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Video: President defends Israel's right to defend itself

Bob McCarthy: More campaign morsels

Check out Bob's column from today, which touches on a number of items including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, County Comptroller-elect Stefan Mychajliw and Congressman-elect Chris Collins.

Video: Politics Now with McCarthy on fiscal cliff flap

Buffalo News Political Reporter Bob McCarthy talks with Brian Meyer about local reaction to the fiscal cliff problem in Washington. Outgoing congresswoman Kathy Hochul and her successor, Chris Collins, are at odds over the issue:

CitiStat Parking liveblog

Mayor Byron W. Brown's CitiStat team will take a look at the Parking Department at 11 a.m. today, and I'll liveblog the meeting. - Jill Terreri 

Today in City Hall

By Jill Terreri

Good morning, 

Today in City Hall, Mayor Byron W. Brown's CitiStat team - which includes himself, Deputy Mayor Steve Casey, Corporation Counsel Tim Ball and Commissioner of Finance, Policy and Urban Affairs Janet Penska - are set to question Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer. 

Helfer's department was the subject of a recent audit by City Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder, which found that 89 percent of the city's towing business is going to one company. It's not clear whether the audit will be a subject of the CitiStat meeting. 

In other business, behind the scenes, negotiations are ongoing over the city's $21 million capital budget. The budget was supposed to be discussed by the Common Council on Thursday, but attendance by Council members was light, and department heads weren't told that they should be there, so it was quickly adjourned and rescheduled for Tuesday immediately following the Council's Finance Committee meeting, which starts at 10 a.m. The budget discussion will take place in Room 1417 of City Hall. 

Also today, at 11 a.m., a ribbon-cutting will be held on an energy-efficient home for a low-income family on Riverside Avenue, a project of the Learning Disabilities Association of Western New York and Heart of the City Neighborhoods, Inc. The home is part of the groups' Stable Homes pilot program, which provides individuals with developmental disabilities with sustainable housing. Three homes have been completed and 27 more are funded. 

At 2 p.m., a kick-off of the holiday shopping season will take place at the Broadway Market, 999 Broadway. Brown, Council President Richard A. Fontana and Council Member David A. Franczyk will be on hand. The market's 125th anniversary is approaching.


Schumer lottery to award inauguration tickets

By Robert J. McCarthy

   Tickets for New Yorkers seeking to attend President Obama's inauguration on Jan. 20 will be awarded through a special lottery conducted by the office of Sen. Charles E. Schumer.

   The senator announced Thursday he will distribute tickets to those requesting them through a random drawing to be held on Dec. 14. The free tickets are provided through congressional offices, with requests accepted only through Dec. 13 and submitted only on the Schumer website

    “I am thrilled to see the early excitement from New Yorkers all over the state who would like to attend the momentous swearing in of President Obama for his second term,” Schumer said. “The statewide lottery will provide hundreds of New Yorkers the opportunity to experience history as they attend the president’s swearing-in ceremony outside of the United States Capitao. As a chair of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, I am glad that several New York businesses will be among those providing top-of-the-line refreshments and entertainment at the 57th Presidential Inauguration, and now New Yorkers will have the opportunity to enter a lottery through my office to receive tickets to this historic event.”

  Entrants will be asked to submit their name and address. Two tickets will be given to each lottery winner, and winners will be notified personally after the lottery is held. Schumer noted that only the names of the winners could be made public.

     Schumer serves as chairman the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) which oversees the swearing in ceremonies.  Members of committee are appointed by the vice president and the speaker of the House.


Live chat: State government with Albany Bureau Chief Tom Precious

Video: President Obama from the White House

And now, a word from the absentees

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – Here is the numerical breakdown of absentee voters in the 46th Senate district who in the coming weeks could help determine which party controls the state Senate.

The still-undetermined results in the race between Republican George Amedore and Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk will be decided by the counting of more than 9,000 absentee ballots. That process can begin Monday, and will be done one county at a time on an alphabetical basis.

After the Tuesday defection of a Brooklyn Democrat to the Republican caucus, the Republicans can win the Senate if Amedore wins. If Tkaczyk wins, the Democrats will ensure they have the numbers, but not necessarily the power if a breakaway group of four Democrats should decide to join with the Republicans in a power-sharing deal.

Here, then, is the handy count sheet, as provided by Senate Republicans, for the 46th Senate district – a new seat the Republicans added during this year’s redistricting in hopes of improving their odds of retaining the Senate.

Party breakdown of outstanding absentee ballots: 3,062 Republicans, 3,318 Democrats, 182 Conservatives, 416 Independence Party, 2,003 “blank” or non-enrolled and 11 Working Family Party members, and a few dozen other minor parties.

By county: 1,938 are from Albany, 1,806 from Greene, 1,117 from Montgomery, 947 from Schenectady and 3,223 from Ulster. Democrats say their candidate, a farmer who lives in the Hilltowns outside Albany, will do especially well in Ulster County, while Republicans say Amedore, a local Albany-area homebuilder, will do well in Albany and Schenectady County. Still, 773 Democratic ballots from Albany are in the mix compared to 530 Republicans.

Before machine recounts, which are underway this week, Tkaczyk was ahead by 139 votes after last Tuesday's elections.

Lingering for months, Thruway toll plan under growing heat

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- It's been a tough day for the folks at the state's Thruway Authority.

First, one of their own -- the vice chairwoman of the board -- in a Buffalo News story earlier today blasted the agency for its secretive ways and for refusing to publicly release an agenda for board meetings on a plan to hike tolls on trucks by 45 percent. The stinging comments by Donna Luh, who said even board members have been kept out of the loop on any alternative toll plan being considered by the agency, came after the authority postponed, for a second time in four days, a planned board meeting called for this morning on the toll question.

Now, even Democrats are getting into the act, questioning the transparency of the Cuomo administration's Thruway agency.

Here is the letter written today by Assemblyman Sean Ryan, a Buffalo Democrat, to Thomas Madison, executive director of the Thruway Authority.

Dear Mr. Madison:

I write today concerning the New York State Thruway Authority’s (NYSTA) ongoing quest to raise tolls by 45% for trucks and commercial vehicles. The NYSTA announced last night that a second planned meeting of the board, scheduled for today, would be cancelled. This follows the cancellation of a board meeting that was set to take place last Friday. I join many others in expressing concern that the NYSTA did not publicly disclose agendas for these meetings ahead of their scheduled times. I assume another meeting of the NYSTA board will be scheduled soon. The NYSTA must disclose the agenda for this meeting ahead of time, so that the public has the ability to comment on any proposed actions by the NYSTA board. I also reiterate my call for the NYSTA to abandon plans for a 45% toll hike, and instead focus on a comprehensive plan to cut costs and improve toll recovery rates.

All New Yorkers should be concerned about the secrecy of the NYSTA as this process unfolds. As the NYSTA considers this toll increase, the very minimum you could do is to publicly disclose your meeting agenda. This would at least give the public time to give their thoughts on the proposed toll increase. At the same time, we need to look at the facts surrounding the NYSTA’s proposed toll hike. Simply put, this toll hike is absolutely unnecessary. The NYSTA lost over $35 million dollars in a five year period between 2007 and 2011 to toll evaders. That is unacceptable. Improving toll collection is one important step that can be taken to increase revenue to the NYSTA, avoiding the need for such a massive toll hike. The NYSTA board should be focusing on revenue problems that can be fixed internally. The toll hike is the easy way out, and shows a disregard for finding real solutions to the problem.

The impact of a 45% toll hike for trucks and commercial vehicles will be felt in every region of our state. It will impact businesses both small and large, and lead to higher prices for consumers in New York. Every available method to improve efficiency should be looked at before considering such a massive toll hike. At the same time, the NYSTA needs to improve efforts on transparency, and make board meeting agendas publicly available. I look forward to hearing from you on this important matter.


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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri |

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski |