Even though aides say they're taking out reference to the Martin Act, Cuomo's consolidation of financial regulation agencies could still give the governor broad new powers.
Nick Confessore explains:
Experts said Mr. Cuomo’s proposal would transform the existing Insurance and Banking Departments from traditional regulatory agencies focused largely on compliance and rule-making into an unprecedented amalgam of regulator, prosecutor and judge. It could have the effect of transforming the superintendent of the new agency into a second “sheriff of Wall Street,” forcing Mr. Schneiderman, a fellow Democrat with whom Mr. Cuomo has clashed in the past, to compete for high-profile cases.
Danny Kanner, a spokesman for Mr. Schneiderman, declined to comment on the powers envisioned in the legislation. But in a statement, Mr. Kanner said, “The attorney general supports the concept of merging these departments for the purpose of consolidation, and looks forward to continued discussions with the governor’s office on other details of the proposal, as well as other reforms to state government.”
The legislation does not formally strip any powers from the attorney general. But while Mr. Cuomo has described the merger in part as a way to save money, his executive budget anticipates that the operations of the new agency would cost about $6 million more than its three predecessors in its first year of operation. (Aides said that merger had since been “rescored,” in budget parlance, and was now expected to result in year-to-year savings.) At the same time, Mr. Cuomo’s budget reduces the budget of the office of the attorney general by roughly 10 percent.
Historically, the attorney general and the Banking and Insurance Departments have shared a creative tension. The agencies focused on day-to-day compliance, while the attorney general’s prosecutors, under Mr. Spitzer and Mr. Cuomo, opened up large-scale cases — often against powerful firms and interests — with an eye toward tackling systemic problems, whether those were corruption among research analysts or conflicts of interest in the student loan industry.
City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. takes to Facebook:
"They took the Triboro, now they're coming for the Queensboro. I was the only elected I know of to oppose the triboro re-naming, and I oppose this too. They would never think of re-naming the Brooklyn Bridge, and Queens should get the same respect. Ed Koch is deserving of an honor like this, so let's re-name Gracie [Mansion], or some other suitable landmark, for him."
Michael Saul has more.
For the Manhattan-based Democrat who has been leading the Council since 2006, many of Quinn's proposals were aimed at eliminating the "red tape" of the "bureaucracy" surrounding city government.
Politically, it's a novel approach to proactively rebut what her likely 2013 mayoral rivals will do: tie her down to the less desirable aspects of city government. Rep. Anthony Weiner, former Comptroller Bill Thompson, City Comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio are likely challengers and have less direct responsibilities over city agencies than Quinn.
Advance excerpts from the speech focused on her proposals to reduce parking violations rules. But the speech had broader, more significant proposals were announced at the speech, delivered at the CUNY Graduate Center.
The easing of parking rules on streets where multiple-day cleanings are not necessary is a proposal that will impact outer boroughs like Queens and Brooklyn — places the Manhattan Democrats has sought to focus since becoming Speaker.
It's unclear if the reduced street cleaning will result in additional street cleaning in other, more problematic streets. If not, it would be a novel maneuver: announcing a service cut as an easing of burdensome parking rules.
It includes paying up front for capital projects and nudging the mayor and labor leaders to reform pension benefits.
Excepts from the speech:
"I propose that we begin paying for a portion of our capital budget up front. We'll make a commitment that as our finances improve, we'll steadily increase the amount we pay out of pocket - until we're investing a billion dollars a year, instead of borrowing that billion dollars and leaving our kids with the bill."
"It's clear that New York City needs pension and benefit reform. Many factors have combined to create these long-term strings on the city budget. There is no single cause, nor any single group that bears all the blame. But if we want to have money to invest in a safe and livable city - if we want to avoid a tax burden that stifles economic growth 0 and if we want to safeguard the retirements of the hard working public servants of today - then our current pension and benefit structure is simply not sustainable. I urge both the mayor and our city's labor leaders to be equally open to negotiating and making fair and responsible changes to meet the difficult challenges ahead."
UDPATE: There's also this line:
"Now Mayor Bloomberg has proposed a more traditional way to lower our debt cots - a 20% cut to capital spending. That kind of across the board cut comes with serious consequences - and I simply cannot support it."
I caught the tail end of Cuomo's comments on Fred Dicker's radio show, but the chest-thumping seemed fairly direct.
Cuomo warned what would happen if legislative leaders - Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos - fail to deliver enough votes to get his budget passed: they could be painted as advocates for the special interest.
"The question is can they get it done? Can they lead? Can they get a tough budget done," Cuomo asked rhetorically.
Cuomo - whose has sky-high approval ratings right now - said if it turns out either legislative leader "favors the special interest, then we're going to have a problem."
When asked about progress on an ethics reform bill, Cuomo paid a compliment to Silver and Skelos, and then promptly downplayed it.
After saying the three parties have gotten "closer" and "closer," Cuomo said, "closer doesn't matter to me."
"It's very easy to get close to the goal line. What they excel is getting close to the goal line but not going over."
Cuomo's talk was notably assertive (can we call it aggressive, it was so pleasantly delivered?) and it put the spotlight on two legislative partners that aren't well known outside political circles.
Which is what Alan Chartock predicted.
In light of Cuomo's 72 percent approval rating, Chartock said Cuomo has "got everyone on the run right now" and "if they see poll numbers around 75 percent, they’ve got to fear him.”
Crain's notes a Deputy Mayor goes off message:
Mayor Mike Bloomberg touted New York's job growth as a model for the nation in a December speech. But Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Bob Steel painted a bleaker picture at Columbia University last week. “Unemployment is worse than [the official rate of] 9%,” he told students, because many people have been out of a job so long that they have stopped looking for work—which brings the unemployment rate down. But they are nonetheless unable to pay their bills. “This is not a situation that is getting better quickly,” Steel said. He pledged to make job creation his top priority.
Who's in charge?
Bloomberg says no matter which deputy mayor he delegates authority to, "the public expects the mayor to be the mayor."
City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. says clarifying the chain of command is only part of what he wants to accomplish with his new legislation.
The other part is telling people who's in charge when the mayor is out of town, which is something Bloomberg and his aides have resisted. But Vallone says the notification is key.
"If there is a way that they can clearly delineate who is in charge for all without some sort of notification," Vallone said in an interview "that may be acceptable. I'm not exactly sure how because a component of this is whether or not the people who make up the city know who's in charge also and know who they have to obey orders from."
Cuomo announces one school district is taking his advice:
The leadership of the Bethlehem Central School District has implemented a voluntary salary freeze for its top administrators. This is a responsible and sensible first step that recognizes the state's current fiscal condition and I encourage school districts across New York to find ways to reduce costs and put children first.
Cuomo has singled out some districts - like Syosset Central - for their lavish pay.
Not a bad interviewer, that former Governor David Paterson, who was guest-hosting on the John Gambling Show this morning. GOP Rep. Peter King was a guest, and took a swipe at members of his GOP House colleagues for not putting their budget priorities where their rhetoric was:
Peter King: They're cutting very heavily in the border patrol.
David Paterson: Now that's surprising.
Peter King: Republicans can't have it both ways. You can't be banging against illegal immigration and then cutting back on the customs and border protection.
More on King, and the budget, here.
It is an early iteration of the 2013 mayor's race, but City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's upcoming State of the City speech is more than that, says Chris Smith:
Is she distancing herself at all from Mike Bloomberg? How much is she pandering to the constituencies she’ll need in a crowded Democratic primary, like the business community? That analysis is entirely appropriate, because the jockeying by Quinn and the many other mayoral aspirants — including Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Congressman Anthony Weiner, former comptroller Bill Thompson, and current comptroller John Liu — is well under way. Yet Quinn’s speech deserves to be taken somewhat at face value, too, because among the platitudes, her four previous SOS’s as council speaker have contained an unusually high number of actual smart ideas — things that haven’t simply sounded good on the podium only to be promptly forgotten the next day.
19-41 percent favorable / unfavorable - Sheldon Silver
11-17 percent favorable / unfavorable - Dean Skelos
38-35 percent favorable / unfavorable - CSEA
43-39 percent favorable / unfavorable - NYSUT
37-31 percent favorable / unfavorable - 1199/SEIU
31-25 percent favorable / unfavorable - Business Council of NYS
More on the poll from Liz.
Andrew Cuomo is popular, even if key parts of his budget face resistance, according to a new Sienea poll.
Also, GOP and Independent voters really like Cuomo's budget, even though members of his Democratic Party do not.
77-16 percent favorable / unfavorable among voters.
83-12 percent among Dems
70-20 percent among GOP
70-22 percent among Independents
62-35 percent favorable / unfavorable among voters.
82-17 percent among Dems
29-67 percent among GOP
55-39 percent among Independents
Cuomo's pledges to not raise taxes, not borrow, and cut spending all poll at 75 percent or higher with voters.
When it comes to cutting health care or education, things change.
Cut Medicaid by $1 billion:
51-45 percent support it.
41-54 percent among Dems
61-36 percent among GOP
59-36 percent among Independents
Cut SUNY / CUNY by 10 percent:
41-56 percent support it
33-65 percent among Dems
50-47 percent among GOP
49-50 percent among Independents
Renew tax on those making $200,000+ annually (which Cuomo opposes)
33-65 percent support
27-71 percent among Dems
45-53 percent among GOP
34-63 percent among Independents
61-37 percent among those making $100,000+ annually
There's some good news in this Wall Street Journal report about vacation homes subjecting their owners to a host of local taxes. It may also help those same people establish residency, if they wanted to do something like run for office.
"This ruling is a very expansive view of residency. While not welcome from a tax perspective, it will make it easier for candidates to prove residency when running for office. In this respect, it reflects 21st century reality -- many people have 'second' homes and each one is a bona fide residency."
One reader emailed me to ask, "What would have happened to Regina Calcaterra if this ruling was controlling?"
Aram Roston tries connecting the dots between Bloomberg LP's legislative agenda in Washington, Michael Bloomberg's political operatives and a Bloomberg BusinessWeek story. Howard Wolfson figures prominently:
Bloomberg’s lobbyists quickly told the coalition members that it intended “to capitalize on the great Business Week/Bloomberg story this morning,” according to an e-mail obtained by The Nation from a member of the coalition. The lobbyists wrote, “We’d like to flag it for reporters with a quick quote and topper.” The coalition’s press statement said of the article, “These donations…are part of a calculated attempt to buy approval for a merger that offers too many dangers for consumers and media organizations.”
There is no evidence that the Bloomberg reporters wrote the story as part of a companywide strategy or were assigned the story because of corporate influence. A Bloomberg spokeswoman says there is an “impenetrable firewall” between editorial decisions and the other parts of the company. Still, it was a captivating confluence of forces: Glover Park Group, paid by Bloomberg LP, and acting with the coalition it had created on Bloomberg’s behalf, was on the warpath to distribute a news story Bloomberg Businessweek had written about the issue that was the most important pending matter in Washington for the Bloomberg brand.
Glover Park Group, for its part, readily concedes that it organized the coalition and that Bloomberg was its paying client but insists that the coalition was not technically a lobbying operation. “Any lobbying work that’s done is registered and fully disclosed,” a spokesman wrote in an e-mail to The Nation. “The Coalition never did any lobbying.” Here is the way to parse that: Senate lobbying definitions make it clear that lobbying includes “any oral or written communication” with White House or Congressional officials. But material “that is distributed and made available to the public” gets an exemption.
In a subsequent statement to The Nation after a request for clarification, a Glover Park spokesman said the coalition letters and other releases “are simply public communications.”
Another highlight from the story: "One oddity of the Bloomberg news empire is that without exception, all of its journalistic operations lose money, and they always have, according to sources with knowledge of the company."
Nick Langworthy, the Erie GOP Chairman and former aide to Chris Lee says, the former congressman could have stayed in office.
"He was not accused of any crimes or abusing his office…he's broken no laws, he probably could have weathered it…I believe he probably could have weathered the storm."
Scott Stringer - the Manhattan borough president and prospective 2013 mayoral candidate - is out with a statement slamming Bloomberg for "outrageous" comments about pension payments he'd like the city to stop paying.
It's a milder criticism than Bloomberg got from police and fire union leaders yesterday, who called him a "liar" and other unflattering things.
At issue are $12,000 annual payments the city makes to uniformed retirees from what's known as the Variable Supplement Fund. Officers with more than 20 years on the force receive them. Bloomberg has called the payments a "Christmas bonus," and therefore, a perk that can be taken away in a budget crunch. Union members say it's part of their pension, and therefore, can't.
Having to takes sides on the issue is problematic for most officials, particularly those expected to run for mayor: angry unions on one side, angry taxpayers on the other.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn - who has strong ties to unions and the mayor - hasn't publicly stated her position, saying she needs to speak with her colleagues on the Council. A spokesman for City Comptroller John Liu - whose work looking over the city's finances will play a large role in any future campaign - said he's "extremely concerned with any proposal that breaks a promise" made to these retirees.
In a statement, sent to me by a spokeswoman, Stringer takes a shot at Bloomberg, but doesn't come out definitely on whether the city should keep the payment plan in place, which city officials say cost NYC about $1 billion a year. (Unions say the city got cash and concessions decades ago that more than make up for it.)
“I am becoming increasingly concerned about the tone and direction the Mayor is taking as it relates to union negotiations and a discussion around pensions. To characterize the Variable Supplement Fund benefit as it relates to the men and women of our police and fire departments as a “Christmas bonus” is simply outrageous. When you throw mud, it splatters. We need a serious conversation between City Hall, our labor leaders and Albany about pension reform. In a time of serious fiscal crisis, we’re going to need collective sacrifice. Grandstanding, bomb throwing and divisive accusations by City Hall will undermine the fiscal soundness of this city.”
"Increase the student performance, you'll win a grant,"Cuomo says in this clip from his speech at Hofstra yesterday. He went on to say, "And let's also reward good managers who are actually finding efficiencies."
Rep. Chris Lee - a married Republican from upstate - announced he's resigning from congress following the "profound" mistake he made contacting a woman on Craigslist.
It's not the first time a career has ended thanks to the private exploits of a public official first reported by a not-so-mainstream media outlet.
Gawker published emails they say were between Lee - sent from a private account - and a woman who posted an ad on Craigslist. A spokesman for Lee first suggested the emails could been the result of someone hacking into his account.
But there was also the topless photo of the congressman, which seemed like a smoking gun.
Gawker has made a concerted effort to concentrate on original reporting, and not just being a site of well-written recaps of other people's work. They - along with Columbia Journalism Review - FOILed David Paterson's emails - something I had marginal success at.
It only took Gawker one item to end Lee's career, whereas the National Enquirer spent years chasing John Edwards around the country, and put his extramarital affair on their front page and inside their paper, numerous times before the mainstream media caught on.
Gawker did this by simply having the goods. The emails. The photos. Basically, that was all you needed. The National Enquirer had unnamed sources, blurry photos, much less traction with the MSM.
If there's a lesson from the Chris Lee & Gawker episode it's that any web site can end a career; any web site can get the goods. If, you know, they have sources and good info.
Which is all journalism ever really required, right?
On the morning of Friday, January 14, a single 34-year-old woman put an ad in the "Women for Men" section of Craigslist personals. "Will someone prove to me not all CL men look like toads?" she asked, inviting "financially & emotionally secure" men to reply.
That afternoon, a man named Christopher Lee replied. He used a Gmail account that Rep. Christopher Lee has since confirmed to be his own. (It's the same Gmail account that was associated with Lee's personal Facebook account, which the Congressman deleted when we started asking questions.)
By email, Lee identified himself as a 39-year-old divorced lobbyist and sent a PG picture to the woman from the ad. (In fact, Lee is married and has one son with his wife. He's also 46.)
I'm waiting for a comment from Lee's spokesman. More on the story here.
Before the police and firemen's union called Bloomberg a "liar," the mayor told reporters his efforts to scale back the $12,000 annual payments to retired uniformed workers is an important part of the city's budget that needs to be addressed, soon.
We certainly didn’t put out anything that is to the best of my knowledge not accurate and true, so an allegation that it’s misinformation, I don’t know how to respond. If I saw their individual complaints, fine. Nobody wants to get cut back, I understand that, we have to make a decision. Do we want to send out Christmas bonuses or have more teachers? It’s that kind of decision, it doesn’t have to be those particular employees or that particular expense the city has...The question is how we’re going to continue to provide the services people want without raising taxes."