Around the corner the last stop of the shuttle train that connects the western part of the Rockaway peninsula to the Manhattan-bound A train, in the middle of a strip of single floor store fronts, Republican volunteers and leaders from Brooklyn and Queens joined Jane Deacy this morning as she opened the doors of her campaign office for the 23rd Assembly District.
"Deacy wants to go to Albany," the candidate, whose name is pronounced like the nation's capitol, told about 40 supporters. Deacy is an energetic former police officer and school teacher, as well as the local Republican party leader. She's facing off against Phil Goldfeder, a former aide to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and US Senator Charles Schumer.
Deacy, like her Republican compatriot for congress, Bob Turner, has an uphill battle: her district is 2-to-1 Democrat. But that's not as bad as local City Council District 32, which is almost 3-to-1. Republican Eric Ulrich won there back in another special election in 2009, and went on to retain it in the general election in 2010.
Given this backdrop, Ulrich's success presents a possible road map for Deacy who talked about small-bore local issues--the threat closing of Peninsula Hospital posed to the seniors, the need for both jobs and security as the nearby Aqueduct Race Track racino looks to move forward--while imploring supporters to help her build an on-the-ground volunteer network throughout the district.
"I'm asking for you to tell 100 people, and for them to tell 100 people, and for them to tell 100 people," she said. "I'm also a real estate broker and I'll tell you this: the best customer you get is someone who comes as a referral. If you ask people to support me because they'll understand that you know the issues, and that you are involved."
If there's a path to victory, it will surely rely on the evolving special election expertise of those connected to Ulrich. He is the indisputable glue holding the local Republicans together, and a rising star in local politics. He casts Deacy as the straight-talking anti-insider--"a breath of fresh air." Multiple speakers compared Deacy's outsider status to the well-connected Goldfeder, who left Schumer's office to run the race for Assembly.
"Her honesty is going to resonate with the voters," Ulrich said. "She doesn't have all the answers and you're not going to agree with her 100 percent of the time but she's not there to blow any smoke."
[A great explainer on prisoner populations and why they're counted how they appeared on It's a Free Country in May. Read it here.]
By Karen DeWitt, WXXI Capitol Bureau Chief
The 2012 elections for the state legislature will be influenced, more than anything else, by the mandatory redistricting process, required every ten years after a new census.
In the past, Democrats, who have long dominated the Assembly, and the Republicans who have controlled the Senate in all but two years in more than a half century, have allowed the majority party in each house to have free reign in drawing the district lines, largely to the advantage of the incumbent politicians.
In recent decades, that arrangement has especially benefited Senate Republicans, who are losing party voters to Democrats in the increasingly blue state.
A law passed in 2010, during one of the rare times that Democrats held the State Senate, also has the potential to further erode the GOP’s remaining base. The new law says prison inmates can no longer be counted as residing in the prisons, located mostly in remote rural upstate legislative districts, but must be counted in the districts where they lived before they were put in jail. For decades, Republicans had counted the prisoners as living upstate to help boost population for their Senate districts.
Alice Green, with the Center for Law and Justice, who testified at a legislative hearing, says that’s fundamentally unfair. She says nearly half of the state’s 57,000 prisoners are from New York City.
90% of African American inmates, or around 24,000, are serving time in prisons upstate. She says white rural communities have benefited from counting the inmates as residing in the prison towns because it artificially boosts their populations, at the expense of mostly poor urban communities, where populations then appear to decline.
“This is tantamount to airlifting the population of zip code 10039 out of Harlem and dropping it somewhere in the middle of the Adirondacks,” Green said.
The state senate released its twice-a-year report on expenditures today. One of the most interesting things that popped out? Embattled Senator Carl Kruger's chief of staff, Jason Koppel, was by far the highest-paid staffer for any individual member, raking in just over (like, literally, by one cent) $81,000 for his services.
The next closest member--Senator Kevin Parker's counsel Richard Berkley--was paid about $18,500 less.
The Senator's office didn't immediately provide comment on the expenditure.
Sen. Kruger An associate of Senator Kruger this past week was was given three years probation and fined $15,000 for lying to FBI agents. The senator has been caught up in a bribery scheme since 2009.
On the steps of Queens Borough Hall earlier this afternoon, Assemblyman David Weprin was surrounded by around a dozen female lawmakers from across the city, in every level of government, to tout the congressional hopeful as the woman’s candidate. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn lauded Weprin as the right fighter pro-choice women voters needed in congress.
“We cannot now, when that right is under attack, lose one more voice in congress,” Quinn said.
From Quinn to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney down to the local female district leader, the praise was piled high. It was the sort of event Weprin has been having for the past few weeks. His campaign wants to make this race about defending Social Security and Medicare, the need to create jobs programs, and how dangerous the Republicans in congress are.
What David Weprin would like to stop talking about is Israel.
If you've got a few hundred bucks to spare and the night of the 10th free, why not join the city's most prominent Democratic politicians in celebrating Manhattan congressman Charles Rangel's birthday?
The shindig will be held at the Plaza Hotel. Govenor Cuomo and both of the state's Democratic senators, Charles Schumer and Kirstin Gillibrand, will join the city's top elected Ds and most of the New York congressional delegation as they enjoy a rare performance by Aretha Franklin. Guess someone isn't planning on leaving congress any time soon. More details here.
The polls continue with the good news for Governor Cuomo. A new NY1/Marist poll out today indicates New Yorkers are ever so slightly leaning towards the state moving in the right direction. It's the first time in four years that the majority of respondents weren't feeling pessimistic about the future.
According to the poll, 46 percent report New York State is moving along the right path while 45 percent say it is on the wrong course.
“New York State voters are responding to what they see as change in Albany,” Dr. Lee Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, said in a statement. “Governor Cuomo still has a way to go before confidence is restored, but this represents a step in the right direction.”
Additionally, 56 percent give the governor high marks on his job performance, and 67 percent view him favorably.
By Karen DeWitt, WXXI Capitol Bureau Chief
Cuomo has appointed a task force, which includes his own Inspector General and the Medicaid Inspector General, to look into executive and administrative compensation levels at not for profits that receive taxpayer support from the state.
Cuomo says the probe was prompted by a New York Times story that alleges two owners of not for profit homes for the developmentally disabled, financed largely by Medicaid, each received an annual salary of around a million dollars, and received compensation that included payment of college tuition at private schools for their children.
Cuomo, in a statement, says “there is a whole range of compensation levels and extremes that have existed for too long and must be reviewed”.
“The use of taxpayer dollars must be scrutinized at every level,” the governor continued.
Sue Lerner, with the government reform group Common Cause, says it’s an “absolutely appropriate inquiry”, in a time of record executive pay packages in many organizations.
Despite a spike in tax collections, the governor's budget office today released a report that took the wind out of the sails of anyone hoping for an improvement in the state's fiscal situation.
"Positive operating results through June 2011 compared the Enacted Budget forecast are
believed to be timing-related and do not provide a basis for revising the annual estimates of receipts or disbursements at this time," the report said.
The good news is that things aren't getting any worse. The reports says budget projections remain on track, we have $2.6 billion more in the bank than this time last year, and our operating budget is nearly $2 billion better off than expected.
In the coming weeks the state's two biggest labor unions--Public Employee Federation and Civil Service Employees Association--that represent 60 percent of the state's workforce, are set to vote on contracts that are a big portion of the $450 million in savings that are being counted.
Mayor Bloomberg announced this morning that the January 2012 regent exams will take place thanks to $1.5 million in private donations. Last month the New York State Education Department had said that it would not offer the January exams for high school students beginning in 2012, after the Board of Regents voted to eliminate them due to budget cuts.
“When the State announced it didn’t have the money for the January exams, I knew we had to do something, or we would be letting our kids down. I’ve always believed that you can either complain about your problems or do something to fix them – in New York City, we choose the latter," the mayor said in a statement.
Nearly two-thirds of the 2010 January Regents test takers were from New York City, the statement noted.
WQXR on the mayor's October conducting debut:
Bloomberg will conduct the Encores! Orchestra, an ensemble founded in 1994 to present the works of American Songbook composers like Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, and George and Ira Gershwin. The mayor's repertoire details have yet to be announced.
"City Center occupies a special place in the lives of New Yorkers as the diverse and accessible ‘People’s Theater’ founded by Mayor La Guardia,” Bloomberg said in a statement Tuesday. “Generations of New Yorkers flocked to City Center to see performances by many of the world’s greatest artists and companies. The city of New York is proud to help City Center remain a vibrant cultural attraction for generations to come.”
A NY1-Marist Poll released today showed New York City voters have remained unmoved in their negative feelings on Mayor Bloomberg. Only 39 percent of those polled gave the mayor positive marks, which was virtually unchanged from a similar poll taken in March.
Additionally, even as Bloomberg has made reforming schools a top agenda item, the public remains firmly against his policies--54 percent disapprove of how he's handled the educational system. And this is an improvement: prior to the resignation of his short-lived appointee Cathie Black as head of the school system, 65 percent of voters disapproved.
Republican Bob Turner's campaign is going after Assemblyman--and former head of the city council's finance committee--David Weprin over the 2008 slush fund scandal, claiming "[Weprin] has never satisfactorily explained how fake charities were created by the Council -- directly under his watch -- to funnel taxpayer dollars to political pet projects without the public knowing about it[.]"
If you recall, the city council was embroiled in scandal over hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars being funneled through fake non-profits, a practice that some said went back decades. The scandal sent one councilman, Miguel Martinez of Manhattan, to jail and nearly derailed the political career of Speaker Quinn.
Weprin told the Observer in 2008:
I’m not proud of these scandals or these misappropriations of some small amount of money in a very large budget, but in the end I think the process is stronger for it, and we’re all better off for all the scrutiny that came out of this.
"David Weprin either knew about these fake charities or he wasn't doing his job; there is no in-between," Turner campaign spokesman William O'Reilly said in statement from the campaign.
The response from Weprin's campaign:
Bob Turner is lying about David Weprin in a sad, pathetic attempt to distract the people of Brooklyn and Queens from his extremist tea party-inspired plan to slash trillions from Medicare and Social Security.
The Empire Center's EJ McMahon and Robert Scardamalia released a new report today on New York's continued population loss. Among the report's findings:
Let’s say you’re a veteran and you’re having some trouble with your benefits. Or maybe you’re a senior and your social security check didn’t arrive on time. If you had issues with your immigration paperwork, wanted to attend one of the country’s military academies, or simply needed some big guns on a local issue your local elected officials weren’t able to supply, you could end up going to the same place: your representative to congress.
That is, unless you lived in the ninth congressional district out in Queens and in parts of Brooklyn. Folks there have been without representation in the house since Anthony Weiner resigned on June 21. From conversations with people in the district, Weiner was considered good on constituent services, especially immigration in a district that’s 40 percent foreign born. But that was before the “sexting” scandal forced him to resign. “There wasn't anything about this, I would say, that changes my ability or my record of getting bills passed or filling potholes or filling community service,” Weiner had stated, but now that he’s gone, where do people in his district go for help?
If you head up to the fifth floor of the all-glass building at 80-02 Kew Gardens Road, right at the edge of Kew Gardens and Forest Hills, and you take a right, the former congressman’s office is still there to help. The nameplate has been removed from the wooden door and a piece of white paper with black print states simply: “Office of the Ninth Congressional District.”
David Weprin, Democratic candidate for Congress in New York’s 9th Congressional District, today condemned Speaker John Boehner and House and Senate Republicans for their intransigence in working toward a Debt Ceiling deal that was announced on Sunday.
The deal, which comes after weeks of impasse due to Republicans refusal to raise revenue, includes potentially $3 trillion dollars in across-the-board spending cuts, a vote on a Republican-backed Balance Budget Amendment, and no increases in revenue.
“Yet again the Republicans have proven that they will resort to extreme measures, such as holding the full-faith and credit of the United States at risk, in order to advance their radical agenda. Extremist Bob Turner would even have us cut the federal budget by 35%, an $11.5 trillion cut in spending over 10 years that is far to the right of many within his own party. That would eliminate Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as we know it," said Weprin.
“While I am still examining the fine details of the legislation, I only hope that this type of hostage situation charade put on by the Republicans does not become the standard for the work we hope and need to accomplish in Congress.”
This agreement is far from perfect, but it will protect Social Security and Medicare and prevent default on our debt, which would have damaged this weak economy even more. But more importantly, it sends the signal that bipartisanship, however hard-fought, is still possible in the Congress. Far more of that will be needed in the months and years ahead to get this economy moving again and to restore confidence in American government.
Years of overspending by career politicians, on both sides of the aisle, put us in this position. This debate has been historic in that federal debt and its drag on the U.S. economy is now a front-burner issue. Getting the U.S. economy back on track and creating jobs must be the chief priority for every member of Congress, and, in the long-term, that will require responsible spending and balanced budgets. That is the ultimate goal, and this moves us in that direction. As imperfect as it is, I support today’s deal.
The governor's office announced the schedule of the regional economic councils (list below). The councils were announced last week and were created as part of the governor's stated economic push for the state.
"With the launch of the Regional Councils, we are transforming the state's approach to economic development," Governor Cuomo said in a statement. "For the first time ever, regions will compete for up to one billion dollars in economic development aid to help support the plans for their own economic future. The plans the councils begin to develop this week will chart a course for growth and job creation for each region and for all New Yorkers."
The statement described what the councils are charged to do:
During the inaugural meetings, council members will begin to identify key regional issues and opportunities, begin to discuss a regional economic vision, identify work groups to focus on public engagement, address key issues and outline major elements of the strategic plans. Each meeting will be followed by a media availability, where, among other things, the council members will discuss their plans for future public forums.
Applications for projects and programs will be due in November. The winners of the grant money and tax credits are scheduled to be announced this December.
Western New York
August 3, 2011
University at Buffalo, 10:00 AM
August 3, 2011
Monroe Community College, 3:00 PM
Central New York
August 4, 2011
SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry, 9:30 AM
August 4, 2011
University at Binghamton, 3:00 PM
August 5, 2011
SUNY Potsdam, 11:00 AM
August 9, 2011
University at Albany, 9:30 AM
August 9, 2011
SUNY New Paltz, 3:00 PM
New York City
August 10, 2011
CUNY Baruch College, 9:30 AM
August 10, 2011
SUNY Stonybrook, 3:00 PM
August 11, 2011
SUNY Institute of Technology, 11:00 AM
Turner's campaign says Rep. Peter King of Long Island will be endorsing him for congress this evening, citing, according to the announcement,Turner's "steadfast support for the state of Israel and his business background."
Using Rego Park's social security office as a backdrop, Assemblyman David Weprin sought to keep the issue of entitlements at the center of the congressional race out in Queens. The debt ceiling deadlock in DC was a threat to seniors' social security payments in August, he said, and would reduce the average senior's monthly income by more than $1,000.
"Seniors should not become the innocent victims of the Republicans’ irresponsible, partisan games and their failure to negotiate in good faith," Weprin said in a statement. The campaign's decision to hold these events in the northern, heavily Jewish portion of the district looks like an attempt to focus older Jewish voters on their social security checks and Medicare payments, and away from Weprin's counterpart Republican Bob Turner's desire to make the special election in the 9th congressional district a referendum on Obama's support for Israel.