Ahead of ex-Obama operative Michael Blake’s Bronx Assembly run kickoff, residency questions – NY Daily News

Uh Oh!

Democrat Michael Blake, who has his eye on the 79th District seat vacated by Eric Stevenson after a January bribery conviction, describes himself as a “lifelong” Bronx resident.But records reviewed by the Daily News Friday show he voted in Washington, D.C. in 2010 and 2012.

By law, Assembly candidates must have been residents of New York State for five years and have lived in the district in which they seek office for the 12 months immediately before the election (or in the county if it’s a redistricting year). [04/18/2014]


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LOVETT: Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver halts $185G secured by embattled Micah Kellner; feds eye state lawmakers travel expenses (EXCLUSIVE) – NY Daily News

In today’s NY Daily News, Albany bureau chief Ken Lovett writes:

With the feds apparently taking a closer look at the travel expenses claimed by state lawmakers, one government reformer says it’s time to rein in the system. “The system cries out for an overhaul,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Lawmakers receive a flat $172 for hotel and food for each day they are in Albany. But they do not have to provide backup material to prove they were there in order to get reimbursed.

“There’s enough examples that exist that shows the honor system is not good enough,” Horner said.The FBI recently raided the Albany and district offices of Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-Brooklyn) and asked him about some of his per diem expenses. Scarborough, who has not been charged, said he was also asked to rat out other lawmakers who may be involved wrongdoing.

In addition to being convicted on bribery charges this year, former Assemblyman William Boyland (D-Brooklyn) was also found to have put in for $70,000 in false per diem reimbursements.In 2013, the 150-member Assembly paid out more than $1.4 million in per diems, according to figures provided by the state Controller’s Office. The 63-member Senate dished out another $646,596.

A good portion of that was for travel to Albany that took place after the legislative session ended in June, records show.


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Segregation in NYC Schools

Perhaps, there aren’t enough white pupils to go around because their parents have no confidence in the NYC school system.

In New York City, the percentage of white students dropped from 21.3 percent in 1989-90 to 14.5 percent in 2010-11, the researchers said.In 19 of the city’s 32 community school districts, minorities comprised at least 90 percent of the student population.

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Capitol Corruption Panel’s Demise Angers Watchdogs – NYTimes.com


Cuomo Declares Victory In War on Albany Corruption – - Cynical? Yes!

The most trenchant and telling comment in today’s NY Times story about Governor Cuomo’s decision to kill his Moreland Commission came from:

Lawrence Norden, the deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, said the commission’s most insightful observation — that many seemingly unethical acts in Albany, involving money and policy making, were technically legal — had been largely ignored by lawmakers.

“What the Legislature and governor came up with did not address that at all,” he said. [NY Times, 04/01/2014]



I had thought for certain that the very public parade of FBI agents carrying boxes of AM William Scarborough’s files through the LOB would intimidate the Cuomo and the Legislature into retaining the Moreland Commission. I was wrong.

Cynicism remains the other coin of the realm in Albany.

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The Scene of The Budget Crime

A new crime—corrupting the government—was created, and applies to any public officials or co-conspirators who defraud the state. Cuomo had been pushing for the new crime after a rash of lawmaker indictments last year. Hopefully, a new crop of wrongdoers will be deterred by this new statute.

I’ll update readers on the fate of the Moreland Commission as I learn more on what’s in the printed budget bills.

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EXCLUSIVE: Former campaign workers for Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo charged with fraud – NY Daily News

Former campaign workers for Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo charged with fraud

An outrageous miscarriage of justice for people who are being made scapegoats. A good petition operation would have caught those fraudulent petitions beforehand and definitely before filing petitions at the Board of Election.

Considering that Arroyo petitions operation was supervised by Richie Izquierdo (the Councilmember’s nephew) –a convicted felon and parolee– I’m surprised he wasn’t indicted, too.

I hope these people get their day in court and take down their handlers.


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Recently published columns

Here are links to my recent columns:
Tricks of a phony parent advocate, http://bit.ly/1ifv4EE;

Ire InThe Empire (State), http://bit.ly/1fWAy2M; and

Affirmative Action Still Needed in Obama Era, http://bit.ly/1cgp1k9.


Skype: SquarePegDem

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Ire in The Empire (State) Tweet

I know who to bet on great post by Mr. Benjamin RT @SquarePegDem Ire in The Empire (State) | City and State NY http://t.co/lw3SpP4uYp

— Lew Leone (@LewsView) March 19, 2014

Michael Benjamin
Twitter: @SquarePegDem

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Ire in The Empire (State) | City and State NY

Ire In The Empire (State)

Last year, like many political junkies I traipsed behind the NYC Democratic mayoral candidates from one earnest but repetitive forum after another. As a camp follower, I was most interested in their education proposals.

At the June 2013, NYC Parents Mayoral Forum on Education, sponsored by a coalition of labor unions, community organizations and parents advocacy organizations, candidates signed a pledge committing themselves to implementing their responses to questions about special ed services, school governance and parent empowerment, class size and co-locations, testing, privacy and school safety, and diversity, closing the achievement gap and after-school services.

That forum’s pledges (as well as others) can serve as checklists for measuring de Blasio’s ability to keep his campaign promises.

Then as now, education reformers and parents of children in public charters schools and on waiting lists were fearful of the Democratic mayoral candidates. At the time, de Blasio and the other leading Democrats denounced co-location, the rent-free space given charters in public school buildings and the scourge of Eva Moskowitz as each angled for the UFT endorsement.

At the advent of the de Blasio administration, the charter school movement seemed dispirited over the prospects of the post-Bloomberg era. There was talk of running TV ads to pillory and chasten de Blasio into continuing Mayor Bloomberg’s charter school program.

Since becoming Mayor, de Blasio symbolically eliminated building aid for charter schools in his preliminary budget. Truth be told that money was never real. It was a budget booby-trap that an outgoing Bloomberg administration left behind for de Blasio to obligingly trip.

It must have come as a surprise to the new Mayor that Governor Cuomo would use his budget “cut,” his pledge to charge some charter schools rent, and his rescinding of three co-locations as bludgeons in their re-election year budget battle. Cuomo’s effective use of de Blasio’s “anti-charter” stance brought new meaning to the statement that “with Cuomo as a friend, who needs enemies.”

Despite their education policy disagreements with Mayor Bloomberg, none of the mayoral candidates pledged to abandon Bloomberg’s signature achievement: mayoral control. De Blasio and Thompson fully embraced mayoral control because it puts the city’s chief executive in charge.

At the NYC Parents Forum, de Blasio declined to cede three of his Panel on Educational Priorities appointments to direct election by citywide public school parents.

Suddenly this month, Cuomo and the State Senate co-leaders proposed curtailing mayoral control of city public schools, at least, as it pertained to charter schools. It was a move akin to the Russian navy blockading Ukrainian naval vessels in their home port of Sevastopol.

A wily Cuomo had outmaneuvered de Blasio once again.

The next few days will provide some insight into the future of the Cuomo-de Blasio relationship in areas of policy disagreement. This isn’t a mere clash of personality; it’s a clash of different approaches to politics. It’s a fight between two old Democratic operatives: a ruthless asymmetrical tactician (who plays the angles) vs. a chummy ideologue (who eschews street fighting).

It’s a fight for the soul of the state, if not, the national, Democratic party. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the Clinton-Obama electoral fracas in 2008.

I think Cuomo knows how that one turned out. No doubt, he aims to come out on top in every clash with the New York Mayor.

And I’ll be traipsing along with everyone else chronicling the “Ire in the Empire (State).”
# # #
Former Assemblyman Michael Benjamin (@SquarePegDem on Twitter) represented the Bronx for eight years.


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Tricks of a phony parent advocate | New York Post


Etc., etc., etc.”: So noted United Federation of Teachers shill Zakiyah Ansari responded to a question about why her child still attends the UFT’s failing, co-located charter school in Brooklyn.

Ansari was on NY1 this week in an effort to prop up Mayor de Blasio’s illegal rescinding of previously-approved colocations for three Success Academy charter schools.

Viewers were given the impression that the colocation of the UFT charter school was happily accepted by the JHS 292 school community. It wasn’t.

Parents at JHS 292 vehemently opposed that co-location, especially since the SUNY Charter Institute nearly revoked the UFT school’s charter in 2013.

The opposition was so strident that UFT chief Michael Mulgrew had to sit with JHS 292 parents and his own union members to quell their resistance. A compromise was reached in the matter and the co-location went through.

Wondering why this is important? It’s a matter of hidden agendas, hypocrisy and lies.

Last year, I exposed Zakiyah Ansari as a “fake pal of parents.” She doubles as advocacy director for the Alliance for Quality Education and “spokesparent” for New York Communities for Change and New Yorkers for Great Public Schools.Funded by the UFT and its parent, New York State United Teachers, both AQE and NYGPS pose as groups speaking on behalf of public-school parents.

Continuing the pattern of deception, Ansari hid from NY1 viewers that the low-achieving UFT Charter School’s co-location request was approved by the Bloomberg administration despite opposition from the host JHS 292 community.

There’s more: Shortly after her defending the mediocre UFT Charter School, Ansari announced on Facebook that her son will attend Eagle Academy 2 come September – that is, he’s not continuing his secondary education at the UFT school. Not a vote of confidence, is it?

Ansari’s Facebook page also indicates that her son took the specialized high school admissions test but failed to make the cut. It seems he son wanted out of the UFT Charter School badly.

Did I mention that Ansari is a parent trustee on the board of the UFT Charter School that her son will no longer attend come the fall? It’s hard keeping track of all of her many hats.

By the way, Ansari served on Mayor de Blasio’s transition team, presumably advising him on education policies.

And since de Blasio promises to gut the admissions policy at specialized high schools, I won’t be surprised to see Ansari soon assailing those successful institutions as elitist and racist.

Her hypocrisy (and that of her retainers) has no bounds.

Unlike Ansari, Harlem Success Academy IV parent Shea Greer thinks the mayor should be creating space for high-performing schools instead of denying them access.

Says Greer, “We have so many [children] wanting to get in the school, the school is doing so well and we don’t have the space for them.”

If de Blasio has issues with charter schools, he should sit down with those leaders to spell out his concerns.

Surely the mayor can find ways to collaborate with the leaders of schools that have narrowed the achievement gap over the past decade.

Mayor de Blasio should close the rhetoric gap and focus on cooperative ways to improve educational outcomes for all New York City students.

Students and parents are ill-served by an education debate beset by adult gamesmanship, hidden relationships and misinformation.

And we certainly can do without shills such as Zakiyah Ansari muddying the discussion.

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