Thursday, June 29, 2017

After the Dropped Investigations the Lobbyists are Back Running the 2017 Campaigns

Blame Everyone in Albany for Education Crisis and Everyone Get Reelected?

Editorial: New York’s hostage crisis (TU) New York’s 212 legislators went home last week, and took hostages with them.  The hostages included most of the state’s counties and all the taxpayers in them; more than 1 million New York City students; and nearly 48,000 kids who are on the waiting lists for charter schools. And all the parents of all those kids. In classic Albany fashion, the blame for all this isn’t so easy to place. Or, perhaps more accurately, it’s all too easy to pick the culprit of your choice. You can blame Senate Republicans for tying renewal of mayoral control of New York City schools to an expansion in the number of charter schools in the city.  You can blame Assembly Democrats for upping the stakes by tying mayoral control of schools and the charter expansion to the renewal of sales taxes in 53 counties.  You can blame Gov. Andrew Cuomo for failing to exercise leadership and bring together his fellow Democrats and the Republicans who in no small way owe their continued power in the Senate to his antipathy for members of his own party. The sad part is that the governor and lawmakers all know this: When everyone’s to blame, no one is.   Meanwhile, real problems loom. If mayoral control isn’t renewed by June 30, oversight would revert to local school boards, whose track records were too often marred by incompetence and corruption. Whether or not you’re a fan of Mayor Bill de Blasio or his predecessor Mike Bloomberg, the city’s schools have been better run since the buck stopped with one high-profile, accountable public official.

NYC A 1 Party Town and An Incumbent Protection Society WERE IS OUR DEMOCRACY?
The City Council has 48 Democrats and three Republicans, who mostly sit quietly and attend to their constituents’ non-ideological concerns: street repaving tends to top the New York City Republicans’ agenda. All three citywide elected officials — Mayor de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James — are passionate progressive Democrats who continually try to top each other’s radical proposals. Public Advocate James wants the Department of Education to appoint a “chief diversity officer?” Well, Comptroller Stringer will launch a task force to funnel city money to companies with greater racial diversity on their boards — so take that.

NYC's Political Parties and Elected Officials All Belong to the Incumbent Protection Society
This is an election year in the city, but you are forgiven if you hadn’t noticed. The citywide elected officials are each running for re-election and are virtually unopposed. Not that no one else is running: Mayor de Blasio has about a dozen primary challengers, but none is a serious candidate. Ditto for the comptroller, the public advocate, the borough presidents and the City Council. It is virtually a maxim in New York that incumbents get re-elected.

Local Party Machine Shuts Down Competition
Partly this is because only Democrats win, so the real race is for the Democratic nomination, and Democratic primaries are heavily weighted in favor of the party favorites. Local county machines in Queens, The Bronx and Brooklyn still have the clout to steer would-be challengers into patronage positions as an inducement not to run and can coordinate campaign help from political staffers who “volunteer” time away from their government-paid jobs to assist needy candidates.

The Bronx Machine Uses the Election Law to Pick the Bronx DA and Control of the Bronx Court System
Sometimes you don’t even have to run for the party’s nomination to get it. In 2015 longtime Bronx DA Robert Johnson won his primary unopposed. He then decided he wanted to be a judge instead of district attorney. Since party-controlled county committees decide state Supreme Court judgeship nominations, it was a simple process for the well-connected Johnson (and his wife, actually, who also became a judge) to get the nod from the Bronx machine, which was controlled by then-Assemblyman, now-Speaker Carl Heastie. Johnson then resigned from his post as Bronx DA and left his ballot line open. Ballot vacancies are filled by county party committees, so Bronx boss Heastie was able to insert his own favorite candidate, Judge Darcel Clark, onto the ballot. An annoying open primary was avoided, and Heastie’s machine retained control of the Bronx court system.

With Fake Elections Queens Machine Stays In Control of A Congressional Seat and the Queens Democratic Party By Rigging An Election
A similar machination took place in 1998, when longtime Queens Congressman Tom Manton won the Democratic nomination for his seat in a walkover and then put in his retirement papers. With the same laws on filling ballot vacancies in effect, Manton called his protégé, Assemblyman Joe Crowley, to inform him he would be the Democratic nominee for Congress instead. Crowley is now the Queens County Democratic boss and occupies a top leadership role within the House Democrats. His control of “County,” as the Queens political machine is known, is tight and very profitable: Control of the Surrogate’s Court, which handles probated estates, brings in millions of dollars annually to the small circle of connected attorneys who are assigned the cases.

State Lawmakers Play Musical Chairs With Higher Paying Council Seats
If you talk to any elected official in the city, they will all agree that council member is the best job to have. The term is four years, so you don’t have to campaign very often; it is local, with no annoying trips to Albany; and best of all, the pay is great — when “reform” was enacted, council members got a 35 percent raise to $148,500. Given that one-third of the council has no job experience aside from being a staffer for another elected official, that’s not chump change.  A few council seats will be opening up this year due to term limits, and in one case, early retirement. About half of those seats will be filled by state legislators who can have them for the taking. One term-limited council member, Inez Dickens, even resigned her seat ahead of time so she could run for the Assembly seat left vacant by Keith Wright, who ran for Congress. Her council seat was then taken by state Senator Bill Perkins, who had held the seat before Dickens was first elected. These two-steps are not uncommon: Brooklyn husband-and-wife tag team Charles and Inez Barron swapped their council and Assembly seats when his term was up.  In the Bronx, state Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. will take over Annabel Palma’s council seat; she wanted to replace him in the Senate but was inform

How Albany Controls Legislation to Protect Its Members
I-Team: Rubber Stamp? NY Senate Committees Approved 99.5Percent of Bills in 2017 (WNBC) The near absence of significant opposition to most bills suggests committee chairs often protect legislators from taking unpopular votes, according to a government watchdoged by the party bosses that Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda is next in line. So Palma will have to take Sepulveda’s Assembly seat instead.

Get Used to de Blasio Ducking Serious Problems and Reporters After the Election Suckers
De Blasio takes taxpayer-funded trip to Miami Beach amid schools crisis (NYP) Hizzoner fled New York’s concrete jungle Friday for a taxpayer-funded trip to Florida — soaking in Miami sunshine and shmoozing with other mayors as the fate of 1.1 million city students hangs in the balance.  Mayoral control of city schools expires in only one week, but that didn’t stop de Blasio from pushing his progressive agenda at swanky beachfront hotels and eateries as part of the 85th-annual meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors.  He’s attending with First Lady Chirlane McCray and seven staffers, including policy experts and his photographer, according to a City Hall representative who declined to give the cost of the trip.   McCray brought along two staffers of her own, and three city commissioners also attended.  De Blasio’s sunny getaway left education advocates steaming.*

Pressman demanded answers from the powerful, the famous, the infamous, the ordinary. And usually got them.  Never one to gladly suffer foolish press conferences in air conditioned rooms — though he did his share of that — he was our eyes and ears as history happened.  He was there when the Andrea Doria, the Italian oceanliner bound for New York, sank in the waters off Nantucket, killing 46.  He was there for Woodstock, and for the civil rights movement.  He was there when City Hall went begging, and when the Bronx was burning.  He was there when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, and when they did so again.  Mayors O’Dwyer, Impellitteri, Wagner, Lindsay, Beame, Koch, Dinkins, Giuliani, Bloomberg and de Blasio — that’s 10 of them — all got grilled by Pressman.  He didn’t have a slogan or a signoff, and he spent no time in the anchor’s chair. Gabe Pressman, who died Friday at the age of 93, was a journalist, and he was always, always, always there.

Mayor de Blasio admitted that the lifting of a deed restriction at Rivington House, which led to the $116 million sale into condos, was a “mistake, and ridiculous.” He also admitted that there is no possibility of “recouping the property” for return to the community. Instead, he reiterated his commitment to creating 200 beds of senior affordable housing in a new proposed project on Pike Street as compensation since “it wasn’t right.”  The stop-work order was partially rescinded last week to allow for “exploratory work” on-premise.  Chin, meanwhile, repeated her alleged commitment to fighting the Rivington House luxury conversion.


Red Horse, Hill Top, Advance Group at the Center of Federal and State Investigations That Was Abruptly Dropped Running Dozens Even DA Campaigns in 2017

Why Did the NYP Leave Out the Illegal Spending of the UFT's PAC in the 2013 Election?
UFT scores big as school spending rises (NYP)   There is one clear winner as school spending costs rise each year: the United Federation of Teachers.  No group in the city has amassed more political clout than the teachers union, which has scored a new contract for its members, helped block charter schools from expanding, pushed for the renewal of mayoral control of city schools, and ensured the city education budget continues to soar.   The union, which represents 200,000 city teachers, staff and retirees, has poured $359,450 into city political campaigns since 2009 while splurging more than a quarter-million dollars per year on lobbyists to influence the city budget.  Each fall, thousands of UFT members knock on doors and call voters on behalf of favored candidates.  The UFT backed Mayor de Blasio’s campaign and was an early beneficiary of de Blasio’s good will, earning a nine-year, $5.5 billion contract a mere four months into his term. The contract included a 4.5 percent raise that went into effect on May 1 — higher than the current rate of inflation.

UFT Illegal PAC United for the Future

Lobbyists Capalino Shadow Govt Starting to Build The Luxuary Building Replacement to the Rivington Nursing Home

City quietly lifts parts of stop-work order on controversial nursing home (NYP)  The Buildings Department quietly lifted portions of a stop-work order on the Rivington House Nursing Home — infuriating neighborhood activists and elected officials who fear that opens the door for luxury condos.  The move comes 14 months after the city placed a full stop-order at 45 Rivington St., the Lower East Side health care facility that sparked numerous probes of the de Blasio administration after top officials facilitated its controversial sale.  While the permitted work is limited in scope, advocates say they’re leery after already getting bamboozled by the city and the developers. 
Huxley and Cohen’s group, Neighbors to Save Rivington House, are holding out hope that a longstanding probe by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office will uncover misconduct by one of the private parties involved in the property sale so it can be reversed.  A spokesman for Schneiderman confirmed the probe is ongoing but declined to discuss details.

Another Issue That Will Not Be Discussed in the 2017 Camapign: Does NYC Get A Bang for Its Education Bucks?

The Millions the UFT on Campaigns Has Something to Do With the Cover-Up of the High Costs of Education in NYC
Money for nothing: the ugly truth about NYC’s schools (NYP) The feds report that New York’s public schools are awash in cash, a conclusion impossible to dispute. Now the question becomes this: When it comes to education spending, how much is enough?  Here’s one answer: Anything short of all the money in the world will never be enough to satisfy New York’s parasitical public-education cartel.  And never mind, say, the city’s corroding mass-transit system.  Here’s the latest news, courtesy of the US Census Bureau and the Empire Center for Public Policy’s E.J. McMahon: Per-pupil public-school spending in 2014-15 exceeded the national average by a breathtaking 86 percent. And total school spending ($64.8 billion) was greater than the entire current state budgets of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined ($59.5 billion).  More to the point, says the Empire Center, “School spending in New York [state] was driven primarily by instructional salaries and benefits — which, at $14,769 per pupil, were 114 percent above the national average of $6,903, the census data show.” * New York's school-spending insanity (NYP)  Empire State public schools (not counting charters) spent a whopping $21,206 per student in the 2014-15 school year, the latest Census figures show. That’s the highest of any state — and nearly twice the $11,392 national average.  And the city’s even more extreme: It spent $21,980 per kid.  Notably, 70 percent ($14,769 per child) of New York’s $64.8 billion total went to salaries and benefits for the adults running the schools. That’s a revealing $6,903 (or 114 percent) more than the nation’s average.  Heck, Utah spent less per kid on all school costs than New York did on just staff. *

Obama’s education secretary throws de Blasio a charter school curveball (NYP) Former Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan threw Mayor de Blasio a curveball Tuesday when he joined Hizzoner on a teleconference to back renewal of mayoral control of schools — but said he also supports adding charter schools. While Duncan made it clear he’s not familiar with the specifics of the end-of-legislative-session battle in Albany, his broad position that charter schools should be a part of a political compromise aligns with that of state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who is battling the mayor on the renewal.  “In politics there’s always some compromise. I hope there’s some compromise there,” said Duncan.

Cuomo expressed pessimism that the state Legislature will be able to come to an agreement on mayoral control of New York City schools before the end of the legislative session next week, the Daily News writes.

A Tale of Two CFBs: Albanese vs Campaign PAC NYCLASS,UFT's United for the Future

UFT Illegal PAC United for the Future

  Senate Ethics Committee Meets for the First Time in 8 Years to Cover Up Illegal Lulus 
8 Years of Rust Show as New York Senate Ethics Panel Finally Meets (NYT) *State Senate Ethics Committee blocks lulu reforms at first meeting in eight years (NYDN) Meeting for the first time in eight years, the state Senate Ethics Committee punted over the issue of controversial stipends that were paid to non committee chairmen.  Senate Democrats tried to push a motion that going forward would bar the stipends meant for committee chairmen — known as lulus — from being paid to anyone else.  The effort was blocked. Senate Ethics Committee Chairwoman Elaine Phillips (R-Nassau County) noted the issue is the subject of litigation, but then corrected herself to use the word “inquiries.”  But a source in the room said GOP Counsel David Lewis quietly told her there was litigation and that the Senate hired a lawyer. A Senate GOP spokesman had no comment.  
Between ethics meetings, eight state senators sent to prison (NYP) After eight years, the state Senate’s Ethics Committee finally held a hearing Thursday — for about an hour. When the committee last met on June 2, 2009, holding the gavel was Sen. John Sampson (D-Queens), later imprisoned over an embezzlement scandal.  Those eight years have seen five other Democratic and two Republican senators convicted on charges ranging from mail fraud and bribery to nonprofit-looting and obstruction of justice.

Three more of the convicts — Sampson, Malcolm Smith and Pedro Espada Jr. — had been either the leader of the Senate Democratic caucus, or actual majority leader.


Why Are the Women's Rights Groups Allowing Vito Lopez Sexual Abuse Hush Fund Enabler to Be Appointed By Heastie to Ethics Panel JCOPE?
In Albany, sleaze never goes unrewarded  (NYP) File this under Classic Albany Sleaze: On Friday, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie placed a top aide to convicted felon Shelly Silver on the state ethics panel —  even though the panel said the aide helped pave the way for a sexual-harassment case.  In naming ex-judge and Assembly counsel Jim Yates to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, Heastie proved yet again that Albany pols simply have no shame.  Yates ran the Assembly counsel’s office under Speaker Silver — when it arranged secret hush-money payments to two of then-Assemblyman Vito Lopez’s sexual-harassment victims. But as Silver, Yates & Co. tried to sweep the issue under the rug, two more women came forward to accuse Lopez of sexual harassment.  Worse, according to JCOPE, Yates allowed Lopez to hire three more women — including the two who later lodged new complaints against him.  OK, maybe Yates couldn’t be sure Lopez would continue to misbehave. But why risk putting more women in that position? Maybe because the Albany culture is to look the other way at such abuse? As Kevin Mintzer, an attorney for two of Lopez’s victims, tweeted: “One might think that being counsel for Sheldon Silver would disqualify a person from being an ethics enforcer. But then again, Albany.”  In a sense, adding Yates to the panel is fitting — because JCOPE itself acts more as an enabler of political sleaze than a watchdog. It takes just three of its 14 members to block a JCOPE probe, and the Assembly and Senate majority conferences each appoint three members. No wonder it has yet to crack down on any major corruption.  Yet this is what passes for a state ethics panel. As we said, Classic Albany Sleaze.

Vito Lopez Uses Government Funds to Run His Machine, Sexual Abuse

Even A Pro County Blog Says Nobody Votes for District Leaders Wonder Where They Got That From?

The Future of District Leaders (Kings County Poltics)  District Leaders in Brooklyn are elected political party positions tasked with nominating judicial candidates to State Supreme Court, registering voters, increasing voter turnout in all elections, hiring Election Day workers to staff polling sites and finding jobs for folks.  In the 2016 Presidential Election, we witnessed a continuing trend in recent years and that was the pattern of low voter participation. Some blamed district leaders for the low voter turnout. Some believed district leaders hadn’t done enough to inspire voter participation. Today, many believe its time for a wide-ranging public discussion on the role of district leaders in the Kings County political realm and beyond.

Low Single Digit Voting Caused by NY’s Undemocratic Voter Suppression Election Law Has Turned Modern Party Bosses into a New Tammany Hall
The power of today’s Tammany party bosses is a result single digit voting for party offices. Just 3% of the registered Democrats participated in electing the party boss and district leaders in 2016.  2% in Queens, 4% in Brooklyn,0% in Staten Island, 4% in Manhattan and 5% in Queens.  Less than .005% of the county committee which selects county leaders in the major parties were challenged in 2016.  Most county and district leaders in both the major parties stay in their seats for decades unchallenged. The voting participation in the GOP and the other minor parties is even lower.  Low or no voting in party elections keep political bosses in power.   It’s the district leaders who pick the county committee members to run for office, who then elect party bosses in the Democratic and Republican parties in NYC.  Flatbush District Leader Jacob Gold has been in office for over 40 years.  Long time Queens district leader and campaign consultant Even Stavisky lives in Rockland with his wife who is the Democratic Rockland County Leader. His father was a long time Queens Assemblyman.