Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, March 16, 2017

De Blasio Avoids Criminal Charges

Politico NY:

Mayor Bill de Blasio and his aides will not face criminal charges for their role in soliciting donations for the mayor's campaign and an affiliated nonprofit group, prosecutors announced on Thursday morning.

In separate statements, the Manhattan district attorney's office and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District announced they had concluded their months-long investigations into whether the mayor or his aides had acted illegally in soliciting donations and providing special access to donors who gave to de Blasio or his nonprofit group, the Campaign for One New York

This all be assures that de Blasio will win re-election in November:

Bradley Tusk, a former aide to Michael Bloomberg who has publicly encouraged Democrats to challenge de Blasio, said the mayor is now likely to coast to re-election.

"Although the city deserves far better than this, the people best positioned to succeed in a Democratic primary are now unlikely to run, and we should therefore expect four more years of Bill de Blasio," Tusk said in a statement.

If Tusk is throwing in the towel against de Blasio, well, that's a pretty good sign de Blasio's re-election is all but a done deal.

Friday, February 24, 2017

De Blasio To Be Questioned Today By Federal Prosecutors In Corruption Probe

Today's the day:

The NY Times sets the stage:

Ending months of anticipation and speculation, Mayor Bill de Blasio will meet on Friday with federal prosecutors and F.B.I. agents who have been investigating the mayor’s campaign fund-raising for nearly a year, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

A grand jury has heard evidence in the case, some of the people have said, but it remains unclear whether the investigation, focused on whether the mayor or others in his administration traded beneficial city action for donations to his 2013 election campaign or to his now-defunct nonprofit political group — or both — will result in charges. Either way, the interview is an indication that the expansive criminal inquiry is most likely in its final stages.


The mayor is expected to be questioned on Friday morning in a conference room at Kramer Levin’s offices in Midtown Manhattan, according to the people with knowledge of the planned session, which they said is expected to last about four hours. The prosecutors and agents want to question the mayor about more than a dozen topics.

In addition to investigating whether the city took any action on behalf of Mr. Indig as a result of his support for the mayor, the prosecutors and agents are also likely to focus on a number of other donors who have come under scrutiny, including two who have been of intense interest to prosecutors. They are Harendra Singh and Gina Argento.

The Times also has a bit a "new" news:

In recent weeks, investigators appear to have focused on a relatively new area in the inquiry, looking into the mayor’s relationship with a Brooklyn businessman who hosted a fund-raiser for him in October 2013, after the Democratic primary but before the general election, according to two of the people. Like others interviewed for this article, they declined to comment because they were not authorized to discuss the continuing investigation.

In recent weeks, investigators appear to have focused on a relatively new area in the inquiry, looking into the mayor’s relationship with a Brooklyn businessman who hosted a fund-raiser for him in October 2013, after the Democratic primary but before the general election, according to two of the people. Like others interviewed for this article, they declined to comment because they were not authorized to discuss the continuing investigation.

 Louis Flores on what may be going on here:

You can bet Hakeem Jeffries, Scott Stringer, Ruben Diaz Jr and other potential challengers are watching what happens today and ensuing days closely.

So far, no serious challenger to the embattled de Blasio has emerged but clearly an indictment of de Blasio on corruption charges will set off a free-for-all in the Dem primary.

It's difficult to say what indictments of current and/or former aides do to de Blasio's 2017 re-election chances - it all depends on how much residual damage is done to de Blasio if/when that happens.

De Blasio has led a bit of a charmed life these past few months, having much of the news around the corruption investigations buried under an avalanche of Trump news while de Blasio attempted to become the local face of opposition to Trump's policies on immigration, health care, etc.

Other pols - including Governor Cuomo - have attempted similar anti-Trump PR efforts recently (see here and here, for example.)

Both Cuomo and de Blasio are using the Trump election for their own ends of course (Cuomo as rationale for 2020 White House run, de Blasio as rallying cry and distraction from his corruption woes), but in another way the Trump election has helped de Blasio out - it's given Cuomo something else to shoot for instead of de Blasio himself.

For the last few years Cuomo has spent much of his free time looking for ways to torture de Blasio, including looking for potential challengers to the mayor for 2017, but with the Trump administration ensconced in Washington, Cuomo appears to have lost his relish for de Blasio combat and begun setting his sights on a 2020 run instead.

As a result, de Blasio appears to have a pretty easy time of it in his re-election bid - barring criminal charges and/or residual damage some to him by criminal charges on people around him that is.

But that could all change today.

We'll know soon enough. 

As the Times reported, the questioning of de Blasio today means the investigation is about to come to a close.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Barring Indictment, De Blasio Looks Like He'll Get A Fairly Easy Run At Re-Election

Two pieces of New York City mayoral race news today.

First, as expected, Hakeem Jeffries declined to run against de Blasio:

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a Brooklyn Democrat, said Tuesday he will not run for mayor of New York City — leaving one less potential challenger for Mayor Bill de Blasio as he faces re-election later this year.
"The stakes are so high in Washington D.C. right now, and I want to be part of the effort to turn the situation around," Jeffries said in an interview. "It would be a dereliction of duty to abandon ship at the moment when times are tough."


Jeffries said de Blasio has benefited from the election of President Donald Trump, and the palpable anger and fear in New York City toward the president. More than 80 percent of the city's voters voted against Trump, and de Blasio has positioned himself in the city as standing up to Trump on immigration and other issues.

"The phenomenon has benefited the mayor because it's taken a lot of attention off of City Hall," Jeffries said.

Jeffries said "top-tier candidates" are still looking to the investigations to see if they "potentially change the dynamic."

"It's not clear to me that there's a meaningful candidate prepared to step forward at the moment," he said.

Next up, GOP hopeful/real estate developer Paul Massey had a press conference today that, well, let's just say didn't go so well.  Here's a play-by-play in tweets:

And so, we appear to have two potential challengers to de Blasio taken out of the equation in one day.

It's been rumored for a while now that Jeffries, who has been elevated into the Democratic leadership in the House, was going to decline to run for mayor, so that announcement wasn't much of a surprise.

But the Massey presser, well, that was a bit of a surprise to me.

Given that we're now in the Trump Era, it was going to be a heavy lift for Massey, a Republican real estate developer, to win post November 2016, but to be honest, I always assumed he was a bit more serious as a candidate than what showed up today.  How could he not have an answer for the stop-and-frisk issue?

You can see the whole Massey presser here at his Facebook page - assuming they don't take it down to try and undo some of the damage.

Go on and watch it and you tell me if he's somebody who can win a mayor's race in NYC during the Trump Era - from what I see so far, it's unlikely.

As for other potential opponents, Scott Stringer has apparently all but ruled out a run (barring something extraordinary coming from the Southern District of New York on de Blasio) and the air around Ruben Diaz Jr. has grown awfully quiet on that front as well.

That leaves this guy who raised $750 last quarter and left the mainstream Democratic conference in the state Senate to join the breakaway, Republican-allied Independent Democratic Conference, a group of faux Dems growing increasingly unpopular in the Trump Era:

And maybe this guy:

Councilman Dan Garodnick, a Manhattan Democrat who lost his bid to become the City Council Speaker in 2014, has talked with donors, consultants and others about running for mayor. Garodnick has told these people he would want a one-on-one race with de Blasio and would be interested if he saw a path, but isn't sure if there is one.
Asked about the conversations, Garodnick declined to comment. "I am exploring my options as I am term-limited," he said. Garodnick had previously denied he was considering a mayoral run.

Oh, and an ex-Jet with about as much chance of winning City Hall as the Jets had of winning the Super Bowl last year.

And there was that rumor about Hillary Clinton maybe running for mayor, but that's pretty much bullshit.

None of this is going to matter in a race against de Blasio where he has managed to make labor peace with the cops, other unions (including the UFT) have endorsed him, and he continues to enjoy popular support in the black community.

So from what I can see, the biggest opponent de Blasio appears to have for re-election right now is U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

No wonder the UFT jumped aboard the de Blasio Express when they did. 

Barring something coming from Bharara, it looks like de Blasio is going to waltz to November relatively unscathed.

Somewhere Bradley Tusk weeps.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

If This Was What Day One Of The Trump Administration Was Like...

Joe Scarborough, GOP shill and Trump bootlicker, on how Day One of the Trump administration went:

Here was the "failing" New York Times (as Trump likes to term it) on how Day One went in a piece entitled With False Claims, Trump Attacks Media on Turnout and Intelligence Rift:

WASHINGTON — President Trump used his first full day in office on Saturday to unleash a remarkably bitter attack on the news media, falsely accusing journalists of both inventing a rift between him and intelligence agencies and deliberately understating the size of his inauguration crowd.

In a visit to the Central Intelligence Agency intended to showcase his support for the intelligence community, Mr. Trump ignored his own repeated public statements criticizing the intelligence community, a group he compared to Nazis just over a week ago.

He also called journalists “among the most dishonest human beings on earth,” and he said that up to 1.5 million people had attended his inauguration, a claim that photographs disproved.

Later, at the White House, he dispatched Sean Spicer, the press secretary, to the briefing room in the West Wing, where Mr. Spicer scolded reporters and made a series of false statements.

He said news organizations had deliberately misstated the size of the crowd at Mr. Trump’s inauguration on Friday in an attempt to sow divisions at a time when Mr. Trump was trying to unify the country, warning that the new administration would hold them to account.

 The statements from the new president and his spokesman came as hundreds of thousands of people protested against Mr. Trump, a crowd that appeared to dwarf the one that gathered the day before when he was sworn in. It was a striking display of invective and grievance at the dawn of a presidency, usually a time when the White House works to set a tone of national unity and to build confidence in a new leader.

Instead, the president and his team appeared embattled and defensive, signaling that the pugnacious style Mr. Trump employed as a candidate will persist now that he has ascended to the nation’s highest office.

Here's what Day One looked like on the Washington Mall as hundreds of thousands protested Trump as part of the Women's March :

Millions across the country (and the world) took to the streets in similar protests:

Day Two picked up where Day One left off, with embattled Trump shills still spewing lies, propaganda and horseshit:

If this is how the beginning of the Trump administration is going, imagine what will happen when there is a real crisis to handle?

Some are worried that Trump has rendered truth and facts moot, that he has inaugurated a post-truth society wherein his deplorables will always believe him over their lying eyes and continue to go to the mattresses to protect him:

There's something to this, of course, but Trump is beyond the campaign now and while there will be a certain percentage of deplorables who stick with him no matter what, there is a level of incompetence and insanity going on here that anybody who isn't completely incompetent and/or insane themselves will eventually see (if they haven't already.)

It's clear from yesterday that Trump is in way over his head, that he is incapable of growing into the job and that he is going to govern abysmally.

It is also clear from yesterday that A) the opposition to Trump is large and growing and B) many in the media are not going to take bullshit from the Trumpsters lying down without calling them on it.

Conservatives and wingers want Trump to get on with the job of gutting the government - but the fatal flaws in Trump's character may be the best defense against that:

In sum, Benjamin Dixon on how best to combat Trump:

And would add:

Saturday, December 17, 2016

UFT Would Be Foolish To Announce Endorsement Of De Blasio Right Now

James Eterno wrote back in early December that UFT President Michael Mulgrew has hinted a UFT endorsement of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is coming soon.

Mulgrew's reasoning?

Other unions have already announced early endorsements of de Blasio, there will be a corporate-funded general election candidate who will look to run against public education and the teachers union, and de Blasio settled all the outstanding contracts with the municipal unions that Bloomberg refused to settle in his third term.

Since that Mulgrew hint, we also learned that AFT President Randi Weingarten will hold a fundraiser for de Blasio in January:
Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, will hold a fundraiser for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s re-election campaign in January, according to a copy of the invitation obtained by POLITICO New York.

The fundraiser will be held at AFT headquarters in Washington on January 5. Guest tickets are $1,000 a head, “supporter” tickets are $2,500, and “host” tickets are $4,950.

The event will be co-hosted by the lobbyist Harold Ickes, a friend and mentor to de Blasio who has enjoyed lobbying successes under de Blasio’s tenure. Ickes’ lobbying partner, Janice Enright, will also co-host the fundraiser. John Stocks, the director of the National Education Association, the nation’s other most prominent teachers union, is on the host committee for the event.

The event comes as de Blasio begins to gather endorsements from the city’s most prominent unions — both the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store union have given the mayor their early endorsements. But de Blasio has not yet won the endorsement of the United Federation of Teachers, the largest and most powerful branch of the AFT, representing teachers in New York City.

Weingarten’s upcoming fundraiser could add to pressure for UFT president Michael Mulgrew to give the mayor his union’s endorsement soon.

Now those of you who are close Randi/Mulgrew watchers know there is no daylight between either, so it's doubtful that the Weingarten fundraiser is "pressure" coming from Randi onto Mulgrew to endorse de Blasio early as opposed to another part of a multi-pronged strategy to get on board the de Blasio express early and prove loyalty to the mayor (especially necessary since the UFT worked against de Blasio in the primary last time around.)

That strategy might make some sense if de Blasio was a powerful incumbent with a proven track record of helping teachers and public schools, but as James wrote in his piece on the likely UFT endorsement, the case for that is slim:

In the school system I work in, teachers and other UFT members feel almost like they are under siege on a daily basis in multiple schools. Many of us fear drive by Danielson observations by abusive administrators, being rated based on student test scores in schools where the students are not exactly well prepared, overburdened paperwork demands made by those abusive principals and their assistants, the war on seniority with (un)fair student funding which makes senior teachers a burden on school budgets and much, much more.

Our job has been turned into a nightmare in many school buildings. In spite of the working conditions deteriorating to the point where a large number of teachers cannot physically or emotionally take it much longer, our Union President's response is hinting that we want more of the same.

Add in the de Blasio contract that holds back pay to 2020 (but only if you're still in the system!) and gives yearly increase averages of just over 1% and gee, what's not to like about endorsing de Blasio early, given all that wonderful stuff?

Well, how about the news that de Blasio is the subject of two grand jury investigations and criminal charges are likely to come against some of his cronies (and perhaps even de Blasio himself)?

Two separate grand juries in Manhattan have begun hearing testimony in connection with federal and state criminal investigations into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign fund-raising, according to several people with knowledge of the matters.

It was unclear whether either inquiry would result in criminal charges against the mayor, but the grand jury activity appeared to be the strongest indication since the investigations came to light in April that prosecutors may be moving closer to one or more indictments, possibly against some of Mr. de Blasio’s closest aides.

The inquiries have centered on Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, and several of his senior aides, according to the people with knowledge of the matter, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because grand jury proceedings are secret.

The state investigation has focused on whether the mayor, or those acting with him or on his behalf, violated state election law by raising hundreds of thousands of dollars through three upstate county committees and funneling it to Democratic candidates during the party’s unsuccessful 2014 bid to gain control of the State Senate.

The questions asked by state prosecutors in their grand jury presentations suggest their inquiry is in some measure centered on Emma Wolfe, Mr. de Blasio’s top political aide, Ross A. Offinger, who was then his campaign finance director, and Josh Gold, a union political operative who worked on the 2014 Senate effort, the people with knowledge of the inquiry said.

The federal investigation has examined whether Mr. de Blasio or his aides took beneficial action on behalf of donors in exchange for contributions they had made to his 2013 mayoral campaign, his political nonprofit or both in roughly a half-dozen instances, according to people with knowledge of that inquiry.

As I wrote Thursday, this leak came straight out of publicity-happy US Attorney Preet Bharara's office and Preet doesn't leak this kind of stuff without criminal charges following soon.

That's how it played out with Shelly Silver, Dean and Adam Skelos and Cuomo's cronies Joe Percoco and Alain Kaloyeros - there's no reason to think it won't play out the same way here.

With criminal charges all but certain against somebody linked to de Blasio and with the NYC media already having an adversarial relationship with the churlish de Blasio, you can bet he's going to get hammered day after day after day in the newspapers and on TV, further weakening an already weak incumbent (polls consistently show de Blasio is underwater on the "Deserves Re-Election" question.)

Now I can understand why the UFT would look to finagle an early endorsement of de Blasio despite his administration showing itself to be anti-teacher in its treatment of teachers in the evaluation process (superintendents are instructing school administrators to ratchet up "ineffective" and "developing" ratings against teachers, especially veteran teachers), the budgeting process (which rewards schools that shed veteran teachers) and contractually (back pay all the way to 2020) - that's because the UFT leadership only cares about the access de Blasio and Chancellor Farina have granted them, not how they have treated their members so badly.

But why would the UFT want to announce an endorsement of de Blasio now with Preet bearing down on him and charges coming for one or more de Blasio cronies?

That Thursday night leak to the NY Times about the state and federal grand juries looking into de Blasio didn't come out of nowhere - that's a clear indication that Preet intends some charges against someone and wants to give a heads up that they're coming.

There's no indication yet that the charges will reach de Blasio himself, but even if they don't, weakened unpopular incumbent that he is, de Blasio may not be able to withstand major figures in his political circle getting taken down on criminal charges.

I think the UFT would be smart to wait for Preet to make a move and see what the political and practical fallout is before they endorse.

But the words "smart" and "UFT leadership" do not sit well together, so they just may continue with the AFT/UFT pro-de Blasio strategy despite new information that suggests that strategy may be politically and practically short-sighted and ill-conceived.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Looks Like Criminal Charges Are Coming For Some De Blasio Cronies

Preet Bharara leaking to the NY Times:

Two separate grand juries in Manhattan have begun hearing testimony in connection with federal and state criminal investigations into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign fund-raising, according to several people with knowledge of the matters.

It was unclear whether either inquiry would result in criminal charges against the mayor, but the grand jury activity appeared to be the strongest indication since the investigations came to light in April that prosecutors may be moving closer to one or more indictments, possibly against some of Mr. de Blasio’s closest aides.

The inquiries have centered on Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, and several of his senior aides, according to the people with knowledge of the matter, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because grand jury proceedings are secret.

The state investigation has focused on whether the mayor, or those acting with him or on his behalf, violated state election law by raising hundreds of thousands of dollars through three upstate county committees and funneling it to Democratic candidates during the party’s unsuccessful 2014 bid to gain control of the State Senate.

The questions asked by state prosecutors in their grand jury presentations suggest their inquiry is in some measure centered on Emma Wolfe, Mr. de Blasio’s top political aide, Ross A. Offinger, who was then his campaign finance director, and Josh Gold, a union political operative who worked on the 2014 Senate effort, the people with knowledge of the inquiry said.

The federal investigation has examined whether Mr. de Blasio or his aides took beneficial action on behalf of donors in exchange for contributions they had made to his 2013 mayoral campaign, his political nonprofit or both in roughly a half-dozen instances, according to people with knowledge of that inquiry.

Preet doesn't leak this kind of shit without criminal charges coming soon after, so it's almost a done deal that Wolfe, Offinger, Gold or all three are going to get charged with something in the near future.

Whether de Blasio gets charged, difficult to say at this point - but one of the guy's turning state's evidence is the same guy who turned on Ed Mangano in Nassau County, so you never know.

Cuomo had a bunch of his cronies indicted but most New York City residents have no idea that happened - it didn't get much coverage in the media down here.

That's Cuomo - he leads a real charmed life.

If de Blasio's aides are charged, however, you can bet there'll be a free-for-all over it in the media and it will do real damage to de Blasio.

So far Sal Albanese has announced he's running for mayor and faux Democrat Tony Avella has set up a committee to explore a mayoral run.

I think if charges come for de Blasio's aides, we'll see more jump in the race.

The ones to watch are Scott Stringer and charter school shill Ruben Diaz Jr. - do either or both jump in if de Basio appears wounded by these grand jury investigations?

I would've had another charter school shill on the list for potential jump-in's but Congressman Hakeem Jeffries is now in a leadership position with House Democrats, so it's unlikely he jumps in.

We'll see how all this plays out, but once again, Preet's in the seat bringing more heat - and this time it's aiming at Bill de Blasio.

No matter what happens, I remain dubious about Diaz Jr. running as the clean candidate against de Blasio when he comes from a family with such a history of corruption.

But we'll see.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Brexit Redux

Dem elites and Clinton shills are already taking aim at Sanders people or Greens, blaming Trump's victory on them.

As usual with the elites and their functionaries, they miss the truth.

This is Brexit Redux:

And just so we can get the "The Greens did this!" bullshit out of the way:

Clinton shills did a lot of mocking this year, first the Sanders people during the primary, then the Trump supporters during the general.

One thing Clinton and her shills never did - try and understand the real pain and terror many in this country feel over their economic futures.

A lot of those people sent a big "Fuck You!" to the elites last night, though I think that will come back to bite them in the end.

A Republican president with a Republican Senate and a Republican House is going to do a lot of damage in the short term.

Add in all the crazies Trump is sure to bring along - Rudy, Christie, maybe Palin - and it's even worse.

As for the Supreme Court, that strategy Obama pursued doesn't look so hot now either - the chance to transform the Supreme Court is now lost to Dems.

Remember that union case that ended up 4-4 after Scalia died?

You can bet another case like that one is going to rear sooner rather than later and those automatic dues the union elites lap up will go out the window with Clinton's electoral map to victory.

It's going to be a very tough few years.

The "Fuck you!" sent last night, as with the one the British sent with Brexit, is going to be a costly one in the end.

But I blame Dem elites for this mess - this loss is squarely on HRC and her neoliberal cohorts.

This ought to be a wake-up call to Dem elites that neoliberalism must go and the party needs to embrace a true populist agenda.

But I'm under no illusions that Dem elites will learn the correct lessons from this.

They'll continue with the elite circle jerk and furiously blame "Bernie Bros" or Greens or "deplorables" instead of looking into the mirror and saying "Why have we embraced neo-liberalism, bringing about the de-industrialization of the country, the financialization of the economy and Trump to the White House?"

Monday, October 10, 2016

Odds On De Blasio's Re-Election

Telling statement from Hakeem Jeffries, charter school shill and oft-rumored Cuomo fave for running against de Blasio in a Democratic primary for mayor, in this Wall Street Journal piece on de Blasio's chances for re-election:

“Short of the investigations showing anything happening to Bill de Blasio, it’s not clear to me that he has anything to be concerned about with respect to his re-election,” said U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat who represents portions of Brooklyn and Queens. “It’s always difficult to unseat an incumbent when the economy and public safety numbers are not subject to heavy criticism.”

Sounds like Jeffries is going to stay in Congress, doesn't it?

Unless those investigations into de Blasio turn up something, of course - but no one seems to know what's going on with any of this:

Here's how the WSJ reports on potential challengers to de Blasio:

City Comptroller Scott Stringer, a Democrat, has privately told consultants and others that whether anyone is indicted has significant sway over whether he runs, people familiar with those discussions said. Mr. Stringer has said he wants to be ready to announce by the end of the year, but isn’t committed and is less likely to run if no one is charged, they said.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., another Democrat, also has expressed an interest in running but remains unsure if Mr. de Blasio is beatable, a person familiar with the matter said, and believes his chance at being competitive hinges in part on the investigations.

Mr. Jeffries said he is unlikely to run but would make a decision after November. Real-estate executive Paul Massey has said he would seek the Republican mayoral nomination, but it is unclear how formidable a GOP contender would be next year.

Diaz Jr has been investigated in the past by the feds and comes from a family with a history of corruption, so I remain skeptical that's the guy who gets to run successfully against de Blasio on the morals/ethics issue.

As for Massey, a real estate exec running for mayor of NYC? 

Good luck with that.

My thinking on that is, you want to be from a different industry with real estate money backing you to win (you know, like de Blasio...) 

If Jeffries doesn't run (and it sure sounds like he isn't), then only with Stringer do you have a realistic challenger to de Blasio, but until/unless we get more on the investigations in the next few months, Stringer's going to have to sit on his ambition and wait.

Post Cuomo administration indictments, I'm not convinced indictments of de Blasio staff and/or donors will be a fatal shiv for his re-election.

An indictment of the mayor himself would be.

Like everyone else, we'll just have to wait and see.

As a little tea leaf reading, a couple of weeks ago Preet made a de Blasio joke at a public function:

It seems that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s recent slapping of federal charges on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s closest associates in an alleged bid-rigging scheme has emboldened him to take jabs at just about everyone—right up to Mayor Bill de Blasio and his infamous affinity for traveling all the way to his old neighborhood of Park Slope to exercise at the YMCA during working hours.

Bharara was honored as “Newsmaker of the Decade” by City & State and served as keynote speaker at its 10th anniversary gala tonight at Vermilion Restaurant in Midtown Manhattan.

The federal prosecutor didn’t reference the case against Cuomo’s top lieutenants, but instead poked fun at another target of his recent investigations: de Blasio, who faces federal probes into his police department and defunct political nonprofits.

Bharara tweaked the mayor’s fondness for traveling 12 miles from his Gracie Mansion home to the Park Slope YMCA—a subject he hates to talk about—and his preference for eating pizza with utensils—known jokingly as “Forkgate.” He praised City & State for choosing Vermilion Restaurant as a venue, saying that he understood it to be “Indian fusion” which resonated well with him because “I’m kind of Indian fusion myself”—but he said de Blasio would prefer the gym if it were an event for him.

“If it had been Mayor de Blasio, we’d all be eating at the Park Slope YMCA,” Bharara said, as attendees shouted “Ooh!” and laughed raucously, “and we’d eat pizza with a knife and fork. It’s just jokes.”

Would Bharara be making Park Slope and pizza jokes about de Blasio if he were going to arrest him on corruption charges in the near future?

Seems weird, but maybe I'm overthinking it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Cuomo Helped Christie Cover Up Bridgegate By Conspiring To Issue A "False Report" For The Bridge Closures (UPDATED)

Bombshell testimony from government witness and former Christie ally David Wildstein today in the Bridgegate trial:

David Wildstein, a former top Port Authority official turned star witness in the Bridgegate trial, suggested in Tuesday testimony that Gov. Andrew Cuomo discussed with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie issuing false report on the nightmarish lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in 2013, according to reports.

Multiple outlets reported that Wildstein, who has pleaded guilty to his role in the lane closures, heard there were conversations between the two governors within a month after the incident and they agreed that Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye would approve a false report that blamed the closures on a communication breakdown and push blame onto the New Jersey side of the bi-state agency.

Such a report never was issued, though it was reported Tuesday that it was used for testimony before a legislative committee by former Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni.

Cuomo’s office did not immediately comment.

More details from the Daily News:

Gov. Cuomo directed the head of the Port Authority to "lay off" of an inquiry into the Bridgegate scandal until after the 2013 election following conversations with N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, a former PA official testified Tuesday.

David Wildstein, who has already pleaded guilty for his role in the September 2013 gridlock, said he had heard there had been "conversations" between the two governors after the Port Authority's executive director, Pat Foye, vowed to get to the bottom of the lane closures from Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge.

Cuomo and Christie had agreed in October 2013 that Foye would sign off on a bogus report on the closures in which the Port Authority would admit a communication breakdown resulted in Fort Lee being caught by surprise by an agency traffic study, Wildstein said.
Wildstein recalled saying it would be a "heavy lift" to get Foye to approve the report, but that he believed it could be done thanks to Cuomo.

"My understanding was Gov. Christie and Gov. Cuomo had discussed this, if the New Jersey side (of the PA) accepted responsibility, Foye would sign off on this and that would put an end to this issue," Wildstein said.

 This report would be issued, there would be an explanation to the public, the Port Authority would take responsibility for the failure in communication ... and the question of lane closures would go away."

Under cross examination by Kelly's attorney Michael Critchley, Wildstein agreed that Cuomo's order that Foye "stand down" and "lay off" was only in effect to Election Day in November 2013.

The day after the election, Wildstein said he was contacted by a reporter who identified him as the architect of the Bridgegate plan.

Wildstein told the court today that he believed Foye was behind that leak to the reporter.

Cuomo so far has not commented on this allegation, but if it's true, then Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic governor of New York, helped Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, to cover up the closure of the George Washington Bridge by knowingly sanctioning a false report about the reason for the closures.

Why would Cuomo do this?

Well, he was running for re-election next year, Christie was head of the Republican Governors Association, so by helping Christie out when he was running for re-election, Cuomo could expect to get help back from Christie in return when he was running the next year.

And that's exactly what happened - Christie mocked the Republican candidate for governor (Rob Astorino), withheld money and resources from the campaign and basically did all he could to help Cuomo win re-election.

At the time, many of us suspected that Cuomo and Christie had a non-aggression pact despite being in different parties.

We now have what appears to be definitive proof of that.

So, would be great to hear what Cuomo's excuse for helping Christie cover up Bridgegate would be, but the governor is whereabouts unknown and apparently his flying attack monkeys haven't come up with a good excuse yet to go public with.

We'll see how long we have to wait until they finally conjure up some bullshit excuse for Cuomo's helping Christie cover up Bridgegate.

UPDATE 2:15 PM: Didn't have to wait long:

Same old song - Deny, Deny, Deny.

Cuomo's on the witness list for the trial, so there's an outside chance he could be called to testify and put under oath where this kind of denial becomes perjury if proven false.

But best bet here is, he won't be called to testify, the NY legislature will do nothing about these allegations, Democratic and Republican politicians around the state will continue to defend/enable him  and he'll get away with his crimes, as he has since 2010.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Andrew Cuomo Is Either Corrupt Or Incompetent

That's Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin reacting to the various criminal charges levied against nine individuals with connections to Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday, including Cuomo's former top aide and all-around fixer, Joseph Percoco.

When you look closely at the criminal complaint unsealed yesterday, you notice that McLaughlin has an excellent point.

Percoco started soliciting bribes and favors even before his boss, Andrew, was elected governor and Cuomo himself was never far from the action, as this NY Times account makes clear:

Though rarely mentioned in the federal complaint, Mr. Cuomo hovers in the background of the narrative of his former aides’ misdeeds — and some of the more embarrassing revelations. Proximity to the governor and the executive chamber were the currency in which both Mr. Howe and Mr. Percoco traded, often by invoking Mr. Cuomo’s name or exploiting his presence.

In October 2010, for example, as Mr. Cuomo was running for governor, Peter Galbraith Kelly, Jr., chief lobbyist for a power company that was seeking state assistance for its plant in the Hudson Valley, arranged for the company to donate a private jet to fly Mr. Cuomo and his staff to campaign events, the complaint says. It was all part of Mr. Kelly’s bid to ingratiate himself with Mr. Percoco, according to the complaint, as it became increasingly apparent that Mr. Cuomo would be elected.

At various points, the complaint says, Mr. Howe and Mr. Percoco referred to generous donors and clients of Mr. Howe’s as “friends,” short for “friends of the governor” — people who, it seemed, could expect special treatment from the governor’s inner circle. In March 2015, according to the complaint, Mr. Howe and Mr. Percoco set up a meeting for Mr. Kelly with the governor’s secretary, a central figure in the executive chamber.

“As Joe told you, Braith is ‘family,’” Mr. Howe wrote to the secretary, referring to Mr. Kelly’s nickname, the complaint says.

In early 2014, Steven Aiello, president of the Syracuse-area developer COR Development Company, another “friend” and major donor to Mr. Cuomo, was scheduled to meet with Mr. Percoco at the governor’s office in Midtown Manhattan, according to the complaint. Mr. Howe emailed Mr. Percoco, employing an affectionate nickname the two men often used for each other, “Herb,” and dropping in a “Sopranos” reference to ziti as a slang for money: “Lay it on thick, govs loves you … Lay it on heAvy Herbie! Zitti herb! Zitti!!”

Thus prompted, the complaint continues, Mr. Percoco replied that he might have Mr. Cuomo drop by the meeting to say hello. Mr. Howe told investigators that Mr. Percoco did this so he could pressure Mr. Aiello later for more bribes.

The governor’s name came up again in September 2015, according to the complaint, when Mr. Aiello complained to Mr. Howe that he had not been invited to attend Mr. Cuomo’s events during a planned trip to Syracuse. After Mr. Percoco intervened, Mr. Aiello was asked to give the governor a tour of a new hotel he was building in the city.

The coziness depicted in the complaint makes it difficult for some to believe that Mr. Cuomo did not know something was amiss.

“It’s unrealistic with an adviser that was this close to the governor, that the governor doesn’t know what was going on,” said Doug Kellogg, a spokesman for Reclaim New York, a good-government group. Or, if Mr. Cuomo truly did not know, Mr. Kellogg added, “It’s a sign that he’s not minding the store.”

The line out today from Cuomo shills is that Cuomo was clean while he was betrayed by his friends, associates and donors in these matters, but he will now use these betrayals as impetus to push for a cleaner Albany.

But that line is horseshit.

Either Cuomo knew part or all of what was going on under his nose and chose to look the other way (how about those "free" private jet flights back in October 2010, Andy?) or he didn't know and was a) a terrible judge of the character of the people around him and b) incompetent in his stewardship of his administration and its signature economic initiatives (which appear to have been run more to line the pockets of his friends, associates and donors than actually provide any economic development.)

Given Cuomo's reputation as a micromanager with his fingers on everything going on around him, it's difficult to believe Cuomo didn't have some inkling of the games Percoco, Howe, Kaloyeros, et al. were playing and the money and favors that were rolling their way.

Yesterday U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was asked if the governor was in any trouble for any of this and he replied with a statement that basically said "No - not yet, at any rate":

“What I can say at this moment is that there are no allegations of any wrongdoing or misconduct by the governor anywhere in this complaint. That’s all I’m going to say.”

That's not exactly a clean bill of health for the governor from the U.S. attorney and while multiple outlets have run stories today with the headline that Cuomo's skating on criminal charges while many around him are not, there remains the possibility that one or more of those guys arrested yesterday decides to tell tales on the governor and give a blueprint for where all the bodies are buried in the Cuomo administration.

Even if that doesn't happen, Cuomo ought to be finished politically, as it's quite clear that his "effective" and "ethical" stewardship of the state government is neither of those things.

But as is always the case with Cuomo, he's searching for ways to survive and thrive - thus an appearance in Buffalo today and the line out of his shills about how Cuomo will use these arrests as motivation to clean up state government.

He cannot be allowed to get away with that nonsense.

Andrew Cuomo was either complicit in the corruption in his administration or he was ignorant of it, in which case he is an incompetent fool.

The only way the cesspool that is Albany gets even a bit cleaner from all the corruption is when Andrew Cuomo is finally shown the door and kicked out of office and power.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Preetmas Eve

Various outlets on the Cuomo corruption story today - first the NY Times:

Federal corruption charges were announced on Thursday against two former close aides to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a senior state official and six other people, in a devastating blow to the governor’s innermost circle and a repudiation of how his prized upstate economic development programs were managed.

The charges against the former aides, Joseph Percoco and Todd R. Howe, and the state official, Alain Kaloyeros, were the culmination of a long-running federal investigation into the Cuomo administration’s attempts to lure jobs and businesses to upstate New York’s limping economy by furnishing billions of dollars in state funds to developers from Buffalo to Albany. Mr. Howe is cooperating with the investigation, according to a 79-page criminal complaint unsealed on Thursday.

The charges stemmed from “two overlapping criminal schemes involving bribery, corruption and fraud in the award of hundreds of millions of dollars in state contracts and other official state benefits,” federal prosecutors said in the complaint.

Politico NY:

ALBANY— Alain Kaloyeros, the now former CEO of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, has been charged with three felony counts in connection to an alleged bid-rigging scheme, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Thursday.

The complaint against Kaloyeros, 60, alleges he steered, or agreed to steer, the awarding of contracts to favorable companies, including Columbia Development, a real estate firm with extensive ties to the Capital Region.
The complaint alleges Kaloyeros improperly used the Request for Proposal process to direct contracts to certain firms for the construction of facilities for SUNY Poly. 
“A year-long investigation by my office found that Alain Kaloyeros allegedly used his perch atop SUNY Polytechnic [and] engaged in brazen bid-rigging, using taxpayer dollars and abusing his power to enrich himself and his cronies,” Schneiderman said at a press conference in Manhattan. “According to our criminal complaint, Kaloyeros gave insider information to friends and fixed the bidding process to ensure his cronies lucrative contracts, funded in part by the state of New York.
Kaloyeros, who is expected to be arraigned in Albany City Court on Friday, has been charged with three felony counts of Combination in Restraint of Trade and Competition. Joseph Nicolla, the head of Columbia Development, has been charged with one felony count of of Combination in Restraint of Trade and Competition and is expected to be arraigned on Monday.

Bharara was asked if Cuomo himself has any involvement in the case by a reporter who noted that he had once issued a statement absolving the governor of wrongdoing in connection with the early demise of the corruption-busting Moreland Commission. His reply:
“What I can say at this moment is that there are no allegations of any wrongdoing or misconduct by the governor anywhere in this complaint. That’s all I’m going to say.”
When pressed on whether it’s “realistic” to believe that the governor, who has a reputation of being something of a micromanager, did not know what his top aide was up to, Bharara said simply: “It’s not my job to comment on what is realistic or unrealistic.”

Bharara also said that this investigation, “as a general matter,” remains open.

Politically there's going to be some serious fallout for Cuomo and he's never going to want Sandra Lee to make "ziti" every again, but he appears to be skating on criminal charges, at least for now.

Whether that changes as a result of any of the fellows charged today dishing dirt on him, we'll just have to wait and see.

In any case Happy Preetmas Eve everybody.

Next up in the NY Corruption Season - Bill de Blasio and those donors.

Former Cuomo Aide Joe Percoco, Others To Face Corruption Charges Related To Andrew Cuomo's Economic Development Projects


Federal authorities plan to unseal charges against a former top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo as early as Thursday in connection with an alleged bribery and kickback scheme involving the governor’s signature economic-development program, according to people familiar with the matter.
In addition to the former aide, Joseph Percoco, the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan intends to bring public-corruption charges against a number of other individuals in connection with the wide-ranging investigation, these people said.

The precise nature of the charges against Mr. Percoco, who for decades was one of Mr. Cuomo’s most senior aides and closest friends, wasn’t immediately clear.

For months, Mr. Percoco has been at the center of a probe by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office concerning allegations of bribery and kickbacks in connection with an economic-development program known as the Buffalo Billion, which Mr. Cuomo has lauded as having revived the sleepy upstate economy.

Since the investigation became public in April, Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, has distanced himself from Mr. Percoco and ordered an internal review of the Buffalo Billion program. A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening.

And the fallout for Cuomo:

The probe and expected charges represent the most significant political crisis Mr. Cuomo has faced since he took office in 2011, in part because they are linked to some of his signature programs and major donors, but also because of the alleged involvement of Mr. Percoco in particular.

For years, Mr. Percoco has been one of the governor’s most trusted allies, an individual so tight with the Cuomo family that the governor once described him as “my father’s third son, who sometimes I think he loved the most.”

If anybody knows where some of the Andrew Cuomo administration bodies are buried, it would be Joe Percoco, Mario's "third son."

Some reaction:

Who else will be indicted?

Perhaps Percoco's wife, who also was being investigated for funky payments from one of the companies involved.

SUNY Poly's Alain Kaloyeros was getting looked at as well as part of the investigation, but whether he's part of today's show is uncertain.

I suspect if Kaloyeros were going to go down today, he'd have been part of the leak.

Definitely Todd Howe, who has been cooperating with the feds in the matter, to be charged - the NY Times reports half a dozen people are going to be charged today in all.

As for Andrew Cuomo, the damage to his administration will be big, though probably not fatal.

This is Cuomo's signature economic development program that Percoco and Company were using as their personal cash box and Cuomo, Mr. Accountability himself, had no idea (or so he says) this was going on.

At the very least, the political damage is that Cuomo was not paying attention as those closest to him (Percoco and former Cuomo aide/now cooperating with the feds lobbyist Todd Howe) were engaging in bribery/kickback schemes and other shenanigans.

The NY Times described the fallout for Cuomo as

a devastating blow to the governor’s innermost circle and a repudiation of how his prized upstate economic development programs were managed, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

There remains the possibility that Percoco can be squeezed for what he knows about Cuomo and all those donors (the pattern has been: Donate to Cuomo, Get Contract/Favor in return), though I suspect if that were going to happen, there might already be indication of that in a leak.

In any case, going to be a fun day if you've been waiting for the Cuomo economic development project bribery/kickback/corruption investigation season to finally kick off.

One final point: with Bharara finally making a move on Percoco, I wouldn't be surprised if we don't get some action on one or more of the various de Blasio corruption probes in the very near future.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Cuomo Approaches Teacher Evaluations With Same Illiteracy He Uses For His Economic Development Programs

It's been quite the couple of weeks for Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo, who likes to spend his days finding new ways to torture Bill de Blasio, found himself on the end of some of his own torture in the form of state and federal audits of some of his signature economic development programs as well as a legislative hearing that laid bare the failures of another one of his signature economic development programs.

First came state audits conducted by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli which were critical of Cuomo's economic development program compliance and accountability mechanisms:

The governor escalated yet another feud with yet another fellow Democrat after an unrelated press conference in the Bronx this afternoon. Responding to a series of unflattering summertime analyses of his signature programs, Cuomo bashed DiNapoli’s two-decade tenure representing parts of Nassau County in the Assembly and argued that history discredited the comptroller’s assessments.

The governor did not specifically attack any particular proposals the comptroller voted on in Albany but insisted the Assembly had been “part of the problem” and had “basically abandoned upstate New York.”

Cuomo’s slap at DiNapoli was a reaction to the comptroller’s findings earlier this month that the New York Power Authority, which was supposed to dispense power to struggling nonprofits and entrepreneurs at discounted rates under the governor’s Recharge NY program, had made numerous errors when assessing applicants’ eligibility. This meant noncompliant entities got cheap electricity from the state anyway, while groups that qualified for the program were barred from participating.

The governor appoints the power authority’s entire board.

That audit followed the comptroller’s July takedown of the Empire State Development Corporation, another Cuomo-controlled public-private venture, and its Excelsior jobs program. DiNapoli found that the development corporation had repeatedly handed out large tax breaks to companies without obtaining the necessary documentation to corroborate their eligibility or productivity.

Cuomo claimed DiNapoli's audits were not quantifiable but were instead "opinions":

“What you’re getting in an audit is that person’s opinion, right?” the governor said. “Sometimes I agree, sometimes I disagree, because it is only an opinion.”

Except that the state audits weren't "opinions":

The comptroller’s audits of Recharge NY and the Excelsior program were, in fact, based on numbers and hard data his office obtained from the NYPA and ESDC, from the businesses they worked with, and on eligibility requirements Cuomo’s own initiatives established. A DiNapoli spokeswoman refused to respond to the governor’s personal attacks.

“The reports completed by our professional auditors speak loudly for themselves,” said Jennifer Freedman, communications director for the comptroller.

Nice work by the governor there to take an audit based on numbers and hard data from Cuomo-controlled entities like NYPA and ESDC and turn them into "opinions", eh?

Later on, Cuomo tried a diversionary tactic to defend against the state audit findings:

Facing numerous analyses showing his signature jobs programs misallocated resources and put few New Yorkers to work, Gov. Andrew Cuomo argued today that any such assessments are only a matter of political point of view.

Speaking after an unrelated event in the Bronx, the governor defended his attacks last week on state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who released unflattering audits of two Cuomo programs this summer. The governor again insisted that those findings were just DiNapoli’s opinions, opinions which are open to debate given the comptroller’s history as an assemblyman from Long Island.
“I said these are matters where people give their opinion. I have certain opinions that are my opinions. I believe in marriage equality, right? I believe in $15 as a minimum wage. You could not believe—there are assemblymen who don’t agree with me, there are senators who don’t agree with me on the minimum wage. And if they write a report, they’re going to say my minimum wage idea was a bad idea, because they disagree with it. And that’s fine—that’s democracy. And assemblymen take positions during the course of their tenure. And some people support minimum wage, some people don’t support minimum wage. Some people don’t support economic development. There are people in the Assembly who say there is no economic development possible, leave it to the private sector. So you get opinions,” the governor said. “It’s a matter of opinion on many of these issues, and there’s no right or wrong. That’s why we have elections; that’s why we have debates. Donald Trump thinks one thing. Hillary Clinton thinks another thing.”

How any of this commentary was relevant to the Observer’s specific question about DiNapoli, a well-known liberal Democrat, is unclear. The audits the comptroller’s office produced had nothing to do with gay marriage or with the state’s new pay floors, but with Cuomo’s Recharge NY and Excelsior programs.

Of course none of that nonsense Cuomo spewed about the minimum wage or gay marriage had anything to do with the questions about the state audits and Cuomo's lame defense that they were "opinions."

Rather this nonsense was pure diversionary tactic - "Hey, look over there!  Gay marriage! Minimum wage hike!  Whee!  Yayy Cuomo!" - not a reasoned defense of his economic development programs to the scathing audit findings.

And again, as Will Bredderman at the Observer shows, DiNapoli's audits were anything but opinion:

Recharge NY, run through the Cuomo-controlled New York Power Authority, was supposed to dispense power to struggling nonprofits and entrepreneurs at discounted rates. But DiNapoli’s auditors found NYPA had made numerous errors when assessing applicants’ eligibility—meaning noncompliant entities got cheap electricity from the state anyway, while groups that qualified for the program were barred from participating.

The governor appoints the power authority’s entire board.

That audit followed the comptroller’s July takedown of the Excelsior jobs program, run through the Empire State Development Corporation, another Cuomo-controlled public private entity, and its Excelsior jobs program. DiNapoli discovered that the development corporation had repeatedly handed out large tax breaks to companies without obtaining the necessary documentation to corroborate their eligibility or productivity.

The comptroller’s audits of Recharge NY and the Excelsior program were based on numbers and hard data his office obtained from the NYPA and ESDC, from the businesses they worked with, and on eligibility requirements Cuomo’s own initiatives established.

But hey, what's some hard data and numbers taken from Cuomo's own entities when you can be diverting with some nonsense about gay marriage?

Cuomo tried a similar nonsensical defense with a federal audit this week that found New York State wasted $22 million dollars in Sandy funds:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo slammed President Barack Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development today for alleging New York mishandled $22.4 million in hurricane relief funds from Washington—insisting that his administration understands federal law better than Obama’s.

Cuomo, a Democrat who headed HUD during the Clinton administration, lashed out at an audit by Obama’s inspector general for the agency while addressing the press after an unrelated event in the Bronx this morning. IG David Montoya’s office found that Cuomo’s  Office of Tourism and Marketing did a poor job meeting the requirements of the block grant money it received in the aftermath of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy.

But the governor argued that Montoya and his staff don’t understand HUD rules.

“Some federal person, entity, did an audit. We believe they misread the law, and misread the regulations, about how the funding should be spent, and so we’re contesting their opinion,” he said, boasting of his administration’s response to the disaster. “During Hurricane Sandy, we expended billions and billions of dollars, literally. In the handling of the emergency and the construction and the aftermath, trying to get people to come back to the effected communities. So I’m very proud of what the state did.”

So what did the federal audit find?

In particular, Montoya’s auditors discovered that the state handed millions for marketing and promotions to the Empire State Development Corporation—a Cuomo-run public-private organization—and the city of Long Beach on Long Island without first obtaining an independent analysis of the costs of their respective programs. It also determined the state did not get sufficiently detailed budgets from either ESDS or Long Beach on how the federal dollars would get spent.
“State officials did not always establish and maintain financial and administrative controls to ensure efficient and effective program administration,” the audit report reads. “We attribute these conditions to State officials not placing sufficient emphasis on ensuring compliance with all procurement requirements.”

Montoya’s office brushed off Cuomo’s criticism.

“We believe that the audit speaks for itself, period,” said spokesman Darryl J. Madden. “Throughout the audit process the state was given ample opportunity to comment on our findings and results.”

Another scathing audit, this time federal, but same lame defense tactic from Cuomo - the audit's bullshit, it wasn't done right, we did everything we were supposed to do, etc.

But notice, Cuomo never uses any facts, figures or hard data in his defense against these audits - all we get are personal attacks and diversionary tactics.

The audits came on the heels of a legislative hearing that took another signature Cuomo economic development program to task - the infamous START-UP NY program:

ALBANY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo's top economic-development official on Wednesday bemoaned a wave of skepticism surrounding Start-Up NY, a state program that created just 408 new jobs in its first two years despite a $53 million advertising campaign.

Over more than two hours of questioning, a bipartisan group of state Assembly members grilled Empire State Development President and CEO Howard Zemsky about the much-debated jobs program at a hearing Wednesday on the state's efforts to boost its economy.

Zemsky was defiant as lawmakers repeatedly questioned the effectiveness of the Start-Up program, which allows qualifying businesses to operate free of state and local taxes for a decade if they set up shop in pre-determined zones, mostly at State University of New York campuses.

He repeatedly characterized Start-Up as a single "tool" in the state's economic-development "toolbox" and suggested criticism of the program is outsized and unfounded.

Cuomo and state lawmakers approved the Start-Up program in 2013, and the state spent $53 million promoting it with television advertisements in and out of state in 2014 and early 2015. The governor referred to the program as a potential "game-changer" and "catalyst for economic development" in upstate New York.

Empire State Development, which oversees the program, faced significant criticism after it was three months late in releasing a required annual report on Start-Up's progress.

That report, which was ultimately released on the Friday evening ahead of the July 4 weekend, showed the program created 332 new jobs in 2015, on top of 76 in its first year. The legally required information on Start-Up was confined to a few pages and a footnote within a broader report on the state's economic development program.

$53 million dollars, 408 jobs - but the Cuomo administration defends the program, calling criticism of the program outsized and unfounded.

Let's see, $53 million divided by 408 is $129,901 a job - yeah, that's quite an achievement in economic development.

How anybody defends that kind of program with a straight face is beyond me, but that's what you have to do if you're a member of the Cuomo administration and you've got all these failures on your hands and independent officials and/or entities scrutinizing them (as opposed to the Cuomo shills Cuomo is used to having prop up his record for him.)

In addition to all of this, the criminal investigation into another Cuomo economic development program, the Buffalo Billion Project, continues apace, with one former Cuomo crony, Todd Howe, reported to have dropped a dime on other Cuomo cronies, including former top Cuomo aide Joe Percoco and SUNY Poly head Alain Kaloyeros.

When the indictments in that case come down, Cuomo will be the subject of another scathing expose into his economic development program expertise, this one at the hands of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, but I'm sure we'll get defense tactics out of Cuomo similar to the one's detailed above here.

Which brings me, finally, to my point about teacher evaluations here in New York State under Governor Cuomo.

Not so long ago, Cuomo claimed the old teacher evaluation system in New York State was too easy for teachers, not enough teachers were being declared ineffective and the whole thing needed an overhaul.

So, overhaul it got, though no one is quite sure what the overhaul has in it - Cuomo used the same numerical illiteracy he uses in his economic development programs for this new "scientific" teacher evaluation system.

And the best catch is, budget funds for schools are tied to the whole mess: 

School districts are still on the hook to evaluate every teacher, the results can still be used to make decisions about educators’ futures, and a 2015 law is about to require a host of new rules. And with just days left in this year’s legislative session, it’s becoming clear that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has little desire to see that change.

“This is a major issue that is right now going ignored,” State Senator Todd Kaminsky said. “People are saying it’s a time-out and it’s not.”

The strange situation came about because legislators passed a law overhauling the state’s teacher evaluation system last year to put more emphasis on state tests — and then education policymakers walked it back, banning state test results from being used altogether.

Lawmakers were responding to Cuomo’s view that too many teachers were earning top ratings. The state education department was listening to a growing movement of educators and parents upset about the growing influence of state tests.

In the end, the state education department decided teachers would get two evaluations. Next year, one will include state test scores but have no consequences. The real evaluations will use different metrics and can affect teacher tenure and firing.

Within those frameworks, districts and their teachers unions will have to agree on key details and those negotiations are ongoing.

“We are working with districts across the state to support their efforts as they complete their contract negotiations and to provide them as much flexibility as possible within the law,” State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said.

But many had hoped that lawmakers would agree to scrap the universally unpopular 2015 law by now, making it unnecessary for districts to negotiate the details of the two new plans at all. So far, that hasn’t happened — and since there are just three days left in the legislative session, few think change is on the way.

“The big hangup is obviously the governor’s office,” said Assemblyman Edward Ra, who supports repealing last year’s law. “It really creates a little bit of a mess for everybody.” (Officials from Cuomo’s office did not say whether the governor would support changes to teacher evaluations.)
Now, it’s up to school districts like New York City to work out the details of new evaluation plans with their teachers unions. Barring a big change in the next few days, they are facing a tight timeline: They need an agreement by Sept. 1 or they risk losing state funds.
What a mess - a Cuomo-created mess - and yet, somehow this child-man remains in power, wasting hundreds of millions of dollars, issuing idiotic attacks and lame defenses when those expenditures are scrutinized, and continuing on to do more an more damage to the state.

One thing is pretty certain from all of this:

We have yet to get an independent audit of Cuomo's education policies that he's imposed on the state via the budget process (including teacher evaluations), but you can bet that if/when we get one, it will be as scathing as the ones we got on his economic development programs.