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Today in City Hall

By Jill Terreri

Good morning, 

Holiday week or not, the Common Council will meet today at 2 p.m. in Council chambers.

On the agenda is the appointment of Donna Estrich as commissioner of administration, finance, policy and urban affairs. The appointment is expected to be sent to committee so Estrich can answer members' questions before a vote is held, though her appointment is viewed as a near sure-thing by the Council, according to feedback I received last week from President Richard Fontana, Majority Leader Demone Smith and Council Member David Franczyk.

A pre-meeting caucus will be held today at 11 a.m., in room 1417, where the agenda will be discussed. The caucus usually happens the day before the meeting but was rescheduled because of Christmas.   

The caucus is open to the public because all Council members are Democrats and the caucus usually attracts a quorum of the Council, triggering an open meeting under the state Open Meetings Law.  

The caucus may be closed for an executive session to discuss the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino and the Seneca Gaming Corporation's activities in relation to its agreement with the city. The matter was on the agenda for the last Community Development Committee but the appropriate Law Department lawyers were not available then to discuss it. The gaming corporation recently submitted a summary of their plans, which did not please all lawmakers. 

At 11:30 a.m. today, Public Works Commissioner Steven Stepniak will discuss the city's preparation for a winter storm expected later today

The Council agenda is below. 


Video: Week in Washington with Jerry Zremski

News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski offers seasons greetings and an update on the approaching "fiscal cliff":

Video: Tom Precious from Albany on Bills lease agreement

Cuomo on way to announce deal to keep Buffalo Bills in town

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- With a region holding its breath, negotiators this morning reached agreement on final terms of deal to keep Buffalo Bills from leaving. Gov. Andrew Cuomo on way to make announcement later this morning. Read about the agreement in the story on our home page.


Former Governor Paterson gets booted from his NYC radio show

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Former Gov. David Paterson is now a former radio talk show host.

Industry publications are reporting Paterson has lost his job as afternoon drive time host on WOR in New York City, a job he landed a little over a year ago.

Uncertain now is where Gov. Andrew Cuomo will head in the downstate metropolitan radio market to replace the gushing-with-praise interviews Paterson would regularly offer his successor on the AM station.



Officials looking at possible gun control special session

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -– Officials at the Capitol are not ruling out the possibility of a special session of the Legislature in the coming week to consider a package of gun control measures in the wake of the Connecticut school massacre.

After initally declining to comment, administration officials -- minutes after this item was posted -- said the governor has "no plans'' to call the Legislature back into special session. The aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the sides are "no where close to a deal'' and that the governor plans, at this point, to make it an issue for his State of the State address.

On Thursday morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed the sides are discussing a gun control package, aimed chiefly at new restrictions on assault-style and large capacity weapons. But he told Albany radio station WGDJ that a special session before the end of the year appears to be a big lift. "I highly doubt it,'' Cuomo said of him calling a special session to take up the gun issue.

"There's a big difference of opinion on these issues,'' the governor said. Of the state's current assault weapons law, he said it has "more holes than swiss cheese.''

Word began spreading late Wednesday in the lobbying community and among rank-and-file lawmakers. Two individuals said there was some chatter that lawmakers could be asked to return as early as tomorrow or Friday. “I don’t see how they pull anything off that fast," said one lawmaker who  nonetheless confirmed that talks are underway. Most officials and lobbyists, despite the rumblings, say a special session will be hard to pull off with the Christmas holiday coming up.

Officials with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office would not comment on the possibility of a special session, and the governor has been working this week on details of his State of the State address to be delivered January 9. The governor has dismissed in recent weeks talk of a special session – which some lawmakers for months had wanted as a last-ditch attempt to get a pay raise for themselves. [If they don’t act by December 31, lawmakers would have to wait another two years – until the next session of the Legislature begins – for a pay raise, which they have not gotten since 1999.]

Lawmakers, though, appear resigned that even if a special session did occur the pay raise could not be taken up -- given the political hit the Legislature would take for getting a pay hike under the cover of gun control in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting and while downstate is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy.

The governor this week said the federal government should be looking to bolster gun control laws, but said his administration is also studying ways to make New York’s already strict laws even stronger, including clearing up what he called ambiguities regarding assault-like weapons.

The speculation tonight of a special session was getting a strange mix of responses. Senate Republicans say they were unaware of talks underway. It remains uncertain why Senate Republicans would want to so early test their relations with the newly formed coalition of GOP lawmakers and five breakaway Democrats over gun control -- an issue that can be a political third rail for some GOP senators in more conservative districts.

Meanwhile, Mike Whyland, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, had a brief response when asked this evening if a special session was still a possibility before December 31. "No comment,'' he said.

 The new leader of the Senate's Democratic conference this morning endorsed the idea of quickly doing a gun control package. "Communities across this nation, and many right here in New York State, have had to endure the horror of gun violence for far too long. We have seen an increase in violent gun-related crimes throughout our state and our nation and we have struggled to end this epidemic. As elected leaders, we have an obligation to move beyond partisan ideology and political platforms. We must come together to do the right thing and make our cities and communities safer,'' said Democratic Conference Leader Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Westchester County Democrat who was voted as the new leader of the main Democratic conference earlier this week.

“The Senate Democratic Conference has been a long time supporter of common sense gun laws and we welcome news that a special session to address these laws is being discussed. We stand ready to offer our support.  The time has come to not only have this conversation, but to act in the best interests of our constituents, and our children. We have a responsibility to all of those who have been impacted by gun violence to come together, begin the healing process and find common sense solutions to this societal plague,'' she said.

But Scott Reif, a spokesman for the Senate Republicans who have -- until Jan. 1 -- full control over the Senate, said, "There are no plans for a special session.''

The "no plans" Albany-speak means, in the end, no one is really certain if this deal can be pulled off, or when. Negotiators for the Senate, Assembly and governor's office are back at the negotiating table this morning.

Further, a source close to the coalition group that will control the Senate in January -- Senate Republicans and five breakaway Senate Democrats -- told The Buffalo News this morning that Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein have been speaking regularly about a variety of issues the past two weeks. "Right now, gun control is chief among them,'' the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official said the two senators "are committed to finding common ground on the issue.''

Among the ideas being debated are far stricter restrictions on assault weapon sales, restricting large capacity ammunition clips, and more severe penalties for crimines involving guns. Assembly Democrats have also in the past promoted periodic re-registration of gun licenses, a requirement now only on the books in certain downstate localities, including New York City.

Cuomo, who is eyeing a 2016 White House run, is said to be pushing the issue hard so he can be the first governor to further crack down on gun possession laws in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.


Frosty Brown, Zellner relations thawing?

By Robert J. McCarthy

Which local pol attends what local Christmas party normally doesn't rank for attention in the Politics Now blog, but when Mayor Byron W. Brown attends one thrown by the Erie County Democratic chairman -- we take notice.

The mayor was slated to attend the soiree sponored by Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner tonight, marking a major thaw in the frosty relations between City Hall and Democratic Headquarters. City and party sources both say efforts at rapproachment are under way after a long period when the mayor and Zellner predecessor Leonard R. Lenihan qualified as official arch-enemies.

Sources say Zellner has also attended some recent mayoral fundraisers, and that efforts continue to patch up past differences. Nobody is saying Zellner and Brown yet fall into the "bff" category, but things are at least improving.

Regional economic development grants being handed out; UPDATE: Full list

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Western New York was awarded $52.8 million in economic development money at a ceremony underway right now in a state theater near the Capitol. That is half the funding level the region won last year.

The money award ceremony will be going on for at least another half hour. Look for the full story soon on the main Buffalo News web page.

UPDATE: The top regional winners are the Rochester, Syracuse, Mid-Hudson Valley, the North County area and the Southern Tier; they are getting a range of between $91 million to $96.2 million.

UPDATE: Here is the complete list of awards, broken down by region:
Statewide list of final approved projects

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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 |