By WNYC's Yasmeen Khan
After spending two months camped out in Lafayette Park, across from the State Capitol building, Occupy Albany protesters are issuing demands, and with a national focus. They're "developing a strategic road map to address, in the near term, the issues of campaign finance, lobbying influence, and the revolving door."
The movement's priorities include repealing corporate personhood (referring to the Citizens United case in which the Supreme Court ruled that corporations have the same rights as individuals) and changing the incentives structure for elected officials, so that they are working solely for constituents and not for donors, Edge said.
He said the the Political Strategy Working Group is actually looking to follow the example set by Maine and its clean elections law.
"It allows for everyone running for office to essentially have the same amount of money to run. So they can win based on their ideas, and not based on just how much money they can raise. And once they're elected, since agreeing to opt into the public funding system, the clean elections system requires them to agree not to accept any private contributions. So that seems to be -- while it's not the end all, be all -- the first step."
In this exchange with Brian Lehrer, Edge explained why taking money out of politics is a "99 percent" issue, and how Occupy Albany decided to make the issue its platform.
Edge joined The Brian Lehrer Show as Occupy Albany protesters face a deadline: their permit to occupy Lafayette Park expires on Thursday. They've planned a Keep the Park rally for tomorrow evening. Edge said while the park is symbolic, "the movement will continue regardless."
If wine is not your thing at Thanksgiving, watch our video of how to make a batch of festive Cornucopia Punch from mixologist Eben Freeman.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie sats down with Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg to education, job creation, and the budget. Watch live here or submit a question for the governor on his Facebook page.
-Texas Gov. Rick Perry, struggling to name the three cabinets he's vowed to eliminate from the U.S. government during Wednesday night's GOP debate.
By Karen DeWitt, New York Public Radio Capital Bureau Chief
A coalition of business lobbyists, city and village mayors, and school boards are pushing hard for reduced pension and health benefits for their employees, as part of a package of mandate relief that they say is necessary to help communities around New York live within the new 2% property tax cap law.
The groups want public workers and teachers to pay a minimum amount for their health insurances, at least 15% for individuals and 25% for families. They’d also like them to accept reduced pension benefits in the form of portable 401(k)s, and require that injured workers are awarded less money in some cases if they are hurt on the job.
Brian Sampson with the pro business group Unshackle Upstate says the newly passed 2% property tax cap is not going to work, unless local governments and schools get easements from those rules in order to cut costs.
“This is what the taxpayers are asking for,” said Sampson. “They want government that’s affordable.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo has created a mandate relief task force. It issued its first report last March, but contained no major shake ups to existing mandates. Sampson says the panel just “nibbled around the edges”.
Heather Briccetti, with the New York State Business Council, agrees.
“It’s very modest recommendations,” Briccetti said. “This is broader than what that task force has offered up.”
Governor Cuomo says mandate relief is “a work in progress”, and admits more needs to be done.
“It’s a continuing process, it’s an evolving process,” said Cuomo.
Cuomo was at a bill signing ceremony to require more health insurance coverage for autistic children.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who also attended the event, says he thinks the governor and legislature took a “large step” this year toward mandate relief, and the Speaker says municipalities still want state money for the programs, they just don’t want to be told how to spend it.
“Which has its pluses and minuses,” says Silver, who cites instances of school districts receiving money for pre- Kindergarten programs, and saying they want the extra cash, but do not want to implement pre-K programs.
Unions, whose members would feel the brunt of many the mandate changes requested, were incensed. Danny Donohue, President of the state worker union CSEA, in a statement, accused the coalition of being a “front group” for Cuomo, and his “corporate allies”, who he says are using public workers as a “scapegoat”.
The coalition says they are responding to a request from the state’s Lieutenant Governor, Robert Duffy, who asked the audience at a recent Business Council meeting to provide specific examples of mandates that they find onerous.
In a letter to Mayor Bloomberg, State Speaker Shelly Silver says he and the other elected officials who represent the part of New York City where Occupy Wall Street protesters have formed an encampment at Zucotti park are supportive of the movement and asks that the "city work with residents and businesses to remove the excessive number of barricades." Read the whole letter after the jump.
by Sarah P. Reynolds
Mayor Bloomberg has shared a few of his thoughts about Occupy Wall Street and he's reacted strongly as the week comes to a close.18
“You don’t see people throwing things the way you do in other parts of the world...I do not think this will escalate, and we want to make sure people have the right to protest.”
And here's what he said on Friday:
“What they’re trying to do is take the jobs away from people working in this city…They’re trying to take away the tax base we have. None of this is good for tourism.” (Bloomberg, WOR)
"Everyone's got a thing they want to protest, some of which is not realistic, and if you focus for example on driving the banks out of New York City, you know those are our jobs ... You can't have it both ways: If you want jobs you have to assist companies and give them confidence to go and hire people." (Village Voice)
by Sarah P. Reynolds
If you’re on the fence about changing your political party, you better think fast. Are you an independent at heart but still registered in the two-party system? Are you a Republican who's feeling tired of your party's platform? Are you a Democrat watching your pals take a wrong turn? Are you marching in the Occupy Wall Street and feeling a change of heart? This deadline may be for you!
October 14th is the deadline for voters who want to change their party affiliation for next year’s primaries. If you want to change it for this year’s General Election, you’re already out of luck. According to the New York State Board of Elections, state law prohibits a voter from changing their enrollment party and then voting in that new party in the same year.
According to John Conklin, Director of Public Information for the New York State Board of Elections, the law is designed to prevent voters from switching parties between elections without a waiting period, which could potentially manipulate election results. If a voter applies for a change in party affiliation by the deadline, the new enrollment would go into effect one week after this November’s General Election.
This rule does not apply to new voters in the state who still have time to register for next year; up to 25 days before the primaries.
October 14th (the postmark date) is also the final day to register for this year’s General Election which will be held on November 8th.
For both voter registration and a change to party affiliation, registrants must fill out the same voter registration form. You can get this form at your County Board of Elections, download it from the State Board of Elections website or call 1-800-FOR-VOTE.
By Alec Hamilton
Republican State Senator Jim Alesi is being targeted by billboards commissioned by an anti-gay marriage group in revenge for his vote last June, Rochester's YNN is reporting. The group, the National Organization for Marriage, is targeting Alesi with billboards that mention his name and then warn, ominously, “you’re next.”
Alesi seems unconcerned by the campaign, saying the feedback he has received since voting in favor of same-sex marriage has been very positive. YNN quotes Alesi as saying “I'm steadfastly proud of the vote I took. And for those people who don't agree with me, that's a legitimate disagreement. But it doesn't change my views.”
The Republican Senator has called for a national debate on the right of same-sex couples to marry, telling YNN “I will predict that ten years from now, this will be the law of the land.”
by Alec Hamilton
And even more support for the Occupy Wall Street rally.
“I am showing love to #OccupyWallStreet & the thousands of #youngpeople & #labor #workers who are still arriving.”
by Alec Hamilton
The Occupy Wall Street protesters may remain in Zuccotti Park for as long as they want. Police commissioner Ray Kelly said during a City Council hearing today that as long as the demonstrators conduct themselves in a peaceful and lawful manner, the park’s owners may not require them to leave.
Part of the land-use deal of the sale of Zuccotti Park includes a provision that requires the park to be open to the public at al hours. The privately-held park is owned by Brookfield Properties, a real estate company who built the park in order to gain a zoning bonus for a neighboring skyscraper.
Commissioner Kelly said the NYPD had already spent $2 million dollars on police overtime to patrol the demonstrations since they began about three weeks ago.
By Alec Hamilton
Read the full FBI press release here.
“… beginning in 2002, Walters accepted approximately $600,000 in bribes from general contractors and real estate developers in exchange for awarding them HPD contracts. On multiple occasions, Walters allegedly summoned… John Doe #1..to various locations around the city, including a golf driving range in the Bronx, where Walters would hand John Doe #1 a slip of paper with the amount—usually “250,” signifying $250,000—that Walters was demanding.
In subsequent meetings, John Doe #1 would make cash payments, often in excess of $25,000 at a time, to Walters, hiding the money in golf ball boxes, overnight mail envelopes and coffee cups. During the same time… John Doe #1 was awarded the general contracts for the following HPD projects: theLexington Avenue, Watkins Avenue Cluster, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Cooper- Decatur Cluster projects in Brooklyn, theAlexander Avenueand Crotona Park Cluster projects in the Bronx, and the Guy Brewer North Homes inQueens. The value of these general contracts was often in excess of $10 million.
Additionally, real estate developer Dunn, a friend of Walters since high school, admitted in a consensually-recorded conversation that Walters, whom Dunn described as “greedy,” demanded $75,000 from Dunn and actually received $25,000.”
by Alec Hamilton
The Occupy Wall Street protests prepare to start their third week tomorrow with no sign of waning, and the arrests continue, but Mayor Bloomberg today said overall the protesters are well behaved.
“You don't see people throwing things the way you do in other parts of the world.” the mayor said. “I do not think this will escalate, and we want to make sure people have the right to protest.”
Twenty-three people were arrested last night on charges ranging from disorderly conduct to assaulting a police officer.
Bloomberg also said the police officers seem to have conducted themselves appropriately --though he said there might be "a piece of footage" that showed otherwise.
An NYPD spokesman did confirm that one officer used pepper spray last night on a protester.
by Alec Hamilton
New York Congressman Charlie Rangel lent his support to the Occupy Wall Street protests today, joining Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and House Democratic Caucus Chairman John B. Larson and Rangel’s colleagues in the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Rangel issued a release today that said “This new wave of support gives me renewed hope that we can bring about change inAmerica.’
“Today, the American people are angry and frustrated: In addition to the 14 million who are out of work, many people have lost their homes, health insurance, money for college and are losing hope. The wealthiest few should pay their fair share instead of enjoying the record profits on the backs of the middle class. The American people have had enough. They're mad as hell, and I agree. This is not a political issue, it's a moral issue.
I lived through the Civil Rights movement, marched fromSelmatoWashington, and have witnessed what happens when people unite. That's why I was glad to visitLibertyPlazaon Saturday to lend my support. I encourage more of my Collegues in Congress and the religious community to stand with the people on Wall Street to help occupyAmerica. Together, we can take back our country."
The protests, slated to last for two months, are now in their twentieth day.
By Alec Hamilton
Saying “we welcome immigration.” Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order today mandating that state documents be translated into six languages – Spanish, French, Italian, Chinese, Russian and Creole, in an effort to expand communication to New York’s immigrant communities. The executive order directs twenty-seven state agencies which provide direct services to the public to provide free interpretation of official forms and translation services.
The Buffalo News quotes Conservative Party chairman Michael Long as saying “by doing this, we continue ... the idea that people don't have to learn our language,"
"Why aren't we sending a clear message that it's important to learn English as fast as possible. ... Why does the state or federal government have to do everything for everyone all the time?"
The governor said some of the cost for the program, which could help reach some 2.5 million New Yorkers with limited English, will be paid for by the federal government. The program is due to be phased in slowly over the next year.
Nine-time Olympic champion Carl Lewis has won the Democratic nomination to New Jersey's 8th Senate district. But wrangling continues over his status as a NJ citizen - Republicans filed a complaint in April, alleging that Lewis is not a resident of the state. The track and field star voted in California in 2009, and they point to four-year state residency requirements.
-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, on embattled Congressman Anthony Weiner.
The contentious SUNY budget battle is about to get a lot more messy. The New York State Commission on Public Integrity has found reasonable cause to believe that SUNY paid Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Brunos daughter for a $70,000-a-year job for which she rarely came in, and was not qualified. The Commission on Public Integrity has served a Notice of Reasonable Cause of ethics violations against John J. OConnor, President of the Research Foundation of SUNY in the employment of Susan Bruno as Assistant director in the foundations Federal Relations Unit.
Earlier this month Governor Cuomo had approved allowing the four flagship SUNY campuses to set their own tuition increases, subject to legislative approval. The university system has long fought for the right to set their own tuition rates, and their partial success followed an announcement by the governor of $140 million in grants for the SUNY research campuses for expansion.
Former GOP gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino is throwing his support behind Jane Corwin in the race for New York's 26th Congressional District. The Buffalo businessman issued a fiery letter to media outlets today (it's dated Wednesday Morning!) charging the current Tea Party candidate, Jack Davis, with "lying" based on the his supposed endorsement of Barack Obama and, "radical liberal policies like partial birth abortion."
Paladino supports Jane Corwin, another member of the upstate business community, who's family is behind The Talking Phonebook, a company that's credited with bringing more jobs to Western New York.
Corwin does hold a small lead over the competition in the latest Siena poll, with 36 percent of voters supporting her compared to the 31 percent supporting Democrat Kathy Hochul. Jack Davis, who is on the independent and the Tea Party line, has the support of 23 percent of voters. The poll, conducted April 26 -27, includes responses from 484 likely voters with a margin of error of 4.5%. The election is May 24.
Check out the full letter, replete with italics and boldtype here.
Getting a two percent property tax cap passed by the legislature is a major goal for Gov. Cuomo as he settles into the statehouse. He campaigned on it and is pushing the cap once again, this time in a video message. The script aims to shame unnamed legislative leaders. "Many politicians are against the tax cap because it limits their power," Cuomo says, adding that the political establishment is fiercely lobbying against it.
Cuomo says the tax cap is on the side of the taxpayer (but he means property-owner) who have seen property taxes rise 73 percent in the last decade. Critics of the tax say that it will harm school districts and localities who depend on the funds to provide services.
If the taxpayers want to pay more taxes they can, and they can override the cap with a 60% vote. But the cap will put the odds in favor of the taxpayer and they deserve it, because the deck has been stacked against the taxpayers for too long.