Donovan On Senate Republicans Letter To Iran

Republican congressional candidate Dan Donovan today avoided taking a position on the letter sent by 47 U.S. Senate Republicans to the leadership of Iran.  The controversial letter, criticized by the Wall Street Journal, prompted the NY Daily News to label those 47 United States senators as “traitors.”

When I asked for his view on the letter Donovan replied with a suggestion of disagreement, saying “I think our government has to get on the same page” and “I think sometimes politics gets in the way of governing”, but did not offer any clear statement on the letter.  When I asked if his initial response meant that he “think[s] it was a bad idea to send that letter” Donovan replied “I just said what I said.”  Donovan spoke at a press conference where he received the endorsement of the NYPD’s Captains Endowment Association and the Lieutenants Benevolent Association.

Here’s what Donovan had to say:

Eid al-Fitr & Eid al-Adha Added To School Holiday Calendar

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the addition of two Muslim holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, to the New York City school system’s calendar.  They are the first Muslim holidays included on the City school calendar.  It’s a change long-sought by New York’s Muslim community and reflects a Muslim population in the City and it’s schools growing in both number and political influence.

Here are highlights of the press conference:

The full press conference Q&A is available here.

de Blasio Press Q&A: The Eid-al Fitr Edition

At a press conference this morning in Bay Ridge Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the addition of two Muslim holidays to the New York City public school calendar.  Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha will be added as school holidays for the 2015-16 school year.

On topic Q&A:

On topic question topics included how the school schedule will accommodate the two additional holidays, who will the City look to to determine the exact date of Eid al-Fitr each year, how many religious and cultural holidays are currently on the City school calendar and whether the mayor believes there should be a set limit on the number of such holidays, whether the mayor considered a possible backlash and why he concluded that now is an appropriate time to add these holidays, the status of adding Lunar New Year as a school holiday, whether this applies to private schools and the New York State Department of Education’s position on adding these holidays.

Off-topic Q&A:

Off topic question topics included the mayor’s favored candidate in the Chicago mayoral runoff election, how he’s going to try to convince the state legislature to block Governor Cuomo’s plans to increase reliance on student testing in teacher evaluations, his speech tomorrow to ABNY, Hillary Clinton’s use of private email for government business and his own use of private and government email, current numbers on the issuance of municipal IDs, Correction Commissioner Joe Ponte’s letter concerning a recent sexual assault on a correction officer on Rikers Island and the Corizon healthcare contract, de Blasio’s planned trip to Israel, the St. Patrick’s Day breakfast at Gracie Mansion and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and City efforts at protecting residents from “growing islamophobia”.

de Blasio On Government Officials & Email Use

“I do my official business on official email” said Mayor Bill de Blasio today when asked whether he uses “private email for public business.”  He also offered strong praise for Hillary Clinton, but did not respond directly to part of the posed question: whether he thinks its “ever appropriate … for a senior government official to rely exclusively on private email.”

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito responded somewhat imprecisely, saying that “there are times when we, yes, when we rely on private email, but we do use our government email.”  Public Advocate Tish James and Council Member Danny Dromm did not respond to the question posed by Matthew Chayes of Newsday.  de Blasio spoke during a press conference announcing the addition of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha as school holidays.

de Blasio On His Cuomo Relationship. Again.

In a somewhat contentious exchange Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to engage directly on a press question concerning the apparent frictions in his relationship with Governor Andrew Cuomo.  Asked about a Daily News report describing him as “at his ‘wits end'” over the “harsh treatment” administered by Governor Cuomo, de Blasio sought to dismiss any interest in “the personalities” as misguided.  de Blasio suggested that he’s not concerned with it.  He went to list a variety of issues that he’s agreed with the governor, as well as some substantial issues he’s disagreed with the governor on.  (In an unusual moment de Blasio praised former governor Eliot Spitzer’s school funding adjustments and lamented the current school aid calculations.)

Difficulties in the Cuomo/de Blasio relationship have been readily apparent since de Blasio took office.  The City’s existence as a political subdivision of the state possessing only those powers granted to it by the state ensures a tension between the state and city chief executives, but there’s a personal element involved as well.  Governor Cuomo is loath to yield political and decision-making power to anyone, including his former subordinate.

Last week de Blasio reacted to Cuomo’s prediction that their governor/mayor relationship will be the “best in modern political history” with a broad smile.

Here’s what de Blasio had to say today:

Would It Be Good To Have A Republican in 11th Congressional District?

Would it be logical for Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York’s Democratic members in the House of Representatives to accept or even welcome a Republican winning the upcoming special election in the 11th Congressional District?  That seat was held by Michael Grimm, the only Republican House member from New York City.  Republicans hold a 245 to 188 edge over Democrats in the House and a member of the majority may be more successful than the minority members in advancing New York City’s interests.  Mayor de Blasio, when asked that question by Anna Sanders of the Staten Island Advance, didn’t buy it.

NY Congressional Reps, de Blasio On Netanyahu Speech

Nine members of congress representing New York City discussed the upcoming speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Congress and whether they plan to attend.  Senator Chuck Schumer and Representatives Charles Rangel, Jerrold Nadler, Carolyn Maloney, Joe Crowley, Hakeem Jeffries, Grace Meng, Nydia Velazquez and Yvette Clarke joined Mayor Bill de Blasio this morning for a press conference at Gracie Mansion intended to focus on the House Republicans’ inability to fund DHS for longer than this week.

Senator Schumer and six of the eight house members said that they plan to attend.  Charles Rangel does not plan to attend and Yvette Clarke said that she has not yet decided.  Many of the representatives had harsh words for House Speaker John Boehner, with Velzquez denouncing his actions as “shameful.”  Mayor de Blasio harshly criticized Speaker Boehner for his invitation to Netanyahu, but since he is not a member of congress de Blasio does not have the option to attend.

Congressional Views:

Here’s what Senator Schumer and the House members had to say:

Mayor de Blasio:

Here’s what Mayor de Blasio had to say:

Gentile Press Q&A: The Nomination Edition

Newly designated congressional candidate Vincent Gentile spoke with press following his selection and speech to the Richmond County Democratic Committee.  Topics included the Eric Garner case and the absence of any direct discussion of it in his acceptance speech, his plans for continuing post-Garner “healing”, opponent and incumbent District Attorney Dan Donovan’s prosecutorial abilities, the absence of an indictment in the Garner case, a poll (which did not include Gentile) showing Donovan as the leading candidate, his assessment of President Barack Obama and his assessment of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

A detailed look at his assessment of Obama and de Blasio is here.  Here’s Gentile’s full Q&A:

Gentile On Obama, de Blasio

Obama – great, or good, job.  de Blasio – meh.  That’s the essence of Council Member and congressional candidate Vincent Gentile’s response when asked about the two Democratic elected officials.  Gentile spoke during a press Q&A following his nomination to run as the Democratic candidate in the 11th Congressional District special election scheduled for May 5th.


When I asked Gentile to rate President Obama’s overall performance he responded with an answer solely focused on the economy.  Gentile termed Obama’s performance “great”, although he also amended his answer to “good”, saying that “I’m prepared to say that he’s done a great, a good job with the economy.”  Although viewed by many as a political liability, President Obama carries substantial support in some areas.  He won Staten Island in his 2012 reelection bid, 78,000 to 74,000, after having lost it in 2008 by 7,000 votes.  It’s also worth noting, however, that Bob Turner won a neighboring district congressional special election in 2011 (to replace Anthony Weiner) by galvanizing discontent with Obama’s approach to Israel.  It’s unclear at this early stage whether Obama will be a meaningful part of the campaign, but Gentile’s initial positioning is supportive of his fellow Democrat.

Here’s Gentile on Obama:

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Congressional Race Underway (Updated)

A congressional campaign is now underway, but it’s not the 11th Congressional District race to succeed Michael Grimm.  It’s the 2016 13th Congressional District race to succeed Rep. Charles B. Rangel.  Rangel, re-elected to a 23rd term in 2014, has said that he will not run again.

Adam Clayton Powell IV, son of the legendary congressman defeated in 1970 by Charles Rangel, kicked-off his campaign with an East Harlem fundraiser this evening.  Powell is a former state assembly and city council member who has run against Rangel twice.  He supported Rangel in 2012 and 2014 against strong challenges each time from NY State Senator Adriano Espaillat, however.

I spoke with Powell tonight, with our conversation covering why he’s begun campaigning so early, whether he’s asked for Rangel’s endorsement, what voters are looking for, the large field of prospective candidates and how his career ups and downs have affected him.

Update – The Competition:

Among the large group of possible competitors for the seat is New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat, who ran and lost to Rangel in 2012 and 2014.  The Dominican-born Espaillat represents much of Upper Manhattan and was widely regarded as likely to win in 2014.  Powell had some non-encouraging comments about a third Espaillat candidacy.  Although he described Espaillat as “a great guy”, Powell noted that Espaillat has lost twice in seeking the seat and offered (without any apparent irony) that “I don’t think he wants to go out with three strikes.”  He also suggested that Espaillat “ought to be planning his retirement rather than Charlie Rangel’s retirement.”  Powell spoke in response to a question from Will Bredderman of the NY Observer.

Cuomo At Hotel Trades Council

Governor Andrew Cuomo today lauded his administration’s increase of the minimum wage applicable to tipped workers to $7.50.  Currently the minimum wage for tipped workers is $4.90, $5.00 or $5.65, varying by the industry.  Effective as of December 31, 2015 there will be a uniform minimum applicable to all tipped workers.

Saying that businesses are “making record profits” and that “it is time that they share”, Cuomo also urged the state legislature to approve an increase in the statewide minimum wage to $10.50, with an additional $1.00 per hour in New York City.  Lamenting that “the rich are getting richer and the middle class and the working families are being left further and further behind”, Cuomo cast the increases as the “right thing … the fair thing … the honest thing” to do.

Cuomo spoke at the Hotel Trades Council midtown Manhattan headquarters.

Best Governor/Mayor Relationship?

Does Mayor Bill de Blasio share Governor Andrew Cuomo’s view that their relationship “will be the best relationship between a mayor and governor in modern political history when all is said and done?”

Cuomo and de Blasio do have a long relationship, with de Blasio having worked for Cuomo in the 1990’s at Department of Housing and Urban Development, and there have been moments when Cuomo has looked to de Blasio for assistance.  At many other times however, and as have virtually all New York governors and mayors, Cuomo and de Blasio have found themselves at odds.  They’ve mostly worked to keep their disagreements and differences out of public view, but those frictions clearly exist.

I asked Mayor de Blasio about Governor Cuomo’s comment today at an unrelated press conference.  Here’s how he reacted (hint – the real answer is in the smile):

de Blasio Press Q&A: The M/WBE Edition

Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference this afternoon following a closed-door “Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise Stakeholder Meeting.”

Questions during the off-topic portion of the press conference included his opinion of the expected Democratic candidate in the 11th Congressional District special election and whether he’ll campaign for Gentile, the prospect of Department of Homeland Security losing funding, religious organizations renting City school facilities for prayer/worship services and the related lawsuit, a NY Post report criticizing a newly-created NYPD training program, reported terror threats against shopping malls, the absence of a Lunar New Year message from the mayor and his non-attendance at the Lunar New Year parade, his reaction to Governor Cuomo’s comment that their relationship will be “the best relationship between a mayor and governor in modern political history,” his scheduled trip to Albany on Wednesday and delays in federal funding of Sandy rebuilding.