With most of the state digging out of the snow this morning, we probably all feel like losers. Except maybe those kids who are missing school and planning their trips to the sledding hill. One thing we know is that there will be no sledding for Mayor de Blasio, who is dealing with his first test since moving into Gracie Mansion. His performance will be watched closely and may land him on one side or the other of this list next week. But in politics that’s an eternity. So until then, here are this week’s Winners and Losers.
Geraldo Alvarez, Seymour Hunter and Rocco Paciello – You’re free!!!! Oh, wait, you were already free. Still, these three low-level offenders did receive clemency from Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week, clearing their criminal records. Some advocates are nonetheless taking shots at the governor for not being more compassionate, but it’s a start. And it makes a difference in the lives of these three men.
Andrew Cuomo - Judge William Skretny gave Cuomo a New Year’s gift with his ruling in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the SAFE Act. With the legislation’s one-year anniversary approaching, nearly the entire law was upheld in federal court in Buffalo. Even though the highly-criticized seven-round limit was struck down—at least in the Western District of New York—Cuomo can invoke the ruling in his defense as criticism of the law continues amid confusion as to how it affects certain parties. He won’t be able to rely on Skretny’s decision forever, though. An appeal of the ruling is expected soon, and others are likely to follow.
Carmen Fariña - Was it an offer she couldn’t refuse? It was perhaps the worst kept secret of the last couple of weeks that Mayor Bill de Blasio was considering Fariña for the city’s top education post, but she was reportedly reluctant to come out of retirement. The allure of a thankless administration post must have been too strong! In all seriousness, Fariña seems like a more than competent choice and she said all of the right things at her introductory press conference, promising to carry forth de Blasio’s vision of parent-teacher collaboration and de-emphasizing testing, and committed to the job for at least one term. Here’s hoping that the job does not wear her out before then.
Charles Fuschillo - The now-former senator picked the right time to stop commuting up to Albany, with some of the harshest winter weather undoubtedly yet to come. Fuschillo resigned to take the top job at the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. The 53-year-old had reportedly been offered other choice positions in recent years, but observers say he turned them down at the GOP leadership’s request. Now he’s got a meaningful policy post that doesn’t require Fuschillo to endure yet another harrowing power struggle this November.
Ed Mangano – It’s nice having friends in high places, and Mangano seems to have one in Gov. Andrew Cuomo. One day after sitting next to the Clintons at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s inauguration, the governor motored down the LIE to Nassau County where Mangano, a Republican, was being sworn into office. It’s highly unusual for a governor to attend a local county inauguration, especially for an executive from another party, but Cuomo and Mangano have been buddy-buddy for some time now, so much so that there were rumors that Cuomo even considered endorsing Mangano this year for re-election. As for his own re-election hopes, Cuomo, ever the politician, likely sees a strategic partnership with Mangano as a way for him to solidify his support on Long Island.
Michael Bloomberg - Attending the inauguration of the man succeeding you is already supremely awkward, but it’s agonizing when it takes an hour for any of the speakers to even acknowledge your presence. To his credit, Bloomberg was a good soldier sitting ten feet away while Letitia James and Bill de Blasio turned their speeches into a referendum on the shortcomings of his mayoralty. It was an uncouth moment to be sure, and after 12 years of leading the city, Bloomberg deserved better. Then again he’s probably working on his tan in Bermuda right now while de Blasio has a blizzard to deal with, so who’s the loser again?
Letitia James - The public advocate got off to a rough start on her first day with a PR flub on NY1 Wednesday night. James took partial credit for bringing the much-discussed Dasani Coates story to the New York Times‘ attention, a claim the Times immediately rejected, forcing the PA to walk back what she had said. James’ mistake came on the heels of her somewhat controversial inaugural speech, which walked a fine line between highlighting important issues and railing infelicitously against Michael Bloomberg, who was in attendance. On the bright side, at least James got her first mistake out of the way early. Next time, perhaps, she will choose her words more carefully.
Micah Kellner - The Manhattan Assemblyman’s terrible year ended just as badly. First, he was slapped by the Assembly Ethics Committee and stripped of his leadership of the Committee on Libraries and Education Technology, following an investigation into sexual harassment allegations brought against him. Then Gov. Cuomo told Kellner and Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak they need to either refute the allegations against them or resign. Kellner started 2014 by appealing the committee’s judgment, but after becoming yet another Assembly member in the headlines for alleged sexual harassment, calls for him to step down aren’t likely to end quickly.
Fred Lucas Jr. – The chaplain for the New York City Department of Sanitation raised eyebrows with his invocation filled with vivid comparisons of New York City’s travails to the struggle to end slavery, and his specific reference to the city as a “plantation.” De Blasio and many others had his back, but the last thing that is supposed to be eating up inches in the dailies the day after a landmark inauguration is one of four invocations. Whether you liked, hated or were indifferent to his speech, Lucas Jr. was a needless distraction on a day that was supposed to inspire unity.
Dean Skelos - One man’s big move is another man’s big headache. With the resignation of state Sen. Charles Fuschillo, Skelos’ job of holding onto the GOP’s power share with the IDC became a whole lot harder. And with an aging conference, Fuschillo may not be the last Republican senator to depart the chamber or choose not to see re-election (like Congressional candidate Lee Zeldin). It was a tough way to ring in what is sure to be a nerve-wracking year for the majority c0-leader.
Tags: Andrew Cuomo, Bill De Blasio, Carmen Farina, Charles Fuschillo, Dasani Coates, Dean Skelos, Dennis Gabryszak, Ed Mangano, Fred Lucas Jr., Geraldo Alvarez, Lee Zeldin, Letitia James, Micah Kellner, Michael Bloomberg, New York Times, Rocco Paciello, SAFE Act, Seymour Hunter, William Skretny