niagara Falls, we’ve got New York City, the city that was attacked, actually attacked on 9/11. We’ve got all sorts of landmarks, we’ve got a large international border, and yet we don’t have the lion’s share of homeland security funding. In fact, per capita some big western states like Idaho and Wyoming have more homeland security funding. And that doesn’t make any sense. TC: You graduated from Columbia University with a master’s degree in journalism, starting your career as a television reporter. How much do you value that experience now that you’re in Congress? DM: Journalism in many ways is my first love and still is, and is very useful because journalism taught me how to really ask questions that matter, how to process information—both quickly, and so I think a lot of those skills I certainly try to use. It does make me a little maybe more frustrated with journalism now, you know, the way I see things covered. … You look at some of the publications that are around Washington and a lot of them are gossip rags, they will report the first thing that they hear, and that’s their vision, that’s how they make money. They’re often free now, or at least free on Capitol Hill, so what they want is the most people to pick them up because they see a fancy headline and they can tell their advertisers that they have that much circulation. Even from when I was a staffer five years ago, I think, it deteriorated even more, and that makes me a little frustrated. —By Dan Rivoli


The December 2008 Issue of The Capitol  

The December 2008 Issue of The Capitol. The Capitol is a monthly publication, targeting the politicians, lobbyists, unions, staffers and iss...

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