July 29, 2009

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July 22, 2009

Petition warfare in Nassau

It’s petition warfare in Nassau as Democrats and Republicans wrestle for control of the county legislature, where Democrats hold a slim 10-9 majority.

Both parties are fighting over the Independence and Conservative support in the belief that having these third-party ballot lines can make the difference in a tight election.

Continue reading "Petition warfare in Nassau" »

Photo has someone extra: A doctor-er* in the house?


The South Shore Press has published a picture that photo-shops Brookhaven Councilman Keith Romaine into a July 2 news conference at Smith Point County Park that he attended -- but later than the moment at which the photo was taken. The Web site 27east, which gets content from the Southampton Press and the East Hampton Press, has the story here, complete with the photo above, in which Romaine magically "appears," second from right. Their coverage includes a defense by the paper....

*Corrected version

Mario to headline Marsha's fundraising fete

Former gov., Mario Cuomo will headline a $250 a head Chairman Club event Thursday at Brookhaven town leader Marsha Laufer's estate over looking Long Island Sound.

Continue reading "Mario to headline Marsha's fundraising fete" »

Mayor-for-Life 'Papa Doc' Bloomberg: Latest update

The video above is a beautifully presented piece about the schools under Mayor Bloomberg who has now served nearly two terms. All his ads are expensive, polished productions, free of peeve.

Um, say -- is that school bus in the background at 23 seconds by any chance from Jofaz, which was entangled in that corruption scandal involving city school bus contractors? Just asking.

Either way, likely campaign challenger William C. Thompson Jr. today is going after the potentially creaky premise that Bloomberg (who denounced the idea of extending term limits for himself before doing exactly that) has worked academic miracles. Thompson accuses Schools Chancellor Joel Klein of fudging graduation numbers. Rates were a target four years ago of Bloomberg opponent Fernando Ferrer.

Wayne Barrett, who consistently zigs when others zag, this week concentrates elsewhere -- raising the question of how the billionaire mayor has managed to politically sidestep his administration's biggest scandal, involving the death of two firefighters at the former Deutsche Bank building, where huge and significant irregularities have been discovered in the inspection and handling of a post-9/11 demolition job involving sensitive toxic materials. The full story is here. An excerpt is below the 'continued' click.

Continue reading "Mayor-for-Life 'Papa Doc' Bloomberg: Latest update" »

Land deal for GOP leader's kin: Textbook stuff

Let's see. A big public undertaking moves forward, and quietly, someone connected to local officialdom obtains adjacent property that stands to increase in value. It is out of the textbook. But Nassau County does not seem to be all that intent on breaking new civic ground anyway.

GOP State and County Chairman Joseph Mondello's daughter and her husband seem to be the someones connected to local officialdom in the case of this Oyster Bay land preservation purchase, as Eden Laikin reports here. For his part, Mondello admits the deal doesn't look so good, but indicates he didn't know about it until pretty much after the fact, since she's an adult who is on her own.

Paterson's LG pick halted, as you might expect


As many expected, Gov. David A. Paterson's move to unilaterally appoint Richard Ravitch his lieutenant governor -- without an election, confirmation, or any other check or balance -- has been tentatively halted on the likelihood that it may be illegal. State Supreme Court Justice William LaMarca temporarily restrained the administration from the effect of the appointment. The ruling was made from the bench in Nassau County. As much as he spoke of the importance of the issue, the judge put off further conference on the case for an entire month. "For an illegally appointed lieutenant governor to act as governor of the state would clearly constitute irreparable harm," the standard for a TRO, LaMarca said. The next court date is Aug. 25. Paterson, who said the urgency of having a successor prompted him to appoint Ravitch -- amid a dispute over who was next in line as Senate president -- will presumbly hang on in the interim. An appeal of the order is planned. The Senate Republicans' statement on the status of their lawsuit is below the "continued" bar.

The state Constitution addresses succession -- and does not include giving the governor the power to pick a lieutenant governor. Paterson argues it does not NOT give him the power but public officers' law does. The morning line: Don't bet the PAC money on Paterson prevailing -- even in a court system whose chief judge he nominated.

Continue reading "Paterson's LG pick halted, as you might expect" »

July 21, 2009

Kabot, GOP recouncile; Malone to run for council

Southampton Republican Supervisor Linda Kabot, dumped by her own party for re-election last month, will lead the GOP ticket after all.

Her GOP-named foe, James Malone, Southampton Conservative chairman, declined the nomination late Monday and is expected to run instead as the Republican and Conservative candidate for town board replacing William Wright, an East Quogue mortgage broker.

Continue reading "Kabot, GOP recouncile; Malone to run for council" »

July 20, 2009

Last-minute frenzy over ballot changes

On the last days day candidates have to decline candidacies and parties have the authority to put non-party members on the ballot, the Suffolk Board of Elections was frenzied with last-minute activity Monday in many towns:

Continue reading "Last-minute frenzy over ballot changes" »

Union files charges against dissidents

Suffolk’s largest union, the Association of Municipal Employees has filed union judicial charges Monday against two high level union officials for siding with the takeover attempt of the Communication Workers of America.

Continue reading "Union files charges against dissidents" »

NYS politics broils in the post-Senate summer


Dems shuffle the deck. When Gov. David A. Paterson recently replaced June O'Neill as Democratic state chairman with Nassau Chairman Jay Jacobs, right, you could have guessed that Attorney General Andrew Cuomo wasn't going to be crazy about the pick -- if you assume the template of a rivalry between Cuomo and Jacobs ally Thomas Suozzi, the Nassau County executive. That's what Liz Benjamin explores here. Cuomo sources seem to convey that he's concerned about subbing a downstate male for an upstate woman and bumping aside Reggie LaFayette, the Westchester chairman, to clear a secondary position that O'Neill is filing.

Pardon her English. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, in seeking to work up issues for her challenge against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, was quoted as quoting the 'N' word for purposes of conveying what a person in Puerto Rico thought would be the racial equivalent of Gillibrand's purported support for "English only." Bottom line: Maloney repeated the term, and has now apologized for using it not to describe anyone but to reference her point. Thrush caps the controversy here.

Pardon his Yiddish? The gathering in front of City Hall by those fighting with re-election-bound NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- who's lost ironclad control of the school-system due to state Senate action or inaction -- gives us a statement by Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D-Queens) correcting Bloomberg's use of the Yiddish term for "crazy." Nobody would ever challenge Monserrate's literacy, but he does leave himself somewhat open in another way with that line of critcism, one observer noted, since the senator collects an NYPD pension for a psych disability. Also, some "plantation" stuff by Sen. Bill Perkins keeps the mayor's contest casually racial as is so frequently the case.

Pardon the rhetoric? The Daily News uses private consultant Bill Cunningham's quote that "This group calling for civility is like Bernie Madoff calling for better accounting standards." But Cunningham's ex-boss falls short in the rhetorical scheme with a poorly placed cliche about Neville Chamberlain.

Good times, high-level dialogue. All this adds up to why fevered pols improve the region's quality of life by taking long vacations out of state.

(Newsday Photo / Audrey C. Tiernan)

Naked Ambition

Which was the most fevered lunge for self-promotion by a power player?

1. Doctor-turned-Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) using the 1950’s Desi Arnaz term “you’d have some ‘splainin’ to do” during a jocular exchange with Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

2. Comic-turned-Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) asking Sotomayor, when she didn’t know which case fictional prosecutor Hamilton Burger won in a 1960’s Perry Mason episode: “Didn’t the White House prepare you for that?”

3. Real-life Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice proclaiming in a press conference that a Long Island Rail Road engineer who allowed a passenger to operate a rush-hour train could have caused a “mass casualty situation.”

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Ex-Suffolk exec Halpin's fountain of youth: UPDATED


Former Suffolk County Executive Patrick Halpin, back on the singles scene, said he values “honesty” in a recent posting on a dating Web site, but it turns out the age listed is seven years short of up-to-date.*

In his profile on match.com, Halpin describes himself as a “49 year old man.”

But Suffolk Board of Elections records show that Halpin was born Jan. 18, 1953. That makes him 56.

If dating prospects can get over the age issue, Halpin also touts having a 42-foot sailboat which he describes as his “passion.” Is it really 35 feet?

Rick Brand

(Photo from visionli.org)

*The earlier mistake of "four years" was an editing error, not the reporter's. Apologies to all.

Quiet pension extension delays tension, for NYC teachers


Six months ago, it was noted in this space that despite investment collapses worldwide, active and retired participants in New York City's teacher pension system continue to draw an exceptional taxpayer-guaranteed return of 8.25 percent annually on savings funds known as 403(b) plans.

Many times before and since, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has called the city's pension burden unaffordable and said, "We simply have to find a way to rein it in."

And that juicy 8.25 percent retirement-savings benefit for one Teachers Retirement System option - set by lawmakers - was due to expire June 30. So a cluster of political questions hovered for a while. Would active and retired teachers, who stood to be affected by a possible cut to 7 percent, raise a ruckus this year during Bloomberg's re-election bid? Would their union? How aggressively might the administration pursue savings?

Turns out a collision has been averted for the time being. In Albany, Bloomberg's office has pushed for, and won, a one-year legislative extension of the 8.25 percent guarantee - among other key rates and assumptions. That puts off the fate of the TRS payout into what will either be the first year of Bloomberg's third term, or the first mayoral term of Democrat William C. Thompson Jr., now comptroller.

The Bloomberg memo in support of the extension says that the city's independently-appointed actuary lacked "sufficient time," before the legislative session's end, to complete a crucial evaluation of contribution rates to municipal pension funds.

Fireworks now surround the separate issue of the Senate's refusal to renew mayoral control of city schools. But with little fanfare on July 9, the volatile upper house gave final legislative approval to Bloomberg's actuarial extension - by a 62-0 vote. Two days later Gov. David A. Paterson signed it into law, effectively preserving the status quo through next June 30.

Suffolk lawmakers propose shift for county printing

Trying to keep aides to Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy from spying on lawmakers' newsletters, Legis. Cameron Alden has asked the legislative counsel to draft a bill moving control of county printing away from the Public Works department.

Alden wants to move the duty to Civil Service, where director of personnel, Alan Schneider, has a six-year term, giving him some independence.

The legislature's presiding officer, William Lindsay, says he backs Alden’s proposal, as a way of protecting separation of power between governmental branches. “I don't think it's right for the county executive be reviewing legislative communications whether he agrees with it or not.”

Levy, however, defended the review, claiming that Alden’s newsletter was a political document” that “went over the line.”

Ironically, Levy sent out a response to Alden’s newsletter, but his response hit Alden's legislative district before they ever saw the newsletter -- rendering it largely senseless.

Rick Brand

July 19, 2009

GOP hopeful for Suffolk Leg. seeks Democratic line too

She may be the Republican candidate, but Carol Bissonette has also filed petitions to run a Democratic primary against incumbent Legis. Kate Browning.

Bissonette’s petitions, containing 659 signature, just 159 over the minimum required, arrived at the Suffolk Board of Elections Friday, the day after the deadline, but the package was postmarked in time to qualify.

Browning said she expects to challenge the petitions and believes she has a chance to knock Bissonette off the primary ballot. Despite her GOP candidacy, Bissonette can run a Democratic primary because she is still registered as a Democrat. She won a Brookhaven town board seat four years ago as part of the Democratic majority, and two years later lost a close election for town tax receiver. The GOP board majority then appointed her deputy parks commissioner.

Rick Brand

Nassau GOP postally pins tax hikes on Dems

Republicans have launched their campaign to win control of the Nassau legislature this fall by mailing postcards printed "NOTICE OF TAX INCREASE" to homeowners in districts of those they perceive as the three most vulnerable Democrats: Legis. Joe Scannell of Baldwin, David Mejias of Farmingdale and Jeff Toback of Oceanside.

The postcards refer to the new 2.5 percent home-heating tax approved by the Democratic majority on a 10-9 party-line vote.

"The deciding vote to create this new tax was cast by your county legislator," the postcard says, giving the appropriate phone number to call.

Sources say phones were ringing off the hook in the lawmakers' offices.

Toback, for one, acknowledged getting 188 calls, a huge response for any issue.

He said he plans to return each call personally to explain that tough times "required us to make some tough decisions" to save programs like Meals on Wheels and youth services.

The county projects the tax will cost the average homeowner $90 a year.

Meanwhile, in those three races, Mejias has raised the most money: Six-month campaign finance reports filed last week showed he raised $75,538 and had $87,610 in the bank, while his likely Republican challenger, Joe Belesi, raised $16,900, with $14,317 left after expenses.

Toback reports $8,897 in his campaign account, while GOP challenger Howard Kopel has reported no activity in his account since he lost to Toback two years ago.

Scannell raised $15,420, with $10,147 in the bank after expenses; his Republican opponent, Christian Browne, raised $10,479 and had $11,334 in his account.

Celeste Hadrick

July 17, 2009

Baranello gets no jail time


Stephen Baranello, who helped engineer Steve Levy's rise to county executive only to crash almost immediately on corruption charges, was sentenced Friday but got no jail time.

Baranello received 5 years probation and 840 hours of community service.

County Court Judge Ralph Gazillo sentenced Baranello, the son of late state and Suffolk Democratic chairman Dominic Baranello, after he pleaded for mercy in a Riverhead courtroom.

"I'm very sorry for what I did," he told the judge. "I apologize and I know what I did was wrong."

Gazillo gave Baranello, right, no jail time even though Jeremy Scileppi, chief of the district attorney's economic crimes bureau, asked the judge to give Baranello 6 month in Suffolk County Jail.

Former Suffolk Legis. Wayne Prospect is serving 2½ to 7½ years in prison upstate on similar charges. Baranello will receive the 5 years probation for second degree charge of bribery and community service for the fourth degree conspiracy charge.

After the sentencing, Scileppi said he had "no dispute" with Gazillo's decision saying that Baranello pleaded guilty almost immediately after his arrest in 2004 and testified several times before a grand jury and later for five days at Prospect's trial in which he was found guilty.

Both men were taped taking money from two undercover detectives who posed as contractors looking to influence public works contracts.

The scam was uncovered shortly after Levy won the county executive job where Baranello had played a major role in the campaign.

(Stephen Baranello; Newsday Photo, 2006 / Daniel Goodrich)

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