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Colby Hamilton

Colby Hamilton appears in the following:

Department of Investigations gets buildings corruption bust

Thursday, September 22, 2011

File this under the "You Don't See That Every Day" category:

The city's Department of Investigations busted a construction superintended for trying to bribe an undercover Department of Buildings investigator, posing as an inspector. The faux-inspector was allegedly offered $1,000 to keep the building from being cited for violations.

The Department of Buildings has a history of being plagued by corruption.

DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said in a statement, “Bribing a City inspector is risky business that leads to arrest and prosecution. I thank the Buildings Inspector for reporting the incident. DOI will continue to work with the Buildings Department to expose and stop individuals who undermine New Yorkers’ safety by trying to evade the City’s construction codes.”

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Sometime-Connecticut resident and deputy mayor, Robert Steel, announces boathouse strike agreement

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bloomberg's top economic man, Deputy Mayor Robert Steel, announced the end of the 44 day-long strike at Central Park's boathouse. The city's agreement with the Hotel Trades Council to have the Boathouse employee union recognized will, they're surely hoping, take some attention away from the OTHER Robert Steel story.

“The Boathouse is a one-of-a-kind destination for New Yorkers and visitors, and throughout this process we were committed to its continued success for years to come,” Steel said in a statement. “Not only does the restaurant add to the vibrancy of the City in one of its most stunning settings, it also provides important City revenue, and this agreement will allow it to continue to thrive.”

‪“The New York Hotel Trades Council is delighted that the strike at the Boathouse is over," Peter Ward, Hotel Trades Council president, said in the same statement. “We are equally happy to say that our Union and the Boathouse employees accomplished our goals."

Union members now have to vote for ratification, which is expected.

Note: At the request of the mayor's office, the headline of this story has been updated. The deputy mayor rents an apartment in Chelsea, which the city says he lives in during the week. He says he pays taxes in New York State and is registered to vote in New York.

His house, wife, dogs and cars continue to live in Connecticut.

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New York localities struggle with tax cap pinch

Thursday, September 22, 2011

By Karen DeWitt, WXXI Capitol Bureau Chief

School boards and county leaders in parts of New York are warning voters they may need to override the newly enacted 2 percent property tax cap. Without an override there might not be enough money to pay for flood damage from two tropical storms as well as mandated state programs, they said.

The Association of Counties said as many as a dozen counties may begin the override process. Tompkins, Tioga, Chautauqua, and Rockland Counties are considering hearings, and St Lawrence County has held one already.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, a tax-cap champion, said the rules are designed to allow communities to make that decision for themselves.

“They can raise it to whatever they want it to be. That’s it. There is no big brother here,” he said.

But Steve Acquario of the county association said, “it’s a little bit more complicated than that.”

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The NY Redistricting Battle Explained

Thursday, September 22, 2011

On the Brian Lehrer Show today at 11:20am. Audio and a recap will be posted by 1pm.

Colby Hamilton, blogger for WNYC's The Empire, discusses how Rep. Turner's win has changed the redistricting battle in New York as well as the stakes for future elections, and Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, explains why Common Cause has pulled out of a coalition on legislative redistricting, and what should be done instead.

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The NY Redistricting Battle

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Colby Hamilton, blogger for WNYC's The Empire, discusses how Rep. Turner's win has changed the redistricting battle in New York as well as the stakes for future elections, and Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, explains why Common Cause has pulled out of a coalition on legislative redistricting, and what should be done instead.

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NYC, NYS comptrollers dig up dirt in audits

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Update:

The Economic Development Corporation set over this statement in response to Comptroller Liu's audit. From EDC spokesperson Patrick Muncie:

We appreciate the Comptroller’s analysis, and we’re glad it determined that EDC has disbursed a vast majority of the funds available for community benefit. The Comptroller’s suggestions for the remaining funds may be well-intentioned, but they ignore the disbursement restrictions EDC is legally bound to follow, and many are infeasible or simply not in the best interest of the City’s taxpayers. We will continue to ensure that all of the funds are wisely invested in the neighborhoods for which they were intended.

For time's sake I'm condensing two separate audits released today--one by New York City Comptroller John Liu, the other by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

Liu finds millions in unspent city development funds

Comptroller Liu sees costs dropping in the future.

Courtesy of the comptroller's office/Paul Brumlik

The comptroller's office says an audit found $9.3 million in unspent funds meant for public benefit projects on the Economic Development Corporation's books. The bulk of the funds were approved in 1992 as part of a development deal, and meant benefit the Harlem River Rail Yard in the Bronx.

“It makes little sense that millions intended for economic development remain unused for so long, especially in the Bronx where jobs are greatly needed,” Liu said in a statement. “If the EDC can’t figure out how to put the capital to work then at least return the money to the City treasury.”

DiNapoli's audit of the MTA confirms the agency's deep fiscal woes

Courtesy of the Comptroller's office

According to a report put out by DiNapoli's office, many of the concerns over the sustainability of the MTA's capital program were well founded. An audit of the agency revealed considerable risks in the financial assumptions its making, and warned that taking on more debt would only complicate things.

“The MTA is in a very difficult position as it struggles to hold together a strained operating budget while proposing the largest borrowing program in its history to fund capital projects,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “Before taking on nearly $15 billion in new debt, the MTA must present the public with the facts about the potential long-term implications of this new borrowing on services, fares and budget gaps.”

The comptroller warned that, if the MTA took on the proposed debt, the interest paid on what the agency owed could reach $3.3 billion by 2018. That would be 64 percent more than it is this year. DiNapoli projected that, even with scheduled fare and toll increases, the MTA could still face a budget gaps rising from $600 million in 2016 to $1.2 billion in 2018.

All of this, of course, would be waiting for whomever Governor Andrew Cuomo picks to replace departing MTA head Jay Walder later next month.

“The next MTA Chairperson will face a number of challenges including negotiating new collective bargaining agreements, squeezing additional savings from the operating and capital budgets, and keeping fares affordable in the face of rising debt service costs for the capital program,” DiNapoli said.

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Good gov groups split on redistricting as LATFOR comes to Manhattan

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Colby Hamilton / WNYC

Ed Koch, left, with Dick Dadey at the LATFOR hearing

The state legislature’s redistricting task force is holding public meetings this week in New York City. Today they were in Manhattan hearing testimony from elected officials, good government groups, and any normal people who were inspired to take a day off of work to attend the hearing.

Oh, and Ed Koch.

The former mayor, fresh off his party-crossing coup in the 9th Congressional District, came to shakedown the bicameral committee. He was joined by Dick Dadey, the head of the nonpartisan good government group Citizens Union, and former parks commissioner and founder of NY Civic, Henry Stern.

The Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research—known awkwardly as LATFOR—has been holding meetings around the state to get the public’s feedback on how the decennial process of redrawing the state’s legislative districts should go. Koch and his good government cohorts have been pushing for an independent redistricting plan for over a year.

The New York State legislature was unable to put together a plan before the end of the last session, and so the traditional process—the politicians in the legislature whose districts are being redrawn controlling the process—has begun. This hasn’t made Ed Koch particularly happy.

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New York has many examples--good and bad--of what redistricting could look like

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Every ten years New York goes through a process of redrawing its state legislative and congressional boundaries. The mutated district gerrymandering and political cynicism that comes out of this process have led to calls for change.  A coalition of good government groups, former and current elected officials, and concerned citizens have pushed for an independent process for creating new districts. Get politicians out of the way, the thinking goes, and you’ll have districts that better reflect—and serve—New Yorkers.

The public is behind the idea, according to a recent poll showing 50 percent of voters supporting a redistricting commission independent of the state legislature. But what does independent redistricting actually look like?

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Turner rallies with GOP Prez hopeful Perry in Manhattan

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Anna Sale / WNYC

It's a Free Country's Anna Sale caught up with the newest New York congressman earlier today. Congressman Bob Turner was stumping with GOP presidential hopefully Rick Perry, who's in town doing some fundraising. Both Perry and Turner took the Obama administration to task over (what else?) Israel, as the UN gears up for the issue of Palestinian statehood:

The vote on Palestinian statehood is scheduled for Friday at the United Nations. It comes a week after Republican Bob Turner won a special election to fill Anthony Weiner’s vacant seat in New York’s heavily Jewish and heavily Democratic Ninth Congressional district. Rep. Turner stood with Perry, who called the new Congressman “a leading voice” on the Israeli Palestinian issue.

Rep. Turner picked up on that, explicitly warning that his victory in New York shows President Obama’s position on Israel will make him vulnerable at the polls.

“The message that the voters sent is that this administration has been vacillating and at times even hostile to Israel, and it is not accepted and it is not acceptable,” Bob Turner said. “And if it continues there will be a very high price to pay.”

Check out the full post over at It's a Free Country.

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Irene cost the city at least $55 million: NYC Office of Emergency Management

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The city agency responsible for literally weathering the storm, the mayor's Office of Emergency Management, just sent out a note. According to their figures, Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene cost the city at least $55 million:

Based on preliminary information we have gathered from City agencies, we estimate that the costs of the response, recovery and damage to public infrastructure are at least $55 million. I emphasize that $55 million is a preliminary figure based only on the information we have been able to collect so far. Many City agencies continue to collect cost information and we expect agencies will report additional costs.

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Cuomo rating soars, as voters voice support for indy redistricting

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Courtesy of the Governor's office

A new Quinnipiac poll shows Governor Andrew Cuomo's approval ratings remain high, buoyed by a favorable response to his handling of the recent hurricanes and subsequent flooding.

Voters gave Cuomo an 86 percent approval rating for his handling of the Irene and Lee storms. His overall approval is at 66 percent, which Quinnipiac notes is "the highest score for any governor in states surveyed by Quinnipiac University and among the highest for any New York governor[.]"

“New York’s love affair with Gov. Andrew Cuomo persists, perhaps helped along by Irene and Lee,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a statement. “Yes, we like him. Yes, we like his policies. Yes, we think he did a good job on the tropical storms. Yes, he’s dominating the legislature. Maybe we should ask about his Queens accent.”

Voters are also telling Cuomo they want independent redistricting, according to the poll. Of those polled, 50 percent say they want an independent commission to redraw political boundaries. But how's this for low expectations: even more--55 percent--do not believe the governor or the state legislature will keep their promises made during the 2010 elections to use an independent redistricting process.

“New Yorkers don’t want the State Legislature to draw the district lines that decide where they and members of Congress will get elected. Half prefer an independent commission. Some think there should be some legislative say,” Carroll said. “But most voters don’t believe that New York’s political leaders will keep their word.

“We chose a provocative word deliberately and almost half of the voters say they’d feel ‘betrayed’ if elected officials don’t change the districting system.”

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Davidzon: Meet the Man Who Got Bob Turner Elected

Monday, September 19, 2011

Congressman Bob Turner (Courtesy of the Congressman)

Less than 5,000 votes separated Democrat David Weprin from his opponent, now Republican Congressman Bob Turner in last week’s 9th Congressional District contest. It wasn’t really a surprise, as the last poll before the election showed Turner up over Weprin by six points.

Turner ended up beating Weprin by almost eight points, according to unofficial Board of Election results. OK, so Turner did better than expected, but it wasn’t just that he did better; it was where he did better.

In the last Siena poll before the election, Weprin was down five points to Turner in Queens and 12 in Brooklyn. On Election Day, Weprin actually won the overall Queens vote, beating Turner by five percentage points.

But in the southeastern chunk of Brooklyn that made up less than a third of the voters in the 9th Congressional District, Turner won by a whopping two-to-one margin. This might not be surprising to some, but the Turner campaign made a strategic campaign hire that helped ensure that this conservative-leaning, heavily Russian area would be behind their candidate.

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Governor Cuomo hates the millionares tax, unless Obama likes it

Monday, September 19, 2011

Governor Cuomo has been solidly against raising taxes on higher income makers in New York, but decided he thinks it's a good idea if President Obama does it. His office sent out this message earlier. Apparently as long as millionaires in New York are taxed by someone else, Cuomo is OK with it.

As the President has rightly realized, the federal government is facing not only a fiscal and debt crisis but needs to take a strong action to create jobs and grow our economy.

I urge Congress to move quickly to pass the President's plan so we can put New Yorkers and Americans back to work.

While I am against raising taxes in general, if taxes need to be raised to create jobs, balance the budget and lower the deficit then those increases need to be done at the federal level and on the wealthiest Americans, not the middle class.

New York State is one of the highest taxed states in the country. New York cannot have the people and businesses that create jobs and wealth in New York move to Connecticut or New Jersey which have lower taxes.

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State Senate Dems: Creating a new district is illegal

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pushing back on reported Republican attempts to create a new seat in the New York State Senate, Senate Democrats are rebutting the idea, calling the move illegal under the law.

"What the Senate Republicans are doing is illegal and no reading of the State Constitution would allow a new seat to be created. We are witnessing the depths that the Republicans will go to hold onto power," Mike Murphy, spokesperson for the Senate Democrats, said in a statement. "They are playing a dangerous game with the state constitution and the redistricting process."

The Dems are arguing the state's constitution explicitly states how to count the number of senate districts and that, however you count it, the state's population dictates 62 districts.

The Republicans, however, are vehemently denying any such plan exists. Scott Reif, spokesperson for the Senate Republicans, has called the suggestion "pure speculation."

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Nearly half of New Yorkers felt impact of recent storms: Siena Research

Monday, September 19, 2011

A new poll released today showed the impact felt by Hurricanes Irene and Lee affected nearly one-in-two people. A Siena Research poll released this morning said 47 percent of respondents said they were affected by the storms, but nearly two-thirds say they're no more prepared than prior to the storms.

“From Long Island, into the city, up the Hudson and along the Susquehanna, this storm will be remembered for a long time,” said Siena Research Institute's director Dr. Don Levy in a statement. “In the areas hit by the storms, three quarters said roads were blocked or inaccessible, sixty-one percent had wind damage, downed trees, or roof damage and sixty percent experienced power outages. A majority in those areas say that there was local flooding and public buildings were closed. Nearly four in ten had water in their basements. Over one in ten faced evacuation.”

 

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New York likely to miss another Federal health exchange deadline

Friday, September 16, 2011

By Karen DeWitt, WXXI Capitol Bureau Chief

Health advocacy groups say it’s likely that New York State will miss another deadline to implement the new Federal health care law. Republicans in the State Senate, who control the chamber, are expressing new reservations about the health care exchanges, based on policy differences, not political opposition.

Scott Reif, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, says Senators are taking a “cautious, wait-and-see approach”, and have concerns that the federal program could result in New Yorkers paying $3.75 billion dollars more in taxes, thanks to new higher Medicare taxes for upper-income earners.

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NY-9 wasn't a rebuke of Obama, the Jewish edition

Friday, September 16, 2011

As I wrote here Wednesday, the idea that Congressman Bob Turner's victory Tuesday was some sort of bellwether rebuke of President Obama is wrongheaded (I'm talking to you @KarlRove).

As Gallup showed today, one of the many threads of this--that Jewish voters were finally going to flee the Democratic Party for redder pastures--is just not true. As many people have pointed out the Jewish vote in the 9th Congressional District is more conservative than the general Jewish population. As the graph below notes, Jewish voters are, you know, not psyched about Obama--but who is?!

Anyway, the quicker we can put the notion that the Jewish vote is swinging wildly right--in New York or anywhere else--the better.

  (Couresy of Gallup.)

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As the dust settles in the 54th Assembly, future plans begin to take shape

Friday, September 16, 2011

This post has been updated.

Rafael Espinal, the Democratic and Conservative Party pick in Brooklyn's 54th Assembly District, managed to fend off two better-financed campaigns to become one of the new members of the New York State Assembly. The win was just as much a victory for Espinal's patrons as it was for the young candidate.

The long-time local assemblyman and head of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, Vito Lopez, was able to get his pick into a seat previously held by Congressman Ed Towns' son for nearly 20 years. Councilman Erik Martin Dilan, who Espinal works (or worked) for, is a strong ally of Lopez's, as is his father, Senator Martin Malavé Dilan.

But looking at the results, more than half of the voters in the race voted for someone other than Espinal, who captured 44.4 percent of the vote. The Espinal campaign had said before the race that they expected a primary challenge next year, and given the results, they're probably right.

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Welcome to Washington, Congressman Turner

Friday, September 16, 2011

Courtesy of the Assemblyman's office.

Not even 24 hours into his term as congressman from New York's 9th Congressional District and Bob Turner has already drawn the ire of at least one local political official.

Queens Assemblyman Rory Lancman just sent out an official statement on Congressman Turner's vote to block the National Labor Relations Board from challenging a new Boeing facility in North Carolina, which critics say was moved in retaliation against unionized workers.

"My new Congressman's honeymoon ended when his first vote in Washington was to undermine basic worker protections and enable companies to outsource American jobs overseas," Lancman said in the statement.

As David Freedlander over at Politicker noted, Lancman had wanted the job, but Queens party boss Congressman Joesph Crowley gave it to the now-defeated David Weprin. If the 9th Congressional District exists in 2012, Lancman could be a Democratic challenger gunning for Turner's job.

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Congressman Bob Turner

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bob Turner being sworn in today as the newest member of the House of Representatives. (Tory Mazzola)

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