Percoco & Friends Depart

Joe Percoco Arraignment 12-1-16The “friends” scattered, leaving separately through different court house doors, united only in their silent response to press questions.

Joe Percoco, a former top aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo, and seven co-defendants were arraigned today on federal corruption charges.  According to prosecutors, some of alleged corrupt actions committed by Percoco were for “friends” of the governor and his political operation.

Percoco Departs Arraignment 12-1-16

The eight defendants were arrested and charged in September on a criminal complaint prepared by the U.S. Attorney’s office.   Today’s arraignment followed the recent issuance of an indictment by a federal grand jury, which replaced the criminal complaint.  All eight defendants were reported to have entered not guilty pleas today.

Joe Percoco Arraignment 12-1-16

Photo Gallery:

Our post-arraignment photo gallery is here.

Mayor Likes Mayor (Updated)

Former Mayor David Dinkins appeared with current Mayor Bill de Blasio today, expressing great support and admiration for de Blasio although without expressly endorsing his reelection bid.  de Blasio and his wife Chirlaine McCray met as young staffers in the Dinkins administration and they’ve long expressed their high regard for Dinkins, which Dinkins has reciprocated.  Today’s appearance continued de Blasio’s rapid ramp up of his nascent 2017 reelection campaign, adding to the early union endorsements and appearances as he moves to publicly present a strong base of support.

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Photo Gallery: Trump Tower Protest

Trump Tower Protest 11-12-16Thousands of anti-Trump protesters filled Fifth Avenue Saturday afternoon and evening, venting their anger and frustration at the election of Donald Trump.  Converging marches from Union Square and Columbus Circle brought protesters to a stand-off with police just south of Trump Tower.  There were a couple of minor scuffles between protesters and police, but no major trouble that I observed.  Waving signs and chanting, the crowd’s contempt for Trump was unmistakable, expressed in signs ranging from angry to funny to earnest.

Here’s a sampling of the signs and scene:

 

Photo Gallery:  Our full photo gallery is available here.

Trump Tower Protest 11-12-16

Flight #587 Memorial – 2016

Flight #587 Memorial Service 11-12-16The annual memorial service marking the 2001 crash of American Airlines Flight #587 was held Saturday morning.  Mayor Bill de Blasio joined attendees at the service, held at the memorial constructed just off the beach on Rockaway’s Beach 116th Street. The flight was headed from JFK to the Dominican Republic and the majority of those onboard were Dominican Americans and Dominican nationals.  The crash also killed five people on the ground in Rockaway.

de Blasio was infamously late to the 2014 memorial service, his first as mayor.  He missed the moment of silence, provoking a firestorm of criticism over his then-frequent tardiness to public events.  This year, as in 2015, de Blasio arrived early and worked his way through the audience shaking hands, hugging and talking with attendees before the service began.

Flight #587 Memorial Service 11-12-16

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Photo Gallery: Veterans Day Parade

Veterans Day Parade 11-11-16Mayor Bill de Blasio was the leading elected official at today’s New York City Veterans Day Parade, speaking at a pre-Parade ceremony in Madison Square Park and marching the full route.  Governor Cuomo did not attend, and many City and State elected officials are in  Puerto Rico at the Somos el Futuro conference.

Veterans Day Parade 11-11-16

de Blasio received a very positive reception, although there were some negative reactions from the crowd.  An occasional boo or “one term mayor” refrain, often sotto voce, popped up as the Mayor passed by, but the crowd reaction was mostly applause and appreciation directed at the marchers.

Photo Gallery:

Our full photo gallery is here.

Veterans Day Parade 11-11-16

Clinton Pardon?

Donald Trump Derry NH 8-19-15Will President Obama grant a pardon to Hillary Clinton?  Should he?  It’s an outlandish idea in some ways, but there are substantial reasons that Obama may consider granting a pardon to Clinton.

U.S. presidents have an essentially unfettered Constitutional “power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States,” not subject to review or reversal.  Such a pardon can be for a specific offense or a blanket pardon for all federal crimes.  (Note that a presidential pardon covers federal crimes; the president has no power concerning crimes under state laws.)

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Photo Gallery: de Blasio GOTV (Updated)

de Blasio GOTV 11-7-16Mayor Bill de Blasio made a four borough GOTV swing today, visiting Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College, Queens’ LaGuardia Community College, Manhattan’s Baruch College and the Bronx’s Hostos Community College.  At Medgar Evers and Baruch de Blasio spoke to about 150-200 people at brief outdoor rallies.  (I did not attend the LaGuardia or Hostos Community College appearances.)

There’s little in the way of competitive races within the City, so the Mayor’s GOTV effort won’t impact election outcomes.  Instead, it’s an opportunity for the Mayor to limber up the campaign muscles with some positive visibility.  (Curiously, however, the Mayor was accompanied by government staff rather than campaign staff.) Continue reading

No Shelter For Queens Electeds (Updated)

img_8436Council Member Eric Ulrich drew several Queens elected officials to a City Hall rally Friday, objecting to the de Blasio administration’s efforts at using hotels in Maspeth and Rockaway as homeless shelters.  The electeds’ objections, substantially focused on the process and lack of communication by the administration, left them exposed to the deep anger of the 150 or so people attending the rally.  Those attendees, predominantly from Maspeth with a minority from Rockaway, deeply oppose siting a shelter in their neighborhood no matter what process or communication is used.  Their anger eventually overwhelmed the elected officials’ efforts to conduct a press conference, driving those elected officials into City Hall as the crowd chanted outside on the City Hall portico and briefly marched on City Hall plaza.

Photo Gallery:

Our full photo gallery is available here.

Elected officials and candidates listen to a press question during a rally & press conference hosted by CM Eric Ulrich. 10/21/16
Elected officials and candidates listen to a press question during a rally & press conference hosted by CM Eric Ulrich. 10/21/16

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Ulrich Q&A Goes Awry

Council Member Eric Ulrich got more than he bargained for this morning as supporters joining a protest he organized overwhelmed the press Q&A portion of that protest, driving Ulrich and other elected officials to abandon the effort.

Ulrich City Hall 10-21-16

Ulrich, a Council Member from Queens who’s running for mayor and long a critic of Mayor de Blasio, organized the rally and press conference to “protest Mayor de Blasio’s failed homeless policies.”  Joined by State Senators Joe Addabbo, Jose Peralta and Tony Avella and Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, Ulrich decried the de Blasio administration’s actions around placement of homeless shelters, particularly in the Playland Motel in Rockaway and the Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth.  Both efforts by the de Blasio administration have generated intense neighborhood opposition.  It’s a good issue for Ulrich in many ways as many of his Rockaway constituents are strongly opposed to the administration’s efforts and it provides a means for greater exposure to the City’s full electorate.

His rally spun out of control as Ulrich began taking press questions, with several attendees jumping in to shout over Ulrich and Council Member Elizabeth Crowley.  Those shouting attendees (including state senate candidate Michael Conigliaro) and the elected officials attending aren’t at odds, they all oppose the shelter placements, but the deep anger flowing out of many attendees overwhelmed the more measured complaints from Ulrich and the other electeds.

Here’s what happened:

Update – Photo Gallery:

Our full photo gallery is here.

Elected officials and candidates listen to a press question during a rally & press conference hosted by CM Eric Ulrich.  10/21/16
Elected officials and candidates listen to a press question during a rally & press conference hosted by CM Eric Ulrich. 10/21/16

Det. Holder Memorial

Det. Holder Memorial 10-20-16Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Jimmy O’Neill attended a memorial for NYPD Detective Randolph Holder this afternoon, marking one year since Holder was murdered while on duty.

Held at PSA 5 in Harlem, the memorial included about 200 police officers and about a dozen members of Holders family.  The memorial included remarks by Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner O’Neill, PBA President Pat Lynch and the current commanding officer of PSA 5, as well as Detective Holder’s father.  The ceremony concluded with an unveiling of a plaque dedicated to Detective Holder’s memory.

Det. Holder Memorial 10-20-16

There was no discussion of politics or the variety of issues facing the NYPD and the Mayor, with the speakers focused on Detective Holder and his family, along with the at times grave challenges that police officers regularly face.

Photo Gallery:

Our full photo gallery is available here.

Trump ConCon Effect?

nunst053Will the anger and discontent fueling Donald Trump’s presidential campaign energize a “yes” vote in next year’s ballot question of whether to convene a New York State constitutional convention?

First, some background.  Article XIX of the New York State Constitution provides for a ballot question every twenty years of whether to convene a constitutional convention, often referred to as a “ConCon,” with the next such vote set for 2017.  If a simple majority vote yes on convening a convention, delegates to a convention will be elected in November 2018 and the convention will convene in April 2019.  Voters rejected conventions in 1997 and 1977.  Voters did approve a convention in 1965 (on the ballot pursuant to a statutory mandate from the legislature) and it was held in 1967, although voters later rejected the revised constitution produced by that convention.

A convention has the authority to rewrite any part of, or the entire, state constitution, but any changes take effect only if subsequently approved by voters in a statewide election.  It’s an alluring prospect to many, offering a chance for a favored change stymied by the governor and/or legislature as well as offering the possibility of a broad reshaping of state government.  In reality though, the prospect of a convention has generated strong organized opposition from public employee unions, who rightly fear removal of the constitutional prohibition on reducing state employee pensions, and ultimately fallen to the fear of possible excess by a convention free to radically rewrite the Constitution.

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