Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Friday, January 30, 2015

What Exactly Is The Dean Skelos Denial Worth?

Last night WNBC 4 reported the following:

Federal investigators are looking into state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos' sources of income, according to people familiar with the investigation.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is taking a hard look at Skelos’ ties to the real estate industry, among other areas of inquiry, the sources told NBC 4 New York.
Skelos, the highest ranking Republican in state government, has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
The revelation that Skelos is under investigation comes a week after Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested and charged for allegedly taking $4 million in bribes. Silver denies the charges.
A spokesman for Skelos did not return numerous calls for comment Thursday.

The Skelos spokesman didn't return "numerous calls for comment" yesterday but the Skelos flack  went strong with a denial today:

Skelos’ office issued a statement Friday calling the TV report “irresponsible” — and refusing further comment.

“Last night’s thinly sourced report by WNBC is irresponsible and does not meet the standards of serious journalism. Senator Skelos has not been contacted by anyone from the U.S. Attorney’s office. As such, we won’t be commenting further,” said Skelos spokeswoman Kelly Cummings.

I agree that the WNBC 4 report is thinly sourced and after the mess WNBC 4 and Jonathan Dienst made with a September Bridgegate report (see here for that), we probably shouldn't rely completely on this story for evidence that Preet Bharara is looking into Skelos.

That's why it was interesting seeing this is the NY Post today:

The feds have launched a corruption probe into state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ outside income – the same focus that led to the stunning arrest of longtime Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver last week, ­The Post confirmed Friday.

US Attorney Preet Bharara is looking at the powerful Nassau County pol’s connections to various real estate deals, sources said.

Skelos, the highest-ranking Republican in state government and one of the infamous “three men in a room” castigated by Bharara after Silver’s arrest, has not been charged with a crime.

He serves as a counsel for the law firm Ruskin, Moscou Faltischek in Uniondale, which specializes in ­real estate litigation among other areas.

The law firm is not a part of the investigation, according to WNBC/Channel 4, which first reported the story late Thursday.

In 2013, Skelos was paid between $150,000 and $250,000 for his employment as a lawyer with the firm, according to his financial disclosure documents.

Sources told The Post that Bharara launched the probe based on information provided by a tipster.
And other sources said Senate Republicans were nervous because Mike Avella, a lobbyist who is close to Skelos and other GOP senators, is partners with Brian Meara, a veteran lobbyist who helped the feds bust Silver.

The Post article is confirming that "the feds have launched a corruption probe into state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ outside income" and "Bharara launched the probe based on information provided by a tipster."

The Post story, independent of the WNBC 4 story, confirms that Bharara is indeed looking into Skelos and his outside income.

The Skelos spokesperson said:

“Last night’s thinly sourced report by WNBC is irresponsible and does not meet the standards of serious journalism. Senator Skelos has not been contacted by anyone from the U.S. Attorney’s office. As such, we won’t be commenting further."

Does this mean they won't be commenting on the Post story that "confirms" Bharra is looking into Skelos and his outside income and the probe was launched based on information provided by a tipster.

Because while I agree the WNBC 4 story was a little vague, the Post article is much less so - it even indicates who the tipster who snitched on Skelos might be:

And other sources said Senate Republicans were nervous because Mike Avella, a lobbyist who is close to Skelos and other GOP senators, is partners with Brian Meara, a veteran lobbyist who helped the feds bust Silver.

The Post article dispenses with the first part of the Skelos spokesperson denial - the accusation that the NBC 4 report is "thinly sourced" and "irresponsible."

As to the second, that Skelos can't be under investigation because "Senator Skelos has not been contacted by anyone from the U.S. Attorney’s office," well, that one's laughable on the face of it.

Maybe somebody from the U.S. Attorney’s office would contact Skelos if they were looking into him - or maybe they wouldn't.

It's neither here nor there that Skelos says he hasn't been contacted by anybody from Bharara'a office.

It certainly doesn't prove that Skelos isn't under investigation by the US Attorney office, which is what the Skelos flack wants you to hear.

So the reality is, the Skelos denial is really worthless - it tries to undercut the WNBC 4 report but conveniently ignores the Post report that "confirms" Skelos is under investigation and it attempts to pull the wool over people's eyes by equating lack of contact from Bharara's office to Skelos as proof of Skelos' innocence.

Both pieces of the denial are jive, as is the sanctimonious finish they had:

"We won’t be commenting further."

Well, not until the morning of the arrest, at any rate.

But after that, I bet they'll be some comments.

US Attorney Preet Bharara Reported To Be Investigating State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos

When US Attorney Preet Bharara told us to "stay tuned" after he announced the arrest of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, he apparently meant it:

Federal investigators are looking into state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos' sources of income, according to people familiar with the investigation.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is taking a hard look at Skelos’ ties to the real estate industry, among other areas of inquiry, the sources told NBC 4 New York. 

Skelos, the highest ranking Republican in state government, has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

The revelation that Skelos is under investigation comes a week after Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested and charged for allegedly taking $4 million in bribes. Silver denies the charges.

A spokesman for Skelos did not return numerous calls for comment Thursday.

Skelos' deputy in the State Senate, Tom Libous, is already under indictment for lying to the FBI.

If Dean Skelos is arrested for corruption as Shelly Silver was, that will mean the top two Republicans in the State Senate would be under under indictment.

Think about that for a minute.

Top Dem in Assembly arrested, second in command in Senate GOP indicted, head of Senate GOP is under investigation for corruption.

What does this mean for Governor Cuomo, who shut down the Moreland Investigation on Public Corruption at the behest of Silver and Skelos in order to get an on-time budget last year?

If Moreland found incriminating information about Silver and Skelos, there's a pretty good chance Cuomo knew about that information because the Moreland executive director was feeding him everything that was happening.

If Cuomo shut down Moreland knowing that it had found incriminating info on Silver and Skelos, that opens Cuomo up to cover-up and conspiracy charges.

Ordinarily you'd think if the heads of both the Assembly and the State Senate are arrested and forced from power, that enlarges Cuomo's power as governor.

But not if the reason they're arrested and forced from power comes from information found by the Moreland Commission that Cuomo shut down.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Democratic Minority Leader Stewart-Cousins Tells Cuomo To Stop "Demonizing Teachers" - Cuomo's Education Reform Donors Hit Right Back

I was off grading Regents exams this morning, so I missed this story:

In a rare public break with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins blasted the “demonizing of our teachers” in a statement released on Thursday morning.
Stewart-Cousins, a Yonkers Democrat, called for increasing resources — aka more money — in the state budget for school districts and not “scapegoating teachers.”
“There has been too much demonizing of our teachers lately. As a former teacher, I understand firsthand the obstacles that many New York educators are facing and the resources they so desperately need in order to help our children,” Stewart-Cousins said. “Schools’ resources must be based on the school district needs. While we all agree that there are more improvements to be made to our education system, scapegoating teachers will not provide those improvements.”
...


Stewart-Cousins, a Yonkers Democrat, is knocking Cuomo’s education reform push as Speaker Sheldon Silver is being pushed out of the Assembly’s leadership post on Monday.

Uncertainty over the future of the Assembly’s leadership push is leading to concerns among education advocates that the governor’s proposals won’t have a strong opponent in the budget negotiations.

Just a few hours later, Cuomo's education reform campaign donors fired back at Stewart-Cousins:

Students First NY, a group supportive of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education reform efforts, pushed back against Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins’s statement this morning that called for an end to the “demonizing” of teachers.

In a statement, the group pointed out that in Yonkers, where Stewart-Cousins represents and lives, city school children are falling behind in math and reading.
“There’s a reason why the teachers’ union has spent $60 million in Albany over the past five years: to get politicians like Andrea Stewart-Cousins to put their interests over the hundreds of thousands of kids victimized by a failing system,” said the group’s Director of Organizing, Tenicka Boyd, in a statement. “In Yonkers, 4 out of 5 students cannot read or do math on grade level — they need a Senator, too. Governor Cuomo’s plan will give our best teachers $20,000 bonuses, will cover tuition to get the best and brightest into our classrooms, and will increase funding for all children. Governor Cuomo is fighting for kids; Senator Stewart-Cousins should too.”

Stewart-Cousins responded:

“Personal attacks and political sniping will not solve the deep-rooted problems in New York’s public education system. As a person who went to New York City Public Schools, sent my children to New York Public Schools and taught in New York Public schools, I will continue to stand up for New York’s children and urge common sense reforms that will help all New York students receive the quality education they deserve.”


Boy, it doesn't take long for Cuomo's education reform donors - the very wealthy individuals and groups who have given him millions in campaign donations - to respond for Cuomo, almost as if they're coordinating that response with Cuomo's office.

Not that Cuomo would ever coordinate with education reformers or anything - except for that time he helped organize a pro-charter rally in Albany to beat down NYC Mayor de Blasio over the charter co-location issue.

The joke of all this is, Shelly Silver's been arrested for taking millions in cash and allegedly pushing the interests of those he received that cash from.

How exactly is that different from what Cuomo's doing with education reform and his education reform donors?

Silver didn't disclose the money, but Cuomo hasn't disclosed all the money either - we still don't know who donated to the shadowy PAC that pushed Cuomo's interests, the Committee To Save NY.

What Silver's done is considered illegal, but Cuomo's perfectly fine taking millions from his ed deform donors and pushing their destructive plans for public education.

I dunno, I'm a little murky on what's the difference between illegal bribery and campaign donations, but apparently Cuomo isn't.

NYSUT Says It's Staying Out Of The Speaker's Race

From the Capital NY Morning Education email:


—Assembly education committee chair Cathy Nolan, a Queens Democrat, officially declared her candidacy for the speakership on Wednesday, touting her record on schools and women’s issues. (She would be the first woman in the role.) Capital’s Josefa Velasquez: http://bit.ly/1EQwIXN

—Although labor groups are expected to influence the race, New York State United Teachers is staying out of it. “This is a matter for the Assembly to decide. We are taking no position,” spokesman Carl Korn told Capital on Wednesday.

Anybody believe NYSUT's claim?

Regents Grading

Off to trudge in the dark and the cold to some far-away school for the Regents grading extravaganza.

The snow threw a monkey wrench into some of the grading and there will be a lot of pressure on teachers to get these tests graded by Sunday so that the Spring Semester can start on time.

In comments, let everybody know what's going on at your grading site, how the site directors are handling things, how the grading is being handled.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Assembly Speaker's Race Gets Shake-Up


Which does this:


Cathy Nolan of Queens and Joe Lentol of Brooklyn announced today, along with Heastie.

Heastie was considered the front runner even with Wright looking to be speaker.

With Wright out and throwing his support to Heastie, that makes him that much more the front runner to be permanent speaker.

Assembly Education Committee Chair Cathy Nolan Says She'll Run For Speaker

From State of Politics:

Queens Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan is launching a campaign for speaker, she announced on Wendesday.

Nolan’s bid, if successful, would make her the first woman to lead the Assembly as speaker and the first woman to lead a majority conference in either house of the state Legislature.

...

The campaign for speaker is taking shape this week as Democrats move to have embattled Speaker Sheldon Silver step down from the post he’s held since 1994 after he was arrested on corruption charges last week.

Among the other candidates in the mix: Manhattan Democrat Keith Wright and Bronx lawmaker Carl Heastie. Rochester-area Majority Leader Joe Morelle, who becomes acting speaker Monday until Feb. 10, did not rule out running for speaker.

...

As chair of the Assembly’s Education Committee, Nolan is a prominent supporter of the state’s teachers unions.

It will be interesting to see if the teachers union look to back her or Heastie for speaker.

I suppose much will depend on what's going on in the zeitgeist.

Cuomo Purposely Brings Chaos And Dysfunction To The School Budgeting Process

From the Capital NY Morning Email:

ED GROUPS: RELEASE SCHOOL AID DETAILS—Capital’s Jessica Bakeman: “An umbrella educational advocacy group representing teachers, administrators, business officials, superintendents, school boards, big-city school districts and parents wrote a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo imploring him to release detailed breakdowns of each district’s state aid under his budget proposal. ... The Cuomo administration withheld the detailed charts outlining state aid for districts in order to pressure lawmakers into approving a series of aggressive education reform proposals. ... Cuomo’s refusal to release the school aid runs might go unnoticed by the general public, but in education circles, it was a dramatic message demonstrating the sincerity of his threat.

“School district leaders are disillusioned, hoping Cuomo will change his mind. If he doesn’t, they’ll likely miss a March 1 deadline to determine their proposed tax levies, and they’ll have hardly any time after the final state budget’s approval in early April to craft their local spending plans before facing voters’ scrutiny in May. … ‘This is not a matter of politics or even a policy debate,’ the letter said. ‘This is a matter of basic government function and an informed decision making process for our communities. The current situation is chaotic and dysfunctional.’” http://bit.ly/1uYTtsj

Cuomo's intention (at least publicly) may be to play hardball over his reforms, but don't be surprised if another one of his intentions (not-so-publicly) is to make the budgeting process for school districts "chaotic and dysfunctional" in order to bring about the "breaking" of the public school monopoly he has repeatedly promised.

This is a governor who despises public education, public schools and public school teachers - it's not a mistake that he's currently in a showdown of his own making that will do lasting harm to public school districts.

Interim Speaker Joe Morelle Is Cuomo Ally, Friend To Business

Anybody hoping the Assembly replaces embattled Speaker Sheldon Silver, once a formidable counterweight to Governor Cuomo in budget negotiations and a decent friend to labor, with someone similar is NOT going to like the interim speaker:

ALBANY—For the next two weeks, at least, the New York State Assembly will have an acting speaker who is regarded by business interests as an ally.

Assemblymember Joseph Morelle, who is set to serve as interim speaker until Feb. 10, is widely viewed as a moderate in a chamber that has been a roadblock to the agendas of some business groups during the speakership of Sheldon Silver, whose positions were for the most part conventionally liberal.

Morelle, a Democrat from Rochester, “represents a thoughtful lawmaker that you can go have a conversation with on a specific issue,” said Mike Durant, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses. “You’re not dismissed immediately. For our agenda, that would represent change from what we’ve seen over a vast number of years.” 
...
 
Morelle is a prodigious fund-raiser, outraising every other Assembly candidate in the last election cycle despite having no opponents. The $585,149 in contributions he received outpaced Silver by nearly $55,000.
Of this money, almost six times as much came from businesses as from unions. Of the nearly $400,000 he received from businesses and their political action committees, nearly a third came from insurance companies or the financial sector, representing businesses he presumably developed relationships with while serving as insurance committee chair. An additional quarter are involved in real estate or health, representing other sectors that have frequent business before his former committee.

Morelle's pretty conservative and Cuomo would love to get him as replacement speaker for Silver.

Business views him as an ally.

He's raised six times as much money from business as labor.

That's enough for me - no to Morelle.

Unfortunately getting the "interim" gig might give Morelle a leg up on getting the job full-time,

He's still considered a long-shot - his closeness to Cuomo and his coming from Rochester do not help him in an Assembly full of Cuomo-haters and downstaters - but watch him very, very closely.

Given how fast things move these days in Albany (Hell, Cuomo just gave his budget address last Wednesday - doesn't that feel like forever ago?), you never know what might happen.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

With Sheldon Silver Out As Speaker, Isn't It Time To Show Merryl Tisch The Door Too?

Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch was re-elected to the Board of Regents in April 2011 to a five year term.

Her patron, then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, announced her re-election in a release here.

Silver is facing charges on corruption and fraud and may soon be in prison.

He's also facing a coup from his Assembly Dems.

It was reported tonight that he will be forced from the speakership by Monday if he hasn't formally resigned by then.

Now Tisch is Shelly's pal, they know each other from the old days on the Lower East Side.

She's faced a lot of criticism for her handling of the Common Core roll-out, her oversight (or lack thereof) of the charter school approval process, and the reform agenda she has pushed on the state.

But she serves as Regents Chancellor because Silver wants her there and has used his enormous influence and power to keep her there.

Carol Burris wrote a blog piece back in December that concluded Tisch would remain in power despite her failures as chancellor because of this:

Given the current system of appointment, Merryl Tisch, who has wealth and deep political connections, will likely remain in power. She is married to billionaire James S. Tisch, the CEO of the Loews Corporation, and has been a friend since childhood of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who controls the appointments through the votes of the Assembly. The people of New York have no direct mechanism to have her removed.

Tisch still remains wealthy and married to that source of wealth - that part of the power dynamic hasn't changed.

But with her ally Silver disgraced and soon to be gone from power, there looks like there will be a real shot to show Merryl Tisch the door next year.

She was re-elected in April 2011 to a five year term - she'll face another election in April 2016.

We should start mobilizing opposition to her as Regents Chancellor now, parents and teachers, so that her Reign of Error at the Board of Regents can be ended.

Sheldon Silver Out By Monday, Joe Morelle To Be "Interim Speaker"

And so it looks like an era comes to an end soon:


My favorite reaction to the news:


Oy.

It is said Carl Heastie is close to having enough votes to be the next speaker.

Here's a rundown on Heastie from Ross Barkan.

The other two names mentioned - Morelle and Keith Wright - are close to Cuomo, with Wright having shilled for Sheriff Andy during the campaign.

Wright also tried to stick the political shiv in Silver back in 2013.

Regents Exam Administration And Grading Updates

From the NYCDOE website:

Schools are closed today, Tuesday, January 27. Given the snow day, Regents exams will be rescheduled to Thursday. The subjects impacted are:
  • Global History and Geography 
  • Integrated Algebra
  • Comprehensive Testing in Writing (special education)
  • Comprehensive in Mathematics (special education)

And for grading:

It's all going to be shoved into Thursday and Friday, day and night, and over the weekend (except for ELA per session grading, which begins Wednesday night according to the schedule.)

Looks like per session may be offered for day graders on certain subjects to stay and grade after the workday is over.

One exception: History Regents exams will be graded in individual schools - the DOE calendar update has both day and night central grading of History Regents exams cancelled and teachers reporting to their own schools.

So apparently teachers are not to be trusted grading exams from their own schools - except for global history and U.S. history teachers, who will be grading exams in their own schools.

Cuomo Decision To Shut Down Subway For Snow - First Time Ever - Criticized As "Horrible, Political Decision"

It made no sense to me that Governor Cuomo decided to shut down all of the MTA last night before the blizzard that was forecast to hit.

We've had blizzards before, we'll have them again and NEVER in the history of New York City has the subway system been shut down because of snow.

That's 111 years of snow storms, blizzards and inclement winter weather - and yet, never had the subway system been shut down because of snow, not even during the 1947 blizzard (26.4 inches) or the 2006 blizzard (26.9 inches.)

Until Cuomo did it yesterday.

Except that the system actually didn't shut down because MTA workers had to keep the tracks clear - so they ran empty "ghost trains" all night.

Here's the story:

Subway trains still ran under New York City overnight despite being closed off to commuters.

Trains were heard going through a number of stations after services were suspended at 11pm on Monday, surprising travellers as they could not board them.

The preemptive decision by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the MTA allegedly shocked transit workers because the trains need to run overnight so they can clear the tracks.

It was the first time the entire system has been shutdown purely because of the snow in its 111-year history. The action was taken before the brunt of the snowstorm hit the city.  

As a result of the state-wide road ban and the early cancellation of public transport, the Subway seemed the only viable way to get around the city through the night.

A source told The Brooklyn Paper: 'I think it’s horrible, purely political decision, not based on anything that’s needed. It seemed like cutting out a necessary lifeline unnecessarily.

'The underground lifeline should be open.' 

During a press conference on Monday, Governor Cuomo said: 'This blizzard is forecasted to be one of the worst this region has seen, and we must put safety first and take all the necessary precautions. Commuters and drivers need to get home before the storm completely cripples our transit networks and roads.'

Some of the lines on the system - including sections of the B and Q - are low-lying and outdoors, meaning a closure would be necessary.

However the remainder is underground or elevated, meaning snow may not have been an issue. 

The Brooklyn Paper reported the MTA was caught off guard by Cuomo's decision to close the subways:

A Twitter exchange between a Transportation Authority data scientist and a New York Post reporter appears to corroborate the agency being caught off guard by the governor’s announcement. Shortly before Cuomo’s bombshell, the transit wonk wrote that outdoor portions of the N, A, and Q, lines may be suspended. But when the reporter pointed out Cuomo was saying the plug would be pulled, the worker deferred to public relations.

Later, the data scientist lamented that stranded New Yorkers might resort to loosely regulated services such as Uber to catch now-illegal rides through the storm.

“Not a good plan from the governor,” Samuel Wong wrote. “The startup procedures will be fun.”
Following publication of this article, Wong wrote that the changes meant many workers would have to “stay overnight.”

A purely political decision by the governor to shut down the subway system - and a stupid one.

By all means, close the roads, highways, bridges, tunnels and commuter rails because of a blizzard warning.

But don't close the "lifeline" of the city - the underground and elevated trains that have NEVER been shut because of snow in their 111 year history.

Cuomo wants to look like he's the "Man in Charge," but quite frankly, he is a child who acts impulsively out of fear and impetuousness.

UPDATED - 9:10 AM: This subway shutdown is made even worse when you hear what the snow totals are around the area.

7.8 inches in Central Park.

I get that the models were all over the place before the storm, some showing a lot of snow, some showing very little making it west to the city.

And yes, public safety and precaution matters.

But given the uncertainty of the forecast and given that the subway system has NEVER been shut down for snow in 111 years - not even during two of the worst snowstorms in the history of the city - I think Cuomo's decision to shut it down last night was all about looking like he's in control and charge.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Not Much Of A Snowstorm So Far, But We Had A Big One In The NY Government

A storm of the political kind:



Snowmageddon looking like a bust so far, but a heavy storm for Shelly Silver.

Dems will meet tomorrow to try and choose a successor to Silver

NYCDOE District And Field Offices Are Opened Tomorrow Despite Impending Blizzard And Travel Ban (UPDATED - 7:55 PM)

So Governor Cuomo is instituting a travel ban starting tonight at 11 PM - all roads, bridges, tunnels will be closed to all but essential personnel and all mass transit will be shut down.

Tomorrow everybody is to safe at home except for emergency personnel like police, fireman, EMT's and NYCDOE employees assigned to district and field offices.

The UFT is not amused:

The UFT staff directors are sending the following email to UFT members who work in district and field offices:

Dear Colleagues,

The Department of Education has decided to close schools tomorrow, but has told central and field offices that they must remain open. The UFT vehemently disagrees with the DOE’s decision, and we are actively working on getting the city to reconsider.

The DOE’s longstanding policy, which we continue to fight, is as follows:

“Unless the Chancellor instructs otherwise, all central offices, and the offices of District 75 and 79 must remain open for regular hours on days when schools are authorized by the Chancellor to close or open late due to citywide emergency conditions or major stormy weather as staff must be in a position to provide essential information to parents and others.”

We wanted you to have accurate information as you make decisions tomorrow morning. We urge you to exercise caution about traveling into work.

Sincerely,

LeRoy Barr & Ellie Engler
Staff Directors

I understand the need to get essential information out to parents, but I guess I just wonder, if the roads, bridges, tunnels and mass transit are all shut down tomorrow, how exactly does one get to a district or field office to dispense that essential information?

UPDATED - 7:55 PM: Even Cuomo's giving non-essential state employees a snow day tomorrow:

NYC Schools Closed Tuesday, 1/27 Regents Exams Re-Scheduled For Thursday 1/29

Straight from the DOE:

Schools will be closed on Tuesday, January 27. Given the snow day, Regents exams will be rescheduled to Thursday. The subjects impacted are:
  • Global History and Geography 
  • Integrated Algebra
  • Comprehensive Testing in Writing (special education)
  • Comprehensive in Mathematics (special education) 

I'm glad they're re-scheduling the exams rather than just cancelling them, but I would worry a little bit about the grading of these exams.

For that story, please see here.

Isn't there a better way to evaluate students, teachers and schools then a one day test given and graded during a week impacted by a blizzard?

Cuomo "On Edge" And "Obsessed With Fear" As Criminal Probe Into Albany Corruption Continues

Two interesting pieces about Cuomo's ethics problems out this morning, pre-blizzard, for your enjoyment.

First, Fred Dicker on how Cuomo is "freaked out, furious and obsessed with fear " over the Moreland investigations into corruption carried on by US Attorney Preet Bharara:

Gov . Cuomo is “freaked-out and furious” over the bombshell criminal charges dropped on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver last week — and “obsessed with fear’’ because of the ongoing federal corruption probe.

One source described Cuomo as “doubly enraged’’ by hard-driving Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara’s decision to bring the five criminal corruption charges against Silver just hours after the governor delivered his State of the State address — and then, less than 24 hours after that, to indict Albany’s “three men in a room’’ culture in which Cuomo is the lead player.

“Cuomo feels Preet just walked all over him,’’ said the source.

Knowledgeable insiders, including law-enforcement experts, said it wasn’t accidental that Bharara brought the charges against Silver just hours after Cuomo’s State of the State.

“Prosecutors have a lot of discretion, and when they time a high-profile arrest in a way that steps all over Cuomo’s speech, that’s the use of discretion for a purpose,’’ a former federal prosecutor told The Post.

And several sources described Cuomo — who along with his aides is being investigated by Bharara over the abrupt disbanding of the governor’s Moreland Act commission on public corruption — as “on edge’’ over Bharara’s ominous statement Friday that the public should “stay tuned’’ for more criminal charges to come.

“Andrew’s been working the phones day and night, staying up into the early morning hours, making hundreds of calls in one day trying to find out what the hell is going on,’’ a source close to the governor said.

Cuomo, who has retained a private lawyer, has enlisted several former federal and state-level prosecutors with ties to Bharara’s office including Steve Cohen, his former chief-of-staff, in an effort to find out Bharara’s next move, the sources said.

“He’s freaked-out, furious, and obsessed with fear, it’s like a nightmare for him. The whole narrative he laid out for his second term has been derailed by Bharara,’’ said a source in regular contact with the governor.

“The narrative has been taken over by Bharara and it’s all about Albany’s corruption, not Cuomo and his program for the state,’’ the source said.

State political circles are abuzz with speculation that Bharara is seeking to determine if Cuomo had any knowledge of Silver’s allegedly illegal outside income last spring when he agreed with Silver and Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos to fold the commission.

Next, Blake Zeff on why the Silver arrest has Cuomo "tongue-tied":

As everyone knows, the governor’s much-hyped Moreland Commission was looking into the issue of Silver’s outside income just as Cuomo disbanded it. And if U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara hadn't pressed the issue, none of the alleged criminal activity related to that income would have come to light at all.

If Cuomo does his usual thing, condemning the speaker's behavior and using it to talk about how badly he wants good government, he will be admitting that the investigatory work he shut down was important, and that his decision to disband it was premature (and potentially helped shield a crime).
What’s more, given that Cuomo is being investigated by the same prosecutor now looking to put Silver in prison, the governor will not want to give the speaker any additional incentive to provide information about others.

It's a real political dilemma.

Cuomo can't remain silent on Silver, who the governor was touting in a budget address just a day before the arrest as his partner in government. He'd be abandoning his public role as a reformer, risking his credibility on an issue that is vital to his carefully crafted brand.

But Cuomo can't really talk convincingly—or even coherently—about Silver's alleged misbehavior at this point, either.

Asked by the News editorial board how Silver’s arrest reflects on his decision to shut down the Moreland commission, Cuomo reportedly said, “If anything, it vindicates what happened.”

He suggested that the arrest showed that the best way for the investigation to proceed was always through the federal prosecutor’s office, rather than the state commission. Cuomo was trying to argue, in other words, that shutting down the investigation of an alleged crime helped get it uncovered.
This line, clearly, doesn't work. And at the moment, no matter what happens with Silver, it's not clear that any line will.

Cuomo likes to talk about ethics reform. It’s always worked for him, and has been a big, crucial part of his brand.

But as Cuomo learned after the Moreland Commission shutdown, when he twisted himself in knots trying to explain how his "independent" ethics body was actually no such thing, talking about the indefensible can be worse than not talking at all.

Many teachers who listened to Cuomo bring the rhetorical hammer down on us last Wednesday wondered about the political timing of Shelly Silver's arrest the next morning, given that Silver was expected to be the only (slight) impediment to Cuomo's agenda.

It seemed too convenient that in the year Cuomo is shoving through an aggressive education reform agenda even though he won an anemic re-election and doesn't have the same political muscle he's had in the past, the biggest impediment to that agenda got arrested on corruption charges just as the legislative session was getting under way.

But stories leaking out today suggest Cuomo is not happy at all with Bharara's stealing his thunder last week by arresting Silver the day after his State of the State/budget address and is worried that Silver's arrest may mean problems for him down the line.

Dicker's got it out for Cuomo, so he's deliberately using phrases like "on edge," "freaked-out and furious" and "obsessed with fear" to try and damage Cuomo further than he already has been by seeing Silver arrested on corruption charges related to the Moreland Commission Cuomo himself shut down in a deal with Silver for an on-time budget.

Nonetheless, as Blake Zeff points out in his piece, Cuom's relative silence over the Silver matter shows just how troubled he is over it.

Is Cuomo Thinking About What He's Saying About This Evening's Pre-Blizzard Commute?

Governor Cuomo last night:

Gov. Cuomo echoed those concerns, warning commuters to stay home Monday in a statement made Sunday as the monstrous storm tracked an unfamiliar route across the Midwest.

“As a result, roads including the Thruway, I-84 and the Long Island Expressway, and public transit networks including the LIRR, PATH, Metro-North Railroad, and MTA subways and buses, may be closed ahead of the evening commute,” Cuomo announced Sunday night.

 From the NYC OEM:


Is Cuomo thinking about any of this?

I understand safety is a priority and I know he's still smarting from the mess on the Thruway when he didn't close roads in time, people got stuck in the snow for more than a day, and leveled their criticism at him.

But the weather reports have been quite clear - light snow during the day followed by heavy snow at night.

That's what the models were showing last night, that's what the forecast remains this morning - 1-3 inches of snow during the day, heavy snow later in the night.

If NYC schools are opened, then Regents exams are going to be given.

Students and staff will be expected to be in school - students to take the exams, teachers to proctor the exams.

The afternoon exams don't end until after 4 PM.

How does this work if Cuomo shuts down streets, highways and trains BEFORE the afternoon commute?

How does this work if the governor even suggests this might happen?

Seriously, is the governor thinking about any of this?

Is he coordinating with Mayor de Blasio and the NYCDOE?

I have to admit, I have students scheduled to take the ELA Regents exam at 12:45 PM, so I'm a little anxious about all of this.

I also have to admit that I'm made even more anxious by the fact that Governor Cuomo wants to fire me based on my Regents test scores, saying that he believes these are an "objective" measure of my teaching skill.

I've already covered the mess that is going to be the grading of these Regents exams - you can read that here.

Now Cuomo's making the mess worse by saying he's going to shut streets, highways and trains down BEFORE the evening commute even as the NYCDOE is opening schools and giving the Regents exams in both the morning and afternoon.

Sheldon Silver To "Cede Power" To Five Senior Assembly Members (UPDATED)

Oy:

ALBANY—Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is set to cede power to five of the chamber's senior members, two people briefed on his plans told Capital.

Silver, a Democrat from lower Manhattan, was charged on Thursday with accepting $6 million in what prosecutors said were “kickbacks” disguised as legal fees in exchange for official favors. He is set to huddle on Monday with his chamber's 100-plus member Democratic conference, which would have to approve the proposal.

Silver became engaged in talks about stepping aside late Sunday, the people said and the Daily News reported, and arrived at a plan to tap the quintet to help handle some of the responsibilities of leading the state's lower house.

The group would include majority leader Joe Morelle of Rochester, as well as Denny Farrell of Harlem, Joe Lentol of Brooklyn, Cathy Nolan of Queens and Carl Heastie of the Bronx.

...

It's unclear which member would be responsible for what duties.

Each of the sources described the arrangement as temporary, with Silver retaining the option to reassume his powers. In an email, Silver spokesman Mike Whyland said the speaker would remain in place.

What affect will this arrangement have on the education reform agenda Governor Cuomo wants to impose on the state?

Hard to say that a quintet of senior members would be any less effective at fighting back against Cuomo than a Sheldon Silver weakened by scandal and indictment, but that's assuming these people want to fight back.

At least one of these five - Morelle - is a close ally of Cuomo.

You can bet Cuomo will look to take advantage of the circumstances here to expand his power and influence in a legislative session where he was expected to have much less - at least in the Assembly.

Is it an accident that in a year when Assembly members were pissed at Cuomo and sick of his "My Way Or The Highway" governing style their leader is arrested on corruption charges, the Assembly is thrown into disarray, and the governor's power and influence is expanded exponentially just as he's looking to push through an aggressive agenda after being re-elected with anemic vote totals?

UPDATE - 8:08 AM: Consensus seems to be Silver's "ceding power" to five subordinates is him actually keeping power, running things from behind the scenes.

We'll see if this maneuver works or if the pressure on him to step down, growing all weekend as the tabloids hit him daily with barrages of stories, continues to mount.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

NYC Schools WILL Be Opened On Monday 1/26, Regents Exams WILL Be Given

The latest on the impending inclement weather and it's impact on NYC schools:

This sounds like the right call to me.

Light snow is expected tomorrow during daylight hours, the heavy snow isn't expected to start until the nighttime.

We'll see if the storm plays out as the models are predicting.

But for now, school is on for Monday 1/26 and the Regents exams WILL be given.