CCTV-America Global Business: Democratic and Republican strategists share opposing takes on Hillary’s donation s

For both sides of the Clinton debate, CCTV America interviewed Democratic strategist Michael Benjamin (@SquarePegDem) and Republican strategist Jack Burkman. Hosted by Shraysi Tandon.

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2015 Urban Environmental Challenge (Bronx Event)

2015 Urban Environmental Challenge

Calling all runners!

Date: 04/12/2015    
Time: 10:00 AM-12:00 AM 
Location: Race starts at Van Cortlandt Park, opposite the Tortoise & Hare Statue on Broadway.

A 10k race of true cross country trails including stream crossings (with optional bridge) suitable for all standards of runner with a love of running and a sense of fun and adventure.

Click on link below to register for the run:

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Bronx Walk of Fame Inductees

The Bronx Walk of Fame Inductees

All 101 inductees onto the Bronx Walk of Fame, 1997-2014. walk of fame inductees-1.pdf

The Bronx Walk of Fame Inductees - 2006-2014


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Before Book Deal, Andrew Cuomo Backed Bills That Helped News Corporation

In the last few weeks, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo has mounted his “anti-corruption” hobby horse in a charge In favor of stronger ethics laws and against state lawmakers earning outside income. But the International Business Times (IBT) has found that Cuomo doesn’t “walk the talk.”

Cuomo asserted to reporters that he should be exempt from outside income restrictions because his lucrative book deal didn’t impact (trade on) state policies. But IBT found differently.

“…[T]he Democratic governor’s strong words don’t quite square with his own personal appetite for cash earned outside the confines of his state work. Cuomo has so far raked in more than $188,000 from HarperCollins, a News Corporation subsidiary. That is part of a book deal that could ultimately net him more than $700,000. With Albany’s transactional politics now the subject of a federal probe, the context of that April 2013 book deal is particularly significant.

An International Business Times review of New York state documents reveals that News Corporation gave Cuomo a book contract after Cuomo’s administration backed a series of state initiatives that benefited the media giant.”

Governor Cuomo is an adept practitioner of telling state legislators, “do as I say, not as I do” because apparently he’s above reproach. Cuomo thinks closing the barn door (on lawmakers) after he has benefited from the porkfest exempts him from “pay to play” criticism.

Props to IBT for holding Cuomo’s feet to the proverbial fire.

Posted in Government, Politics, Public Corruption, Public Policy | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Worked Up


How did I miss this bit of insight from NT2? Yes, Sen. Schumer is the KING of political fundraising from Wall Street, deconstructor of Glass-Steagal & architect of the 2008 financial meltdown. Yet, my hero, Preet Bharara hasn’t turned his proctoscope on his political rabbi and mentor. NT2 raises an uncomfortable question that no one else has had the temerity to ask out loud.

Originally posted on NT2: Nec Temere, Nec Timide:

Daily, if not hourly, we lurch back and forth between thinking that Preet is doing God’s work and he’s full of crap.

Our latest conclusion is the later. Why? It’s because he gave this comment to the Buffalo News edit board on Friday: “If I could put 50 prosecutors on public corruption in Albany, they certainly wouldn’t be lacking for work.”

With all due respect to the US Attorney’s office in New York City, that’s excrement.

Fifty prosecutors were on the case already. It was called Moreland. And they found what? A bunch of foot faults. Lawmakers could have been better at itemizing their expenses. George Maziarz gave an inexplicable contribution to a girl’s softball team in Binghamton.

Think about this: There were 13 DA’s on the Moreland panel. They saw all the evidence. Were they all incompetent? Were they all stupid? Were they all corrupt?

Well, that’s what…

View original 679 more words

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Almosy Fifty Years Since Ocean Hill-Brownsville Ed Reform


This year marks almost 50 years since the Ocean Hill-Brownsville (OHB) education reform. Five decades later minority kids are still stuck in FAILING NYC schools.
h/t @NYCParentsUnion & WNYC-TV

OHB was an experiment in community control and parent empowerment that was vehemently opposed by the UFT led by Al Shanker who called an illegal strike in order to kill the OHB experiment.

The OHB parents empowerment experiment was vehemently opposed by the UFT & led to illegal strikes. .

Ocean Hill-Brownsville was an education experiment empowering parents. At the time, it undermined by the UFT. And later, the UFT and their Community School Board lackeys whose elections they engineered, worked to prevent parent empowerment and to co-op independent voices.

Mona Davids, one of today’s independent voices and founder of the NYC Parents Union says, “[The UFT) is] still undermining parent empowerment but with paid, salaried lackeys and front groups.” Davids believes that such actions continue to protect ineffective teachers and “condemn millions of kids” to low performing schools.

Watch the WNYC-TV look back on the origins of the community control movement and education reform. Make your comparisons and see that the passage of time has done little to ameliorate education and learning in black and brown communities in New York City.

[Video] Archival footage from the WNYC-TV Moving Image Collection, Municipal Archives, City of New York.

In his first term, John Lindsay began an experiment in school decentralization that quickly mushroomed into a major racial, ideological, and political battle that led to a contentious series of teachers’ strikes and further fragmented his already fragile coalition. By the time Lindsay took office, many black activists and parents, frustrated by the failure of their drive to integrate the schools, were pressing instead for community control of “inner city” schools. In 1967,Lindsay appointed a panel on school reform, headed by McGeorge Bundy of the Ford Foundation and with no representatives from the teachers’ union or the school board. The Bundy report recommended a new “community control system” of largely autonomous local districts, and in 1967 – 68, the Board of Education permitted three experimental districts to be run by locally elected boards in East Harlem, the Lower East Side, and Ocean Hill-Brownsville in Brooklyn.

In May 1968, the Ocean Hill-Brownsville board transferred 17 white teachers and administrators, one Latino teacher, and one black teacher out of the district, citing their “inability to work with people in this community.” In protest, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) launched a series of three strikes in the fall of 1968 that shut down the public school system for over seven weeks. The issue split Lindsay’s liberal constituents into warring camps and kept a million children out of school. A strike settlement on November 17, largely conforming to UFT demands, ended community control. Lindsay later called the second half of 1968 “the worst of my public life.”

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Industry group cashes in with Heastie lobbyist – The Insider Blog | Crain’s New York Business

A lobbying firm with close ties to new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and many other minority politicians has been retained to push a controversial bill that would allow check cashers to make high-interest loans, records show.

In December, the MirRam Group was hired by Financial Service Centers of New York, an industry group, for $10,000 a month to push check cashers’ bill in Albany. Mr. Heastie, D-Bronx, then became speaker—a development that clients of MirRam may see as a stroke of luck. MirRam co-founder Roberto Ramirez, a former assemblyman and Bronx Democratic leader, is reportedly helping Mr. Heastie with his transition.

Mr. Heastie had in 2013 sponsored the check cashers’ legislation, which the Daily News called "horrendeous" and which was also opposed by Benjamin Lawsky, the Cuomo administration’s chief banking regulator.

MirRam is particularly influential among minority elected officials in Manhattan and the Bronx. Mr. Lawsky, who heads the Department of Financial Services, has said the check cashers’ bill would legalize predatory lending, which he is trying to eradicate. A source close to the bill’s proponents said it may be amended to better protect borrowers and to address other concerns that critics have.

MirRam in the past has represented clients serving minority neighborhoods, such as the livery car industry. The check cashers argue that their bill, like reforms of the city’s taxi industry in recent years, would reshape an antiquated industry that poorly served these neighborhoods. They say the interest on the loans would reflect the risk to the lender, but would be lower than rates charged by the illicit lenders to whom borrowers often turn when shunned by banks.

Read the rest here =>

Michael Benjamin

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‘Legislator Emeritus’ vanity plate mystery

The Bronx has a new mystery.

On Tuesday, Haile Rivera, a Bronx political activist, posted on Twitter a photo of a license plate bearing the inscription “State Senate Emeritus 26 SSE.” The photo prompted inquiries to the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles, the State Senate and the Assembly.

“Thought all the Bronx state senate emeriti were dead or in prison? @NYSenate any answers?” was my reply to @HaileRivera’s tweet.

Rivera snapped the photo at a Bronx gas station in the Van Nest neighborhood on Tuesday morning.

Until Rivera’s tweet, relatively few of us knew that retired State Senators and Assembly Members with 30 or more years of legislative service are eligible for “Legislator Emeritus” vanity license plates.

Stacy Wood, a DMV spokesperson said, “any State Senator who has served for 30 or more years in the State Senate can apply for an Emeritus license plate.” Ms. Wood assured me that the Emeritus plate “is the same as any other custom plate that has certain qualification requirements (e.g., Veteran) and the applicant pays all the appropriate license plate fees.”

While the plates don’t carry any special privileges or benefits, they are seen as mementos of legislators long public service. Until this new program, retired state senators could purchase the very Senate chamber leather chair upon which they sat. Yep!

Former NY State Senate Minority Leader Martin Connor (D-Brooklyn), a 31-year incumbent, obtained his Emeritus license plate in recent years. Mr. Connor said that he learned about the program during a 2009 Senate Pilots reunion dinner conversation with Senator Neil Breslin (D-Albany).

“Breslin said I should look into the license plate program that the Senate had recently authorized,” Connor, an election lawyer recalled.

“I didn’t apply for the Emeritus license plate until after I replaced my car which was totaled in the flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy,” said Connor.

Connor, served in the State Senate from 1978 until 2008, believes that there are “only a small handful of such plates.” He remembers Republican Senators Ronald Stafford and Roy M. Goodman being conferred “Senator Emeritus” status. Stafford passed away in 2005 and Goodman died at age 84 in June 2014.

[SI/Brooklyn Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis tweeted a guess that the plate might belong to retired State Senator Frank Padavan who represented Queens nabes for 37 years.]

DMV spokesperson Ms. Wood was unable to provide a list of the retired state legislators with the “Senator Emeritus” license plates. She cited the Federal Driver Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) as the reason she was unable to provide information regarding this license plate. By posting time, spokespersons from neither the State Senate nor the Assembly had responded to my email inquiries.

Connor speculated that State Senate Emeritus 26 SSE may have belonged to ex-Senator Goodman because he represented Manhattan’s 26th senate district and that the car photographed at the Bronx gas station may have been driven by a relative.

When informed of the Legislator Emeritus program, Haile Rivera said, “I think it’s a way of New Yorkers saying ‘thank you’ for your service.”

“As long as they aren’t indicted for stealing money from people or nonprofits, retired legislators deserve the Emeritus plate,” said Mr. Rivera.

Follow me on Twitter @SquarePegDem

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Cuomo Officials Directed State Loan To Cuomo Donor At Center of Corruption Probe | International Business Times

[Via IBT] The tones of surprise and outrage emanating from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s lips in the wake of the stunning criminal complaint against New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver might give the impression that the governor hovers above the fray of Albany’s transactional politics.

“I’ll tell you the truth: I was totally shocked on a number of levels,” Governor Cuomo said of the allegations that Silver used his office to help politically connected real estate developers in their state business. Cuomo has positioned himself as a champion of ethics reform, declaringthat “these acts of corruption are so damning.”

But a careful review of state documents reveals that Cuomo and Silver are connected by a key figure in the scandal. Both lawmakers have a financial relationship with the same New York real estate mogul, Leonard Litwin, who has in turn relied upon them for preferential tax treatment and other government benefits.


Michael Benjamin

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FBI probing Bronx political machine, pols |

In an article published online today, the NY Post reports that upstate FBI agents, possibly working with the Office of the US Attorney Northern District, are investigating allegations of voter fraud, fraudulent nominating petition signatures and possibly personal use of campaign funds by Bronx pols connected to the Bronx Democratic County Committee.

According to the story, materials turned over to the FBI included evidence of alleged voter fraud — particularly alleged fake signatures on voter petitions.

[Click on link to read the NY Post story –]

One of my local sources says that one document turned over to federal authorities shows that some candidates in unnamed Bronx districts got more votes than the number of voters who went into the booths.

An additional source told me that Jonathan Dienst of WNBC news is investigating and is putting together a news report based on interviews with those persons making those allegations.

But I am circumspect in believing the accusations. I’ve spoken to several sources who believe there are three possible investigative tracks. In 2014, insurgent candidates Elliot Quiñones and William Moore made accusations of petition and voter fraud against Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr. and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo. Moore also alleged voter fraud in the 2014 primary election result.

A year earlier, insurgent Julio Pabon found nearly enough fake signatures in an election case involving CM Maria del Carmen Arroyo that almost resulted in her getting tossed off the ballot (in 2013). And an anti-Espaillat group claimed that the Espaillat congressional campaign had forged petition signatures and registered sham voters from the same set of apartment addresses in 2014.

The Diaz/Crespo case involves allegations of forgeries and overvoting. The chief accuser, William Moore is a former pal of Eric Stevenson, the disgraced ex-assemblyman (79AD-Bronx) and a disgruntled ex-employee at the Office of the Bronx Borough President. Moore was fired by then-BP Carrion for cause. Another accuser in this case is Camella Pinkney-Price, a former aide to BP Ruben Diaz, Jr. and ex-chief of staff to Sen. Diaz.

Back In 2013, Pabon and attorney Donald Dunn almost had Councilwoman Arroyo thrown off the Democratic primary ballot for petition fraud. The Bronx DA is supposedly prosecuting the Arroyo petition-gatherers thought responsible for the forgeries.

Former Democratic district leader Ken Padilla wrote In a Facebook post that "If this relates to the Diazes…there is stuff there…and witnesses." Padilla added, "Senator Diaz admitted years ago that he took money from a not-for-profit (the now-defunct Soundview Community in Action), about $5000, to buy furniture for his Senate Office and buy speakers for his campaign vans. But then-AG Spitzer gave [Sen. Diaz] a slap on the wrist." He also says that Spitzer’s successor as state Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo lost the SCA file.

Padilla dismissed involvement by Speaker Heastie in the alleged frauds as "not likely."

Mr. Padilla is a federal ICE official working in Florida.

And the Espaillat accusers didn’t provide convincing evidence to me. Overvoting is harder due to electronic scanning of ballots. I had heard of it but had not seen evidence.

If the accusations reported in the Post story even proved true, it probably can’t be pinned on the Bronx Democratic County organization or Speaker Carl Heastie. And I doubt that County’s election lawyer, Stanley Schlein or an agent acting on the organization’s behalf orchestrated the alleged forgeries or ballot-stuffing.

The Post story by John Crudele seems another attempt to sully the reputation of the new Assembly Speaker and current Bronx county leader Carl Heastie. As I write in a City and State column, Heastie’ s ascension "has drawn a bull’s eye on his back."

Veteran political consultant Jerry Skurnick tweeted a link to the last "scandal" Crudele uncovered []. The link was to a Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) article that called out Crudele for a 2013 column headlined “Census ‘faked’ 2012 election jobs report.” The author of the CJR article wrote that "Crudele re-opened the fake controversy with an atrocious piece of journalism…" that was based on a single discredited source.

As I stated earlier, readers should remain circumspect.

It seems that certain special interests and permanent government types are spooked by the longterm implications of an unencumbered Speaker Heastie. Stay tuned.

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