A mayor filling potholes. A reporter dodging buses. A governor who insists he isn’t running for president tweeting about past presidents on Presidents’ Day. A state senator accused of plagiarism. And a fury over educating prison inmates. This was just one of those weeks in New York State where you felt like you were at a tennis match–your head bobbing back and forth from story to story. Like any game, there were winners and losers.
Blair Horner – When the governor this week announced another $9 million for local grants to fight teen smoking, a spokesperson claimed that it didn’t have anything to do with a recent report from NYPIRG that highlighted cuts in state tobacco control programs. We’re making Horner, NYPIRG’s legislative director, a winner anyway, even if it’s not a very big victory: anti-smoking funding has been cut the past two years and this year, apart from the new grants, there’s no increase in spending in the governor’s budget.
Carl McCall - The SUNY chairman has to share credit with Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio, but give McCall his due for helping to iron out a deal to ensure that the perpetually embattled Long Island College Hospital will continue to operate as a long-term health care center. Politically, Cuomo and de Blasio get to reap all of the benefits of this deal, so we thought it only appropriate to throw a bone to McCall, the only non-elected official of the trio, for helping broker the agreement. The fine print and mechanics of the proposal to keep LICH functional have not yet been announced, but when it does, it will be interesting to see if Cuomo and de Blasio make room in the spotlight for McCall.
David Ranta - How do you compensate 23 years in prison? Ranta’s wrongful murder conviction at the hands of a New York City detective who framed him won him a $6.4 million settlement from the city, a rapid acceptance of liability by the comptroller’s office. Ranta’s case was helped by a series of New York Times articles exposing the detective’s corruption and his inoculation from culpability by former Brooklyn district attorney Charles Hynes. The millions of dollars will not buy back the years Ranta lost in a prison cell, but at the very least he can live the rest of his life with validation of his innocence.
Steven Spinola – We don’t really know what Mayor de Blasio said at this week’s REBNY meeting because reporters weren’t allowed in. But when the entire real estate industry is smiling from ear to ear and the takeaway from most in attendance was–WE CAN BUILD WICKED TALL BUILDINGS!!!!!! (as long as we do some affordable housing stuff) then you have to chalk up the meeting as a win for the REBNY president, who was probably at least a little nervous that the new progressive mayor might not be as building-friendly as Michael Bloomberg. Has anyone checked champagne sales in Manhattan lately?
Kenneth Wynder - Wynder’s Law Enforcement Employees Benevolent Association was the first union domino to fall on the long list of unsettled municipal contracts that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has to settle, and he made out pretty well for a portion of his membership. Wynder’s 200 Department of Environmental Protection officers each received an average of $50,000 in retroactive raises, as well as double their differential pay on working nights. If it turns out that this contract might serve as the template for settlements with the other municipal organizations, those union leaders should tip their cap to Wynder for setting a favorable pattern.
Greg Ball – It’s one thing for a politician to have legislative language turn out to be plagiarized. But it’s another thing when the language is lifted from an essay written by a 17-year-old. The copied text in the legislation—which bans killers whales in state water parks and aquariums—was blamed on an unnamed staffer who was subsequently fired. Ball then took to the Twittersphere to suggest that the reporter who broke the story should be nominated for a Pulitzer.
Bill de Blasio - Last week was a low point for de Blasio as he wrestled with snow, state allies who flip-flopped on his universal pre-K proposal and the wrath of Al Roker, but the theme of his missteps this week was “do as I say, not as I do.” The same mayor who promised a transparent administration was opaque with some of his high-profile public events, not announcing to the press a key meeting with a top Obama administration official and shutting the media out of a meeting with REBNY. The poor optics continued as, two days after detailing his Vision Zero traffic safety plan, de Blasio’s police caravan was caught speeding and rolling through stop signs. When the highlight of your week is a highly manufactured photo op of you filling a pothole in Queens, the honeymoon is over.
Bishop Orlando Findlayter - The religious leader and close political ally to Bill de Blasio probably thought he had it made now that he was buddy buddy with Hizzoner. But his arrest has created a political problem for the new mayor for calling the cops to check up on him and now his new found infamy has prompted some of his old enemies come out of the woodwork and raise allegations of bounced checks and other financial funny business. His 15 minutes are about up, and they couldn’t have been worse.
Kerry Kennedy – The ex-wife of Gov. Andrew Cuomo is finally going on trial after a judge declined to dismiss the charges against her in a drugged driving case. Kennedy, the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, was seen driving erratically and hitting a tractor trailer in the summer of 2012, but she initially claimed that she had a seizure—even though tests found that she had taken a sleeping drug. Now she’ll get to fully explain herself, as she’s expected in court on Monday for opening arguments.
Donald Trump - It’s bad enough when you feel like you have been the victim of a hit piece in the press. But the never shy Donald turned a bit of bad press into an ongoing saga this week involving the firing of his political aide, repeated Twitter outbursts and now some GOP lawmakers backing up the point made by scorned reporter McKay Coppins from BuzzFeed. Trump’s campaign may not have been “fake,” as Coppins, wrote but it definitely looks like it is coming to an end.