Politics On The Hudson
Updated: 2 years 27 weeks ago
The Suffolk County executive who lost the Republican nomination for governor at the GOP convention in June, said in a statement today he will forgo a run as an independent candidate.
He’s also endorsing Rick Lazio, the fellow Long Islander and party nominee who is running in a primary against Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino. And the Democrat-turned-Republican said he will stay a Republican and work with Republicans to win the Senate majority.
“While I realize that it would not be possible to win the governor’s seat without major party backing, I considered running on a third line in order to keep attention focused on important policies for which I care deeply,” Levy said in a statement.
“I am, however, heartened by the fact that many of the innovations I championed in my campaign have now been adopted by other candidates in the field,” Levy said, citing the calls for a property-tax cap and pension reforms being cited by the major party candidates.
Levy, a Democrat turned Republican, said Lazio “will work hard toward accomplishing many of the goals I had set out in my campaign.”
These are some of the comments Women4Ball made this week in support of Assemblyman Greg Ball, R-Patterson, in his Senate campaign. Ball is running against Somers Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy, the endorsed Republican, and Westchester County Legislator Michael Kaplowitz, D-Somers. The women accused the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, which supports Murphy, of running a “smear” campaign against Ball.
Lauren Pistone, an ex-girlfriend of Ball’s, said she has been approached by the Murphy campaign and asked to speak against Ball. (Murphy has denied the allegations.) This is part of her statement:
Democrats have a new video out today on Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio’s $1.3 million bonus from JP Morgan.
Lazio, meanwhile, continues to press Democratic rival Andrew Cuomo on investigating the Muslim community center planned two blocks away from the World Trade Center site.
In a video posted on GOP Reality Check, a website built by the state Democratic Party to knock Lazio, issued a video using footage from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” to portray Lazio, a former congressman, as a “bonus baby” while working for JP Morgan.
The Democrats point to Lazio’s bonus while the bank was accepting funds from the federal government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Lazio’s campaign also released a YouTube video today called “Waiting.” The campaign knocks Cuomo, the current attorney general, for not taking up a debate challenge over building the community center near the World Trade Center and whether or not its funding should be investigated.
“We don’t need silence now, we need leadership,” Lazio says in the video.
Here are the videos:
The war of words heated up today between Assemblyman Greg Ball, R-Patterson, and his supporters and the Senate Republican Campaign Committee. The committee is backing Somers Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy in the race for the seat, which is being vacated by Sen. Vincent Leibell, R-Patterson.
One of Ball’s ex-girlfriends and a contingent of other women, including Ball’s mother, said at a news conference today that Ball is being unfairly maligned. The event was in response to a committee-sponsored mailer that detailed an alleged incident in which Ball is accused of groping an Albany waitress.
Scott Reif, a spokesman for the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, confirmed that it sent out the negative campaign literature on Ball. Reif said Ball has a “pattern of sexual misconduct towards women,” and that is a legitimate campaign issue. The Senate Republican Campaign Committee released the following statement this evening:
If the Legislature accomplished anything today and Wednesday, it was exposing new fissures in the Senate Democrats.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, and Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson, D-Brooklyn, emerged from a close-door meeting this afternoon to announce they had a “framework” in place to pass the higher-education bill that would overhaul the state university system, known as SUNY Empowerment.
The bill is opposed by some in Silver’s Democratic conference who fear the impact it will have on tuition rates, especially if individual campuses can raise them and not the Legislature.
Silver hasn’t been enthusiastic on the proposal. But Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, D-Mount Vernon, Westchester County, also vented her concerns over the proposal, minaly and her desire to not allow the plan to pass without some scaling down of the bill.
Silver said the final budget piece and the SUNY plan are now completely linked.
“We are again attempting to come together with the governor, with the Senate to get a budget in place,” Silver said. “In order to do that, we have to come to some kind of proposal for SUNY/CUNY Empowerment.”
John Sampson said there would be a modification of the empowerment proposals put before the governor. Paterson hasn’t gotten back to them yet.
“Once again, I think we’re still waiting for the governor to come back to us with respect to any modifications,” Sampson said.
Ed Cox, the chairman of the state Republican Party, this afternoon weighed in on the session of the Legislature that produced no results, a feet that he called an “abomination.”
Republican Comptroller candidate released two TV spots two day, one that showcases the now-Scarsdale, Westchester County resident for his upstate New York roots and “outsider status” with the other attacking incumbent Democrat Thomas DiNapoli.
“Harry Wilson. Working class family. Self-made businessman,” intones a gentle-voiced narrator as sepia-toned photographs are displayed. The ad ends with the viewer being reminded that the former hedge-fund manager and one of the architects of the auto bailout is an “outsider, not a politician.”
The other ad knocks DiNapoli as a “political insider” who was “appointed comptroller in a back room deal.” DiNapoli, a former Long Island assemblyman, was appointed to the post by the Legislature (primarily the Assembly because they have the most votes) in 2007 after Alan Hevesi, a Democrat, resigned in disgrace.
Here are the ads:
Lawmakers remain at odds over a plan to overhaul the state university system, known as SUNY Empowerment.
Senate Democrats whose districts include large state university campuses are refusing to budge on voting for the final piece of the now 17-weeks-late budget, until the program is approved. The proposal would allow individual campuses to set their own tuition rates, change procurement rules and allow them to undertake economic-development projects.
But others, like Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, D-Mount Vernon, Westchester County, is concerned that the plan would make the public higher-education system unaffordable. Gov. David Paterson, along with SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, met this morning with the Black, Puerto Rican and Asian caucus to discuss their concerns over the SUNY Empowerment program.
“These are very major issues,” Hassell-Thompson said. “These are issues that are going to affect the ability of children of color to be educated in this state going forward and we want to make sure that we are satisfied that we are not going to privatize our institutions. I don’t want to do it at the expense of our children of color to get an education.”
Hassell-Thompson said she would delay budget negotiations “as long as it takes” in order to change the bill to the liking of the caucus.
Zimpher said the meeting was a productive one.
“I think we had a great exchange and people had an opportunity to say what was bugging them,” Zimpher said.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who is running for election this fall, received a boost today in the form of an endorsement from the Civil Service Employee Association. Union President Danny Donohue said CSEA chose DiNapoli because of his honesty and integrity and performance as comptroller since being appointed in 2007. (DiNapoli has served the term of disgraced former Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who had won re-election but resigned after admitting he had defrauded the state.)
“Tom DiNapoli is an outstanding and capable leader who has demonstrated character and ability throughout his career in both the private and public sectors,” Donohue said in a statement. “No one should doubt his unflinching integrity and commitment to doing what’s right for all New Yorkers—we can’t afford to have anything less in these times.”
The comptroller is the sole trustee of the state pension system. CSEA has more than 300,000 active and retired members.
DiNapoli faces Republican Harry Wilson, a former hedge-fund manager, in the November elections. Wilson just released television advertisements. DiNapoli has not done any TV spots yet.
At least five senators—three Democrats and two Republicans—were absent from today’s special session, according to Senate Democrats’ press office. Update: Sen. Kemp Hannon has arrived, according to the Senate Republicans.
Those not checking in included Senate President Malcolm Smith, D-Queens, Sen. George Onorato, D-Queens, Sen. Bill Larkin, R-New Windsor, Orange County, Sen Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury, Warren County and Sen. Vincent Leibell, R-Patterson, Rockland County.
Sens. Thomas Duane, D-Manhattan, and Sen. Kemp Hannon, R-Nassau County, were yet to check in with the Senate, but could still be declared present.
Gov. David Paterson on Wednesday railed against lawmakers for not showing up, even if the session accomplished nothing.
But a look at his attendance record as a state senator dating back to 2000 shows he wasn’t perfect, either.
Paterson was absent three days in 2000, 2004 and 2006, two times in 2005.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, emphasized on Talk 1300 AM radio today that his chamber has already passed all the budget bills. The Senate has not, “and we’re here to see what we could do to help to make sure that the Senate can get that bill done.”
The one piece of legislation the Senate didn’t pass before leaving town for the July 4th weekend was the revenue bill. A number of members of the Democratic majority in the Senate want it to include the Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act, or at least a part of it that would allow the State University of New York to set tuition rates without legislative approval. Silver and the Assembly are strongly opposed to giving the authority to set tuition, saying that could price poor students out of public colleges and universities. Now a faction of the Senate is against giving tuition-setting authority for the same reason.
When asked on Talk 1300 whether the Assembly was willing to move on SUNY and some other issues, Silver said. “In order for them to do the one bill, they now need some modifications of some other things. I am willing to work with them in order to do something to make it easier for them to pass,” he said.
Regarding the governor’s threats to call special sessions every day, the speaker said he is focused on getting an agreement in the next few days and ”I think that’s something that’s off to the future, maybe that’s a threat with the Senate. He’s done it with the Senate before. Again, the Assembly has acted.”
Silver said he hopes senators get that “the governor is serious and I’m serious about finally putting this budget to rest. It is long overdue.”
Silver noted that not every member of the Senate Democrats (who hold 32 seats to the GOP’s 29) wants the SUNY legislation passed. Until now, “tuition has gone up and it’s been used for budget relief for the state, not to provide opportunity at those schools, not to make more classes, not to make more permanent professors. That’s what the problem is with this program, and to put the cost of the university education out of the reach of New Yorkers is something we do not want to do,” he said.
The speaker said legislative leaders and the governor’s administration are close to an agreement on a contingency plan for Medicaid money. ”We are prepared to take some action on it. Obviously to forestall any final decision, but still put in place a method by which if we don’t get the money that we will automatically be able to know where we’re cutting the budget, by how much,” he said.
And they’re gone.
The Senate is coming back Tuesday at 10 a.m. after spending two fruitless days in Albany.
Both the Assembly and Senate gaveled in and out today and Wednesday. There was word earlier today that the Senate might vote on the Energize New York program, but those plans were scuttled. Sen. Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, believes some sort of deal can be worked out over the weekend that would result in the passage of a revenue bill, thus completing the state budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year, which began April 1.
There was no indication that the Assembly, where a budget package has been completed, would call themselves back to Albany to take up any measures, such as an overhaul of the state university system.
Gov. David Paterson said this morning in a radio interview that he would all the Legislature back every day next week in order to have some movement on his proposals, such as a cap on property taxes or the plan to allow state colleges and universities to set their own tuition rates and undertake economic-development projects.
A new faction of Democratic lawmakers in the Senate came out opposed to the plan, known as SUNY Empowerment. They are led by Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, D-Mount Vernon, Westchester County. Hassell-Thompson met with the governor and SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher this morning to discuss their concerns with the proposal.
Senate Republicans, meanwhile, blasted the process of calling lawmakers back to Albany.
“The special session was a complete and total waste of taxpayer dollars, but it didn’t have to be that way,” Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos said in a statement. “The Democrats that control the agenda in the Senate and Assembly missed an opportunity to complete some important unfinished business.”
The Editorial Board held an Editorial Spotlight interview with Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino on Wednesday. The discussion focused on Astorino’s announcement that he is seeking to merge the public safety and emergency services departments, the projected deficit for 2011, Astorino’s struggles with the Board of Legislators, the future of Playland and Astorino’s standing on affordable housing. Here are some highlight reels, followed by a complete version of the session.
On the merger of public safety and emergency services:
On the future of Playland:
On dysfunction in Albany:
On the county’s deficit and budget challenges:
On the county’s affordable-housing settlement:
And here’s a video of the entire session:
To view other Editorial Spotlight interviews, go to lohud.com/editorialspotlight. You can select videos from the on-demand menu.
Lawmakers may be spending their summer vacations in Albany. Gov. David Paterson said on WOR-AM talk radio in New York City that he is frustrated with legislators and will take action if they don’t accomplish anything in special session today.
“My patience has run out and I’ll see what they do today and the next time I call a special session, which I would believe would be next week, it will be for every day until a budget is passed,” Paterson told John Gambling on WOR, adding his administration would go to court on the matter if necessary.
The Senate left for the July 4th holiday weekend without having passing the revenue part of the budget, which the governor criticized them for on WOR. The Assembly completed passage of budget bills. However, negotiations continue about incorporating a contingency plan in the budget for about $1 billion in federal Medicaid funds that likely will not materialize and about letting the State University of New York set its own tuition without needing the Legislature’s approval. The fiscal year began April 1. Passing a budget this year has been difficult because of a $9.2 billion deficit.
Paterson said there always seemed to be a reason why lawmakers could not return to Albany, so he called a special session. He can’t make them complete the budget, but he can call them into session. The governor said he doesn’t have sympathy for lawmakers who are on vacation and can’t make session.
“Since when is an incompleted assignment not addressed because people have vacations? I think you should be standing ready to come back as soon as it’s necessary,” he said. “And what I wanted to do by calling a special session is let everybody see that there are people who actually think that they are elite enough that they don’t have to follow the rules. And if they keep it up, we’re going to go to court, which can compel them by contempt to follow the rules.”
The governor said the bills he put on the agenda for the special session were delivered to the Senate yesterday afternoon, but the Senate wouldn’t accept them and they were left at the door. The Assembly put the bills on its calendar, but the Senate did not.
Paterson was asked about Judith Kaye’s decision yesterday that recommended the governor not face any criminal charges for his role in a domestic-violence case involving a top aide. Kaye said the governor is guilty of “errors in judgment” for contacting the victim in the case. The governor said he had regrets about dropping out of the gubernatorial race earlier this year but is trying to make the most of his last year in office.
“I am very happy to see that the gubernatorial candidates who are running now are pretty much doing what I have been doing all along, which I think validates that I would have been a strong contender in that race. But it was four months ago … and you know you make a decision but there’s no such vacillating or thinking about what went on before. I have a new goal and that goal is to leave this state with the best possible financial picture that it could have and giving new meaning to your last year of service, which the others equate with being a lame duck. But I would suggest that this duck is quacking, this duck is swiming.”
As expected, the state Legislature gaveled in and out of session this evening without taking up the state budget or any of the 10 bills introduced by Gov. David Paterson.
Both the Assembly and Senate came into session briefly and were done by 7 p.m. They are scheduled to return tomorrow morning.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, said before the session that it would be quick, the chamber would adjourn until Thursday “and hope to have a meeting with the governor between now and tomorrow.”
Republicans in the Senate questioned whether Paterson had even sent up the bills for the special session, but ultimately Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson, D-Brooklyn, said the bills were in fact available.
Assemblyman Joel Miller, R-Poughkeepsie, said taxpayers should be “outraged” for two reasons.
“One because the majorities can’t get their act together, and two because they keep trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes, pretending that they’re accomplishing something, and I’m not going to say which is worse than the other. But the taxpayers are being batted. They’re angry at the Legislature for not doing its job,” he said.
Marcus Molinaro, R-Tivoli, Dutchess County, said this is state government at its worst.
“Our job is to be here and we should have been adopting a budget in April, by April 1, and what’s neglectful and absurd and frankly abusive to the taxpayers of the state of New York is that there have been no negotiations, there has been no real dialogue, there has been no real agreement,” he said.
On Page 41 of Judge Judith Kaye’s report about the domestic-violence case involving former top aide David Johnson offers this voice message left by Gov. David Paterson to the victim Sherr-una Booker on Feb. 24 as the New York Times was publishing a story about the case.
“Sherri, this is David. You should see the way they wrote this story. They’re trying to make it look like I pressured you into dropping this court case. Please help me. Your lawyer – his statement makes it sound the same way.
“Um, I mean – I was trying to find out about the rumors involving myself. You placed the call to me around ten minutes to four on Sunday, February the 7th – it was the day of the Superbowl. And, um, in the conversation, we just talked about the things that – that – you didn’t say anything about me, and I didn’t say about you.
“Then we went on to talk about other stuff, but – I hope, uh – you remember that I was not trying to make you do anything, and – I hope your lawyer will do something to help me here, because this, uh, doesn’t look good for me, and I wasn’t in this. And this is exactly what they’re after. And I – I was just not in this and didn’t – um, you know – want to play a role in it. And, to be honest with you, I believe you.
“So – um, anyway, uh – if you can help to clear this up, because it – that portrayal, that conversation – we didn’t talk for one minute, we talked for ten or fifteen minutes. And, um –I did tell you that I was there for you, and you could call me. But I wasn’t doing it to try to trade it for you dropping the ca- I didn’t even know the court date was Monday, to be honest with you. I’ll talk to you later.”
Gov. David Paterson declined comment this afternoon about Judge Judith Kaye’s report into the domestic-violence case involving his former top aide, saying he hadn’t read it yet.
But the governor didn’t hold back when it came to the buzz around the Capitol that Paterson called today’s special session to coincide with the report’s release to limit the report’s press coverage.
Paterson said he had no idea the report was being released until he was contacted by the attorney general’s office at 11 a.m. today.
“The Legislature always finds a reason why they’re the victim, when in fact the people of the state of New York are the victims,” Paterson said after a meeting in Manhattan of the New York City Financial Control Board.
“They are the ones now approaching 120 days late on the budget, and every excuse, everything happens because no one is respecting these legislators.”
He went on to say that lawmakers have “performed horribly” and looking for any distraction from that.
He vowed that, “They’re being brought back because the budget’s not passed, and I don’t care how many of them show up, I’m going to keep bringing them back until it is.”
In an effort to save more money and streamline services, County Executive Rob Astorino today announced a merger of public safety and emergency services.
The move, the first significant consolidation since he took office in January, would save $700,000 in 2011 if approved by the Board of Legislators, or $3 million over three years, Astorino said.
“It is the right thing to do operationally and it is the right thing to do to save money,” Astorino said. “You have two agencies doing similar things, but separately. There are a lot of efficiencies we see in this. The bottom line is there are real savings for the taxpayer.”
In appearing before The Journal News/Lohud.com Editorial Board today, Astorino said the consolidation is part of his major push to find savings and “right-size” government. Others that are being considered include merging Transportation and Public Works as well as the Health Department, Community Mental Health and Social Services.
Under his plan, the Department of Emergency Services would become part of the Department of Public Safety. Public Safety Commissioner George Longworth will oversee three new divisions that would be headed by deputy commissioners.
The Board of Legislators must approve the merge, though several have come out in support.
“This is a good thing and has the potential for saving taxpayers millions of dollars,” said Legislator Mike Kaplowitz, D-Somers, who chairs the Committee on Government Reform, Efficiency & Savings. “I’m glad that the County Executive joining with members of the Legislature in presenting departmental consolidation plans. During last year’s budget sessions, myself and many other legislators joined together to reveal several ideas for departmental consolidations and, since becoming chair of this committee, we have worked to present viable options towards that goal. We’ve asked the Administration to work with us on several proposals in the past, but I guess now they are ready to focus their attention on this. We are looking forward to hearing more details on this plan and hope to begin dialogue within the committee within the next coming week.”
But the measures, which include a cap on property taxes, a revenue bill to finally complete the state budget, a plan to sell wine in grocery stores and an overhaul of the SUNY system.
The bills were quietly left outside the office of the Senate Democrats chief legal counsel Shelly Meyer. There does not seem to be much interest in them.
By law, the Senate and Assembly can refuse to accept consider the bills. It is unlikely that much progress will be made at tonight’s session, partly because Senate President Malcolm Smith, D-Queens, isn’t expected to be in Albany tonight.
The governor called the session as a way to spur lawmakers to complete outstanding issues.
Westchester County Board of Legislators Vice-Chairman Lyndon D. Williams, D-Mount Vernon and Board Chairman Ken Jenkins, D-Yonkers, spoke out against a plan recently announced by County Executive Rob Astorino’s administration to begin receiving the County’s prison inmates at Mount Vernon Hospital. Under this plan, New York Correct Care Solutions, which was selected by the Astorino to provide correctional health services to inmates at the County jail, will now contract with Mount Vernon Hospital to use the existing state facility’s 14-bed prison ward for sick inmates.
The Astorino administration has opposed or attempted to block several projects which are beneficial to Mount Vernon such as child care subsidies for low-income working families; funding for the Mount Vernon Youth Bureau that provides positive programs to keep at-risk youth off of the streets; funding for renovations at Memorial Field; and funding for housing and major economic development and job creation initiatives and programs.
“Through this plan, this Administration is sending a horrible message to our children and residents that the only program it enthusiastically supports for our community is the prison complex,” said Williams. “Instead of placing obstacles in the way of Mount Vernon’s progress, the Astorino Administration should be assisting the city with economic development and programs for those residents of Westchester county who are most in need.”