Winners and Losers 06/20/14
Winners and Losers 06/20/14
Is it time for politics yet? The policy side of things in Albany are set to wrap up today as the legislative session comes to a close, opening the gates for campaign season. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves—it was quite the week across the state. Medical marijuana is poised to pass; the 10-point Women’s Equality Act is not. Malcolm Smith scored a mistrial; the former CFO of the Met Council is headed to jail. Bill de Blasio honorably held up his end of a hockey bet and sang on “Jimmy Kimmel Live;” we had to listen to Bill de Blasio sing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” It was yet another week full of winners and losers:
Phil Boyle - The Assembly may already have been exploring ways to combat heroin abuse, but the Senate seized ownership of the issue with a series of hearings around the state, a comprehensive report and the passage of nearly two dozen bills to tackle the growing epidemic. And at the forefront of that effort was state Sen. Phil Boyle, who chaired the Senate's task force and was on hand when the governor announced a landmark legislative deal, one of the last major accomplishments this session.
Andrew Cuomo - It’s good to be gov. Early in the week Cuomo got to take credit for Moody’s upgrading the state’s credit rating (four on-time budgets—the budget grand slam, if you will—helps). By Wednesday the governor got to sit at the table in the Red Room with legislative leaders—his first Red Room presser since the aforementioned budget grand slam was announced—to announce a package of laws to curb heroin and opioid addiction and set the agenda for what he wanted to see get done before the Legislature left. And as if there was any doubt that what Cuomo wants, Cuomo gets, he was announcing deals for medical marijuana and teacher evaluations Thursday afternoon. Bonus win: Cuomo got a real hockey puck from the New York Rangers, some of whom visited Albany Wednesday, to replace the budget hat trick puck he had to give Jerry Brown.
Louis Kestenbaum - Third time’s a charm, right? Kestenbaum’s Fortis Property Group is the latest company to reach an agreement with the state to operate Brooklyn’s Long Island College Hospital, though community advocates will inevitably be disappointed as Fortis plans to build luxury housing in place of the medical center, with some smaller scale healthcare facilities on site. The LICH saga has been a debacle of great proportions, even months after Mayor de Blasio hailed a now-scuttled deal for a previous LICH operator as “historic.” For the politically-connected Kestenbaum, however, the deal only further cements his relationships in city and state government.
Diane Savino and Dick Gottfried - These two legislators deserve joint honors after finally hashing out a heady deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the last day of the sesh to create a comprehensive medical marijuana program after months of negotiations. Cuomo threatened to be a buzz kill and vaporize the bill it if allowed the drug to be smoked, but the lawmakers caved on this sticky point. They also agreed that the bill will sunset in seven years and gave Cuomo the power to suspend or terminate any provisions of the bill based on recommendations of his health department commissioner. When they open in 18 months, look for the state's first dispensaries to be carrying "Cannabis Savina" and "Got Fried?" strains of weed in appreciation of these two buds' successful advocacy.
Malcolm Smith - Is there a bigger fan of Yiddish in America today than the Queens State Senator? Because hours of wiretapped Yiddish conversations were not turned over promptly to the defense, the judge presiding over Smith’s bribery case declared a mistrial this week, meaning that Smith will be able to run for reelection this fall with his fate still undecided. In City & State’s July 2012 cover story about him, Smith said, “People think I’m a crook and a thief—and I’m absolutely not.” Thanks to a language spoken by only about 250,000 Americans, we won’t know whether that statement’s true—at least in the eyes of the law—for another seven months or so.
Herbert Friedman - When we think about people in their 80s going away for four months, usually we picture Florida... maybe the Caribbean. Friedman's next four-month vacation, however, will be to prison. The former CFO of New York's Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty was busted for his role in a $9 million kickback scheme, and slapped with a prison sentence as a result, despite his age. The octogenarian insists he only got about a quarter mil from his two decades defrauding the nonprofit—chump change—still, now has to pay $775,000 in restitution and spend some hard time in the Big House thinking about what he did.
John King - At a press conference this week Gov. Andrew Cuomo threw King and the Board of Regents under the school bus for the state's Common Core problems, saying, “In truth, the reason we’re in this situation is because the Board of Regents and Mr. King didn’t handle it. That’s how we got here.” At least the gov didn't send King to the principal's office or make him sit in the corner with a dunce cap on... But this scolding was basically the political equivalent.
Patrick Lynch - The PBA prez was dealt another blow in his fight against stop-and-frisk reform when a state Supreme Court judge upheld the Community Safety Act, which makes it easier for the public to sue cops for racial profiling. While Lynch said the PBA would appeal the decision, it seems he is having difficulty dealing with the reality that he is swimming against a strong political current with a mayor who campaigned against utilizing stop-and-frisk as a primary law enforcement tool. Lynch better hope that de Blasio will not hold this resistance against his union's members when it comes to negotiating their contract.
Carmen Martinez - Who doesn't do a little online banking or holiday shopping on their work computers? Well, this former employee of the city comptroller's office took the whole doing personal work on company time to a new level. She admitted to spending "an excessive amount" of her work hours over the past 14 years helping out nonprofits—sometimes calling city agencies on behalf of these groups. She's now being forced out after charges were brought against her back in March.
Bill O'Reilly - The top consultant for Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino bit off more than he could chew Monday when he tweeted that his own party’s Senate leader, Dean Skelos, was a “#prisonpunk”—and a prison punk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's, no less. Astorino was not impressed and distanced himself from the remarks. O’Reilly has since said it was wrong to compare Skelos to what is essentially the habitual victim of prison rape, but that he still stands by the sentiment behind the criticism. He has yet to make an apology and the tweet has yet to be deleted.