Winners & Losers 10/30/15
This weekend is great for both winners and losers. For example, if you gracefully announce your retirement from the Board of Regents, you’ll be sure to meet a ton of well-wishers at the Halloween party. And if you’re down 52 points with less than a week to go in a state Senate race? Well, just cover your face with a mask and hope the candy will make you feel better.
Steven L. Aaron - Aaron’s firm, Birchez Associates, appears to have gotten its house in order ever since Andrew Cuomo became governor. People and organizations connected with Aaron have collectively donated more than a quarter of a million dollars to Cuomo’s campaign beginning in 2010. And ever since, Birchez-affiliated affordable housing projects have beat out project proposals government officials ranked higher, garnering generous state-administered funding and benefits. What an odd coincidence!
John Katko – The process to replace the I-81 viaduct in downtown Syracuse has been about as long as the interstate itself and, considering the state’s aging infrastructure, about as rough as it. But first-term Rep. John Katko scored a big win this week when a long-term federal highway bill was approved by the House of Representatives that will ensure funding for the I-81 project. Now key officials just need to decide what they’re going to do at the site.
Josh Mohrer – Uber New York's general manager is gaining a foothold in upstate as Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown gave the company his verbal stamp of approval in its bid to change a state law that prohibits the ride-sharing service from operating without the OK from individual municipalities. In addition, the company should have no problem finding drivers should it open in New York’s second largest city. An informational session in Buffalo this week brought in 400 potential drivers. Barring a tough fight from the small cab interests in Buffalo and other upstate cities, it’s likely just a matter of time before the king of ride-sharing expands its empire.
Linda Rosenthal and Kemp Hannon – She’s a self-professed “big animal champion” from the Upper West Side. He’s a Long Islander who hosts a yearly photo contest with cute pets. Together, the two state lawmakers convinced the governor to sign a mostly popular pooch policy allowing dogs at outdoor restaurants and bars. But don’t get Uber to send you kittens just yet, Linda. The law is just for the dogs.
Merryl Tisch – The state Regents chancellor has been on the receiving end of lots of screaming and hatred from parents and education stakeholders in the wake of the state's early adoption of the controversial Common Core education standards, but the chancellor has not wavered from her support of tougher standards and education reform. Now, in announcing she will not seek another term on the board this week, she appears to have astutely orchestrated her final months in charge, allowing her to focus on her mission without the cloud of reelection overshadowing her every move. Plus, she got a glowing review in the Daily News.
Eva Moskowitz – The line from Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter school network was always that its high test scores were not the result of careful student selection, but a new Times report calls that into question. As it turns out, some students are pressured to leave -- and documents back it up, include a “Got to Go” list of students at one school. And earlier in the week, the city comptroller complained that Moskowitz’s network was the only pre-K provider to refuse to sign an oversight contract. The only thing that could have made the week worse is if she had actually decided to go ahead with run for mayor.
David Gantt – It's never good when you wake up in the morning, open your hometown paper and read the headline that the city has demolished your house. Now, it wasn’t really the assemblyman's house anymore – but that's because the city took it over when he stopped paying property taxes and foreclosed on him, then spent another $26,000 to raze the structure. For Gantt, these are the type of details you don’t want your constituents reading.
Barbara Fiala – You think the Mets are going to have a hard time coming back in the World Series? They have nothing on Barbara Fiala, who according to a new poll is now trailing her opponent Fred Akshar by 52 points in the special election to fill Tom Libous’ vacated state Senate seat. It seems like only yesterday Fiala had a chance at being a real contender, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s strong support, but he has completely disappeared – and so to have her chances.
Kriner Cash – What has the recently-appointed superintendent of Buffalo Public Schools stepped into? Just months into his tenure, Cash is trying to resolve an investigation from the U.S, Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights that has caused a clash pitting administrators and the school board against the feds and a consultant. The superintendent has tried to pull together a response to the investigation from the warring factions, which is due Friday, as the squabbling continues. He may be well paid, but we wonder if it’s worth all the trouble.
Rob Astorino – The 2014 GOP gubernatorial candidate may want to rethink any “Rob the reformer” slogans planned for 2018. When questioned what Astorino's Reform Party stood for, his team said it would repeal the Common Core, institute term limits and implement other ethics reforms. Apparently, campaign finance reform was not what he had in mind, given that the party took in a single, $107,900 contribution from an LLC, Municipal Safety Research, which has not registered with the state, as required. Astorino said he does not know much about the donor. But just take Astorino's word for it – the contribution was “above board.”