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Colby Hamilton

Colby Hamilton appears in the following:

UPDATE: NY City, State comptrollers' audit targets MTA "diversions"

Sunday, July 31, 2011

If you were traveling from central Queens inbound this weekend, you didn't need either New York State Comptroller Thomas Di Napoli or the city comptroller John Liu to tell you MTA track work and the Dante-like ring of hell it creates were a major inconvenience to riders. E and M trains running on the F line and the 7 train not running to Manhattan made getting to, say, Williamsburg from Rego Park required three separate trains and a shuttle bus, and created loads of unhappy weekend commuters. [NOTE: I'm trying to find an updated term for "strap hangers." If you've got any ideas, let me know. --Colby]

A new audit of the MTA's transit diversions--all those weekend and night reroutings "because of construction"--released today identified unaccounted for cost overruns in the millions, an overall increase in the number of diversions New Yorkers had to deal with, and a failure of the often-maligned agency to properly notify riders of impending work.

“When  the  MTA  fails to manage its service diversions properly, it's more than  an inconvenience; it's a waste of taxpayer money and it derails local businesses,”  Comptroller  DiNapoli  said in a statement. "The subway system is showing its age, but the MTA has to do a better job managing all aspects of these diversions, from rider notification to budgeting.”

“Sadly  this  confirms  the  nagging  suspicion  of  riders,  residents and business  owners  alike,  that  subway  service  is  taken  down  more than necessary,”  Comptroller Liu added.

(Courtesy of the NYS & NYC Comptrollers' offices)

According to the joint audit, weekend diversions rose from 47 to 74 between 2008 and 2010. Over the same time period the number of diversions that lasted for at least month increased eight fold, from 7 in 2008 to 57 in 2010. Riders of the 7 train alone suffered nine consecutive weekends of diversions between January and March 2010.

While New Yorkers are all too aware of the inconveniences caused by weekend and night construction, the audit found tens of millions of dollars in cost overruns and waste that riders and taxpayers are footing to-boot. Night and weekend work often started late and ended earlier, the audit found, creating an estimated $10.5 million in unproductive costs.

Additionally, the comptrollers' offices found the agency failed to document why diversion work went over budget. On four projects the audit examined, the total estimated cost had run over by $26.6 million as of January 2011.

The audit also found the MTA failing to comply with federal law when printing notices only in English, and had printed notices of upcoming work for only two of the 50 diversions the audit examined.

UPDATE

A statement from the MTA on the report:
"Due to the 24-hour, seven day a week operation of the subway system, planned service diversions are necessary in order to perform maintenance and capital work.  We make every effort to minimize customer inconvenience by coordinating work --- performing multiple jobs in the same area so that we do not have to go back again.  However, some projects are extremely involved, requiring several shutdowns.  We strive to keep customers aware of the diversions, utilizing station, and in car signage along with announcements, both in stations and onboard trains.  Detailed information is also provided on the MTA website and through our email and text alerts."

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Lt. Gov. Duffy announces New York City's regional economic council

Friday, July 29, 2011

[New York City's council's full roster at the bottom.]

(Courtesy of the Governor's office)

The governor’s traveling economic development roadshow finally made its way to New York City today. Local politicians, agency and labor representatives, city officials and perhaps even a few tech students congregated in the auditorium of Brooklyn’s New York City College of Technology to hear Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy announce the creation of the city’s new regional economic council—the last of ten.

“The governor has outlined a fundamental shift in the state's approach to economic development, from a top-down to a community-based approach that emphasis each region's unique assets, harnesses local expertise and empowers each region to set plans and priorities,” said Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson, in his introduction of Duffy.

This past week Governor Cuomo and his lieutenant have been traveling all over the state, announcing the creation of new regional economic councils that draw from local academic, civic and business leaders. This is the next phase of the governor’s promised push to revive the state’s economy. Each council will be submitting ideas for bringing business and jobs to the state, working with a streamlined state agency system also announced this week, and competing for funds from a $1 billion grant to help get the best ideas off the ground.

“It is about what is the best way we can pull together regionally to continue to grow jobs, and bring jobs and companies here,” Duffy said.

The lieutenant governor made it clear that the regional councils were, in part, meant to steer away from the upstate-downstate divide that normally colors statewide economic discussions. But being the last council to be named, having the capable but junior Duffy deliver the announcement, and, at the time of the press conference, only being able to name one of the co-chairs to head the whole thing—CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein—gave the impression that bringing the city into the mix was not the governor’s priority.

In a sense, why should it be? Mayor Bloomberg has been working for years to develop a city-centric program of job industry diversification, entrepreneurial growth, and academic development that he would like to see set as the crowning jewel of his time as mayor. Upstate New York has never recovered fully from the death of American industry. While counties upstate continued to hemorrhage young, able-bodied workers—something Duffy reminded the assembled—New York City has been growing in population for years.

And if there was any doubt these councils were creatures of the state, the dearth of city officials present, with the exception of Bloomberg’s deputy mayor for economic development, Bob Steel, and the presence of numerous state legislators made that clear.

The governor’s office has made a major show of these councils and its desire to make New York “open for business.” The councils were created, the governor said, to allow regional insight, issues and economic solutions to come from the bottom up. Given their composition—appointed and so far without a mechanism for public input—whether or not the issues of concern to the people of the regions will be represented is uncertain. What is certain, here in the city, is that Goldstein and his co-chair, American Express chairman and CEO Kenneth Chenault, have nine other regional councils they need to catch up to.

New York City Regional Council Members

Regional Co-Chairs
Matthew Goldstein, Chancellor, City University of New York
Kenneth Chenault, Chairman & CEO, American Express

General Members
Ann Moore, Former Chairman & CEO, Time, Inc.
Gail Grimmett, Senior Vice President for New York, Delta Airlines
Steve Spinola, President, Real Estate Board of New York
Douglas C. Steiner, Chairman, Steiner Studios
Ashok Nigalaye, President & CEO, Epic Pharma LLC
Gary LaBarbera, President, New York City Building and Constructions Trade
Dr. Marcia V. Keizs, President, York College
Sheena Wright, President & CEO, Abyssinian Development Corp.
Francine Y. Delgado, Senior Vice President, Seedco
Steve Hindy, President, Brooklyn Brewery
Kevin Ryan, Founder & CEO, Gilt Groupe
Kenneth Knuckles, President & CEO, Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development
Corporation
Marcel Van Ooyen, Executive Director, Grow NYC
Cesar J. Claro, President & CEO, Staten Island Economic Development Corporation
Marlene Cintron, President, Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (BOEDC)
Kathryn Wylde, President & CEO, Partnership for New York City
Carl Hum, President & CEO, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce
Nick Lugo, President, New York City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Carol Conslato, President, Queens Chamber of Commerce
Stuart Applebaum, President, RWDSU
Mike Fishman, President, 32BJ SEIU
Peter Ward, President, Hotel & Motel Trades Council

Elected Officials
Mayor of New York City (appoints one representative)
Bronx Borough President
Brooklyn Borough President
Manhattan Borough President
Staten Island Borough President
Queens Borough President

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NYC debt ceiling disaster plan, via the comptroller's office

Friday, July 29, 2011

Worried what will happen to city government if the debt ceiling's not raised? John Liu is on it. Here's what the comptroller is counseling the mayor's office on, should congress not raising the debt ceiling. Ready for scare quotes?

"The City could therefore be at risk of losing up to an additional $461 million in direct State aid in August. Accounting for a loss of both Federal and State funding to the City, the total lost revenue in August could exceed $1.39 billion."

"Since so many New Yorkers, particularly the elderly and disabled , rely on their monthly Social Security benefit as their sole source of income ‐ using their check to pay rent, buy groceries and just make ends meet – delaying their benefits for even a few days could inflict unacceptable hardship."

But, really, other than the nightmare withholding Social Security checks to seniors would cause, Liu says the city's actually in decent shape. Don't believe me? Read it for yourself.

Debt Advisory

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UPDATED: Dilan claims senate GOP "stonewalling" on redistricting prisoner count

Friday, July 29, 2011

Senator Dilan (Courtsey of the Senator's office)

After getting a letter earlier this weekfrom a coalition strongly urging the state's redistricting committee to comply with the law, one of its members, Brooklyn senator Martin Malavé Dilan is saying the senate GOP is dragging its feet on counting prisoners where they're from, not where they're incarcerated. Dilan, who is on the LATFOR committee, says the committee has all the information it needs, but hasn't responded to requests for update on compliance.

“There is absolutely no reason, excuse or legal reason for the majority’s defiance of state law,” Dilan said in a statement. “LATFOR has the resources, time and legal obligation to comply with the law.” The letter was sent to Senator Michael Nozzolio of Seneca Fall, co-chair of LATFOR.

Last night, appearing on YNN's "Capital Tonight," the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program Director Wendy Weiser said she believed "there is certainly no legal justification that LATFOR could put forward for not complying with the law" and hinted that a lawsuit might be in order should LATFOR not comply.

That would, of course, be the second suit brought against LATFOR. The senate Republicans are currently suing to keep the prisoner counting law from being enacted, saying the law was passed illegally and will disenfranchise voters that house and count prisoners, counting them in their population.

The senate Republicans have good reason to not want prisoners counted where they're from, as many prisoners are in upstate Republican districts. The population drain would benefit mostly downstate, Democratic districts. This would only exacerbate any "nonpartisan" redistricting process that would likely add Democratic seats to the senate.

Nozzolio's office is expected to provide a statement later.

UPDATE: Statement from Senator Nozzolio's office.

"It is very surprising to learn of Senator Dilan’s partisan statements regarding the redistricting process. These comments appear reckless, disingenuous and completely without merit.

I firmly believe that all the members of LATFOR are strongly committed to complying with every State and Federal law and establishing a transparent and fair redistricting process. There have been no substantive issues or votes requiring Commission approval at this point. For Senator Dilan to suggest otherwise is totally inaccurate.

Senator Dilan’s baseless attack is nothing more than a political smokescreen and is the ultimate misuse of the redistricting process for political purposes."

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Bob Turner: NY-9's Citizen Candidate version 2.0

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Team Turner sees Isreal as its key issue. (Alec Hamilton)

There are a couple of interesting things to note about Bob Turner. First, he’s a very grandfatherly figure—which makes sense, considering his age (70) and the number of grandkids he has (13). He’s about as close as you can get to a Reagan Democrat these days. He thinks the government should get out of the business of most things, but wants to keep entitlements, which he’s said he would have a moral and legal obligation to preserve, in place. He doesn’t seem too keen on being labeled a “quintessential Tea Party” candidate. And, right now, he believes the path to victory in the September special election runs right through the 9th congressional district’s Orthodox Jewish community.

We sat down after his appearance on the “Brian Lehrer Show” to further discuss some of the issues. On air, Turner sounded unpolished—which can just as easily be interpreted as a sign of his authenticity as any detrimental awkwardness. He is, in many ways, a citizen candidate and what you might imagine when some people clamor for a non-politician to run for office. He’s in the mold of, if not the less self-financed, CEO for office. He deferred on-air to questions he didn’t have the answer for. He also had difficulty answering statistical questions like the district’s poverty rate (11 percent according to the Census, but below the approximately 14.5 percent national rate) and its immigrant population percentage (he guessed 25 percent, but census has the figure at just over 40 percent for foreign born).

In discussing the issues in this race, Turner presented what, for many years, had been the Republican Party line on government. In a National Review article about why he’s running for office again, Turner targeted the age-old villain—liberalism—and said he wanted to “dramatically” cut the federal budget by between 30 and 35 percent. His opponent, Assemblyman David Weprin, has attempted to use this stance as proof that Turner is ideologically indistinguishable from Tea Party Republicans.

In conversation, though, Turner pulled back from dramatically cutting one-third of government spending. “It’s not like tomorrow we’re going to chop it down,” he said. “I think we need a thorough, top-to-bottom, zero-budgeting approach on the businesses we have to get into.”

Turner would not start by cutting or fundamentally altering one of the single largest federal outlay—health care—as some Republicans in congress, such as Rep. Paul Ryan, have suggested. There are other places Turner says we should start first, such as the Department of Agriculture.

“Much of [the mission of the Department of Agriculture] was initiated as protecting mom-and-pop farms. That’s been gone a very long time,” Turner said. “What are we doing in that almost at all? Maybe that entire department should be reviewed, put into [the Department of] Interior or something.”

He went on to add the Department of Education and Energy as further examples of places that deserved to be scrutinized for both efficacy and fiscal efficiency. Those three together, however, represent only about $250 billion in federal spending. With a $3.82 trillion budget in 2011, getting to that $1 billion or so third would require finding significant savings elsewhere, and doing so without touching entitlements or military spending seems next to impossible.

Jobs, too, have been an issue Turner has said is important to him. He wasn’t specific about what congress could do to improve the job environment—Weprin, on the other hand, wants to revive the House Democrats jobs bill—but did lean on his background in business and in general believes that if the government gets out of the way jobs will grow. “You need a climate that works and you need incentives for that capital. There seems to be a lot of capital out there,” he said. “I want to create a climate that frees that up and allows the American entrepreneurial spirit to function.”

The most significant issue of the campaign for Turner remains Israel, and what he sees as the issue that could bring voters to the polls in his favor. “The orthodox [Jewish] community could be the swing in this,” he said. Turner is looking to build off his 40 percent showing against Weiner last year, and his campaign believes this is the issue and population that are most likely to do that. How they’ll respond to the Catholic Turner’s Israel credentials over the Jewish Weprin remains to be seen, but you can expect mailings to be dropping soon arguing in Bob Turner’s favor.

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New Yorkers like Walmart

Thursday, July 28, 2011

  (lakshmi / clker.com)

Another day, another Quinnipiac University poll. Today's poll reveals the truth about New Yorkers: they're just like everybody else--at least when it comes to Walmart.

When asked if they would shop at Walmart, 69 percent of New Yorkers said they would. Nearly two-thirds of those polled said city officials should allow a Walmart to be built. The retail giant is currently looking for a home in the city, but has faced resistance from local elected officials and labor unions.

“Support for allowing Walmart to open in the Big Apple is growing, while the number of would-be shoppers remains constant at more than 2-1,” Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement. “Voters agree with both the negative and positive claims made about the retail giant, but even in union households, New Yorkers say a bargain’s a bargain.”

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Bloomberg touts drop in teacher tenure

Thursday, July 28, 2011

edward reed / nyc.gov

Mayor Bloomberg’s office released another salvo in its teacher performance battle yesterday, when it announced more than a third of eligible teachers this year had not receive tenure thanks to its stricter policy. The tougher standards were announced by the mayor back in 2010, as a move away from the near-universal tenure approval teachers have received in the past, according to the mayor’s office. During the 2006-7 school year 95 percent of teachers eligible for tenure received. This year the number of teachers receiving tenure was down to 58 percent.

“Our schools really embraced the idea that lifetime tenure should be an honor reserved for our most effective teachers, not granted by default,” schools chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement. “I am confident this system will benefit both our teachers, through regular feedback and opportunities to improve, and our kids, who all deserve a high-quality teacher in the classroom.”

The Manhattan Institute’s education expert Marcus Winters called the announcement a “very large step forward” for education reform in New York City. “Tenure’s been given as a rubber stamp,” he said. “This shows a real movement in the right direction.”

Teachers are eligible for tenure after three years on the job. A large number of those eligible this year—39 percent—had the decision on tenure tabled. Winters saw this as an encouraging sign. “Just because a teacher hasn’t shown themselves worthy in the first three years doesn’t mean they’re not going to eventually. Drawing out that process over a long period of time makes a lot of sense.”

David Bloomfield, an education professor with CUNY, insisted the announcement was little more than smoke and mirrors. He pointed to the fact that only a fraction of teacher’s were actually flat-out denied tenure, which to him indicated the overall action to be an essentially low-stakes political maneuver.

“All that is not to say that denials or extensions are a bad thing, it's just that the Mayor's announcement is more sizzle than steak,” Bloomfield said in an email. He said the tenure argument doesn’t get to the heart of the matter, which is retaining high-quality teachers. He pointed to the teachers passed up for tenure and noted that no reason is given as to why they were passed up.

The United Federation of Teachers secretary Michael Mendel referenced the letter from UFT to DOE below, calling into question the methodology of applied by the Department of Education. "We have serious questions about how the DOE reached these conclusions and concerns that they failed to base these decisions on pedagogy or job performance,” Mendel said in a statement.

Walcott Letter

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Social justice groups hit redistricting task force on prisoner non-compliance

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A group of social justice and good government organizations sent a reprimanding letter today to the state's redistrict task force in response to reports that predominately upstate districts would continue to count prisoners in their population totals--a violation of the law, according to the letter.

After meeting earlier this month, the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) was reportedly looking to continue the practice of counting prisoners as part of the population of the district in which they're incarcerated, violating a law passed in 2010 that changed the law to have prisoners counted as part of the districts they lived in prior to incarceration.

"Failure to comply promptly with the law’s requirement that incarcerated persons be reallocated for purposes of redistricting would be a serious violation of legal obligations," the letter said. "It would also gravely infringe upon the voting rights of New York’s citizens for which you could be held accountable.We understand LATFOR has already received from [the Department of Correctional Services] the information needed to make the reallocation required by Part XX and redraw the district lines accordingly.
"We respectfully insist you to do so immediately."

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32BJ announces endorsement of Weprin for Congress, Espinal for State Assembly

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Weprin, above, picked up 32BJ's endorsement. (Colby Hamilton)

One of the city's most powerful labor unions announced its endorsement in two of the upcoming special elections. The property service workers union 32BJ is lining up behind Assemblyman David Weprin in his race for congress the union has announced.

It also confirmed it is supporting former council staffer and Brooklyn party boss favorite Rafael Espinal in the race to succeed Darryl Towns in Brooklyn's 54th Assembly District.

“Now more than ever, New York needs elected officials who represent the interests of working families,” 32BJ President Mike Fishman said in a statement. “These candidates will help to take the steps necessary to improve our economy and the lives of working men and women.”

Both candidates will likely count on the 70,000-member strong union's considerable ground support leading up to election day. 32BJ is the state's largest private sector union.

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New Yorker's for Kelly, a boost for Bloomberg in new Quinnipiac poll

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Quinnipiac University Polling Institute released results that were good news for non-mayoral candidate, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. He leads a list of potential candidates, despite showing little interest in becoming the next mayor--but that didn't stop voters from selecting him in a race between many likely Democratic candidates.

“Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has never given the faintest hint that he’d like to move from Police Headquarters across the street to City Hall, but New York seems to like the idea of Kelly for mayor,” Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement.

Here are the results:

  • Kelly – 23 percent
  • City Council Speaker Christine Quinn – 18 percent
  • Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz – 12 percent
  • City Comptroller John Liu – 10 percent
  • 2009 Mayoral candidate William Thompson – 8 percent
  • Public Advocate Bill de Blasio – 6 percent
  • Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer – 4 percent

The overall results don't change when Kelly's name was taken out of the mix. Quinn remains the clear favorite, with the remaining candidates in the same order.

The poll also show Bloomberg's job approval rating among New Yorkers improved, from 40 – 49 percent back in May to 45 – 43 percent. However, only Manhattan gave the mayor a majority vote of approval--61 percent--while the Bronx gave Bloomberg his worst marks, with only 36 percent saying he was doing a good job.

 

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Cuomo pushes economic development agenda with new regional councils

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

(Courtesy of the Governor's office)

Following up on his promise to turn his attention to the state's stagnant economy, Governor Andrew Cuomo today announced the first of ten regional economic councils that he said would help drive local economic development and improve the state's business climate.

"For too long, Albany has imposed one-size-fits-all economic development plans across the state, ignoring the unique assets and challenges of each region," Cuomo said in a statement. "Today, we are taking a new approach."

The first council was announced this morning in Western New York, where Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy joined business, civic, academic and government officials.

"With the Regional Councils, we will empower individual areas like Western New York to chart their own course for job creation and growth and we will send a clear message that New York is open for business," Cuomo's statement said.

The announcement was followed by similar ones from the Finger Lakes and Central New York regions. The councils are meant to serve as liaisons between regional interests and the state government, bringing a "community-based approach that emphasizes regions' unique assets, harnesses local expertise, and empowers each region to set plans and priorities."

Lieutenant Governor Duffy will chair each of the council's, assisted by two regional co-chairs. The governor is expected to announce the remaining regions, listed below and in map form, and their regional co-chairs soon.

  • Capital Region (Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren, Washington)
  • Central New York (Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga, Oswego)
  • Finger Lakes (Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming, Yates)
  • Long Island (Nassau, Suffolk)
  • Mid-Hudson (Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, Westchester)
  • Mohawk Valley (Fulton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida, Otsego, Schoharie)
  • New York City (Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens, Richmond)
  • North Country (Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence,)
  • Southern Tier (Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Delaware, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins)
  • Western New York (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Niagara)

(Courtesy of the Governor's office)

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AG Schneiderman joins suit against DOMA

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

  (Courtesy of the Attorney General's office)

New York continues to be at the center of the national debate over same-sex marriages, after New York's attorney general Eric Schneiderman filed a friend-of-the-court brief today arguing the unconstitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

“The federal Defense of Marriage Act clearly violates the principle of equal justice under law as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and improperly intrudes on the traditional role of states in defining marriage,” Attorney General Schneiderman said in a statement. “The State of New York has long recognized out-of-state, same-sex marriages and the enactment of the Marriage Equality Act further cements our state’s position on this critical civil rights issue My office will fight every day to defend the fundamental guarantee of equal protection under law for all New Yorkers.”

Schneiderman has been vocal in his support of same-sex marriage rights, and will be defending the state senate Republican's vote to allow same-sex marriage in New York against a lawsuit filed New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms yesterday. Rev. Jason J. McGuire of NYCF said the AG's move today put him in an "interesting position."

"I think it does put the attorney general in the smack dab in the middle,” McGuire said.

Donna Lieberman, the New York Civil Liberties Union's executive director, called the move "significant" and a continuation of Schneiderman's work as a legislator and candidate for attorney general.

"The attorney general’s decision to weigh in on the DOMA case compliments the political leadership New York has taken enacting the Marriage Equality Act," Lieberman said. "It helps establish the popular support for marriage equality and helps change the conversation."

Specifics from the attorney general's office on today's filing:

Schneiderman filed the papers in federal court in support of the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment in the case of Windsor v. United States. The plaintiff, Edie Windsor, was married in Canada in 2007 to her partner, Thea Spyer, who died two years later.

Following Spyer’s death, the federal government refused to acknowledge the couple’s marriage under DOMA and taxed the resulting inheritance accordingly. Windsor then filed suit, challenging the constitutionality of DOMA and seeking a refund of the estate taxes she was forced to pay as a result of the federal government’s refusal to recognize her marriage.

In the amicus curiae brief, Schneiderman argues that in redefining the term marriage, Section 3 of DOMA violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, and must therefore be invalidated. He goes on to argue that the statute is an improper intrusion on the traditional role of states in defining marriage; that it discriminates based on sex and sexual orientation and therefore must be subjected to heightened scrutiny; and that DOMA fails any level of scrutiny because it does not advance any legitimate federal interest.

Disclosure: Schneiderman’s father, Irwin Schneiderman, is a member of the WNYC Board of Trustees and has been a long-time donor to the station.

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New York unemployment update: more of the same

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

While the report from the department of labor doesn't show things getting significantly worse, growth throughout New York City and State has slowed a bit as the unemployment rates for both move sideways, according to James Brown, the departments principal economist.

The unemployment in New York City rose slightly from 8.6 percent in May to 8.8 percent in June--a normal uptick for the summer--with the Bronx remaining the county with the highest unemployment in the state at 12 percent. For the state overall the unemployment rate rose to 8.0 from 7.8 in May. Both the city and state's unemployment rates were down from June 2010. The figures from labor were not seasonably adjusted.

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Weprin: It's about Medicare and Social Security (never mind Israel)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Assemblyman Weprin, center, joined by State Senator Stavisky (far right), Councilmember Koslowitz and Assemblyman Hevesi in Queens. (Colby Hamilton)

The site for David Weprin’s press conference today—the senior center located behind the Forest Hills Jewish Center—gave the congressional candidate an easy twofer. It continued the counter narrative his campaign’s been pushing since former mayor Ed Koch sought to make the race in the 9th congressional district a referendum on President Obama’s support for Israel. But more importantly it was an attempt, the dayafter Koch announced he was backing Weprin’s Republican opponent Bob Turner, by the Weprin campaign and its supporters to change the topic of conversation from Israel to the existential threat Medicare and Social Security face from congressional Republicans.

“The Republicans in the House are looking to slash Social Security and Medicare. Frankly, people are scared,” Weprin said as supporters stood behind him. “I will fight to preserve Social Security and Medicare, not to privatize Social Security and Medicare.”

In case you missed that: David Weprin wants you to know he’s the guy who will fight for Social Security and Medicare.

Weprin was joined by nearly all of the local elected officials whose districts overlap portions of the 9th congressional district: Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, and City Councilmember Karen Koslowitz. Stavisky, when asked, didn’t down play the importance of Israel in the race, but pointed to Weprin’s family and past support as clear indicators it will not be an issue voters will have to consider. “I have heard David, innumerable times, talk about why Israel is important, but it’s not the only issue,” she said. “Let’s talk about the important issues.”

The triumvirate of Queens political support will continue to be important for Weprin, as much of the congressional district lies to the south of his assembly seat’s boundaries. Likewise, tying Turner to House Republicans keen on cutting back on many of the entitlements those inside the senior center count on will be an important distinction Weprin’s campaign will try to make in the few short weeks before the election on September 13th. Turner has said he would fight to keep senior services in place.

One of the big things to watch for will be how much the Tea Party label being pushed by Democrats sticks to Turner moving forward, as the Weprin campaign continues to angle the discussion  away from support for Israel and towards attacks on Medicare and Social Security.

 

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What states are giving big to the 2013 Democratic mayoral candidates?

Monday, July 25, 2011

The five Democrats most likely to make a play for their parties mayoral nomination in 2013 are reaching across the country for funds--some pulling in almost 20 percent of their haul over the past year from outside New York. The gifted John Keefe has once again mined the data to provide a visual guide to where the presumptive candidates for mayor in 2013 are getting financial help.

New Jersey, somewhat unsurprisingly, ponied up more than $600,000 for the mayoral hopefully since January of this year, according to Campaign Finance Board records. The candidates went far afield for the third most giving state, with California contributing just over $162,000.

Among the candidates, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has raised the most out-of-state funds since January: $707, 275. But it was former city comptroller and mayoral candidate Bill Thompson, Jr. who derived the highest percentage--almost 18 percent--of funds from outside of New York. See below to see where the candidates stood.

None of these funds count towards a candidates publicly-finance campaign funds. Only funds raised between January and July are included. A number of campaigns have additional funds from prior elections that are available to them.

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Koch backs Turner against Dem in NY-9 congressional race

Monday, July 25, 2011

By Alec Hamilton

Alec Hamilton

As expected, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch announced this morning that he is crossing party lines to throw his support behind Republican hopeful Bob Turner in September’s special election for the 9th Congressional District.

Koch explained he was supporting the Republican in order to “send a message to Washington that will affect the position of President Obama on Israel and the position of the Republican Party on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid."

Koch said it wasn’t personal and pointed out that he had supported Weprin on other occasions.

“There’s no question that David Weprin is a major supporter of the state of Israel and undoubtedly takes the same position I take with respect to entitlement, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. But if David Weprin is elected, do you think that sends a message? Do you think Obama’s going to say ‘Oh my god, they’ve repudiated me! They sent David Weprin!’ No.”

The endorsement was made at the Turner for Congress headquarters in Queens, with Councilmember Erich Ulrich--himself once considered a contender for the Republican nomination--and 23rd Assembly District Republican hopeful Jane Deacy in attendance.

The race will pit Turner against Democratic Party pick Assemblyman David Weprin in an election to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of former Congressman Anthony Weiner
Republican Margaret Wagner, from Broad Channel, Queens, and independent Kevin Hiltunen from Bergen Beach, Brooklyn, came out to show their support for Turner.  Warner said she was motivated to support Turner out of concern about the Health Care Reform Act and the closure of a local Rockaway Hospital.

“My plan and my husband’s plan for insurance, they just gave us one less choice. So we’re starting to feel the effects of Obamacare already, and that concerns me greatly for my kids and my grandkids.”

Turner, a former businessman, said he would defend Medicare and Medicaid from privatization efforts.

“I will stand up for what I believe regardless of what party leaders tell me, and today that means defending Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid against privatization and ill-conceived cuts."

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NYC Conflicts of Interest Board fines a "flabbergasted" Markowitz $20K

Monday, July 25, 2011

From the AP wire story:

The New York City Conflicts of Interest Board has fined Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz $20,000 for bringing his wife along on official foreign trips without paying for her expenses.

The board's ruling was announced Monday. It says two trips to Turkey and one to the Netherlands were legitimate city business for Markowitz and there was no problem with his accepting the free trips.

But the board found that since the city wouldn't have paid for his wife to accompany him, he shouldn't have accepted travel expenses for her.

 

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New York City officials' record-breaking first day of same-sex marriage

Monday, July 25, 2011

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz celebrating with couples on the first day same-sex couples were able to marry. (Courtesy of the Brooklyn Borough President's office)

The state's first day of same-sex marriage didn't go off without a hitch--659 of them to be exact (zing!).

Mayor Bloomberg's office announced that one-day record-breaking feat was achieved yesterday as same-sex couples across the city took advantage of the new law.

"Today was a historic day in our City, and we couldn't be prouder that on the first day that everyone in New York City could have their love affirmed in the eyes of the law, we were able to serve everyone,” Mayor Bloomberg said in statement.

Manhattan performed the most ceremonies by far with 365. Brooklyn was in a distant second at 121, and more than half of those couples stopped by Brooklyn Borough Hall and the office of Marty Markowitz, the borough president.

“I wish these couples as much happiness as my wife and I have been blessed to share," Markowitz said in a statement. "This is a historic day in New York, and seeing these newlyweds—their smiles, that twinkle in their eye—that says it all.”

 

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MTA chair and CEO Jay Walder resigns (corrected)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The head of the MTA, Jay Walder, has resigned. Brought in under Governor David Paterson, Walder has served only two of the six years of his appointment. He has reportedly taken a new position with Hong Kong's public transportation system.

The head of the MTA serves at the will of the governor. The head of the MTA is appointed to a six-year term. Walder, who only served two of those years, was generally seen as a highly-effective leader, who could work inside the political world, as well as with transportation advocates. But governor's are often keen to replace even the most effective MTA heads with someone of their choosing. Whether that was the case in this situation remains to be seen. We'll keep you posted.

From Kate Slevin, Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director:

MTA Chairman and CEO Jay Walder has been an effective, innovative leader. He helped restore the agency's credibility and changed the way it does business, finding billions of dollars in savings during his tenure.

From Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office:

Jay Walder is a world-class transportation professional and any city in the world would have been lucky to have him. He set a new course for the MTA during an extremely difficult period when the agency was not given the resources required to meet the City’s needs. He expertly shepherded major projects like the 7 line extension and new bus rapid transit lines, and by embracing new technology, he made significant improvements to the customer experience – from gateless tolling on bridges to countdown clocks in subway stations – that the public will appreciate long after his departure...He is the type of person we can’t afford to lose, and his departure is a real loss for New York City, the metropolitan region, the state and the country.

From Governor Andrew Cuomo's office:

For nearly two years, Jay Walder has shown true leadership at the helm of the MTA and been a fiscally responsible manager during these difficult financial times. Riders of the MTA are better off today because of Jay's expertise and the reforms he initiated will benefit all for years to come. Jay's departure is a loss for the MTA and for the state, but I thank him for his service and wish him the best in his future endeavors.

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Stringer in 2013...for Public Advocate?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Courtesy Stringer 2013

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's call to let the mayor's office dole out funds to city councilmembers and borough presidents is getting a cold reception to the north. The Bronx BP Ruben Diaz, Jr. is touting the usage of $13 million in discretionary funds in the Bronx today. In particular, Diaz's office said the idea of giving the mayor control over these funds was a non-starter.

"If there’s one thing that’s been crystal clear, [it's that] the mayor doesn’t know what the Bronx needs,” said Diaz's spokesperson John DeSio. The mayor and the Bronx borough presidentwent toe-to-toe over the city's plans to develop the Kingsbridge Armory back in 2010, and relations have remained somewhat icy. Diaz and his labor supporters demanded a mandatory "living" wage of $11.50 per hour for workers in the proposed mall be part of an agreement with developers. Both the mayor's office and the developers balked at the idea and the deal ultimately fell through over the wage demand--a significant development defeat for Bloomberg, and a testament to the power of the city's labor unions.

Diaz is pushing back on Stringer's report, which increasingly looks like a push to burnish the potential mayoral candidate's reformer credentials, as well as said a shot across the bow of fellow Manhattanite and mayoral competitor City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Then again, maybe not. There's another potential scenario developing. Quinn ($4.5 million raised) and Stringer ($1.6 million) are now the financial front runners in the 2013 cycle, with the public advocate, Bill De Blasio ($1 million), in fourth. [Note Update: these are the 2013 cycle totals.] The field is already crowded, with both the city's current and previous comptrollers likely contenders. That's not the only crowded field: take a look at our map of where Stringer and Quinn are raising funds (see below). Manhattan may only have room for one mayoral candidate.

The theory is that Stringer will continue to build on his reputation as a reformer--much as the current public advocate, Bill De Blasio, did in his run-up to the position. Despite his fundraising position, De Blasio is in many ways better positioned in a run against Quinn for the nomination. He'll becoming from a citywide office already. His base of support is in labor and the Working Families Party, whereas Quinn is being embraced by the Bloombergian business crowd as their best hope. Additionally, while Manhattan is also giving to De Blasio, his financial and political base is in Brooklyn.

The same argument can be made for Comptroller Liu, who has out-fundraised De Blasio, shares his labor support, and has his own non-Manhattan base in Queens.

With no heir-apparent to De Blasio should he make a sustained push for mayor, the door is open for Stringer. He could decide that, instead of battling over the prized mayoral meat with Quinn, he'd be happy to have his own, with the cash advantage to discourage almost any competition. Plus, with term limits being what they are, it would mean, should they both win and be reelected to the maximum number of terms, Quinn would be out as mayor just in time for Stringer to run in 2025 2021 (still going on term limit extension time--thanks for the tip Dan).

 

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