There’s only one more day until the holidays, but we’re already dreaming dreams that never die – of a functional state government. But there could be empty chairs at empty tables if minimum wage increases fail, making Democrats beggars at the feast. Will legislators spend a night of anguish in their castle on a cloud? Tomorrow you’ll be far away, tomorrow is the judgment day, but here’s our winners and losers, one day more.
Andrea Stewart-Cousins - The Westchester legislator became the first woman to lead a legislative conference when she trounced former Senate Minority Leader John Sampson in a 19-6 vote on Monday. Stewart-Cousins may not have the influence that co-leaders Jeff Klein and Dean Skelos will have in the state capitol, but she’s already earning widespread praise for her professionalism and personality. She’s even charmed the governor. And if the power-sharing agreement between Republicans and the Independent Democratic Conference fizzles, she could be in a position to lead a majority conference sooner than the next election cycle.
Michael Bloomberg - If you had any doubt that Michael Bloomberg is America’s mayor before now, that has been erased. Hizzoner has railed against the gun lobby for as long as he has been in office, but after the mass murder of 28 individuals including 20 children at a Connecticut elementary school last Friday, the nation may finally be listening. Bloomberg has been urging the passage of a federal assault weapons ban and gone to the airwaves to put forward his arguments. Gun rights advocates, including the NRA, are on the defensive and the mayor has vowed to keep fighting well beyond the end of his term in office — and to use the full force of his fortune to prevail.
Joe Lhota - The brash chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is in the spotlight again, confirming that he will step down from his job and explore a run for mayor on the Republican ticket. He’s earned accolades from the business community, politicians, and the media, which would have knighted the man if they could for getting the transit system up and running a week after the worst storm to hit the city in a century. And Democratic contenders are taking his musings seriously. Yes, he makes the trains run on time, but in a city that takes its transit seriously that’s as good a place as any to start a mayoral candidacy.
Kevin Parker - This pol knows how to dance his way out of a jam – and he finally won an award for it. Parker and his dance partner received perfect scores in the annual Dancing with the New York Stars charity event this week, easily defeating his friend and colleague, John Sampson. He threw his weight around and brought the crowd to its feet with a torrent of old-school hip-hop moves that earned 10s from a panel of celebrity judges. Perhaps dance-offs will supplant karaoke night in Albany this session, as long as Parker leads the way.
Harvey Stenger and Tom Tranter - The Binghamton University president and Corning CEO hauled in an impressive $91 million in development funds this week, thanks to an innovative proposal for boosting the Southern Tier’s economy. It’s a surprising but well-deserved turnaround for the region, which could certainly use the cash. The tier collected only $49.4 million in aid last year despite seeking flood recovery assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. This year, the pitch was much stronger. And Tranter’s Corning Inc. will get $3 million for a new facility to make emission control products for diesel engines that will emit less pollution than in the past. Not bad for a year’s work.
Sal Albanese – We know, most of you are saying “who?” Hence, Albanese gets a spot on this list. The former Brooklyn councilman thought he saw an opening in an already cluttered field of mayoral candidates and threw his hat in the ring, only to be completely overshadowed by Joe Lhota’s resignation from the MTA and subsequent speculation of a possible mayoral run on the GOP ticket. Sal’s had some rotten luck with running for mayor, finishing third in the 1997 primary and dropping out of the race in 2001, and we’re thinking maybe third time is not a charm in 2013. He played up his “Independent” streak as a legislator, so maybe he can distinguish himself from the rest of the liberal to moderate Dems in the race and fill that Bloomberg vacuum…Right, guys?
Donald Groth – For a brief shining moment, Groth probably thought that Gov. Cuomo—in a show of holiday spirit—might sign legislation to bring off-track betting back to New York, and allow his Catskill OTB company to flourish once again. Alas, Cuomo played the Grinch and vetoed the bill, calling it an “ad hoc gambling expansion” and leaving Groth feeling just a bit salty over the whole ordeal. Groth criticized Cuomo for killing the bill and over 1000 jobs along with it, and called for the legislature to override the Gov’s veto in a special session. There’s a better chance of Santa coming down our chimney than the legislature convening before the New Year just to back this bill, but if there’s ever a season to make wishes…
Ruth Hassell-Thompson - Hassell-Thompson was reportedly one of six senators who voted for John Sampson to stay on as leader, and now she could be the next to get the boot as a chairperson of the conference. In an email, Sen. Ruben Diaz called openly for new Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins to remove Hassell-Thompson as chairperson, saying that one of Sampson’s downfalls as leader was letting Hassel-Thompson “do as she pleased” and Diaz noted her “heavy handedness” and lack of respect for her colleagues. It’s unclear whether this is the opinion of one disgruntled colleague or the consensus of most of the Democratic senators, but it paints a more vivid picture of the dysfunction within the conference, and Hassell-Thompson may very well be the next domino to fall.
Thomas Madison – The executive director of the state Thruway Authority was put in a no-win situation as Madison was lambasted for proposing a 45 percent increase in tolls for all trucks, only to pull the toll hike off the table and leave the authority with a sizeable revenue gap. Now, the Thruway Authority is faced with eliminating up to 361 jobs, cutting overtime and travel, as well as freezing the pay of the Authority’s managers. We understand that as director of a powerful authority you sometimes have to make the tough decisions, but we’re gonna go out on a limb and say that when deciding between appeasing truckers or laying off hundreds of your staff just to get a solid credit rating, you probably made the wrong choice. Good luck with that credit rating, though.
John Sampson – Sampson’s controversial tenure as leader of the Senate Democratic conference came to an end this week, as the Dems gave him the boot in favor of his colleague Andrea Stewart-Cousins. While Sampson certainly had his flaws and was not immune to controversy, he was partially victimized by the turncoats in his own conference that transformed what could have been a Democratic majority in the senate into a strange coalition government that left Sampson on the outside looking in. And not to pile it on, but Sampson was also completely outshined in a dance-off by Sen. Kevin Parker, despite Sampson reportedly practicing tirelessly to win the competition. Silver lining: maybe now that he’s stripped of his leadership responsibilities, he can work even harder on his moves.
Tags: Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Andrew Cuomo, Catskill OTB, Corning, Dean Skelos, Donald Groth, Harvey Stenger, Jeff Klein, joe lhota, John Sampson, Kevin Parker, Michael Bloomberg, ruben-diaz, Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Sal Albanese, Thomas Madison, Thruway Authority, Tom Tranter