VOL. 3, NO. 18
unrepentant to the end.
takes one last look around.
DECEMBER 13, 2010
Pete King is now the most important Republican in New York. Does he care?
What Cuomo can learn from Christie.
Way Of The Dragon BY EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE
e comes straight from law enforcement, with a record of public-corruption cases, swept into the governor’s mansion on a wave of voter disgust with state government. He cut spending in the budget and passed a property-tax cap, took on the public employee unions, railed against the legislators for not passing an ethics reform bill and became a star of the town hall circuit all across the state. He was one of the most sought-after political guest stars on the campaign trail for stops as far away as California, the standard bearer for a reinvented party philosophy symbolized by him and his administration. Oh, and just a few months into the job, the presidential chatter was already well underway. It is the dream for Andrew Cuomo. And it is happening right across the Hudson. “The governor of the State of New Jersey—he’s a poster boy!” said former Mayor Ed Koch, a Cuomo supporter, at a recent event. “You have the ability to say: ‘This is where I stand. And you don’t like it? Shove it!’ And that’s what he does! And he gets applauded. That’s how Andrew should conduct himself.” Chris Christie, said poster boy, has certainly made his enemies in his first year on the job. The Democrats in the New Jersey Legislature cannot stand him. A spokesman for the state teacher s union called his famously confrontational approach “spectacularly unsuccessful” in dealing with education. Christie’s decision not to reappoint a judge on the state’s top court has created the makings of a miniconstitutional crisis, with the State Senate president refusing to hold hearings on his new appointee and another judge on the court refusing to participate in court proceedings until the matter is resolved. And those are just some of the bigger issues. But Christie, who nonchalantly threatened a government shutdown in the spring when state legislators would not agree on his budget and has been traveling the state with an easel counting down the days of their failure to act on reform, shows no signs of changing. He likes the confrontations, seeks them out, blows them up whenever possible. He even has his own YouTube channel to highlight the incidents.
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DECEMBER 13, 2010
Town halls are another key part of the strategy. Christie has done 16 of them since Labor Day, taking his case and his easel directly to the people. At the most recent, on a Wednesday morning at Shriner’s hall in his hometown of Livingston, his staff warmed up the crowd by playing what could have been mistaken for a trailer for a movie directed by Michael Bay projected on a big screen, complete with haunting music, “from the governor that took on the teacher’s union” in white text on a black background, and the sound of a ticking clock at the end. Then Christie took the stage, his only notes a few statistics that he balanced with his bottle of water on a music stand. He told the crowd what the state legislators had been doing instead, passing bills he called frivolous like one that banned foreign-made dentures. From there, it was a warning about the coming bankruptcy of the pension fund with its $46 billion deficit, the problems with state-run health care plans, the need for ethics reform, the problems of the teachers union, and on, for an uninterrupted 38 minutes that he wrapped by again stressing the message of his slogan: Rethink. Reform. Rebuild. Then he took another 40 minutes of questions from the audience, the most contentious of which was why he had not done more on that dearest of Cuomo pet issues, local government consolidation. “Certainly the stuff and the meat of governing is not the stuff of campaigning, but that doesn’t mean that your strategies and tactics have to vary,” said Kevin Roberts, a Christie spokesman, as the office was preparing for the speech. “A lot of it comes down to the characteristics of this governor—I don’t think you could put everyone in a town hall meeting and come away with the type of footage, and the type of response, and the same connection he makes with people.” Cuomo has made clear that he will also be waging his campaign to change state government far beyond the confines of the state capital. Cuomo is not as funny as Christie, but he can be even smoother on his feet with even fewer notes than Christie. But his style is completely different: for all the aggressive elements of his agenda, he is never as openly combative, never as mocking. EDITORIAL Editor: Edward-Isaac Dovere firstname.lastname@example.org Managing Editor: Andrew Hawkins email@example.com Reporters: Chris Bragg firstname.lastname@example.org Laura Nahmias email@example.com Photography Editor: Andrew Schwartz Interns: Ismail Muhammed, Isha Mitra
What Andrew Cuomo might have to learn from Chris Christie’s governing model
To the extent that it gives him an easy scapegoat, Christie has an advantage in having both chambers of the Legislature controlled by the other party, and economic problems that are not nearly as massive (though they are on the same proportional scale). Cuomo will have the Republican Senate for a foil, but he will not have what are Christie’s biggest advantages: broad authorities in the New Jersey constitution that make the Garden State governor easily the most powerful in the nation. He even gets to appoint the attorney general and state treasurer. The man Christie chose as his treasurer, Andrew Eristoff, knows a little about comparing between New Jersey government and New York. Before he took his current job, he spent four years as George Pataki’s state tax commissioner. Eristoff left Albany depressed. And the same culture, he fears, will be there to stand in Cuomo’s way. “There seems to be the attitude that we’re sent to Trenton to actually make these decisions and deal with the problems,” he said. “I had come to feel in the last few years that in Albany, there wasn’t any particular sense of urgency. No one seems to care.” So what is Eristoff’s advice for Cuomo, who is certainly aware of Christie, but wary of commenting about him in any formal way? “I urge the governor-elect not to assume that the experience in New Jersey is directly applicable to New York. The cultures are different, and the history is different, and the institutional structure is a little bit different,” Eristoff said. “Level with people. Don’t game it. Don’t obfuscate. Don’t beat around issues. Confront them head on.”
For all of his success in the first year, there are hints that Christie may not be able to carry it for his full term. Some of his poll numbers have come back soft, and the editorial pages are pushing back, too—“Christie’ Bully Act Getting Old,” the Star-Ledger declared at the beginning of the month. For Cuomo, this may be warning enough to avoid the Christie model. But then, Cuomo might not get to have the kind of evening that Christie described as he wrapped up his Livingston town hall. The night before, he explained, he had dropped by a fundraiser for the Rutgers University Chabad House, not far from that Shriner’s hall. His advance man let him know that Paul McCartney was there, too. Christie figured it was a practical joke, until, up on stage, he saw McCartney staring up at him from the front row of tables. The man at the microphone, whom Christie described as “an overzealous supporter,” was apparently oblivious. “He says, ‘Governor Christie’s done amazing things during his 11 months, he’s doing exactly what he said he would do,’” Christie told the crowd, building up to the punch line. “‘You have among you a true rock star.’” The first thing he did when he got to the microphone was apologize to the former Beatle, there with his girlfriend, whose father is a big supporter of the Chabad House. There was only one rock star in the room. But telling the story the next morning, he could not help but laugh. “This is how crazy your life can become when you’re governor of this amazing state,” Christie said. “Only in New Jersey.” firstname.lastname@example.org
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New York City—and that legislators from outside the city voted against the effort to save NYC OTB en masse—is likely to make downstate legislators less sympathetic when other OTBs run into their own financial problems, as gambling revenues continue to decline. And that could Advocates hope death of OTB will spur clean-up of a system lead towards the demise of other regional OTBs—and towards consolidation. were found to own a largely unnecesBy Chris Bragg “A thousand people are going to be sary fleet of 88 vehicles. And there were laid off, and New York City wasn’t asking six completely independent regional OTB ver since Howie Samuels for an additional dime,” the person said. was appointed the first chairman operations across the state, with many of “People aren’t going to forget all these in 1971, the New York City Off- their services duplicative. jobs that were lost in the city when it’s As gambling revenues have declined in Track Betting office has served as sometime to deal with these other issues.” thing of a patronage mill bound up in recent years, though, demand among adThe racing industry across the country politics. Samuels essentially ran his 1974 vocates to reform the OTB operation into faces issues, both from the recession campaign for governor out of the office, a single entity have increased. Yet and from a general decline in interand that trend has continued in one form consolidation has been almost “It would allow the state to est this year, said Steven Newman, a or another pretty much ever since, and in impossible to achieve precisely make more money by getting member of the NYC OTB Board. But because of their utility as patron- rid of all the duplications that lavishly-run OTBs across the state. better parlors—and the jobs that go “It’s never lost the stigma of being a age mills, and their role in prowith them—stand a better chance of political operation,” said Bennett Lieb- viding jobs and revenues to local are there,” said Gary Pretlow, a Westchester Democrat. survival if their administrative funcman, a board member of the New York government. tions consolidate, he said. During the recent battle in AlRacing Association and executive direc“You’re having to hire six executor of the Government Law Center at Al- bany to save OTB from shutting down, other regional OTBs were a heavy ally agree to pass OTB chairman Larry tive directors, finance directors, HR debany Law School. During boom times for the industry, presence around the capital. And the po- Schwartz’s bill that would decrease the partments in each system,” he said. “Forthat was not a problem. There was more litical connections of many of their staff labor and other operational costs, as ty years ago, there was a system put in than enough revenue to pay for the heavy only added to their clout, Liebman said. well as rework the beleaguered agency’s place that didn’t make sense. But there Pretlow has already convened a task flawed financial model, according to one are a lot of corporate mergers going on operational costs. Even in a report isthese days that consolidate these kinds of sued earlier this year by Assembly Mem- force that is pushing the idea of consoli- person close to the effort. ber Gary Pretlow, chair of the racing and dating OTB’s regional entities into one The fact that other OTBs demanded functions.” gaming committee, the city’s OTB staff agency, suggesting that such a move could their own concessions at the expense of email@example.com
help the state’s fiscal situation, since lower costs could help OTB pay more of its winnings to the state. He is also holding hearings to investigate the demise of the city’s OTB parlors. “It would allow the state to make more money by getting rid of all the duplications that are there,” said Pretlow, a Westchester Democrat. But with an incoming Republican majority in the State Senate, Pretlow’s push for consolidation may be a non-starter. Still, some say the death of OTB could eventually help Pretlow’s cause. Many in the racing industry assumed that the Legislature would eventu-
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December 13, 2010
What new members headed to a full sixth of the seats in the Assembly will mean BY CHRIS BRAGG
oving up can be difficult in the Assembly. Prominent committee chairmanships, assuming a member is part of the vast Democratic majority, are doled out according to relationships with the speaker and seniority in a body where most members have had years of no term limits, no-challenge elections to build up experience in Albany and time with Shelly Silver. Rankand-file Democrats are seen as largely anonymous, viewed by many as rubberstamps at best. Republicans are seen as irrelevant. But a huge amount of turnover this year—there will be at least 26 new members, pending recounts—means changes for both conferences in 2011. In the Democratic conference, there are a number of prominent departures. Mike Gianaris
and Adriano Espaillat are both headed to the Senate. Richard Brodsky, a leading progressive and arguably the chamber’s loudest, most independent Democratic voice, will be gone, taking his 28 years of experience with him. Bill Parment, one of the Democratic conference’s more prominent fiscal conservatives, will not be there in January either. But Assembly Member Jeff Aubry, an 18-year veteran, noted that former Higher Education chair Ed Sullivan, who retired in 2002, had once also seemed irreplaceable. “People leaving always changes the mix inside the conference and the voices you hear,” Aubry said. “But we didn’t lose so many that we lost the heart of the institution.” The changeover of a full sixth of the membership offers a chance for more junior members to move up and play a
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bigger role, said Queens Democratic Assembly Member Rory Lancman, sitting in his small fifth-floor office. Lancman recounted his kids asking him if he would move from license plate number 141 this year, his order of seniority, into the teens, one of the many indications of the seniorbased pecking order.
A huge amount of turnover this year—there will be at least 26 new members, pending recounts—means changes for both conferences in 2011. “The 100-teens,” he stressed. “Not the teens—unless we get a nice plague going around or something.” Lancman said he was simply happy that Assembly Member Susan John, chair of the Labor Committee, has allowed him to wield some authority as chair of the Subcommittee on Workplace Safety, saying that this has allowed him to find his “own track” for now within the body. But others will likely be aiming a little higher. The Assembly Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee, which Brodksy chaired, will be a highly sought prize, especially since the passage in 2009 of one of the more sweeping pieces of reform legislation the capital had seen in decades. The Labor Committee, chaired by John, who is retiring, will likely be even more coveted. And whoever lands those will create a shuffle for
12/13/10 11:50 AM
lower-tier committees. More junior members cited by their colleagues as in line for a promotion include Carl Heastie, Hakeem Jeffries, Catherine Nolan, Keith Wright and Brian Kavanagh—all members from New York City. It also remains unclear whether these new chairs will wield nearly as much power as over the past two years, when, with the assistance of a Democratic majority in the Senate, Assembly Democrats passed major initiatives, such as the Rockefeller Drug Law Reform, that had been bottled up for years under Republican rule. With Republicans poised to retake control of the Senate, there are more than a few Assembly Democrats who are wistful about what had been left undone, and will likely not be done for at least another two years, including a farm workers rights bill, campaign finance reform, marriage equality and gun micro-stamping. Not that a Republican Senate will be entirely negative for Assembly Democrats. The end of one-party rule could at least mean that they will not bear the brunt of so much criticism going forward. And for all the policy differences likely to come up between the chambers and the parties that control them, Assembly Democrats are more accustomed to working with the more disciplined Senate Republicans. “When the Democrats controlled [the Senate], it was almost more of a radical change than going back to the Republicans because we were used to dealing with them through the years,” said Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari. “Still, I’d rather have it the other way.” Assembly Republicans, meanwhile, have even more turnover in their small conference than the Democrats, with at least 17 of the 50 members newly elected, according to Minority Leader Brian Kolb. Eight are taking over what were Democratic seats. Most Assembly Democrats downplay all the talk of Republicans potentially having a veto-proof majority, noting that even if they do, pulling a twothirds vote on anything in the closely divided Senate would be difficult. But Kolb said not to dismiss the possibility that Republicans, plus perhaps a few conservative Assembly Democrats, could prevent an override at some point. “Needing one or two votes to prevent an override, versus 10, is a huge difference,” Kolb said. Assembly Member Michael Benjamin, a conservative Democrat from the Bronx who is retiring, had a different take on the loss of at least eight of his party’s seats to Republicans. He said the effect would actually be to drive the Democratic conference to the left, since Silver will no longer have to worry on placating a number of his more conservative members. “The conference is going to become more liberal, and I don’t think that inures well for the state of New York,” he said. “The Senate Republicans now become the brakes on what will come out of a more liberal Assembly.” firstname.lastname@example.org
With Duffy off to Albany, Rochester mayoral control of schools in jeopardy of getting dropped BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS
s Rochester’s political leaders continue to mull the process of selecting Mayor Robert Duffy’s successor, Duffy’s signature policy proposal looks like it may get left out in the cold. Bob Duffy, who will step down on Jan. 1 to become Andrew Cuomo’s lieutenant governor, said during the campaign that he had hoped his resignation would not kill his effort to enact mayoral control of schools in Rochester. But with local leaders still struggling over the process of succession, the outlook for mayoral control is very much undecided. A bill that would authorize mayoral control was introduced in the Senate over the summer at the request of Gov. David Paterson, but has yet to clear committee. “We haven’t heard anything about it,” said one Senate source close to the issue. Tom Richards, who was corporation counsel under Duffy before being bumped up to deputy mayor in November, recently announced his intention to seek the job Duff, is vacating to take the No. 2 spot in Albany, but only on the condition that the Rochester City Council calls for a special election this spring. The Council’s other option is to appoint an interim mayor to serve until a primary and general election next fall. At a recent press conference, Richards expressed support for mayoral control, but said he would not just “sit around” and wait for state legislators to move on the bill before setting out to improve the city’s school system. This was a distinct departure from Duffy, once referred to mayoral control as a hill he was “prepared to die on.” Rochester’s business community, which urged Duffy to take control of the city’s 33,000 plus student school system, remains committed to the idea. But as his likely successor, Richards seems pessimistic about its chances. “He’s a proponent of mayoral control,” said a source close to Richards. “But he feels that while doing everything to help
the schools is important, the issue is out of our hands at this point in time. That unless the conditions are right in the State Senate, the bill will pass the Assembly again and likely fail in the Senate. And there are way more things the mayor of
Rochester can be doing with his time right now.” The city’s teachers union, which has expressed strong skepticism of mayoral control, is not convinced the issue is completely dead yet.
“Yes, it undermined the prospects somewhat,” said Adam Urbanski, president of the Rochester Teachers Association. “But it certainly didn’t eliminate them.” email@example.com
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There are no easy answers. But some politicians think public sector layoffs are a quick fix. They’re wrong. There are no real savings by eliminating jobs because: • Layoffs mean paychecks won’t be spent in the community • income taxes won’t get paid • Services won’t be available • Work that generates revenue won’tt get done. Politicians who talk about creating ting jobs while promoting layoffs are talking ing out of both sides of their mouths.
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The Wild Ones
Looking forward to life in the State Senate with Tony Avella and Greg Ball BY LAURA NAHMIAS
or two troublemakers like Tony Avella and Greg Ball, the State Senate seems like the perfect home. But after the mania of the last two years, senators on both sides of the aisle are worried about what their arrival will bring. With yet another 32-30 divide, any wild Republican or Democratic vote could throw the Senate into gridlock. Avella, a former Queens City Council member, often voted against the Council’s leadership while in office. He ran a protest candidacy for New York City mayor in 2009 and earned a contrarian reputation. But operatives say Avella’s ideological alignment with the incoming governor, combined with a Democratic minority in the Senate, could help neutralize his roguishness. The first indication of that came earlier this month when Avella said he supported the vote to keep John Sampson as leader of the Democratic conference, despite scattered grumbling about Sampson’s leadership, his role in the inspector general’s Aqueduct report and the no-warning vote taken amid the late-November spe-
cial session. “I always do what I think is right, but I don’t think that’s in opposition most of the time,” Avella said. “In the City Council, I think I actually voted with leadership 90 percent of the time.”
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DECEMBER 13, 2010
He also voted against all tax increases, a stance that put him at odds with other Council members, but that could find him in good stead with Andrew Cuomo. The new dynamics in the Senate could increase the likelihood that Avella will play nice, said political consultant Joe Mercurio. “One of the problems with the current conference leadership when they became the majority was that the Black and Hispanic Caucus took over things,” he said. “I think with Cuomo as governor, and him running a tighter operation… you’re going to see Avella oppose Republicans instead of opposing Democrats.” State Sen. Diane Savino said that being a rouge in the City Council is different from being outspoken in the Senate. “He has a reputation for being outspoken, but in the City Council you have a very powerful executive, unicameral legislature, it’s a very different place,” Savino said. “People say he could be a real problem in the Senate, but I don’t believe that in the slightest. He’s not afraid to take on a fight but he’s also not crazy. In some ways, being in the minority might be easier for Tony.” Avella owes his election in part to union support and hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, which helped propel him to his win over longtime incumbent State Sen. Frank Padavan. He was the priority race for the Senate Democrats from the outset of the year, the win around which they built their strategy for holding off a Republican wave. Greg Ball, on the other hand, beat back a primary challenger recruited by a preguilty-plea Vinnie Leibell and supported by the Senate Republican Campaign Com-
mittee. Even with the nomination, Ball remained anathema to many Republicans, and the SRCC sent just $152,000 his way, and only a few days prior to the election. The party still does not trust him, said one high-ranking GOP Albany veteran official. “I think he has the absolute potential to become the Pedro Espada of the Republican conference,” the official said. Ball was less of a problem when he was part of the Assembly GOP ultraminority. But Ball could create anarchy within the narrowly divided Senate, said several Republicans, who worry his lack of loyalty to the party leadership could lead him to hold Republicans hostage on votes that require compromise, such as budget negotiations. Republicans predicted Ball, a former Air Force pilot, will hold to the tea party ideology that helped elect him. Indeed, the incoming senator said his top legislative priority would be a law restricting employment on public works projects to New York taxpayers. As for his greater role in the Senate conference, Ball made no gestures toward conciliation. “I will represent the greatest threat to the status quo up there that the Senate has ever seen,” Ball said. “It is within the vested interest of the power brokers to keep out people who will shake up the status quo.” If Ball fights, the Republicans’ containment strategy may have to be convincing Democrats to work with them on some issues where Ball’s vote cannot be assured. But as a fiscal conservative, Ball is unlikely to break with his conference on budgetary issues. One way to rein in Ball may be to withhold chairmanship from him. Another may be to withhold vital funding for his Putnam County district, which is facing a massive budget deficit. Scott Reif, a spokesman for the Senate Republicans, said the conference has not yet made decisions on committee chairmanship. Those watching Ball should look for him to play a large role in redistricting. He is said to be looking to excise northern Westchester from his district, an area that voted heavily for his Democratic opponent Mike Kaplowitz, as a way to consolidate his hold on the seat. But any Republican who hoped Ball could be forced out after one term may have seen their dream die in early December when ex-State Sen. Vincent Leibell, whose seat Ball now occupies, pled guilty to corruption charges. As goes Leibell, so goes all strong opposition to Greg Ball, said John Degnan, the ex-mayor of Brewster who ran against Ball in 2008. “Greg is the de facto leader of the GOP in Putnam County at this point,” Degnan said. Savino seemed pleased that for once, the most likely provocateur in the chamber was not a member of the Democratic conference. “He’s their problem,” she said of Ball and the Republicans, “not ours.” firstname.lastname@example.org
Cuomo Dreams Of Electric Cars The incoming governor has a plan for electric cars, but lacks a clear funding stream By Laura Nahmias
ith Chevrolet’s new hybrid electric Volt car set to begin rolling off the assembly line, Governor-Elect Andrew Cuomo’s plan to install electric car-charging stations across the state is receiving a closer look by transportation and environmental advocates. The response? Nice idea, now how are you going to pay for it. The initiative, outlined in Cuomo’s last policy book “Greener Cleaner NY,” calls for erecting an unspecified number of charging stations in urban areas, thruways and along the I-95 corridor by the year 2015. New York City began installing charging stations this past summer, but Cuomo says that electric cars will not catch on with consumers unless these plug-in stations exist throughout the state. Charging stations in New York are to be installed at no cost to the city, paid for in part with federal stimulus funds, but there is no explanation of what to do after that stream dries up. Automakers like Toyota recently announced plans to develop electric cars; the Cuomo plan, though vague, is intended to get out ahead of what transportation advocates
see as an expected shift in the way New Yorkers get around. The plan, like most of Cuomo’s policy books, is vague on details, lacking specifics on how the stations will get built, or who will pay for them. “I don’t have any sense of how he will pay for it, or what it will cost,” said State Sen. Martin Dilan, chair of the transportation committee and a member of Cuomo’s transition team. “I would think you have to look at the positive side of this. I would imagine it would create jobs, it’s something that would help the economy and would create a new business of vehicles that are friendly for the environment.” As fossil fuels become a less viable way to make money, energy companies should, and probably would, shoulder the cost of constructing the charging stations as a way to demonstrate a willingness to invest in alternative modes of transportation, said Neysa Pranger, director of public affairs at the Regional Plan Association. “The energy companies would be willing to install the infrastructure,” Pranger said. Assembly Member Kevin Cahill, who chairs the energy committee, said the state could subsidize the cost of building the stations initially, but that any plan
would have to show how it could become self-sustaining over time. “One thing to remember right now is that technology for electric vehicles isn’t settled,” Cahill said. For instance, charging stations built now might not be compatible with future electric cars, he said. Another challenge is making the cars affordable. Mitchell Moss, a professor of transportation policy at NYU and another member of Cuomo’s transportation transition team, said that investments by Con Edison and the various automakers in electric car technology give him the sense that electric-car infrastructure is smart planning. “The governor-elect is clearly on the cut-
ting edge in encouraging this,” Moss said. The plan may be controversial to alternative transportation advocates concerned about more cars in urban areas, even if they are electric, said Luke Tonachel, a senior analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Transportation Program. But electric cars are just part of a better energy policy for the state, he said. “To cut our dependence on oil and carbon pollution from the transportation sector, we have to pursue a set of strategies and really pursue all the clean energy strategies we have available to us,” he said. email@example.com
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December 13, 2010
David And His Goliaths By Edward-Isaac dovErE
nds of terms are times for reflections and self-hagiographies, and David Paterson has certainly been doing his part. On the radio—his preferred medium—and just about anywhere else, the outgoing governor has been pleading his case, pushing for a different view of his performance than the one that has settled into conventional wisdom. Asked to sum up his legacy, Paterson told The Capitol it was “one of openness and honesty on all issues, one of forthrightness on crisis, of not being afraid to jump into difficult situations that others would have tried to kick the can down the road on.” Plus, Paterson said in summing up his performance on the surprise job, “I was willing to be candid about how Washington was dealing with New York at times, and worked very hard. In addition to the fact that I made mistakes, I was willing to take the chances where some of them were mistakes, but some of them were major, major victories that were not thought to ever occur.” There are parts of that self-analysis that those who have watched the last two and a half years would contest. “Forthrightness” might be his to claim for going on television in July 2008 to warn of a coming economic nightmare that no one had prepared for and the Legislature seemed unwilling to tackle. But few who watched the career-ending episode with David Johnson at the beginning of this year would use that word to describe him. Likewise, working hard and taking chances hardly jibes with the image of an absent, disconnected Paterson that so many have experienced firsthand. Still, for all the criticism he has earned, Paterson’s half-term also contains movement on a few issues that had rattled around Albany for years, never coming close to real resolution: full Rockefeller drug law reform, authorities reform, Tier V pension structuring and a fundamental reinvention of the governor’s powers in the budgeting process. Gay marriage legalization ultimately failed, but finally made it to the floor for a vote, amazing because it got there at all. Ethics reform passed the Legislature, but was vetoed by Paterson, who refused to sign a bill that he said did not go far enough. For that which did happen—and he likes to point out that there were a number of big victories on non-perennial problems, like changing the laws on brownfields, mortgage foreclosure prosecution, stop-and-frisk and judicial compensation—Paterson takes the credit. For that which did not, he blames the economic
December 13, 2010
crisis for poisoning his relationship with legislators. The gay marriage bill is a perfect example, he said: Paterson believes that the votes were there to pass it, but that bringing it up in a special session focused on deficit reduction sealed its fate. “The cloud of uncertainty about whether or not we would even be able to meet our cash flow needs created an acrimonious atmosphere between the Legislature and me,” Paterson said. “Could it be avoided? Well, the next governor is trying a few things. I hope he can avoid it.” After spending 21 years in the State Senate, Paterson said he was surprised at how quickly the good will with his old colleagues dissipated after that first celebratory, ding-dong-the-witch-is-dead swearing-in and impression-filled opening speech in the Assembly chamber. He points out that he raised $2.7 million for the Senate Democrats over the years. “It makes me think of something Voltaire once wrote: ‘Save someone’s life and you’ve made a permanent enemy,’” Paterson said. He blames the coup for the lasting disorganization and deflated morale among the Senate Democrats. He knows they never got over their anger with him for keeping them trapped in Albany in extraordinary sessions, and he still has noticeable bitterness in his voice that none of them acknowledged his role in helping push the coup to conclusion by appointing Richard Ravitch lieutenant governor. “I never got as much as a phone call that said, ‘Hey, great,’” Paterson said. After a quarter century in Albany, Paterson sounds sick of the process. Legislators and advocates underestimate costs, purposefully or not. Little gets done, he said, because everything is forcibly subsumed to everything else. “Nothing stands on its own,” he said. “Any good idea is buried because it becomes part of a mega-negotiation.” Paterson spoke longingly of Joe Bruno, the retired and then indicted former Senate majority leader, who the governor said never made a trade on getting legislation passed. “In my dealings with him, there was never the kind of ‘well, I’ll do this if you do that’ stuff. It may have come out that way in the end, but each case was distinguishable,” Paterson said. In Bruno’s place, Paterson had the fractured and volatile Senate Democrats. “I think it would have been easier if the Republicans were in control, in the sense that even with a one-vote majority, they could exercise discipline, so the procedures went a lot more smoothly. Number two, you knew where they were coming from, you knew what you could get and what you couldn’t get. Number three, they had been in office, in the majority,”
Paterson reflects on his legacy, and the impossibility of Albany
Paterson said. Not that this would have made for better policy. A Republican Senate would have precluded many of his accomplishments from happening, he said, including Rockefeller drug law reform, authorities reform and the elimination of stop-andfrisk. The Assembly was a disappointment, too. Punting on the deficit reduction plan at the end of last year may have made sense politically, but was precisely the kind of behavior that has brought the state to the edge of disaster, Paterson said. “They didn’t want to take the political hit, I totally understand that,” he said. “But I can’t call that leadership.” Ravitch’s budget plan, which the lieutenant governor was specifically brought onboard to do, fell apart after Paterson balked at the $6 billion in borrowing. Paterson blamed timing. “In retrospect, I think that the plan was for him to have his report issued before I put the budget out,” he said. “But when he put the budget out afterward, in many respects it contradicted the direction we’d been going in, because we had already made it clear that we’re not borrowing.” His plans for private life are uncertain, but Paterson has offered to continue
working on behalf of gay marriage and ethics reform, and says that he would like to see new authority allocated for declaring emergencies when budget negotiations stall. “You never saw an army with three generals beat somebody, and nobody ever erected a statue to a committee,” Paterson said. “The fact is that the process itself is inhibiting results. So my view is that those who have statewide interests—the governor and the comptroller— need to be empowered in the financial crisis.” But he is sure the Legislature would never sign off on the idea. Paterson regrets not getting gay marriage and an ethics law, and he regrets not getting a property-tax cap. He wishes the courts had moved more quickly with the decisions on Indian reservation cigarette sales. But he regrets most of all not ever being able to build the staff around him that would have enabled him to govern more effectively. “I had a tendency, because I came on in a crisis, to react in crisis mode. I think when there were crises, I think it did well,” Paterson said. “I think that my political reflexes are swift and responsible. I don’t think there are any major policy initiatives that we took that anyone thought were a joke or ridiculous. What I do think is that if you get into crisis mode, you sometimes have a tendency to stay in it—you just live emergency to emergency.” After serving in a procession of roles with three governors and then the last two and a half years of his own time in charge, Paterson has enough experience to make him an expert on Albany. He says there are good things in Andrew Cuomo’s policy books, but the workings of state government remain enough of a mystery that he does not have some accumulated wisdom to impart about how to make them reality. “Gov. [Mario] Cuomo passed one budget, and then the next 11 in his time in office were late. Gov. Pataki came into office and went 10 out of 10—he couldn’t get budgets passed until he said he wasn’t running for office any more. Gov. Spitzer had a whole commission to pick a new comptroller; the Legislature rejected all the names from the commission. And Gov. Paterson had many, and often, disturbances with the Legislature,” Paterson said. “So if there’s a secret, it remains up ahead. But I sure hope Governor Cuomo has it.” firstname.lastname@example.org
Parking Lot Challenge
Oldham East and Saddleworth, England
Britain Boots An Election Winner For Lying About Opponent In Campaign
(AKA: Where are the cuts from NYSDOCS administration contest?)
By Isha Mitra
don’t think anything like that would happen in New York,” said Barbara Bartoletti, the legislative director of the League of Women Voters of New York State. “We wouldn’t have many people left.” Bartoletti was referring to the recent case of Phil Woolas, a British member of Parliament who released campaign mailers about his opponent Elwyn Watkin’s supposed ties to extremists. In an unprecedented turn of events, the British courts declared Woolas’ win void after he was found to have lied knowingly about his opponent. His appeal failed, and Woolas, a former minister of the state for the treasury and for borders and immigration, remains out of office and suspended from the Labour Party. Tossing out a politician for lying about an opponent seems about as anti-American as Al Qaeda. Come election time, most candidates flood the airwaves, mailboxes and inboxes of anyone whom they can reach with whatever they can say. For all the other legal troubles that have booted legislators from office, false campaigning has not had much more in the way of repercussions than grumbling from disenchanted voters. “Opponents and campaign strategists feel that negative campaigning works and both candidates engage in it,” Bartoletti said. “It would be extraordinarily difficult to legislate this.” But people are trying to enforce the truth more in campaigns. A joint venture between the nonpartisan League of Women Voters and Interfaith Impact resulted in the creation of the Fair Campaign Practices Committee in certain areas of the state, most notably
Westchester and Syracuse. If one candidate accuses another candidate of knowingly lying on the campaign trail, the involved parties appear before a panel where a final decision is made. The results are then promoted to local reporters. Already, there have been high-profile cases in New York State during the last election season. The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee found State Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer guilty of releasing an advertisement falsely labeling her opponent Bob Cohen as a slumlord. Similarly, Greg Ball got in trouble with the committee after releasing a mailer stating his opponent Mike Kaplowitz “spent billions, needlessly, hiked taxes recklessly, and rubber stamped [ex-Westchester County Executive] Andy Spano’s every move.” Not that everyone in Britain is happy about this new twist in local political campaigns. George Jones, a professor at the London School of Economics and expert on the Parliamentary system, called the court ruling “a sad day for the political process.” “I don’t like appointed judges being able to remove their elected representatives,” Jones said. “This case has given the green light to defeated candidates in the future to search for alleged lies and appeal to judges.” After all, freedom of speech is what political campaigns are about, Jones said. “Those who take a different position from mine argue there are boundaries to political debate in elections that justify curbing freedom of expression,” said Jones. “I put a higher value on freedom of speech and the political process.”
The publication for and about New York State Government
In an effort to illustrate the extremely top heavy administration at the New York State Department of Correctional Services, the New York State Correction Officers & Police Benevolent Assoc. (NYSCOPBA) is holding the first annual
“Parking Lot Challenge” Contest. ANY State elected official who can drive their car to Building #2 at the Harriman State Campus (Albany, NY) and find a parking spot between the hours of 9am-4pm Monday thru Thursday will be entered into a drawing to win a one-week vacation in the Bahamas. You will be competing for a parking spot with hundreds and hundreds of highly paid administrators at an annual salary cost of over $75 million dollars, so get there early.
Location of DOCS Administration Building #2: 1220 Washington Ave Albany, New York 12226-2050 Note: Fridays will not be acceptable because many of the administrators leave early for the weekend, thereby making empty spaces available. Rules are simple: Take a photograph with your cell phone camera clearly showing the car that is registered to you in an open parking space at Building #2, and then email the photo to email@example.com
Each entry will then be printed out and entered in our “State of the State” day drawing. Good luck finding a parking space!
Odds of winning are based on how many administrators take off for the Holidays.
Contest ends when the DOCS administration actually shrinks for once!
The above is for demonstrative purposes only. This is not an actual contest and no prizes will given. THE CAPITOL
DECEMBER 13, 2010
Taking Throne THE
Pete King is now the most important Republican in New York. Does he care?
By ANDREW J. HAWKINS
ongressman Sean Cross, a Long Island Republican, is something of a lone wolf. He is foul-mouthed, intensely partisan and prone to gung-ho displays of patriotism. He is the type that would sooner run to the scene of a terrorist attack than run away. His in-depth, encyclopedic knowledge of terrorist cells in both Ireland and the Middle East makes him a powerful asset to mayors, governors and presidents alike. He is in demand. He is fearless. He is Peter King’s fictional creation, and alter-ego. Between 1999 and 2003, King wrote a trilogy of books—Terrible Beauty, Deliver Us From Evil and Vale Of Tears—starring Cross as the thinly veiled King, part-action hero, part-congressman. King said he drew on his own experiences, from the Sept. 11 attacks to his dealings with the Irish Republican Army, when writing the series. They are compelling, if stiffly written, potboilers, filled with grisly murders and real-life figures like David Dinkins, Rudy Giuliani and George W. Bush. In a way, its easy to view Cross as King’s idealized version of himself, bouncing between New York and Washington with his sidekick, an ex-cop named Sully, helping bring down the bad guys. But King sees the books as a benign form of propaganda, a stylistic way of spinning his own message. “A historical novel is, in many ways, an easy way out,” King said. “You don’t have to do all the research for every fact… It gives you a lot more opportunity to get your point across without having to argue in any logical way. You do it through characters.” He added, “And then, I’m able to kill people I don’t like.”
DECEMBER 13, 2010
That is not so much his problem these days in Washington. At the end of November, outside the large conference room where John Boehner and the steering committee would listen to their quick speeches before doling out the chairmanship, King and his fellow House Republicans were still thumping with the excitement of their midterm wins. They complimented each other’s weight and hair, gabbed about hunting and how to win over Latino voters. But more than anything, like football players patting rumps in a locker room, they compared and congratulated each other on their press clips. Darrell Issa, the California Republican most famous for investigating ACORN and prompting the gubernatorial recount that elected Arnold Schwarzenegger, got
nying perks and pitfalls. When the time comes, he will be asked to weigh in on state party decisions, to raise a little cash and perform many of the other duties the senior Republican in the state is usually expected to perform. Rangel did it when he was at the top of his game, doling out the windfall from his annual birthday fundraiser to his fellow Democrats like party favors. King, though, has much less experience with this kind of party-building. He is an admittedly so-so fundraiser, is far more interested in what is going on in Islamabad than Poughkeepsie, and has no desire to be referred to as the dean of anything. “I’ll pass on that,” he says. He tries to play down the significance of his role as senior Republican in the state. “Believe me, these things come in waves. It comes and goes,” he said earlier, sitting in the front seat of an aide’s SUV as he is driven all of four blocks from the Hart Office Building to the Capitol. “I remember when they said that about Nelson Rockefeller. Look how far the state has come, from Nelson Rockefeller to Pete King?” He may not have a choice. The pressure is high for Republicans to prove that 2010 was not just a fluke election year, and that they can retain the seats they gained and, if possible, run a statewide candidate that can actually win. King himself will not close out on a statewide run himself, choosing to keep his trial balloon fully inflated and floating. That balloon has been floating for a while now, though. And many Republicans have long since given up on the idea of Pete King as a galvanizing force in the state. “He’s always been a bit of a lone wolf,” said one state Republican operative who spoke anonymously, to avoid angering King. “He chooses his own issues. It’s always been foreign policy, Irish issues, terrorism issues. But he’s never been a party-building guy. That’s not his M.O. at all.”
community. “I can show all these difference instances when information was known to Muslim leaders and they didn’t go to the police,” King said. “It makes for awkward moments. I think it needs to be addressed. Not just so people yell back that I’m a bigot.” Like Rick Lazio, King can be counted on to play nice with the state’s Democratic delegation. Given the chance to cast a vote earlier in December to censure Charlie Rangel, King voted “no,” citing his long relationship with the Harlem congressman and his belief that the vote would set a bad precedent. And there are almost as many photos of Barack Obama on the wall of King’s D.C. office as there are of George W. Bush. He is not seen as a staunch, tea partyfriendly politician, but is well liked by
“HE’S ALWAYS BEEN A BIT OF A LONE WOLF,” SAID ONE STATE REPUBLICAN OPERATIVE WHO SPOKE ANONYMOUSLY, TO AVOID ANGERING KING. “HE CHOOSES HIS OWN ISSUES. IT’S ALWAYS BEEN FOREIGN POLICY, IRISH ISSUES, TERRORISM ISSUES. BUT HE’S NEVER BEEN A PARTY-BUILDING GUY. THAT’S NOT HIS M.O. AT ALL.”
a cheer for his recent front-page profile in the New York Times. But most of the praise was saved for King, who had just finished up a morning news blitz as the returning Homeland Security Committee chair talking tough about WikiLeaks, which he deemed worse than a physical attack on the country. On the radio, Sean Hannity spent several minutes coddling King, bragging about the fact that he had just moved to the congressman’s Nassau-Suffolk district. King, who got 75 percent against a high school social studies teacher, deadpanned that Hannity’s vote put him over the top. Hannity and House Republicans are not the only ones paying attention to King these days. Calls have been coming
in from James Brennan, the White House deputy national security advisor, and from President Obama himself. Things are looking good back home, too. Just two years ago, King found himself one of only two Republicans left in the delegation, along with Chris Lee, the unassuming freshman who lives closer to Ontario than Nassau—“the King and I” period for the New York GOP, Lee jokes. Democrats in Albany looked poised to redistrict King into oblivion. Then this year, Republicans picked up six more congressional seats and took back the State Senate. The excitement is tempered by reality, the unspoken but acknowledged fact that in a state as blue as New York, the chances of the comeback lasting are precarious at best. King is the new Charlie Rangel, with all its accompa-
ean Cross is a man of action and little introspection who rarely even gets a physical description from his creator. King is slightly more complicated, a mélange of many different Republican archetypes. Like Carl Paladino, he has a knack for making headlines—he told Politico back in 2007 that there are “too many mosques in this country,” but later said his comments were taken out of context—but unlike Paladino, he is not so sloppy as to provide a paper (or e-mail) trail for his opponents to exploit. If anything, despite his outspokenness, he can be quite sensitive about people calling him out for criticizing the Muslim
many in the movement for his hard-line stance against immigration and terrorism. There is no mistaking King for a leftof-center Republican. He is as pro-gun, pro-tax-cut and anti-abortion as many of his colleagues. How that will translate, as King gets comfortable in his new role as dean of the delegation, is anyone’s guess. The six freshman Republicans will be looking to King for help with their re-elections, help getting around the capital, help navigating the legislative process. “Pete is not bashful,” said Lee, now entering his second term. “He does not tap dance around the issues. He’s gone up against the Republican leadership from time to time.” Tom Reed, just elected to replace disgraced ex-Rep. Eric Massa, said he admired King’s bluntness, but not necessarily to the point of emulating his style. “I try to be much more reserved,” Reed said. “I’m definitely cautious. I recognize words have significant impact when coming out of my mouth, as a congressman.” DECEMBER 13, 2010
On Nov. 18, all the freshman members (except Reed, who was recovering from a medical emergency and sent his chief of staff) met over coffee and doughnuts in King’s D.C. office. Even Randy Altschuler was there, back when his recount effort against Rep. Tim Bishop still had life. The one-hour event was an opportunity for the new members to meet one another and strategize for the coming session. Rangel’s censure was coming up, as was an important vote on the Bush tax cuts. This kind of meeting is new for King. He used to boycott the New York delegation meetings, complaining they were more Democratic pep rallies than anything else. It is unclear going forward, though, whether King will continue to keep the delegation meetings separated. Some of the freshman Republicans got more than coffee and doughnuts (or even free copies of Vale of Tears, the last in the Sean Cross trilogy, released in 2003, which King keeps stacked in a closet). Richard Hanna, for one, got a “retire the debt” fundraiser hosted by King. And there is more coming. Anthony Weiner, whose televised debates with King have all the flair and nuance of a round of Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots, said part of what makes King successful is his ability to trick far-right conservatives into thinking that he is one of them. “He’s done a pretty great job of convincing the entire Republican caucus he’s as crazy as they are,” he said. “He walks the Fox News walk, but I think he realizes that he’s a member of Congress from a fairly liberal state.” Weiner predicted that the state’s newly elected Republicans will be looking at tough re-elections ahead, which puts more
contenders, like Bob Turner, who lost in a landslide to Weiner. King was shocked Republicans did so well in New York this year. Naturally, he knew the wind was at their backs. But he never knew how strong it would turn out to be. “I could have sat down and told you intellectually why we could have picked six, seven, eight seats,” he said. “But to actually see it happen… I thought we’d be lucky to get two or three.”
his spring, King received a text message from Dick Morris, the veteran pollster and long-time advisor to Bill Clinton. At the time, the news was dominated by the almost daily appearance of candidates and pseudo-candidates declaring their intentions of running against Kirsten Gillibrand, the unelected junior senator. King himself
“IF YOU THINK ABOUT THE STATE, OBVIOUSLY YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE A STATE SENATE LEADER WHO’S GOING TO BE JOUSTING ALL THE TIME WITH THE GOVERNOR AND THE STATE LEGISLATURE,” SAID FREQUENT JOUSTING PARTNER REP. ANTHONY WEINER. “PETER HAS A FAIRLY CLEAR FIELD AS THE MOST IMPORTANT REPUBLICAN IN THE STATE.” pressure on King as the most immediately available senior member with access to political advice and top-dollar donors. “If you think about the state, obviously you’re going to have a State Senate leader who’s going to be jousting all the time with the governor and the State Legislature,” Weiner said. “Peter has a fairly clear field as the most important Republican in the state.” Nonetheless, King stayed largely to the sidelines while Dean Skelos and others fought to regain control of the chamber. For the most part, King kept his endorsement holstered, whipping it out occasionally to support less than viable
DECEMBER 13, 2010
had thrown his name out there, but made no serious move to get in the race, nor did he even form an exploratory committee to test the waters. “You’re never going to forgive yourself for the rest of your life,” Morris’ text read. King saved the text. Sure, he could have said “to hell with it” and ran against Gillibrand this year, he says. Everyone was telling him she was vulnerable, she had no name ID, no liberal base and no chance of winning reelection, especially with King in the race. In the end, he ended his flirtation, banking on the possibility of retaking the chairmanship of the Homeland Security
Committee, his declared passion. “If it were Caroline Kennedy, I definitely would have done it, just for the nature of the race,” he said. “The shanty Irish versus the lace curtain Irish.” But he keeps the rumors churning, refusing to close the door on a future run. And considering that no Republican candidate has won a statewide race in New York since George Pataki in 2002, there are some who believe that King stokes those rumors simply in the interest of self-service. Democratic sources in Washington say that he simply does not have what it takes to go through with it, while Democrats back in Nassau snort derisively. “When push comes to shove, he’s consistently punked out,” said one Nassau Democrat. There may be a note of fear in some of their voices, knowing full well that King could capitalize on his public face and seniority to mount a credible run. Even some Republicans note that his frequent television appearances would allow him to tap into a national donor base, before admitting that he would struggle with name recognition north of Westchester. After all, King has a history of putting his name out there, intimating that he might run against Hillary Clinton in 2000 before stepping aside and letting Rick Lazio fall on that grenade. But despite the outward appearance of being disinterested in anything not related to homeland security, he says he plans on taking a more active role in state politics. King says he is interested in rebuilding the state Republican Party in New York and re-branding it as a more grassroots, energetic movement. Of course, coming from a guy who does not gather his own petition signatures anymore and sometimes forgets the name of the county that borders Albany—Rensselaer, home of master Republican Joe Bruno—that kind of statement could ring somewhat hollow. In the past, he has assailed the party leadership for losing touch with voters. He blasted ex-state GOP chair Bill Powers for botching Lazio’s race against Clinton, which many Republicans chalked up as sour grapes. Today, he has harsh words
for Ed Cox, the son-in-law of Richard Nixon, whose law firm King briefly worked at. “He could have done a lot better, I think,” King said. “I think we need a guy with grassroots political experience, someone who can build the party from the ground up.” The race against Tim Bishop, for instance, was botched by the fact that Cox could not find a candidate who grew up in the district, settling instead on his own son, who King said was doomed by rumors of backroom dealing. For some Republicans, this kind of posturing coming from King seems false. North of Westchester, most Republicans would struggle to identify King, they say, let alone take his advice on who is qualified to run for which seat. “He’s not the political animal,” said one Republican operative. “He’s not the party guy.” King is nostalgic for the time when Powers, a Nassau Republican who was King’s friend and sometimes rival, ran the party like a well-oiled machine. He really knew how to pull the levers, King says. “Powers had the best approach,” he said. “He was a county chair, he knew how to get petitions signed, get candidates interested… He was able to build up the party from the ground up.” King is a big believer in organizational (read: machine) politics. He wrote his senior thesis defending Mayor Jimmy “Beau James” Walker and Tammany Hall. “I’m a product of the Nassau Republican organization,” he said, “which I make no apologies for.” But Powers is gone, retired as state chair almost a decade ago. Cox still has two years left in his term. Skelos, the incoming State Senate majority leader, will have his hands full with Andrew Cuomo and Sheldon Silver. George Pataki is raising cash with an eye on the White House. Republicans casting their eyes around the state in search of a strong leader to take the reins of the party and steer it to a brighter future may miss King, who will probably be in Washington, pouring over the latest national security briefing. Asked if King sees himself as someone like Powers, who can engineer electoral victories and bring the state party back from the brink of obscurity, King slips back into self-deprecation. “It’s an opportunity, it’s an obligation,” he said. “These things can be quite fleeting in politics.” Besides, the memories of the last time he presented himself to voters as a statewide candidate, running against Bob Abrams for attorney general in 1986, are still too vivid. The result was ugly for King, who lost by a two-to-one margin. It was never retold in any of King’s books. Sean Cross, after all, would never suffer so humiliating a defeat. “Every time I drive through Forest Hills,” he said, referring to a neighborhood in his native Queens, “I realize every one of these people took the time to come out and vote against me.” firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ravitch Plan By Andrew J. HAwkins
year and a half after his controversial appointment and staring down at the end of his term as the surprise lieutenant governor, Richard Ravitch offered a blunt personal assessment of his time on the job. “I feel very badly that I really accomplished very little,” said Ravitch, seated next to ex-Mayor Ed Koch on a panel hosted by The New York Observer and Cozen O’Connor. “Fundamentally, it was a terrific learning curve for me. But I can’t pretend I accomplished anything significant.” Never one to be shy with his opinions, Ravitch has spent the last few weeks of his odd foray into state government on something of an apology tour, telling anyone who sticks a microphone in his face how disappointed he is that no one listened to his advice. What went wrong? Ravitch, the gravel-voiced veteran of the fiscal rescues of the ’70s and ’80s, was supposed to lend his expertise to heavy lifts like budget reform and improving the state’s crumbling infrastructure. And he did, releasing a budget-restructuring plan that was rejected by the governor, the attorney general and the Legislature, and two reports on infrastructure and Medicaid reform, both of which have been largely ignored. Even Paterson admitted he had not read all the reports in full. “He has a lot of them,” Paterson said in an interview. “I’m too busy to actually read them. I just kind of get the bullets.” Many people say they felt let down, but stop short of pointing fingers at Ravitch. “I had great hopes that he’d make significant contribution to the administration, given his background and breadth of experience. I thought he could make a real difference,” said ex-state comptroller Carl McCall. “Unfortunately, he didn’t. And it wasn’t his fault.” Part of the problem was the chaos in the Legislature. Part of it was Paterson, whose almost complete loss of political capital prevented him from throwing any serious weight behind Ravitch’s proposals. As one prominent Senate Democrat noted, Ravitch found himself an unwitting bystander on Paterson’s “train to nowhere.” He said he did his due diligence, spending months on his reports and then hours in conference meetings with legislative leaders and advocates. But many of his ideas were non-starters. His budget plan, while calling for many of the same reforms trumpeted by the Senate Democratic majority, included $6 billion worth of borrowing, which Paterson and lawmakers refused to support during a
contested election year. This fall, releasing a report on Medicaid, Ravitch recommended taking rate-setting powers away from the Legislature and handing it to the state’s Medicaid director, another nonstarter. Ravitch said he is not disappointed with how his recommendations were received—or not received—by the governor and the Legislature, pointing out that his bailout of the MTA was partially adopted by the Legislature. Not the East River bridge tolls, though. Those were non-starters too. Ravitch acknowledges that Paterson’s mounting legal and political problems were unhelpful when trying to sell the Legislature on massive restructuring plans like his budget and Medicaid reports. “David Paterson was a lame duck governor,” he said, sitting in his 38th-floor Midtown Manhattan office. “And he was in the midst last spring of this incredible publicity about his scandals, real or unreal, alleged scandals, about which there were many more column inches than there ever were about the fiscal meltdown of the state. And therefore it’s very hard to get anything done when you don’t have a governor.” Those problems have not changed since he first took office, he says. And since no one saw fit to act on any of his recommendations, he says, they will likely get worse. “The economic paradigm has fundamentally changed,” he said. “And the political paradigm is going through an incredible wrenching change, the outcome we can’t possibily predict. It’s got strange manifestations, with the Tea Party crazies on one side, and people who think the federal printing press can be used to an unlimited degree on the other. And we’re in a real meltdown.” True, fiscal watchdogs have predicted a $10 billion budget gap for the state next year. And the state’s pension obligations are constantly being held up as a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. But many trusted public figures offer another side to Ravitch’s doom-and-gloom outlook. Michael Bloomberg, for one, recently delivered a speech on job growth, where he pointed to promising signs of economic recovery. “Our economy has grown twice as fast as the country’s,” Bloomberg said, “and eight times as fast as the rest of the state’s.” Bloomberg, of course, has quite a few political reasons to sell a rosier picture of the economy. Plus, his focus is just New York City, as opposed to the larger problems with the state that have been on Ravitch’s mind.
Finishing up his odd 18 months in a job he never sought, the outgoing LG evaluates himself
In the end, the failure may have been the lack of any real chemistry between Paterson and Ravitch. Rumors were flying throughout his time in office about Ravitch’s frustration with the governor and his staff, especially with Paterson’s secretary Larry Schwartz. Ravitch dismisses those rumors and the press corps as a whole. He has taken to savaging the media in public, upset that more ink was spilled over Pedro Espada, Jr., and Hiram Monserrate than over his admittedly dry, wonkish policy reports. That part of politics has always been difficult for Ravitch. As with his fourthplace finish in the 1989 Democratic mayoral primary in New York City, he is a man who is often widely admired for his ideas and intellect, but rarely successful in whipping up sufficient support to get them advanced. He says he has no intention of getting involved with the incoming Cuomo administration, though he recently sat down with incoming lieutenant governor Bob Duffy to discuss the problems facing the state today. There could be a second life for Ravitch’s policy proposals. Even his most controversial recommendations are still being weighed by some elected officials. “I assume that borrowing is going to be part of the discussion with Andrew Cuomo,” said State Sen. Liz Krueger, outgoing vice chair of the Finance Committee. For now at least, Cuomo himself has said that he does not support a budget plan that includes borrowing.
Ironically, Ravitch’s final days in office seem more packed with public events than ever before. In the last month alone, he has given a handful of speeches on the state’s budget, released his final report on infrastructure and accepted a lifetime achievement award from Common Cause NY. He also has been cleaning out his government office, intending to move back to his former digs at Rockefeller Plaza. But in a way, he has already moved on, even with all the recent lionizing and expounding. Doctor’s appointments, grandkids, golf games—these are the things occupying Ravitch’s mind these days. Ravitch says he also plans to continue studying and speaking out about the vast fiscal and structural problems facing state governments today. He may write a book. And he will certainly look to partner with some think tank, possibly the Rockefeller Institute, though he insists all plans are still in flux. Whether anyone is listening or not, Ravitch says he will continue to push for major changes, in Social Security, in Medicaid, in the state’s tax structure. And he privately prays that his reports, which when taken together, he says, address the totality of problems in New York’s state government, have life after he leaves office. “God, I certainly hope so,” Ravitch said. “They’re not going to go away.” With additional reporting by Edward-Isaac Dovere. email@example.com December 13, 2010
WALL OF FAME
DECEMBER 13, 2010
Political campaigns are frequently executed with poor judgment and, just as often, poor taste. Photoshop is making it easier than ever for candidates to slap their opponentsâ€™ heads onto animal bodies and call it campaign literatureâ€”sometimes with truly hilarious results. Here are some of the best (and worst) photoshops of this election season.
STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Consolidation was a main issue for the governor-elect during his time as attorney general, on the campaign trail and in his agenda for next year. Not that this will necessarily make it any easier. The Capitol asked Assembly Member Sam Hoyt and State Sen. Betty Little to size up the issue and its various promises and pitfalls to see how their answers stacked up against each other. Sam Hoyt: I’m hopeful that Cuomo continues his advocacy for fewer and more efficient local governments. He did a great job as AG advocating legislation that became law, which makes it easier to dissolve and merge local government. He talked about 10,000 different levels, how that adds to the tax burden and how we ought to reduce the number of governments. As chair, I’m anxious to continue working. Betty Little: Some things a village can do that a town can’t do. We’d like to change that. If you were going to remove a village or dissolve a village into a town, that can happen. We have to offer some incentives— make sure they continue their aid to government if they were to combine. I have a couple of instances where they go to do it, but then there’s a problem and they can’t do it. I had two counties that wanted to combine their probation departments. They didn’t have a director, they wanted their director to work under the neighboring county. Not totally merge, then you have to have the same salary scale. I’ve had two police departments and two villages combine, and they’ve had some obstacles to saving money. Hoyt: The challenge we have with the whole issue of fewer levels of government, fewer taxing structures, is to articulate how that adds to the tax burden. If you can do that, one would assume that the Republicans will fall in line, and they will claim to be the great protector and wanting to reduce the tax burden. That’s been our failure. You can overcome parochialism—“eliminate that town, eliminate that village, but don’t touch mine”—if you can impress on voters that there are significant savings. When we’re successful, given the budget crisis, then they’ll fall in line.
Little: The challenge in my area is that a lot of the economy is based on government jobs. It’s hard to con-
vince people that you don’t give up jobs at this time, but as you move forward, through attrition, you would have fewer jobs. And hopefully, if you have lower property taxes, you’ll be able to attract that private growth that we need. And we’re not attracting that. … Sam has worked on that for a long time, and I’ve worked with him. I think sometimes, because of New York City orientation, [Democrats] don’t understand small communities as well. That’s something that can be worked on.
Hoyt: Because of the scope of things, we’re not going to close the deficit entirely by dealing with the size and number of local governments. We’re going to have to look at a whole menu of approaches. I’m not prepared to speculate on the number. It can be part of the process. It could be significant. I reckon it could be in the billions. Little: The people involved fight against it. They’re afraid of that loss of closeness of service. But when you look around, many towns don’t have any villages, and they still have services that they need. Like in Washington County, there are 17 towns and nine villages. They hire consultants—and I’m sure I’ll hear from the consultants on the basis of this—but I think some of the studies are focused on why you shouldn’t do it, rather than looking at how this can be accomplished. There has to be savings, when you have villages and towns having liability insurance, vehicle insurance, both having to have CPAs and auditors, both having to have attorneys, both having to have space. It goes on and on. In some cases, it doesn’t work. But I see many cases where I think it would be more beneficial. A lot of times the village electeds feel the village is not going to be represented at town level, or the town board is not going to care as much.
Hoyt: [Local governments] just want to be part of the process. They want to be consulted. They want to be partners as opposed to learning about things at the last minute or having things forced upon them. They want us to treat them with respect and recognize their expertise and obviously their interest in the whole discussion.
Little: Our focus needs to be on growth, growing economy and private sector. We need to convince people to reduce the tax burden in New York state, to look at local government and everyone to be more efficient. [But] I just had two counties combining one health director. They’re neighboring counties. But the Department of Health was an obstacle: You can’t do this, you can’t do that, one thing after another. And so they gave up on it.
DECEMBER 13, 2010
STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Cuomo Pegs Property Tax Relief On Overhaul Of State And Local Government BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS
n June 2009, Andrew Cuomo achieved his first victory in his ongoing quest to unburden the state from the ignominious distinction of having the highest property taxes in the country. That month, the Legislature passed the then-attorney general’s New York Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act, which allows local governments a path to eliminate “special districts” and other governmental entities often blamed for the state’s high tax burden. This year, Cuomo has said he intends to keep pushing the issue of local government consolidation, pegging it to his crusade to lower property taxes and bring more clarity to state government. “Now that local government and citizens have a tool to reorganize local government,” Cuomo’s property tax policy book states, “we must provide the financial means to make local government a success.” The book argues for launching Citizens Re-Org Empowerment Grants that would
make up to $10,000 available to the public to petition local communities to “reorganize, merge or dissolve their local govern-
ment.” The funding would also go toward helping civic leaders develop reorganization plans.
Cuomo also calls for the creation of the Citizens Empowerment Tax Credit to require that the increased Aid and Incentives to Municipalities, or AIM funds—awarded to communities who dissolve or merge municipalities—would be used to pay down citizens’ tax burden. Whether that would translate into a direct property-tax cut, though, or through some other means, is unclear. Empanelling a group of experts as a “Local Reorganization Knowledge Network” to help communities utilize the 2009 law, in addition to many of the government tools yet to be created, is another aspect of Cuomo’s plan. Likewise, the elimination of legal barriers to mergers and shared services is touted as a way to modernize the system. “There are more than 10,500 local governmental entities—including 62 counties, 932 towns, 555 villages and more than 7,000 special districts,” the Cuomo book states, concluding later on, “If we don’t do something to control property taxes, people will vote with their feet and leave. We need bold solutions.” firstname.lastname@example.org
Sound-bites Danny Donohue, president, CSEA There are no quick fixes, and laying off frontline publicsector workers who actually deliver services will be counterproductive. It costs taxpayers while taking paychecks and tax dollars out of the economy. It also undermines work that generates revenue and provides a quality of life that helps attract private-sector investment.
Carol Kellerman, president, Citizens Budget Commission New York State has borrowed too much and may soon surpass its legal debt limit. Debt reform has not received much attention over the past few years or during the election campaign. Continued borrowing without regard to what the state is able to repay is illadvised, and yet New York has great infrastructure needs. A workable and
DECEMBER 13, 2010
affordable debt limit should be established by constitutional amendment.
Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, outgoing chair, State and Local Governments Committee I will continue to take the lead on achieving greater efficiency by introducing and passing legislation that will enable government at every level to utilize resources that are available to consolidate and streamline services. As a member of the Task Force on Government Efficiency, I will continue the dialogue with agencies and authorities to identify best practices for moving forward with an agenda of real relief, reform and transparency at every level of government.
Joannie Mahoney, Onondaga County Executive The effect of state mandated programs on county budgets is the most important issue. [More than every property tax dollar collected in Onondaga County next year will go to the State to pay for mandated programs]. We need real
reform now, starting with Medicaid and the pension system. My office will play a role by continuing to pursue reform. Our new governor, Andrew Cuomo, takes office next month and I am very hopeful that we will see significant changes that will help reduce the burden on counties and move our entire state forward. I think the problems state and local government in New York face are pretty well known and have been discussed in great detail for a number of years. There aren’t many things that haven’t been on the agenda, the difference now is that we have to act quickly because local governments are at the breaking point.
Stephen Acquario, executive director, New York State Association of Counties The two most important issues facing Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature as they take office include New York State’s property taxes, which are nearly 80 percent above the national average, and economic development, which has bypassed much of
the State in the past two decades. These issues are intertwined because high property taxes have impeded our ability to retain industry and attract new businesses. On behalf of our counties, the New York State Association of Counties has pledged to work with the governor and legislative leaders to help reform the nine State mandates that are consuming 90 percent ($4 billion) of the county property-tax levy statewide ($4.4 billion outside of NYC). NYSAC will add the voice of the communities across the state to budget negotiations and policy debates of state lawmakers and the new administration. In addition to property taxes and mandate reform, there needs to be a focus on: 1) the needs of the agriculture industry, which plays a critical role in our economy; 2) preparing our communities to address the needs of our seniors, which make up an increasing percentage of our population; and 3) investing in public safety communications in order to meet the needs of first responders and comply with federal standards for interoperable communication systems.
Espada, Unrepentant Blue Jay
edro Espada, Jr., coup-instigator and intermittent majority leader, has been notably silent since his defeat at the hands of Gustavo Rivera last September. In his concession speech, he vowed to stay active, but then dropped off the scene for several months. Two special sessions went by without Espada. Many wondered if they would see the flamboyant Bronx (Mamaroneck?) Democrat (Republican?) ever again. In his first interview since primary night, Espada is his old self, unrepentant for the Senate coup that threw the chamber into deadlock and disarray, and convinced that history will smile upon him favorably. As for what’s next, Espada says he will continue to work at his Soundview health clinic, despite a pending investigation into charges he stole millions from the non-profit, and implied an interest in teaching. Professor Espada! What follows is an edited transcript. The Capitol: What are your plans for post-elected life? Pedro Espada: I’m moving into another period of my life, obviously, back at the medical center, with plans to continue to attack the health disparities, particularly African males, Latino males, new immigrants, who have a shorter lifespan than the average American, and that plays out with the no-insurance and the non-availability of medical homes. So with Obamacare looming large and the investment in health care and preventive care about to multiply, I think it’s a good time to continue to contribute to the area that I have for 30 years. Of course, my first passion was always education. And my first job was in the classroom. I’ll continue now that I have 10 grandchildren in the classrooms. It is a natural engagement for me.
TC: Do you regret missing the OTB vote and the last couple sessions? PE: Not a hell of a lot happened except for the OTB vote. And the OTB vote is something we could revisit before the end of the year. Even with my presence we would not—I want to underscore that—we would not have had 32. My good friend is back from China, Malcolm Smith. I am ready to go up. And then we’d have 32 votes to save a thousand jobs in New York City. The future of OTB needs to be discussed in light of the dire circumstances of the economy and the implication of pumping money into a dying industry. But a thousand jobs is a thousand jobs. I will be poised to go up and cast my vote to save a thousand jobs. TC: Have you had any communication with Gustavo Rivera? PE: No, I have not. I’m 57 years old. I think I’ll give him time to develop his own message. Obviously he won the election, so voters, and particularly those in the unions, will be there to give him advice. I’m always going to be available, but I haven’t spoken to him and I have no plans to.
TC: Do you intend to run against him in the future? PE: At this moment, again, I think that the health care clinic, my involvement with my family, and also education, is going to keep me plenty busy. I think the new administration under Cuomo, the new bipartisan efforts in the Senate, as well as, I hope, a new effort by the Assembly speaker to tackle the state’s problems, I think need to be given the chance to develop. We’re often hungry
TC: Do you want to teach? PE: Absolutely. I don’t know that it would be at the traditional public schools. It would be at the charter schools.
for change and solutions; we fail to recognize these matters require time and patience. My involvement and the direct challenge to anyone at this time would be counterproductive. TC: Really no desire to run again? You’ve been down this road before… PE: I’m a citizen of the Bronx and obviously I have a home in Mamaroneck, as everyone knows. I get to fully experience the needs of a diverse body of people: My grandchildren in the public school system in Mamaroneck, and some of my grandchildren in public school system in New York City. With all of that said, I think I will continue to talk to my colleagues, continue to be
public. I don’t know of any other senator that was able to come out of the background that I did—homelessness, poor—and get elected from two different state senatorial districts after experiencing defeat. I think that’s a resounding vote for the kind of perseverance and faith that government can deliver for people. Some may want to characterize it differently. TC: The Post reported recently that there could be criminal charges coming for you. PE: I don’t want to comment on the Post. The Post has been writing my obit for quite some time now. I’m focused on a bright positive future for my community and my family. That’s what I’m focused on. TC: You had some strong words for Andrew Cuomo after he filed his lawsuit against you. Do you have any concerns about his leadership as governor? PE: I refer to recent articles that dealt with the contributions of Hiscock & Barclay of $35,000. We introduced legislation that would have prevented any legislator or attorney general from accepting contributions from those they are investigating. The biggest problem that we have with the office of attorney general is that, most recently starting with Spitzer, that it has been too easy to use it as a prosecutorial weapon, to use it to raise funds and run for higher office. I think that’s what happened, both with Spitzer and Cuomo. And when history is written, it will be seen that Cuomo acted politically, that he acted to go after someone that he could paint as the poster boy of all that ailed Albany. When you really look at my case, nothing that’s in the lawsuit had to do with Albany behavior. It had to do with private business dealings, and were used in a timely way to embarrass and tarnish me and really set up the political defeat that I suffered. Personally, the office of attorney general and prosecutors in general, there needs to be another look by the press that, really, can look at the motivation, how that office has been developed more recently. I don’t think the election of Eric Schneiderman is going to put an end to those kinds of questions. TC: Any soreness towards your former colleagues? Any grudges? PE: They are the way things are. You don’t look to make long-lasting friendships. People don’t know me. They haven’t walked in my shoes. I’ve been married 37 years, I have 10 grandchildren, I grew up the way I did. I don’t need to have trust-fund babies and adults dictate to me the essence and ethics of life. I grew up without the soft landing and benefits that they did. Having said that, you would never know it from the harsh rhetoric spoken by them. Schneiderman and I teamed up on Rockefeller drug laws. We teamed up on farm workers rights issues. My biggest disappointment was from Liz Krueger—so much was talked about her advocacy of housing policy, but she arrogantly stood in the way of having a seven-year extender that I sponsored in the waning days of the session. She singularly did that. I think they’ll all live to regret it. TC: Any advice for the people wondering how Albany is going to get along without Pedro Espada to keep things interesting? PE: I don’t know that there are that many. But the few brave souls that there are, keep fighting. —Andrew J. Hawkins email@example.com December 13, 2010
Good schools are the cornerstone of a strong community I
n times like these, we need to build up our communities by investing in public education, rejecting shortsighted gimmicks that hurt students and challenging naysayers who lack the facts. A recent poll showed what we already knew: New Yorkers overwhelmingly support their schools. Working together, we can face the challenges ahead, give our kids a brighter future and build stronger communities. Quality public education. A great investment for our state.
Paid for by New York State United Teachers.