Cahill: Silver’s leadership role in up in the air

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, says after a five-hour meeting in Albany Monday with his Democratic Conference to discuss the role of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, no formal conclusions have been made.

Last week Silver, D-Manhattan, was charged in a corruption scheme by Preet Bharara, the hard-charging U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He was arrested on charges that he used his official position to pocket nearly $4 million in bribes and kickbacks from people and businesses in exchange for official favors.

In Cahill’s first public comments since Silver’s arrest he doesn’t specifically say whether he supports Silver or if he thinks he should step down. Instead, he says the Democratic conference came to the conclusion Monday that they must “remain focused on the needs of the people of the State of New York and that we should proceed accordingly.”

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that many Democrats in the Assembly had lost confidence in Silver and that he had until Tuesday to either step down or be ousted.

Cahill, a top dog in Ulster county politics, also holds an influential chairmanship on the Assembly’s Insurance Committee and is a member of the Committee on Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry, the Committee on Ethics and Guidance, the Committee on Health, the Committee on Higher Education and the Committee on Ways and Means.

Cahill released his comments Monday morning. After the release, a member of Cahill’s staff said Cahill would likely have more to say after another conference Tuesday.

“The Democratic Conference will reconvene today and continue to work on a plan to assure an on-time budget and a progressive agenda.  Our decision about leadership going forward will be to advance those goals,” Cahill said.

On the day of Silver’s arrest assemblymembers in our region were split along party lines on their support of Silver. Democrats have shown tepid support while Republicans have called for him to step down. You can read my story on those comments here.

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Hein ends 2014 with $174K war chest

Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, who’s four-year term is up this year, ended 2014 with $174, 195.30 in his campaign account.

Hein raised $7,133 from individual donors, many below $100 and a fair amount from members of his administration.

He took in $2,265 from corporate donors. The biggest donor was from Kingston lawfirm Mainetti, Mainetti & O’Connor, PC, who donated $1,000. Caddy Company of 200 Church St. in Albany gave Hein $500.

Focus Media, a company that won a $313,852 contract with Ulster County for tourism marketing this month, gave Hein $75 on Dec. 3, 2014, records show.

Hein also collected a $125 check from the Hudson Valley Building Construction Trade Council and a $200 check from the Ironworkers Political Action League.

Hein also spent $3,606.26, according to the January disclosure form. He cut a check for $3,000 to Michele Milgrim of Kingston on Jan. 4 and a total of $420 to the county Commissioner of Finance Burt Gulnick for reimbursement for fundraisers and events. He also cut a $100 check to Karl Schlegel from the county’s Office of Business Services.

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Cahill to comment on Assembly power shake-up on Monday

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill says he’ll respond later Monday to a power shake-up in the Assembly in the wake of federal corruption charges against Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Cahill, D-Kingston, has so far declined to comment on the charges leveled against Silver. On Monday, the New York Times reported that Silver was temporarily relinquishing his duties as speaker to five senior Assembly members.

In a phone call on Monday, Cahill said he plans to send out a press release responding to the power shift. Assemblymembers in our region have so far split along party lines on their support of Silver. Democrats have shown tepid support while Republicans have called for him to step down.

Cahill holds an influential chairmanship on the Assembly’s Insurance Committee and is also a member of the Committee on Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry, the Committee on Ethics and Guidance, the Committee on Health, the Committee on Higher Education and the Committee on Ways and Means.

The power shake-up comes as Cahill says he’ll be fighting this year for mandate relief for local governments, a more sustainable funding stream for education and pre-kindergarten programs, more investment in infrastructure, juvenile justice reform and all 10 points of the Women’s Equality Agenda.

A plan conceived on Sunday puts budget negotiating power into the hands of Assembly majority leader, Joseph Morelle, D-Rochester,  and the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, Herman D. Farrell Jr., D-Manhattan, the New York Times reported Monday.

Assemblymembers Carl Heastie of the Bronx, Catherine Nolan of Queens and Joseph Lentol of Brooklyn would complete the leadership team, the New York Times said.

As Assembly Speaker for more than 20 years, Silver has held one of the most powerful positions in state government. He’s been one of the “three men in the room,” along with the governor and Senate majority leader, who are typically involved in final negotiations over the state budget. He also holds  sway over appointing committee chairs and bringing bills to the floor.

Preet Bharara, the hard-charging U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced Thursday that Silver, D-Manhattan, was arrested on charges that he used his official position to pocket nearly $4 million in bribes and kickbacks from people and businesses in exchange for official favors.

Silver masked the payments by disguising them as income from what he claimed was a law practice primarily focused on personal injury matters, Bharara said.

 

 


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Neuhaus campaign has $15K after first year in office

Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus finished his first year in office with a little over $15,000 in his campaign account, almost exactly the same amount he had a year earlier.

The six-month financial report that the Republican’s campaign filed this month indicates he raised about $35,000 since mid-July but spent roughly the same amount, resulting in no net gain. His donor list includes a litany of aides and management-level employees who probably attended his fundraisers, plus some of the same county contractors and business-seeking professional firms that poured money into the coffers of his predecessor, Ed Diana. One big difference is that a new county law championed by Legislator Mike Anagnostakis now limits contractors to giving the county executive no more than $4,000 over a four-year term.

One major benefactor who helped fill the void for Neuhaus during the last reporting period was Warwick businessman Bob Schluter, who was a major contributor to Warwick Supervisor Mike Sweeton’s campaign when Sweeton and Neuhaus were competing (along with Diana) for the Republican endorsement for county executive in 2012-13. Neuhaus’ report indicates that Schluter kicked in $11,250 in four separate payments in August.

The county executive’s second biggest check, for $3,000, came from Renew New York PAC, a money cannon funded largely by former New York Sen. Al D’Amato.

Neuhaus’ report also indicates he retained the services of longtime Republican consultant Jay Townsend, who lives in Cornwall-on-Hudson and previously did work for Diana (and challenged Chuck Schumer for Senate in 2010). The Townsend Group was paid $2,500 on Dec. 15.

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Senate committee posts doled out

Temporary President of the New York State Senate and Majority Leader Dean Skelos has handed up the committee assignments for this year.

Loyalty to the leader, seniority, geographic distribution and other factors all can play a part in the distribution of assignments.

Here’s a handy-dandy list of what committees our local state senators will serve on this year:

(5) Sen. George Amedore, R-Rotterdam: He’ll chair the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee. He’ll also be a member of the Banks Committee, Consumer Protection Committee, Elections Committee and the Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee.

(10) Sen. John Bonacic,R-Mount Hope: He’ll chair both the Judiciary and the Racing, Gaming and Wagering committees. He’ll also be a member of the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee, Banks Committee, Children and Families Committee, Cultural Affairs and Tourism Committee, Finance Committee, Housing Committee, Rules Committee and the State-Native American Relations Select Committee.

(8) Sen. Bill Larkin, R-Cornwall-on-Hudson: He’ll be a member of the Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee, Finance Committee, Health Committee, Insurance Committee, Rules Committee, Transportation Committee, Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee and the Libraries Select Committee.

(9) Sen. James Seward, R-Milford: He’ll chair the Insurance Committee. He’ll also be a member of the Agriculture Committee, Education Committee, Finance Committee, Health Committee, Higher Education Committee, Mental Health Committee, Rules Committee and Libraries Select Committee.

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Who hasn’t weighed in?

Yesterday I reached to our local state elected officials for responses on what they think about the arrest of state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

You can read my story here.

In that story, I didn’t get comment from three of our local legislators: Senators George Amedore,R-Rotterdam, William Larkin,R-Cornwall-on-Hudson, and Democratic Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston.

Amedore’s spokeswoman Eileen Miller called me back at the end of the day and said Amedore wouldn’t comment. Someone who picked up the phone at Larkin’s office said they would pass on the message but I didn’t get a call back.

And although Cahill didn’t return my calls, I just saw him walk by the Record’s Kingston bureau. I ran after him to ask for comment. Cahill smiled politely, waved at me and said he had an important meeting to go to. He didn’t stop walking.

Silver, who has been Speaker for more than 20 years, was arrested by the FBI in lower Manhattan Thursday morning and slapped with federal conspiracy and bribery charges.

Silver has held one of the most powerful positions in state government. He’s been one of the “three men in the room,” along with the sitting governor and Senate Majority Leader, who are typically involved in final negotiations over the state budge. He also holds sway over appointing committee chairs and bringing bills to the floor.

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Orange GOP chair demands Silver resign

Orange County Republican Chairwoman Courtney Canfield-Greene has joined the chorus of Republicans demanding that Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver quit because of his arrest today on corruption charges, and chiding Democratic Assembly members for supporting Silver’s re-election as speaker.

“For decades, our middle-class families have been harmed by the dysfunction and corruption that he helped to create,” Canfield-Greene said. “Democrat Assemblymen James Skoufis and Frank Skartados as well as Democrat Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther must also answer to the people of Orange County for their decision to endorse Silver’s speakership as recently as this month in the midst of his ongoing federal corruption probe.”

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Sussman supports sale, replacement of Government Center

Goshen attorney Michael Sussman has offered a proposal for the sale and replacement of the Orange County Government Center that he contends could knit together the various interests of the county’s office and court needs, the Village of Goshen and its downtown businesses, and groups that have fought to preserve the 45-year-old architectural landmark designed by Paul Rudolph.

Sussman, a Democratic activist who has spoken out before during the long debate over the fate of the closed Government Center, held a press conference about his suggestion last week, and has since released a statement and video of his announcement. He said he supports architect Gene Kaufman’s plan to buy the Government Center and convert it into an arts center, but suggests he pay $15 million rather than $5 million, with the added condition that Kaufman then be given a contract to design a new Government Center that would be built nearby to house county offices and courts.

Sussman said his idea would preserve Rudolph’s design and head off a $74 million plan to overhaul and expand the complex that includes a four-story addition Sussman described as “hideous.” It also would allow the county to commission a modern complex while directing some cash to both the county and the Village of Goshen. Of that $15 million suggested purchase price, Sussman said $3 million should go to the Village of Goshen and $12 million should go to the county (about the same amount as the current operating deficit).

“I think it gives the village a double whammy,” he said, meaning the combined foot traffic that both a government complex and an arts center would bring.

He opposes the idea of selling the Government Center and continuing to lease space for county employees in three buildings on Matthews Street. “I don’t believe we should have ‘government by diaspora,’” he said. “I don’t believe we should have government spread out in four, five or six locations.”

County officials are preparing to solicit bids to demolish one of three buildings in the Government Center complex and gut the other two — the first stage of the $74 million project that will proceed unless at least 14 of 21 lawmakers decide otherwise. It would take a supermajority vote for the Legislature to override Neuhaus’ veto of a law that would have authorized the sale of the Government Center and to accept Kaufman’s purchase offer.

Sussman said in his announcement that Kaufman should have first rights but that the county should solicit another round of bids if Kaufman was unwilling to raise his price under the terms Sussman suggested.

 

 

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Pro-choice organization criticizes Hudson Valley GOP senators on Women’s Equality votes

KINGSTON — NARAL Pro-Choice New York has taken Hudson Valley GOP senators to task for leaving out the abortion-rights bills from the state Women’s Equality Act agenda.

State Senate Republicans passed eight parts of the 10-part Women’s Equality Act on Tuesday, choosing to leave out segments that would have strengthened abortion rights. The bills has now gone to the state Assembly for action.

The bills passed include provisions that would ensure equal pay for equal work, strengthen protections against human trafficking, prohibit discrimination in the work place based on familial status, end pregnancy discrimination and more.

But the parts that the GOP-controlled Senate passed leave out provisions that pro-choice advocates say are essential. They say the left out provisions would move state abortion laws from the penal code to the public health code, nullifying conflicts with Roe v. Wade and further protect doctors. Opponents argue it would expand abortions into the third trimester, an argument supporters say just isn’t true.

The 10-plank Women’s Equality Act has been stalled in the last two sessions by the Democratic-controlled Assembly, where they argue the abortion-rights planks are essential and refuse to separate the bills. In the past, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also signaled he wants to pass all 10 pieces of the bill.

“Continuing the campaign of misinformation that started with their elections, anti-choice Sens. Bonacic, Larkin and Amedore disregarded the views of the overwhelming majority of their constituents who support full equality,” said Andrea Miller, president of NARAL.

Miller accused Senate Republicans of taking “half-steps while leaving a critical part of women’s equality behind by failing to codify in state law the health protections guaranteed under Roe v. Wade.”

Larkin and Bonacic have noth called for the Assembly to pass the parts of the Women’s Equality Agenda that both sides agree on. After the passage of the bills, Amedore, R-Rotterdam, said he was happy the state senate prioritized the package of bills.

“These bills have bipartisan support, and women in New York have waited long enough – they deserve these protections,” Amedore said..” It’s time for our colleagues in the Assembly to put women’s health and safety above politics and pass this package of bills.”

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Brescia blames Neuhaus for “spinning wheels”: the video

A video is now available of the Orange County Legislature meeting last week at which Legislature Chairman Steve Brescia let loose for almost 10 minutes on County Executive Steve Neuhaus, whom he accused of leading lawmakers on “a year of spinning wheels.”

Brescia, a Montgomery Republican and veteran lawmaker, delivered his speech on Jan. 6 shortly after his colleagues had unanimously elected him chairman for a second year. His main grievance against the Republican county executive was his recent veto of an asset-forfeiture law that District Attorney David Hoovler had originally proposed and that Brescia said lawmakers had spent roughly 10 hours discussing and amending, only for it to perish in Neuhaus’ office. Republicans had stood by the proposal in the face of strong public opposition, while Democrats had opposed it.

The salvo begins at around the 12:30 mark. Brescia, clearly irritated, said, “All the county exec had to do is tell us that he had a little bit of doubt about that asset forfeiture law — not at the last minute. Not at the last minute after his public hearing, because there was enough public comment at this Legislature, and we wouldn’t have spun our wheels. The Republicans wouldn’t have moved forward with that.”

Brescia went on to say that he had been one of Neuhaus’ strongest supporters on the Legislature and would continue to support him when he was right. But he said the county executive also was wrong to block a proposed quarter-point increase in the county’s sale tax rate, an idea that had originated with Neuhaus. Republicans took up the suggestion in December as a fallback measure after Neuhaus’ plan to sell the county nursing home failed, leaving the 2015 budget $12.1 million short on revenue. Neuhaus refuses to forward the request to Albany for approval.

Looking at the budget problems ahead, Brescia said, “There’s going to have to be collaboration and communication — on his part. And I hope he hears this loud and clear.” He asked that Neuhaus attend at least two or three legislative committee meetings each month and stay for their entirety.

Brescia’s tone was testy enough that Chris Eachus, the New Windsor Democrat elected at that meeting to be the Democrats’ new leader, joked immediately afterward, “Can I leave that voter enrollment form for when you want to change parties?”

Calling 2014 a “roller-coaster year” for the county government, Eachus added, “I need not say anything about the county executive because you stole my punch. We agree. We don’t need to be insulting, we don’t need to be denigrating. But we need him here.”

Brescia’s remarks prompted a pointed series of responses last week from Neuhaus, who said he vetoed the asset-forfeiture law in response to the loud public outcry against it at a hearing he held, and rebuked Brescia for not attending that hearing — which took place after the Legislature already voted on the law.

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