Archive for the ‘Blank Slate Media’ category

Gov. Hochul — Cuomo Redux – By George J. Marlin

June 14, 2022

The following appeared on Monday, June 13, 2022, in the Blank Slate Media newspaper chain and on its website, theisland360.com:

In her quest to win this year’s gubernatorial election, Gov. Kathy Hochul has been adhering to the key precept in the Andrew Cuomo campaign playbook: “Take the money.”

Like Cuomo, the governor has taken money from every conceivable special interest group. Numerous real estate developers, government employee unions, and corporate giants have donated the maximum amount permissible under law, $69,700.

Employees of Ostroff Associates, a noted Albany lobbying firm, have given her the maximum so far. And a firm that represents banks and automotive dealers has contributed $25,000.

Crypto currency miners have also opened up their checkbooks. The CEO of one such company, Coinmint, has donated $40,000.

Will such contributions affect her decision to approve or reject legislation on her desk that curtail bitcoin mining operations utilizing carbon-based power sources? We will see.

Then there are the real estate developers. One player, who was very close to Andrew Cuomo, Scott Rechler, and his wife, have given the Hochul campaign the maximum as of the last filing with the state.

The chairman of Tishman Speyer, Jerry Speyer, wrote checks totaling $50,000.

The owner of Madison Square Garden, James Dolan, who has a major interest in the future of the area around his midtown real estate, has donated $69,700.

Lest we forget, Hochul, like her predecessor, has endorsed the revitalization of the Pennsylvania Station area that will include 10 new buildings. The governor made the commitment despite The New York Times reporting that “New York City’s Independent Budget Office has raised serious questions about the financial viability of the development, the state’s role in it and the possibility that taxpayers would have to foot the bill if the revenue its boosters are expecting fails to materialize.”

Hochul has also been placating another group of generous donors—government employee unions.

There’s the rollback of pension reforms; reduction of vesting periods to five years from 10 years, and the cutback of some pension contribution rates.

The Medicaid budget which soared by 11% in fiscal 2021-2022 and is expected to jump another 11% in the 2022-2023 state fiscal year, takes care of unionized health care workers. Gov. Hochul’s spending increases, the Empire Center for Public Policy has reported, “included across-the- board increases in Medicaid fees for providers, extra funding for financially distressed hospitals and nursing homes, one-time bonuses for front-line health workers, and a $3 hike in the minimum hourly wage for home health aides.”

Hochul has also boosted state spending for education by 7.2%, or $2 billion, to make nice to the teacher unions. This increase is on the top of the $9 billion of “emergency” aid from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan.

Spending on New York teacher salaries and benefits will top $18,000, about 120% above the national average.

To further placate teacher unions, the state Legislature and the governor are throwing Mayor Eric Adams under the school bus.

The extension of the mayoral control of public schools is for only two years. Provisions in the new law not only weaken Adam’s authority but impose increased spending that could cost as much as $1.5 billion.

Worse yet, the United Federation of Teachers will be granted a power they have sought for years: control over class size.

The legislation states that reducing the number of students in the classroom “shall be developed in collaboration with the collective bargaining units representing teachers and the principals and signed off on by the chancellor and the presidents of each bargaining unit.”

The “collective bargaining units” have to be overjoyed by this development. For the first time they will have a veto power over class size, and their membership rolls will swell as more teachers are hired to teach fewer children.

It also means more union dues to contribute to Hochul’s campaign treasury.

Gov. Hochul learned a lot from her mentor, Andrew Cuomo. He must be proud that his star pupil excels at fiscal “sleight of hand” of the worst sort: convincing the public that she is a responsible executive—all the while pandering to special interests by increasing spending and pork and building a fund-raising machine that is outperforming Cuomo’s operation when he was at the peak of his power.

Dems lose NY Gerrymandering Game – By George J. Marlin

May 31, 2022

The following appeared on Monday, May 30, 2022, in the Blank Slate Media newspaper chain and on its website, theisland360.com:

In late 2021, Albany Democrats thought they were in the cat bird’s seat when the process began to redraw congressional lines based on the new census figures.

To determine the outcome, they made sure the Independent Redistricting Commission, which was evenly split between Democrat and Republican commissioners, deadlocked.

This occurred when the panel members were unable to agree on a bipartisan plan and came up with competing maps.

Due to that impasse, the Democratic-controlled state Legislature quickly exercised its authority to design and approve districts.

The lines they drew were anything but fair or neutral and failed to reflect “communities of interest.” Four of the eight Republican seats were essentially eliminated.

For example, the Staten Island-based congressional district, held by New York City’s lone GOP member, Nicole Malliotakis, was sliced and diced. South Brooklyn, a conservative leaning area, was cut out and replaced with a portion of the 100% Democratic South Bronx.

To ensure that Long Island’s North Shore’s 3rd C.D., held by retiring Congressman Tom Suozzi, remained in Democratic hands, the lines were stretched to include, believe it or not—the Bronx.

The gerrymandering in upstate New York was just as bad.

The only GOP seat that remained safe in that region was the 21st C.D. held by Elise Stefanik, which covers the northern most regions of the state.

To defeat the chair of the House Republican Conference, the Democrats would have had to include parts of Canada in her district.

Despite cries from good government groups that the new maps were egregious and discarded all pretenses of objectivity, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the recommendations into law.

But mirabile dictu, a Steuben County Supreme Court Judge, Patrick McAllister, struck down the congressional maps as unconstitutional on March 31. He ordered the Legislature “to go back to the drawing board and resubmit maps with sufficient bipartisan support by April 11.”

He also warned that if the Legislature failed to act, he would appoint a “neutral expert at state expense to prepare said maps.”

Outraged Democrats appealed the decisions and, to their shock and dismay, lost in both the Appellate Division and in the Court of Appeals—even though members of their party dominated those judicial forums.

On April 22, New York’s highest court directed McAllister to appoint an expert to assist in creating new maps. The court concluded that “judicial oversight is required to facilitate the expeditious creation of constitutionally conforming maps for use in the 2022 election to safeguard the constitutionally protected right of New Yorkers to a fair election.”

On May 22, McAlister released the revised congressional map proffered by the special master. The judge declared that the new districts are “almost perfectly neutral.” He added that “neither the court nor the special master received any information concerning where any candidate or potential candidate lives.”

While most seats in New York City will remain in Democratic hands, the lines threaten the careers of long-term incumbents.

In Manhattan, 15-term Congressman, Jerry Nadler, will have to face off with 15-term Congresswoman, Carolyn Maloney.

The fact that there are now eight of 26 New York districts up for grabs doesn’t matter to Democrats.

They are outraged because they didn’t get their way.

Democrats accused the judiciary—the very system they have turned to time and again to impose their will when they lost at the ballot box or lost a legislative vote—of “hijacking” redistricting.

An exacerbated congressman, Hakeem Jeffries, went so far as to make the ludicrous claim that the court’s new map is “enough to make Jim Crow blush.”

Gerrymandering has been condemned by New York Democrats as evil for decades—especially when Republicans controlled the state capital. But when they are in charge, the rules of fairness and equity do not apply to them.

It is their way or the highway.

Fortunately, the courts knew better and ruled judiciously that Democratic gerrymandered maps were “in violation of a 2014 constitutional amendment designed to rout out political gamesmanship in redistricting.”

Gov. Hochul’s Disastrous Budget – By George J. Marlin

May 3, 2022

The following appeared on Monday, May 2, 2022, in the Blank Slate Media newspaper chain and on its website, theisland360.com:

In January, Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed a bloated $217 billion state budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year that the comptroller’s office indicated contained various budget gimmicks, including “billions of dollars allocated to broadly defined purposes with little or no specificity.”

Hochul’s budget is to be balanced using billions in Federal COVID relief dollars that will not be replenished. Hence, her reckless spending will create serious fiscal problems in the post-election years and will put the state on the road to financial insolvency.

While Hochul’s original proposal took care of most special interest groups (i.e., teacher unions), it wasn’t enough for Democratic legislators who have an insatiable appetite for political swag.

As a result, the New York Post bellowed, “Albany returned to the bad old stinky ways of passing a budget.”

The budget was negotiated in secret with the infamous “three people in the room”—the governor, Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader.

Due to political bickering, the budget was not passed on time. It was eventually approved in the middle of the night a week after the new fiscal year began on April 1.

And the final product, laden with political fat and questionable non-budget items, pushes spending to a record-breaking $220 billion; 18 percent higher than in 2020. (The Empire Center for Public Policy reports the state will be spending $6,987 per second.)

Hochul surrendered to the far left on most items to secure money for the biggest financial boondoggle in recent history: the Buffalo Bills stadium deal.

Six hundred million dollars of state funds have been allocated to subsidize the building of a new stadium in Erie County, which is coincidentally where Gov. Hochul resides.

This is an irresponsible expense to buy off voters in Western New York and will be the poster child for corporate welfare for years to come.

Contrary to claims, it is not an investment that enhances the local economy.

An analysis published by the Cato Institute reported “the presence of pro sport teams in 37 metropolitan areas in our sample had no measurably positive impact on the overall growth of real per capita income in those areas.”

Baltimore’s Camden Yards, for example, has generated about $3 million a year in economic benefits but cost Maryland state taxpayers $14 million annually in debt service payments.

The fact that sports facilities have proved to be a poor investment explains why wealthy team owners are not willing to fork over their own money to build them.

“Publicly funded stadiums are, at best, an inefficient investment of taxpayers’ dollars for the meager benefits produced,” said the National Taxpayers Union in a 2007 study. “At worst, [they’re] massive payments to rich team owners and players at the expense of ordinary taxpayers.”

On another front, Hochul caved into the health care union and will spend $7.7 billion for pay raises to the home-health industry.

Also, the budget extends to 2029  the $500 million annual subsidy to film production studios.

And the Empire Center reports state public employee unions received an incredible election year gift: “There is a partial rollback of successful, decade-old public employee pension reforms that saved taxpayers about a billion dollars a year…. [T]he budget reduces vesting periods from 10 years to five and cuts contribution rates in some cases.”

As for Hochul’s bail law changes, they are merely marginal—good for political commercials but not for the public.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams was very disappointed that judges were granted only a little more discretion when setting bail. “I think we have a lot more to do,” he said.

New York City’s PBA president, Pat Lynch, complained the revisions are “political window dressing that won’t do much to change the reality on the streets.”

The Detective Endowment Association leader declared: “No mandatory for gun possession, which the DEA supports, means more shootings. Judges must be allowed to consider prior convictions and recidivism.”

Hochul’s Democratic primary opponent, Congressman Tom Suozzi, summed up the election year giveaway budget thusly: “Instead of using this opportunity to lower taxes, reduce crime and make New York more affordable, Kathy Hochul showed her inexperience by botching the budget process and saddling New Yorkers with billions more in spending, including the biggest tax giveaway in NFL history to build a new Bills stadium.”

Aptly put.

Hochul stumbles on crime and corruption – By George J. Marlin

April 19, 2022

The following appeared on Monday, April 18, 2022, in the Blank Slate Media newspaper chain and on its website, theisland360.com:

In his masterpiece, “The Wasteland,” Nobel Laureate T.S. Eliot forewarned “April is the cruelest month.” And so it has been for Gov. Hochul.

First, there was the governor’s rather lame reaction to the April 12 shooting horror on the N train in which a man wounded 29 with a 9mm semi-automatic gun.

At a press conference with the city’s top cops and FBI agents, she said, “This morning New Yorkers left their homes en route to a normal day. That sense of tranquility and normalness was disrupted, brutally disrupted, by an individual so cold-hearted and depraved of heart, that they had no caring about the individuals that they assaulted as they simply went about their daily lives.”

Not a caring person? Good Lord! You think the governor at such a moment would call the mass shooter for what he is—a vicious evil monster.

If nothing else, it proves Hochul has a political tin ear.

Events surrounding the resignation of her lieutenant governor, Brian Benjamin, on the same day as the shooting incident provides additional evidence to prove my point.

Benjamin was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly taking part in a bribery scheme. He is accused of “falsifying campaign donations forms, misleading city authorities and giving false information as part of a background check to become lieutenant governor” in 2021.

Benjamin agreed to accept the lieutenant governor appointment even though he had received a federal subpoena.

Concealing that fact from the governor and the state troopers was just plain old dumb.

But for the governor not to catch wind that an investigation was afoot and to say as recently as April 7 that she had the “utmost confidence in my lieutenant governor” indicates to me just how isolated she is in the governor’s mansion.

Anyone who has spent time in Albany knows that the primary activity in the halls of the capital is gossiping.

So, I find it hard to believe that there weren’t any murmurings about Benjamin’s troubles. Particularly when there were already published reports in The City that Benjamin’s failed campaign for New York City comptroller had “benefitted from suspicious donations as well as ethical concerns about his use of campaign funds for a wedding celebration and car expenses.”

Hochul’s statement announcing Benjamin’s resignation was also lame. Instead of denouncing Benjamin as a scoundrel for deceiving her, she meekly said: “While the legal process plays out, it’s clear to both of us that he cannot continue to serve a lieutenant governor…. New Yorkers deserve absolute confidence in their government, and I will continue working every day to deliver for them.”

That statement doesn’t increase my confidence in the Hochul administration.

Hochul’s opponent in the Democratic primary, Congressman Tom Suozzi, succinctly described the governor’s precarious situation: “Kathy Hochul’s poor judgment and lack of executive experience are on full display with her handpicked running mate. Why did she pick someone who not only had [an] impending ethics complaint but also a vocal supporter of defunding the police?”

To add to Hochul’s woes, the lieutenant governor she runs with in the general election might be a political foe.

Because it’s too late to replace Benjamin on the primary ballot, the winner may be the radical leftist Ana Maria Archila, who is aligned with Hochul’s primary opponent Jumaane Williams.

The last time a Democratic candidate got stuck with a lieutenant governor not of their choosing was in 1982 when Mario Cuomo was saddled with Ed Koch’s running mate, Westchester County Executive Alfred DelBello.

But Mario Cuomo never forgot a slight, and for DelBello to have supported his opponent was unforgivable.

To make life miserable for DelBello, Cuomo slashed his staff in half and kept him on a short leash.

When DelBello publicly complained that Cuomo ignored his advice, the governor told The New York Times, “He obviously chose Koch over me. He had to adjust to his own delusional expectations.”

DelBello resigned his post out of disgust in December 1984.

I doubt Hochul, if elected to a full-term in November, would have the tenacity to pull a “Cuomo” on an unwanted lieutenant governor who may work against her and oppose her policies.

Finally, there was another April cruelty that will soon haunt Gov/ Hochul and every taxpayer: the disastrous, reckless $220 billion state budget she signed into law.

But more on that mess in my next column.

Can Cuomo beat Gov. Hochul in November? – By George J. Marlin

April 5, 2022

The following appeared on Monday, April 4, 2022, in the Blank Slate Media newspaper chain and on its website, theisland360.com:

Lately, there has been plenty of nervous chatter in Democratic circles that former Gov. Andrew Cuomo will seek a political comeback.

Political wags tell me that Cuomo may attempt to resurrect the defunct New York State Liberal Party and nominate himself as its candidate for governor.

For the under-50 folks unfamiliar with the Liberal Party, here’s a little background: Founded in 1944 by leftists who abandoned the Communist-dominated American Labor Party, the Liberal Party provided the margin of victory for many like-minded Democrats and Republicans. Democrats endorsed included Hugh Carey, Mario Cuomo, and Robert F. Kennedy. Republicans were Jacob Javits, John Lindsay, and Rudy Giuliani.

Ironically, the Liberal Party went out of business in 2002 when its gubernatorial nominee, Andrew Cuomo, failed to receive the 50,000 votes required by law to maintain its ballot line.

Cuomo may have convinced himself that by running on the Liberal Party line he could win in a four-way race because sexual harassment criminal investigations into his behavior have been dropped by five district attorneys due to a lack of evidence.

Theoretically, that outcome is possible if the following were to occur: First, the Working Families Party candidate Jumaane Williams would have to receive at least 5 percent of the vote. Next, support for the Republican-Conservative candidate Lee Zeldin could not exceed his base, which is about 30 percent.

That would leave 65 percent of the remaining electorate for Gov. Kathy Hochul and Cuomo to tussle over.

If Cuomo’s traditional supporters—minorities, center-left Democrats and Independents—were to stick with him, he could get the 33% needed statewide to win.

Then again, such a plan could easily backfire and put Zeldin over the top. Yes, if enough centrists, particularly in Westchester County and the Hudson Valley area, say a pox upon the houses of Hochul and Cuomo and support Zeldin, he could pull off a surprise victory with a 33% plurality.

Frankly, I believe a Cuomo comeback is unlikely.

In my judgment, his coverup of nursing home COVID-related deaths will destroy his chances.

An audit released in March by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli on Cuomo’s COVID performance explains why Cuomo has much to fear. DiNapoli reported that “the public was misled by the highest level of state government and given a distorted version of reality that suppressed facts when they deserved the truth.”

Cuomo’s Department of Health:

  • Understated the number of nursing home deaths due to COVID-19 by at least 4,100 and at times during the pandemic by more than 50 percent.
  • Was slow to respond to a federal directive to conduct surveys of nursing homes for infection control problems, surveying just 20 percent of facilities between March 23 and May 30, 2020, compared with over 90 percent for some other states.
  • Imposed impediments on the audit, including delaying requested data, limiting auditors’ contract with program staff, not addressing auditors’ questions during meetings and not providing supporting documentation.

The audit also revealed that the Department of Health was delinquent in performing its duties. Instead of being dedicated to promoting public health, it “conformed its presentation to the executive’s narrative”, (i.e., the former governor and members of his staff) “often presenting data in a matter that misled the public.”

Andrew Cuomo’s management of the reporting of COVID-nursing home deaths throughout the crisis “lacked transparency, and was at times, inaccurate, inconsistent, incomplete, and/or not amenable to analysis,” the audit said.

DiNapoli’s report concluded that consistent with Cuomo’s governing style, his DOH was “plagued by a threatening environment, closed ranks and lack[ed] commitment to openness—at the expense of the public’s trust.”

That’s quite an indictment!

If Cuomo jumps into the governor’s race, I am certain his opponents, and the families and friends of the more than 15,000 New Yorkers who died in nursing homes from COVID-19, will brandish the devastating DiNapoli report.

And that would sound the death knell for Cuomo’s restoration hopes.