Wednesday, August 31, 2011
By Marie Cusick/WMHT with www.innovationtrail.org
This weekend the Innovation Trail and WMHT's New York NOW looked into the state’s plan to revitalize the economy through the creation of 10 regional economic development councils.
The councils will compete for a billion dollars worth of state funds, and the governor has said that there will be clear "winners and losers" among the state's regions. Take a look to find out why that has some people worried.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
(Ilya Marritz, New York, NY -- WNYC) A week after being forced to accept a smaller revenue package than he wanted, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey launched a full-throated broadside against politicians who say the government must reduce all spending.
In an address at the New York Building Conference billed as a talk on the future of the World Trade Center site, Christopher Ward quickly shifted gears from the reconstruction of Ground Zero to the political process.
"For all his vaunted optimism after the Carter years, Reagan also launched a darker strain in American politics, that somehow government itself is the problem, and that you can always do more with less," Ward said, going on to mention Newt Gingrich's Contract with America and the Tea Party as Reagan's ideological heirs.
Ward said American infrastructure is crumbling, and likely to deteriorate further because of the rise of conservative political movements, beginning with the election of 1980.
"Today, we are truly seeing the consequences of that slow deterioration of what we have always assumed would be there — that social contract," Ward said.
Ward explicitly connected conservative politics to his failure to get higher tolls on bridges and tunnels like the George Washington Bridge.
"In an instant, we became subsumed in the political environment I have been describing – one with little capacity to support the investment our region’s economic backbone so desperately needs."
Responding to widespread outcry from the public, governors Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo persuaded the Port Authority to accept a smaller toll and fare hike. Hudson River crossings will cost as much as $9.50 for most travelers, instead of $12, for example.
Ward expressed understanding for the governors' position.
"We live in the reality of practical decision making and decisions were made for what can in fact be a level of tolls that work within this region," Ward said. "And the governors showed their leadership."
While the executive director of the Port Authority is appointed by the governor of New York, the position is not considered political.
Ward said the lower revenues from tolls will mean delays in improvements to New York's LaGuardia Airport and the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
In recent weeks, there have been rumors Ward would not stay with Port Authority much longer. After the speech, Ward was asked whether he had any plans to run for office, and he responded categorically: "Never."
Ward took over rebuilding at the site in 2008, after the project had become bogged down. He said an overemphasis on symbolism and scale — what he called "monumentalism" — held up rebuilding in the years immediately after the attacks.
The World Trade Center site will be closed to most of the public on September 11, 2011. But the city is making tickets to visit available by reservation, starting the next day.
More TN coverage of the Port Authority:
Port Authority of NY & NJ Approves Rail, Toll Hikes (8/19/11 - link)
NY-NJ Port Authority’s Proposed Toll and Fare Hikes: Behind the Numbers (8/17/11 - link)
Opinion Split At Public Hearing On Steep NY-NJ Port Authority Toll And Fare Hikes (8/16/11 - link)
Neither Governor Cuomo Nor Governor Christie Rules Out Port Authority Toll Hikes (8/9/11 - link)
Anatomy of a Toll Hike Proposal (8/9/11 - link)
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
President Obama made it official: New York is now a federally recognized disaster area.
"I thank President Obama for his quick action granting New York a federal disaster declaration," Governor Cuomo said in a statement. "The damage incurred by Irene has devastated communities in counties across our State, leaving many without homes and towns and villages without essential public infrastructure. All levels of government are working together to help New York recover and we will not stop until the job is done."
The Federal government will supply financial and other assistance in helping predominantly upstate counties recover from the damage caused by Hurricane Irene.
On a related note, the governor's office has said 78 percent of homes have had powered restored. That leaves 328,907 homes still without power, with the majority of those out on Long Island.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
After surveying widespread flood damage in upstate New York communities yesterday, Governor Cuomo sent out this statement about the establishment of a task force to help devastated communities:
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today established the Upstate Storm and Flooding Recovery Task Force which will be comprised of key agency commissioners and ensure seamless coordination between agencies. These agencies will work together to coordinate rebuilding of infrastructure, economic development, agricultural renewal, power restoration, and assistance with private insurance.
"From repairing roads and bridges, getting power back, helping with insurance claims and working with family farms, state government has rapidly mobilized to make sure that all available resources are in place to help the affected areas recover. This task force will ensure the highest level of state and local coordination to leverage all state resources and get them to where they are needed," Governor Cuomo said.
Monday, August 29, 2011
By Karen DeWitt, WXXI Capitol Bureau Chief
Governor Cuomo and a top FEMA official surveyed the damage caused by flooding in the Mohawk River and Schoharie Valley earlier today. The Mohawk River is seeping into Schenectady, flooding the historic stockade neighborhood and expected to break records set back in 1938.
In the Schoharie Valley, farms and homes are inundated from the churning brown waters. Governor Cuomo, who met with local officials, says it’s devastating.
“We paid a terrible price here,” said Cuomo. “And many of these communities are communities that can least afford to pay a terrible price.”
The governor brought along FEMA regional director Lynn Canton to see the damage first hand, and to ask for aid, who said, after viewing the devastation, “it’s the story the world has missed”. Cuomo said the state would find a way to pay to repair the numerous roads and bridges damaged by the storm.
Monday, August 29, 2011
By Anna Sale
Through the 2012 election cycle, It’s A Free Country will keep a focus on the mechanics of elections, from voting rules, political party rules to redistricting to, of course, the money that fuels campaigns.
As part of that, we'll be keeping a regular eye on top-line news, undercovered stories, and opinion on our changing political process in a weekly roundup. As with most things around here, we welcome tips, thoughts, and fierce debate about whether any or all of this is good for our democracy.
Monday, August 29, 2011
Monday, August 29, 2011
The governor's office says, as of this morning, 945,257 New York residents are without power. Most of those are customers on Long Island.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
By Anna Sale
As Hurricane Irene stormed up through the East Coast, it interrupted political debates about Libya and the 2012 election and focused attention on the most basic services of government: public safety and public infrastructure. That cuts right at the heart of the debate about the proper role and scope of government that has raged in Washington since the 2010 midterms.
But Hurricane Irene is fundamentally about local politics, because as FEMA director Craig Fugate pointed out, the hurricane did not leave a single “place of damage that tells everybody the story about what's happened." Instead, the weekend ended with multiple storylines ranging from devastation to inconveniences to relief. So as Irene's winds weakened up the coast, so did her ability to shape the national debate about the role of government one way or the other.
Here, a look at the political winners and losers in Irene's wake.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Sunday, August 28
[UPDATE 5: The governor's office has announced the city's subways--with a few exceptions--will be up and running by 6 AM tomorrow morning.
But here are the exceptions:
o 3 trains will operate between 137th Street/City College and New Lots Avenue; Substitute bus service will be provided between Harlem 148th Street and 135th Street connecting with the 2 train.
o C trains suspended; A trains will make all local stops from 207th St. to Lefferts Blvd.
§ No service in the Rockaways. (Rockaway Blvd. to Far Rockaway and Rockaway Park)
o 6 trains runs local in the Bronx
o 7 trains run local
o S Franklin Avenue Shuttle (FAS) Suspended
o N trains terminate at Kings Highway. Shuttle bus service between Kings Highway and Stillwell Terminal.
· The Staten Island Railway will resume normal service at midnight tonight.
[UPDATE 4: Governor Cuomo's office announced FEMA added an additional 10 counties to receive disaster assitance. On top of the five boroughs of New York City and the Long Island counties of Suffolk and Nassau, Columbia, Delaware, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Schoharie, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties have been added.]
[UPDATE 3: Mayor Bloomberg gave a press conference on the city's status post-Irene. The notes are below.]
[UPDATE 2: Governor Christie's press conference earlier is posted below.]
[UPDATE: Governor Cuomo has closed the Tappan Zee Bridge due to flooding on the NY Thruway.]
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave an upbeat press conference earlier today. The big news was that the evacuation order will be lifted by 3 PM today, and that the city's transit system remains crippled by the storm. Officials wouldn't give a timetable for when service would be restored.
"The good news is the worst is over, and we will soon move to restore and return mode," the mayor said. “We do not yet know the full extent of the damaged caused by the Category 1 storm, but so far, as I said earlier, there is no confirmation of deaths or injuries from the storm. We are really very grateful for that."
The mayor said flooding and power outages were still being reported, as 62,000 New York City residents wait for electricity service to be restored. Bloomberg said ConEd expected all service to be restored no later than Tuesday.
Still, the head of the MTA, Jay Walder, said there was no timetable for subway service restoration. The mayor said New Yorker's should prepare for a difficult commute in the morning, as trains might not be running by then.
The mayor said that the city had heard no reports of deaths or mayor injuries because of the hurricane. Likewise, arrests last night were well below the average for this time of year, and NYCHA houses were expected to be cleared for residents to return by 6 PM.
“All in all, we are in pretty good shape because of the exhaustive steps I think we took to prepare for whatever came our way," Bloomberg said.
Governor Christie spoke about New Jersey's response to Hurricane Irene a little bit ago. The video is below.
Good morning! Hopefully you're relatively dry and, if you lost power, it'll be coming back on shortly. There are reports of flooding damage, downed trees and power outages throughout the city and region. Check out this crowdsourced map to see where people are reporting damages, and to include any info you might have.
A couple quick notes after the storm:
- The north tube of the Holland Tunnel was closed earlier due to flooding.
- The governor's office is reporting some 750,000 people across the state are without power as of 10:30 AM this morning.
- MTA service remains suspended.
New York Governor Cuomo was in the Catskills earlier to checkout storm damage. His Flickr page has photos and video of some of the flooding.
New Jersey Governor Christie was on "Good Morning America" earlier to talk about Hurricane Irene's impact on the state.
Saturday, August 27
[UPDATE 3: Governor Cuomo brought the total activated National Guard count to 1,900. The governor's office also reported an earthquake outside of Albany.]
[UPDATE 2: Video from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's 2 PM press conference is posted below.]
[UPDATE: Hoboken and New Jersey City evacuation information]
From By Karen DeWitt, WXXI Capitol Bureau Chief
Governor Andrew Cuomo witnessed the deployment of the first of around 1,000 New York National Guard troops headed for key sites in the New York City area. He also continued to warn those who live in upstate to be prepared, as well.
Cuomo says the National Guard troops will be stationed at Stewart airport in the Hudson Valley and the Farmingdale airport on Long Island. The sites will be used as staging areas to distribute water, ready to eat meals, and emergency generators, if they are needed in the wake of hurricane Irene. The governor has also signed a memo with the federal Secretary of Defense for joint command of the troops, and says FEMA will also be bringing in supplies.
“Government has an important role in a situation like this,” said Cuomo.
The governor says citizens have a role to play as well. He says those asked or ordered to evacuate should leave, if they haven’t yet. He says others in the path of the storm should be prepared with extra water, non perishable food and batteries, and should stay home and keep off the roads.
From the WNYC Newsroom
New York City's biggest utility says it could cut power to the city's most vulnerable areas if Hurricane Irene brings serious flooding.
Consolidated Edison spokesman Chris Olert says the utility doesn't expect to cut power before the storm hits, but flooding Sunday could bring a shutdown to areas including the southern tip of Manhattan and parts of the West Village.
He says nothing will be done proactively.
Flooding could cause severe damage to underground cables, transformers and other equipment if power were left on. He says a shutdown "allows us to do repairs more quickly and safely."
By Colby Hamilton
Mayor Bloomberg was in Coney Island earlier today, urging residents in evacuation zones to heed the city's order and get out.
"We expect a strong Category 1 storm to hit us tonight with winds between 55 and 75 miles an hour," Bloomberg said. "Now people get confused and say, ‘Oh, that’s down from 115.’ The great danger to us here is from the storm surge, and there’s no evidence that the forecast for that is changing. It is going to be a very serious thing as far as we can tell now."
The mayor said the 91 emergency evacuation centers around the city could handle upwards of 70,000 people (our evacuation zone map shows the locations of the centers). Additionally, teams of firefighters in each borough are looking for home-bound elderly and nursing home patients in the evacuation zones. Bloomberg said 7,000 patients had already been evacuated.
Police officers will be broadcasting evacuation messages over loudspeaker in the communities ordered to leave. The city is also shutting down elevators in NYCHA housing that could be affected by flooding. The Staten Island ferry is scheduled to close at 10 PM this evening, though the mayor did say that time could be pushed up if wind conditions worsen.
"New York City doesn’t have a lot of real-life experience with hurricanes," the mayor said. "We’ve watched then from afar as they’ve ravaged other parts of the nation, and thank God we’ve never really experienced that kind of destruction here. But that does not mean that it can’t happen. It can, and we must be prepared."
New Jersey City is issuing evacuation orders for the following places as of 4 PM today, Saturday, August 27, according to Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy's office.
Evacuations have been order for residents in basement or first-floor apartments in the following areas:
- East of Green Street from Essex St North to Christopher Columbus Drive
- East of Washington Boulevard from Christopher Columbus Drive North to 18th Street
- Port Liberte
- Society Hill
- Country Village
Jersey City has also opened evacuation centers in:
- MS#4, 107 Bright Street
- MS#7, 222 Laidlaw Avenue
- PS#17, 600 Bergen
- PS#28, 339 Stegman Parkway
- Dickinson High School, 2 Palisade
- the Jersey City Armory, 678 Montgomery Stree
By Colby Hamilton
Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer has ordered an evacuation of all basement and first-floor apartments. The order is effective immediately. A shelter has been established at Wallace School at 1100 Willow Street in Hoboken. Residents who require assistance should call 201-239-6643. Additionally:
Mayor Zimmer says it is critical that residents with their vehicles parked on City streets drive them out of Hoboken as soon as possible because she is expecting they will all be underwater. Officials are expecting a five to ten foot flood throughout most of Hoboken when the Hudson jumps its banks and the City is hit with stormwater run-off from Jersey City Heights.
Friday, August 26
President Obama granted Cuomo's federal emergency request. “I thank the President for his quick response. We are working hard at all levels of government to prepare for this storm and we appreciate the federal government’s support,” Cuomo said in a statement. The emergency area includes all of New York City, as well as Suffolk and Nassau Counties on Long Island.
Governor Cuomo just announced the following tolls and fares in the New York City area are being suspended starting at 8 PM today:
- Tolls will be suspended on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
- Fares will be suspended on buses throughout the city.
- Fares will be suspended for subway and rail passengers at stations in the mandatory evacuation area.
The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are getting their states ready for the weekend furry that will be Hurricane Irene. Here's a quick rundown of what each state has said so far:
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is giving a statement now on the current city plans for hurricane preparedness.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a press conference earlier. Here are the highlights. Check out WNYC's interactive map to see which zones you or people you know live in:
- The city is opening 91 emergency facilities starting at 4:00 PM today.
- A mandatory evacuation order has been issued for residents living in Zone A of the city's hurricane evacuation plan. This includes Battery Park, Coney Island, and large portions of Staten Island, as well as both Zones A and B on the Rockaway Peninsula. The evacuation deadline is 5 PM tomorrow.
- The MTA will suspend service at noon tomorrow. Service might not be restored by Monday morning rush hour.
- Homeless shelters in Zone A are shutting down. People in those facilities are being moved to inland facilities.
- The city has issued a stop-work order at construction sites starting at 2 PM tomorrow, and lasting until 7 AM Monday, August 29.
- Beginning at 9 PM tomorrow "zone fares" for taxis will reduce the costs of traveling, and ride sharing is being encouraged. Livery car will be allowed to make street pickups.
- The city's bridges may be closed if winds reach 50 MPH or more.
- All city permits have been revoked after 2PM tomorrow for activities like street fairs and block parties. The city's beaches will be closed Saturday and Sunday.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared a state of emergency for New York yesterday, allowing the state greater access to resources and control over government operations. He held a press conference today at noon to discuss coordinating efforts between the state and local governments. Evacuations have begun on Long Island and parts of New York city (check out WNYC's map of evacuation zones). "We are communicating with our federal and local partners to track the storm and to plan a coordinated response, and we will deploy resources as needed to the areas expected to be hit the hardest," Cuomo said in a statement yesterday. Here is the latest info about the state's actions:
- The New York Army and Air National Guard will deploy up to 900 soldiers and airmen and over 100 vehicles to support civil authorities; those troops have already begun to report.
- The Metropolitan Transit Authority will institute a system-wide shut-down when trains and buses begin their final runs starting at approximately noon on Saturday; the shut-down will include subways, buses, Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad, and Access-A-Ride
- If sustained wind speeds exceed 60 mph, all of the following bridges will be closed to all traffic: George Washington Bridge, Tappan Zee bridge, all bridges operated by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, and the following Hudson River bridges: Bear Mountain Bridge, Newburgh-Beacon, Mid-Hudson (Poughkeepsie), Kingston-Rhinecliff, and Rip Van Winkle (Catskill)
- The New York State Thruway and possibly other major highways will also be closed if sustained wind speeds exceed 60 mph; further closings will be announced as the storm progresses
- LIPA will have 2,500 line workers and tree trim personnel available throughout the weekend for emergency repair work, its largest emergency roster ever
- 175 extra ambulances and personnel will be deployed in regions expected to be hit the hardest by the storm
The mayor is holding a 1:30 PM press conference to update city resident's. You can view it live at NYC.gov.
From the AP
- Forecasters predict Irene to make landfall Sunday as a Category 1 storm between New Jersey and Cape Cod.
- The National Weather Service has issued a hurricane watch and a flood watch for Long Island, New York City and Rockland, Westchester and Putnam counties.
- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the evacuation of nursing homes and hospitals located in low-lying coastal areas, such as Battery Park City in lower Manhattan, Coney Island in Brooklyn and Far Rockaway in Queens, beginning Friday.
- The governor declared a state of emergency and the state's Office of Emergency Management has increased staffing in its underground bunker.
- Last hurricane to hit was Hurricane Gloria in 1985 on Long Island as a Category 2 storm with winds gusts of up to 100 mph. Since then, numerous remnants of hurricanes that have struck the state.
- The governor says New York City's public transit will halt around noon Saturday because of the hurricane.
Governor Chris Christie has also declared a state of emergency. He's suspended tolls and ordered traffic diversions as the New Jersey shore is being asked to evacuate. From Christie's office yesterday:
The Governor is calling on people to leave voluntarily and in order to support these coast evacuations is authorizing several measures that will make evacuation easier. The Governor is temporarily suspending tolls on all parts of the Garden State Parkway south of the Raritan River and the Atlantic City Expressway beginning at 8:00 a.m. Friday morning. Furthermore, Routes 47 and 347 in Cape May County will be closed to eastbound traffic and will use all lanes to move traffic westward beginning Friday evening at 6:00 pm. As part of this process, all ramps will be tightly controlled and additional personnel will be used to ensure safety.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker told city residents they should be prepared to be without power for 'up to 72 hours' after storm.
This is not just a routine declaration. This is a serious state of affairs.
You can read the rest of Booker's statement here or watch:
From the AP
- Forecasters predict Irene to make landfall Sunday between New Jersey and Cape Cod.
- Hurricane warning in effect for the coast up to Sandy Hook.
- Mandatory evacuations ordered for Cape May County, coastal Atlantic County and Long Beach Island.
- Governor declared emergency for the state.
- Last hurricane to directly hit the state was remnants of Hurricane Floyd in 1999, which caused major flooding inland.
- Atlantic City casinos began canceling bus trips as gamblers scrapped reservations.
Governor Daniel Malloy has declared a state of emergency as well. Today he closed the state's parks and campgrounds.
“Hurricane Irene is forecast to hit Connecticut on Sunday afternoon and will be a powerful, dangerous storm,” Governor Malloy said in a statement. “Although I recognize the inconvenience of having to pack up and leave earlier than planned or having to cancel a day at the parks with family, it is imperative that all of our state residents and visitors be in a secure, safe location until this storm passes. I urge everyone to monitor weather conditions and be prepared for all contingencies.”
Malloy will be updating the media at 6 PM tonight on the state's emergency plans.
From the AP
- Forecasters predict Irene to make landfall on Sunday somewhere between New Jersey and Cape Cod.
- Hurricane warnings have not been issued.
- Mandatory evacuations have not been ordered.
- Last hurricane to hit was Bob in 1991.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
From By Karen DeWitt, WXXI Capitol Bureau Chief
Governor Cuomo says he’s declared a state of emergency in the face of potential impact from Irene, and has ordered all state agencies to be prepared for any situation. He says the state’s emergency management center outside Albany will be operating 24 hours a day.
The governor is urging New Yorkers to stock up on emergency supplies including water, non perishable food, batteries, and battery operated radios, pet food and first aid kits. And he says people should check in with elderly or disabled neighbors to make sure they are all right, if the storm, as predicted turns out to be severe.
Cuomo canceled a fundraiser scheduled for Thursday night and a planned vacation in the Adirondacks to return to the Capitol to prepare for the storm.
The governor's release is after the jump.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Jay Walder’s resignation as head of the MTA last month caught city and state officials totally by surprise. It also added another thing to sweat about during a brutal heat wave. The man that had guided the transit agency through the fiscal crisis fallout by implementing harsh but largely unavoidable cutbacks—fare hikes, and budget gouging—was leaving. He’s taking a gig in Hong Kong that pays three times as much, running a system that is posting sizable profits.
A few days later, Walder and the rest of the MTA board dropped the latest budget numberson riders. The agency’s five-year capital program—the money pool that pays for big projects, like construction on the 2nd Avenue subway line and the 7 train extension, as well as overall maintenance—was underfunded by $9 billion for the final three years. The agency is adding a fare hike in 2015, on top of the scheduled fare increase next year. It also wants to borrow $6.9 billion to help cover these costs.
This is a sorry song that straphangers have been listening to for years now. The public response was less of an outrage than an exhausted sigh. Given the perennial state of crises the MTA finds itself in, and the continued financial burdens being passed along to riders, it’s worth rememberingthe immortal words of David Byrne: “You may ask yourself, ‘Well, how did I get here?’”
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
She might make land on Sunday and it looks like the governor's trying to get the state prepared for Hurricane Irene:
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today ordered the state's Office of Emergency Management to prepare for the potential impact of Hurricane Irene, which may hit New York State this coming Sunday. The Governor has instructed the state's Emergency Operations Center in Albany to track the storm and to work with other state agencies to prepare the state's response.
At the Governor's direction, agencies and local governments around the state will meet today to plan coordinated response efforts, such as emergency operations support and field staff deployments to areas that are expected to be hit the hardest. Relevant state agencies have also been in communication with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service to discuss the potential tracks of the storm and to determine storm planning efforts.
"We are actively working to ensure that New York State is prepared for the potential impact of Hurricane Irene," Governor Cuomo said. "The state government is coordinating with our federal and local partners so that we can effectively respond to any emergency situation that may arise due to the storm. I encourage New Yorkers to pay close attention to the track of the hurricane and, if necessary, to follow the instructions of emergency officials. By properly preparing in advance, we can most calmly and decisively take action if the storm arrives."
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
By Emma Jacobs/WRVO for the The Innovation Trail
When Governor Andrew Cuomo pulled together the Central New York regional council on the economy he tapped business leaders and university presidents. Some of those council members were in the room on Tuesday night for a giant public brainstorming session at
Lemoyne Le Moyne College. So were regular folk, like retiree Diane from Dewitt. She said she came to the event to find solutions.
“Consolidation and reducing taxes. That’s what drives kids and businesses out of our area,” she said.
Teenager Zack Kukulsky was at the table to speak for the younger set. He said he would stay in the region if he could.
“If there were jobs I could support a family on and live, go out and buy cars and all,” he said.
Jobs and work opportunities were the theme of the night. Participants said the challenges were big, and would require a lot of resources.
The regional councils have to present their plans by November to compete for a pot of state funds.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
By Karen DeWitt, WXXI Capitol Bureau Chief
When Governor Andrew Cuomo signed ethics oversight legislation into law yesterday, he said it was a “major step forward" in restoring the people's trust in Albany. He touted the stricter disclosure requirements for lawmakers’ outside income, a 14-member ethics panel empowered to probe corruption charges, and the elimination of pensions for future elected officials convicted of felonies.
The deal was indeed a major step but one with big flaws, say anti-corruption champions in Albany. And they want to see the governor tackle “Round Two” of ethics reform ASAP.
“Like in boxing, round two follows up very quickly after round one,” said Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat.
Krueger says she's irked that the pension forfeiture only applies to new lawmakers and spares current or former elected officials found guilty of felonies. She also doesn't like the rules for who can sit on the corruption panel.
[At least eight members of the board have to agree to an investigation, and at least two must be of the same political party, a rule that could mean just three commission members could block the wishes of 11 other members of the panel.]
At the time the bill was passed, legislative leaders and Cuomo admitted compromises were made to get something done on ethics reform which had eluded state government for years.
The next step, says Barbara Bartoletti of the League of Women Voters, should be campaign finance reform, including public financing and a ban on politicians using campaign funds for personal expenses.
She says it's “the lynchpin" to returning New York State government to the constituents and out of the clutches of special interest groups. The goal: to upend what Bartoletti calls the “incumbency protection program” in which about 96 percent of state lawmakers get re-elected, over and over again.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
In a new NY1/YNN-Marist poll about energy issues, New Yorkers show a wide-range of feelings about energy issues. No majority view on whether or not closing Indian Point was a good idea--49 percent are in favor of keeping it open--even as 51 percent of those polled think a nuclear catastrophe at the site is likely or somewhat likely to happen. Governor Cuomo has said he is in favor of closing the plant.
“After all these years, this remains a highly charged issue,” Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, said in a statement. “Governor Cuomo still has some convincing to do.”
New Yorkers are even more fractured when it comes to the issue of hydrofracking, with 37 percent of registered voters opposing hydrofracking, 33 percent supporting it, and nearly a third-- 30 percent--are unsure. According to the poll, 43 percent of Republicans support hydrofracking, which makes Senator Ball's growing opposition very interesting.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
New York's still feeling good about Governor Cuomo continue, according to a new Siena Research poll, even as close to half of those polled feel the state's headed in the wrong direction.
Cuomo's favorability rating was at 69 percent, down slightly from 71 percent last month. His job performance remained unchanged from 58 percent approval in July.
"Sixty percent of Democrats, as well as 54 percent of Republicans and independents think Cuomo is doing an excellent or good job as Governor, as do a majority of voters from every region of the state," Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said in a statement. "Rich or poor, male or female, black or white, young or old, union member or not, it just doesn’t matter, New Yorkers view Cuomo favorably."
The same can't be said for the state as a whole, even as the pessimism of last year has ebbed. “When asked about the direction of the state, voters are nearly evenly divided with 44 percent saying the state is on the right track and 47 percent saying it’s headed in the wrong direction,” Greenberg said in the statement. “Last month was slightly more positive, however, a year ago two-thirds of voters said the state was headed in the wrong direction.”
This poll was conducted August by telephone calls to 1,008 New York State registered voter between August 9th and 14th. Overall, the poll has margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Late last night, after a long day of counting, the membership of CSEA--the state's largest public employees union--ratified the contract, 60 percent to 40 percent, agreed to by its leadership and Governor Cuomo. The agreement is a big win for Cuomo, as it keeps state budget cost-cutting measures intact, while keeping the good will between the state and the union intact and avoiding layoffs. It was also a win for CSEA leadership, as the vote was essentially a vote of confidence on the part of the membership.
"This is a big, big win--a win for the union and a win for the people of the state," Governor Cuomo said in a statement. "The union avoided layoffs and the state is financially stronger. I’m pleased that our approach of labor and management working together is vindicated. Mutual respect and honest negotiations work."
"These are not ordinary times and CSEA worked hard to reach an agreement that we believed would be in everyone’s best interest," CSEA President Danny Donohue was also quoted as saying. "CSEA members agree that this contract is reasonable and responsible for the long term and shows that CSEA members will do what is right for the good of all New Yorkers. The Governor’s leadership is helping move this state in the right direction."
The agreement means union members won't receive a pay raise until 2014, as well as series of health care reforms that the state says will save more than $1.2 billion over the course of the agreement.
Monday, August 15, 2011
The governor officially signed into law the ethics reforms hammered out the latest legislative session. While some critics were concerned the legislation does little to actually penalize ethics breaches, the governor's office said in a statement that the law provided "unprecedented transparency, strict disclosure requirements, and a strong independent monitor with broad oversight of New York State government."
"Today's signing is a major step forward in restoring the people's trust in government and changing the way Albany does business," Governor Cuomo was quoted saying in the statement. "This new ethics reform law brings an aggressive new approach to returning integrity to the halls of our Capitol."