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Fahey returns to Higgins staff

   By Robert J. McCarthy

   Chris Fahey, who left the office of Rep. Brian Higgins to unsuccessfully compete in a special election for the Assembly, has returned to the congressman's staff.

   Fahey waged a spirited Democratic campaign last spring for the vacancy created by the resignation of Democrat Mark J.F. Schroeder, who was elected Buffalo comptroller. But he was defeated by Michael P. Kearns, the South Council member who ran on the Republican line after losing the party endorsement to Fahey.

   According to the congressman's staff, Fahey has been working since last summer as "senior policy adviser" to Higgins in the Buffalo office at Larkin at Exchange. His salary is listed as $69,100 annually.

Cuomo agency boss leaving for education department

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – The acting head of the Cuomo administration’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance is leaving to take a top post at the state Education Department.

Elizabeth Berlin, a respected social services policy expert, will join the education department in January as its new executive deputy commissioner in charge of the day-to-day running of the large agency that, unlike other state agencies, answers to a Board of Regents and not the governor.

Berlin’s departure will be felt, sources say, because she has been serving the job as acting commissioner and executive deputy commissioner for several years. Berlin will replace Valerie Grey, who recently left the education department to take a senior post at the Healthcare Association of New York State, a trade group representing hospitals and nursing homes.

The Board of Regents has also filled another top post at the education agency: Donald Juron will become the agency’s chief financial officer. He began his career with the education department 30 years ago as an assistant accountant.


Gallivan sets NYC fundraiser

   By Robert J. McCarthy

   State Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan will sponsor a fundraising event for his 2014 campaign Wednesday night, but it will be no beer blast in a Buffalo corner tavern.

   Instead, the Elma Republican will hold his event in the Dwight Room and Lounge of Manhattan's stately University Club. Tickets are $500, $1,000 and $2,500 per person.

   It is not expected that $1 drafts of Genesee will be available.

Today in City Hall

By Jill Terreri

Good morning,

The Common Council will meet today at 2 p.m. in Chambers and is set to approve a contract with EB Jacobs, which will be hired to write a new exam for firefighters. The current firefighter list expired, and the department needs to test new candidates for future hires. The process could take several months, Human Resources Commissioner Patricia Folts told lawmakers yesterday. 

A resolution urging Congress to hold hearings related to Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill will also be considered, and was recommended for adoption in yesterday's caucus. The measure is sponsored by Council Member Michael LoCurto. 

The Council is also expected to approve a new subrecipient agreement between the city and the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency regarding management of grants from U.S. HUD's HOME program, as well as a measure that would allow "little libraries" to be put in city rights-of-ways at 10 places in Parkside. 

The full agenda is posted below. 

At noon today, the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation's Real Estate Committee will meet at ECIDA headquarters at 143 Genesee St. On the agenda are updates to a proposal to put a golf course on two landfills in South Buffalo and updates on a host of other initiatives by the corporation, including dredging of the Buffalo River and updates on brownfields in the city. 

A meeting of the Buffalo Brownfield Restoration Corporation will immediately follow. On that agenda is an update on the Trico Building and an update on an application to the Wendt Foundation related to Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park. 

The big news in City Hall yesterday, of course, was that Mayor Byron W. Brown had hired Antoine Thompson to run the Buffalo Employment and Training Center, a job that pays nearly $80,000.  

12.11.12 Marked

Skelos and Klein: All is right with the world

By Tom Precious 

ALBANY – The leaders of the new “coalition” state Senate met in public for the first time Monday to promote a joint effort to help downstate communities rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican whose Nassau County district was hit hard by the storm, and Sen. Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat, used the public gathering in the Rockaways in Queens to insist their coalition idea will work and to try to beat back growing criticism among minority lawmakers that last week’s deal will deny influence to African American and Latino legislators.

"This coalition is not an exclusive club. It’s open to anyone, Democrat or Republican, who’s serious about governing," Klein said.

Black and Latino senators have expressed concern that the deal cut by Republicans, who did not win enough seats in last month’s elections to hold onto the majority on their own, with Klein’s Independent Democratic Conference blocked the chance from minorities in the main Senate Democratic conference from assuming power. The IDC group — until a black lawmaker, Malcolm Smith of Queens, joined on the same day the coalition deal was announced last week — was composed of four white lawmakers. The Senate Republicans have no black or Latino lawmakers.

Klein, in a session with reporters this afternoon in Queens that Skelos also attended, insisted the new coalition will consider the needs of all communities in the state. He said minority residents of New York will be helped by the IDC’s push, for instance, of a hike in the minimum wage.

Klein said no decisions about committee chair or leadership positions have been made between him and Skelos, though Skelos recently said in an interview that Tom Libous, a Binghamton Republican, will remain as Deputy Majority Leader and John DeFrancisco, a Syracuse Republican, will stay as chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee come January.

"We’ve learned from the past as to what we should do to avoid dysfunction," Skelos said Monday. He said he and Klein have "looked each other in the eyes" and both agree the coalition plan will work. "Bipartisanship, moving this state forward, is going to happen," Skelos said.

The new Senate task force on Hurricane Sandy reconstruction efforts will be co-chaired by Sen. Andrew Lanza, a Staten Island Republican, and Smith, the Queens Democrat who for a short time a few years ago was the Senate majority leader. In an attempt to show it can work with lawmakers not part of the Senate coalition effort, Skelos and Klein named two lawmakers that are members of the main Democratic conference that will stay in the minority come January, including an incoming member from Queens, to the panel.

Senate Republicans bring victory tour to Albany tomorrow

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – Senate Republicans tomorrow will huddle as a group – in private, of course – for the first time since their leader, Dean Skelos, last week cut a deal with five breakaway Democrats to keep the GOP in partial control of the chamber.

The gathering will be in the majority conference room – as in the third floor room at the Capitol that Republicans will get to keep come January – at noon. Officials say next year’s legislative session will be the topic on the table. No doubt some of the talking – likely without staffers in the room – will be about committee jobs and some leadership titles, which determine extra stipends beyond a lawmaker’s base pay of $79,500, now that some sort of sharing will have to be done with the five independent Democrats. And maybe rank-and-file lawmakers will get to hear a better idea specifically about how the "dual leadership" deal between Skelos and Sen. Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat, will work. And maybe what Senate rules need to change to make it all happen. And how a bill will become law. And how much say the five Democrats will really have over the creation of the state budget next year. And will there be any room assignment gifts — always a cherished thing in Albany — to those helping to keep the Senate GOP in partial control. And, of course, they might hear just how Skelos can assure them of trying to keep this deal from falling apart over the next two years.

Video: Covering the 'fiscal cliff'

News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski reports from Washington where Congress and the president are trying to hammer out a deal on the federal budget before the so-called "fiscal cliff" is enacted.

Thompson announces new job at employment center

By Jill Terreri

Antoine M. Thompson, a former state senator and Common Council member, announced on his Facebook page that he is the new executive director of the Buffalo Employment and Training Center

"I will supervise over 30 employees and support Mayor Brown and the City of Buffalo and other key public, private, faith and community sector leaders in assisting people with job training and placement," he wrote on Friday.

According to Thompson's post, he started the job today.

A message left on his cell phone was not immediately returned, and someone who works at the training center said his voicemail there had not yet been set up.  

The center, at 77 Goodell St., is funded by the Buffalo and Erie County Workforce Development Consortium, Inc. Its funding comes from state and federal sources, though the city budget allocates funding for four positions there, and the mayor appoints the executive director.  

UPDATE: Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey said today that Thompson's hire was made by Mayor Byron W. Brown. Casey said Thompson's experience in city government - he was also a member of Council staff - and in the Senate, as well as a stint at the University at Buffalo's Office of Urban Initiatives, qualifies him for the job. 

Brown would like to make the training center more proactive in searching for job vacancies in the public and private sectors, and matching job seekers to those positions. 

Asked if this was a classic case of political patronage, Casey said, "Absolutely not." 

Thompson has been something of a political protege of the mayor's, becoming Masten District Council member after Brown, and then state senator after Brown won the mayor's race. 

Thompson lost a bid for re-election in 2010 to Sen. Mark Grisanti, a Republican. 

Thompson works as a real estate agent and is the president of BlackWNY, a free newspaper. The December edition, which recently hit newsstands, features an interview with Brown about his job creation strategy in the city, and the back cover is devoted exclusively to a photo of Brown and his family in holiday attire, wishing readers season's greetings. 

Like other department heads, Thompson will serve at the pleasure of the mayor. Common Council approval is not required. 

The position has been vacant for about six months, as former Executive Director Colleen Cummings retired. 

According to the city's 2012-13 budget, the executive director position pays about $79,700, which Casey confirmed will be Thompson's salary. The city budget allocates about $212,000 in salaries at the center.  


Cuomo: Too soon to say if he'd support Hillary Clinton for president

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – While other Democrats are already pressing Hillary Clinton to consider running for president in 2016, put Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the undecided column.

The governor told Albany radio station WGDJ this morning that Clinton “is incredibly popular” and has “great experience.’’

Asked, though, if he would support her if she ran, Cuomo responded, “It’s a long way off.’’

Cuomo, who worked in President Bill Clinton’s cabinet as housing secretary, is eyeing his own possible run in 2016, though many Democrats believe he would not challenge Hillary Clinton in a Democratic primary if she ran.

UPDATE: But one New York statewide official did not hestiate to sing Clinton's praises later today. "A lot of folks in a lot of positions are all waiting for Hillary's decision,'' state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a meeting with The Buffalo News editorial board. He noted he backed her 2008 presidential primary bid.

"Her tenure as Secretary of State has only made her stronger and better prepared. I can't think of anyone better prepared,'' DiNapoli said of a possible Clinton White House run.


Mychajliw names 12 to advisory council

By Denise Jewell Gee

Stefan Mychajliw is gearing up to become county comptroller in January with a new panel of advisors.

Mychajliw, a Republican who defeated County Comptroller David Shenk in November, has named a 12-member "advisory council" to help with the transition and to guide his work once in office. The group will also review recommendations for available positions in the Comptroller's Office.

Paul F. Ciminelli, president and CEO of Ciminelli Real Estate Corp., will serve as chairman. The other members will include:

  • Robert M. Glaser, managing director and chairman of Freed Maxick and former chairman of the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority
  • Philip C. Kadet, certified public accountant, Lumsden & McCormick
  • Nancy Naples, former Erie County comptroller and former commissioner of the state Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Daniel C. Oliverio, attorney, Hodgson Russ, and former chairman of the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority
  • Colleen DiPirro, president and CEO, Amherst Chamber of Commerce 
  • Alfred Hammonds Jr., former deputy Erie County executive
  • Mark Hamister, chairman and CEO, The Hamister Group Inc.
  • Philip Corwin, president, Corwin Holdings LLC 
  • Martha Lamparelli, chairwoman, Erie County “21st Century Commission”
  • Russ Gugino, aide to former U.S. Rep. Jack Kemp
  • Randall Best, vice president of business development, Gernatt Asphalt Products Inc.

Mychajliw met last week with Shenk to discuss the transition.

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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 |