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Cuomo, legislative leaders hold first major casino expansion talks

Andrew Cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo gets optimistic support from Senate co-leader Dean Skelos on non-Indian casinos plan.

 By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- A plan to permit seven non-Indian casinos in New York was the major topic of discussion during about 90 minutes of closed-door talks this evening between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders at the Capitol.

Senate co-leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, was the most optimistic of the legislative leaders from the Senate and Assembly, saying he does not see major obstacles that will halt a required second passage of a constitutional amendment permitting the casino expansion. If lawmakers approve a resolution that matches the one they passed last year, along with an accompanying bill laying out some specifics about where the new gambling halls might be located, voters in November would consider the plan in a statewide referendum.

"We're committed to getting second passage this year and having legislation that would accompany it,'' Skelos said after the meeting in Cuomo's office.

The top Republican in the Senate said he is fine with Cuomo's plan to let the state Gaming Commission, an agency Cuomo controls, pick the casino vendors and specific sites. "I think that's when the Legislature steps away,'' Skelos said of lawmakers picking regions of the state eligible for a casino but not the actual sites.

The Senate leader said the $600 million dispute between the state and the Seneca Nation of Indians came up during the meeting. That fight, now before a binding arbitration panel, will decide whether the state honors a geographic exclusivity deal the Senecas have for gambling rights in Western New York. If a deal can't be reached, the state, theoretically, could break the compact with the Senecas and try to locate a new, non-Indian casino in the Buffalo area. Cuomo has already threatened to try to place one in downtown Niagara Falls.

Asked if Cuomo sent any signals indicating a deal may be close with the Seneca tribe, Skelos said, "I think he's working with them and he's hoping to get a resolution and hopefully get a resolution before the binding arbitration.''

Cuomo and lawmakers agreed in March to drop the casino issue from the budget talks in order to ensure an on-time fiscal deal. Skelos said Tuesday's meeting was the first substantive talks involving the gambling expansion plan this year.


Dobson also accused of party switching


Dunn and Dobson
Erie County sheriff candidate Bert Dunn, left, and his Democratic primary opponent Dick Dobson trade accusations.


By Tom Precious

   Voting records appear to be figuring as the most important issue in the just-beginning campaign for Erie County sheriff.

   After opponents of Democratic primary candidate Bert Dunn emphasized his four separate party registrations over the years (Republican-Democrat-Republican-Democrat), Dunn shot back this week with his own criticism of primary opponent Dick Dobson. The Dunn campaign said while Dobson has not quite reached Dunn's number of switches, he's made a few of his own.

   The Dunn campaign said Board of Elections records show Dobson first registered to vote in October of 1967 as a Republican. He remained a member of the Republican Party until 1980, when his registration was suspended due to no activity. He failed to register again until 1989, and he remained unaffiliated or a “blank voter” until 2009, when he finally registered as a Democrat, less than four years before his run for sheriff.

   “The fact that Dobson’s camp is questioning Bert Dunn’s credentials as a Democrat is pretty astounding, especially when you consider the fact that Dobson spent 42 years as either a Republican or blank,” said Phil Tronolone, spokesman for the Dunn Campaign. “Bert Dunn has spent more time as a Democrat than Dobson has. But the truth is that the hardworking taxpayers of Erie County are not concerned with party labels when it comes to the Sheriff’s Office."

Dueling Cuomo/Silver election law ideas floated

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – In today's can't-we-all-just-get-along entry:

As Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman were making their way down a Capitol hall this afternoon to unveil a plan for early voting procedures in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s aides hit the send button on a bill with the governor’s own ideas on the topic of election laws.

The measures floated by the governor, which included new election law enforcement powers at the state election board, was blasted to reporters' email accounts just minutes before Silver took to the microphone to tout his new voting plan.

The Assembly Democratic package, backed by Schneiderman, would let New Yorkers start voting 15 days early for general elections and eight days early for primaries. The extra costs, for poll watchers and keeping offices open into the evenings and on weekends, would be covered by the counties, not the state, Silver said.

Continue reading "Dueling Cuomo/Silver election law ideas floated" »

Ethics agency to ethics panel: release Lopez report or we will

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – A state ethics agency has fired a new round at a legislative ethics panel, saying it will release a report on a sexual harassment case involving a Brooklyn Assembly Democrat in two weeks if the legislative committee doesn’t go public with it by then.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics, an agency home to numerous staffers loyal to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, noted that a 90-day timetable is winding down for making public its investigative findings about the taxpayer-funded settlement of sexual harassment cases against Assemblyman Vito Lopez.

Continue reading "Ethics agency to ethics panel: release Lopez report or we will" »

Trico landmark designation fails

By Jill Terreri

An effort to designate the Trico Complex a local landmark failed in the Common Council today in a 4-4 vote. 

Voting against the measure was Ellicott Council Member Darius Pridgen, whose district includes the building, and Council President Richard Fontana, Majority Leader Demone Smith and Council Member Chris Scanlon. 

Voting in favor of landmark status for Trico were Council Members David Franczyk, Joseph Golombek, David Rivera and Michael LoCurto. 

Council Member Bonnie Russell did not attend Tuesday's meeting. 

The Council requires five votes to approve any measure. The matter will not come up for another vote unless another landmark application is made. 

Pridgen said his vote was not based on the desires of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, which owns development rights to the property and was against the landmark designation. But Pridgen said the campus should work with the preservation community to find a re-use of the building and should move swiftly to develop the property, though he believes some of the structure is too far gone to rehabilitate it. 

Council members who voted in favor of the designation said the city's own preservation law provides for landmark status for buildings that meet one out of nine criteria, and that the Trico building meets seven. 

Public comment is generally not permitted at Council meetings, and those in favor and against landmark status weighed in during two previous Council committee meetings. 

Overtime costs rise sharply at state agencies

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- The state comptroller reported today that overtime costs for the Cuomo administration jumped 11 percent in 2012, which union officials have partly blamed on employee reductions in recent years at key agencies that are mandated to provide certain levels of services or public protection.

The total overtime tab reached $529 million in 2012, up $52 million from the previous year. In all, 14.5 million overtime hours were logged by state workers. Two-thirds of the total amount spent came from three agencies: the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, the Office of Mental Health and the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

"We found seven agencies with more than 25 percent of employees working overtime to meet their responsibilities. New York state policy requires limiting overtime to a minimum, and I urge all agencies to ensure that this expense is reduced whenever possible,'' said Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a written statement accompanying his report.

Continue reading "Overtime costs rise sharply at state agencies" »

Today in City Hall: Council to vote on Trico

By Jill Terreri

Good morning, 

Today the Common Council will meet at 2 p.m. and will vote on whether a massive former windshield wiper factory at Washington and Goodell streets should be designated a local landmark. The decision could play a key role in determining whether the structure, which housed the Trico factory, is demolished or remains. The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, which holds exclusive development rights to the property, is against the landmark designation, saying it would inhibit what can be done on the property, while preservationists say it can be re-used. 

Ellicott Council Member Darius Pridgen - whose vote is key because he represents the area - yesterday did not say how he would vote on the designation. 

The Council will also pass a resolution calling on the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to grant development rights for the Outer Harbor to a group that is interested in building a 72,000-seat football stadium, museum, and convention center. The NFTA said it will not do that. 

Continue reading "Today in City Hall: Council to vote on Trico" »

Today in City Hall: Trico

By Jill Terreri

Good morning, 

Preservation Buffalo Niagara will hold a news conference at noon today on the steps of City Hall in an effort to pressure the Common Council to designate the Trico complex a local landmark, which would give the city's Preservation Board more say in any proposal to demolish it. 

The Council is set to vote tomorrow on Trico's landmark status. Ellicott Council Member Darius Pridgen's district includes the building, and other lawmakers will likely take their cues from Pridgen. Pridgen did not say last week how he will vote, but noted that many from the neighborhood who spoke during Tuesday's Legislation Committee were not in favor of saving the building. 

UPDATE: During a brief interview this afternoon, Pridgen said there will be a vote on the landmark designation tomorrow, but he would not say how he would vote. 

In a separate interview today, Matthew K. Enstice, president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, which owns development rights to Trico, said the Medical Campus is not in favor of landmarking the building, but is willing to work with developers and preservationists on re-using the former factory. 

Continue reading "Today in City Hall: Trico" »

Cuomo: Hillary can have it

By Tom Precious

ALBANY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo, facing up to near-certain defeat in a potential 2016 Democratic presidential primary against Hillary Clinton, says he will stand down if she decides to run.

So claims the today's New York Post, which quotes unidentified sources as saying Cuomo will stay on the sidelines and not enter the race if she is in it.

Seems like a no-brainer, considering the party wrath that would come Cuomo's way if he were to try to block Clinton from becoming the nation's first female president. Recall that it took some years for Cuomo to rebuild his image just within New York state Democratic circles after the 2002 governor's race when he challenged H. Carl McCall for the party's nomination to run against Gov. George Pataki. McCall, seeking to become the state's first African-American governor, drained vital resources in a nasty race against Cuomo, who dropped out of the race shortly before the primary vote.

Clinton has not decided on the 2016 race. For a year or more, Cuomo has not ruled out a 2016 bid, and has done little to quiet the speculation about him running. Team Clinton would not be thrilled if Cuomo challenged Hillary Clinton, especially since it was former President Bill Clinton who hired Cuomo to run the nation's housing agency. [The governor's father, Mario Cuomo, had a brief, and very unsuccessful, write-in effort against Bill Clinton in the 1992 New Hampshire Democratic primary for president.]

"The governor has told people in recent weeks that there's not a chance for him to run if Hillary gets in the race because she'll easily wrap up the Democratic nomination,'' a source told the Post today. Of course, if Clinton decides not to run, Cuomo did not rule out jumping into the 2016 field, the Post article suggests.

UPDATE: Cuomo, on a public radio station interview this morning, disputed the Post article, saying flat out that there was no truth to the report. "Hillary Clinton is going to do whatever Hillary Clinton is going to do, and I'm doing what I'm doing, and I'm focused on running this state,'' he told The Capitol Pressroom show.

So, he was asked, the article's claims were wrong? "There is no truth to the assertion that I'm talking presidential politics and strategy and what Hillary Clinton should do or shouldn't do or what I'm doing presidentially,'' Cuomo said. He said his energy is on running the state government and improving New York on a number of fronts. "To the extent I'm talking politics, it's my race next year,'' Cuomo said of his 2014 re-election campaign.

UPDATE: Who wants to stay out of this story? Sen. Charles Schumer, who served with Clinton in the Senate and has to work with Cuomo both on policy and political matters. "No comment,'' the normally talkative Schumer said today when asked about the Cuomo/Clinton matter before dashing into an elevator. [Schumer was at the state Capitol making his annual rounds with Democrats in the Assembly, where he once served.]



Video: Leader of local Dems focusing on key races

A key contest in the Erie County Legislature could be a bellwether for the future of Democratic Party Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner. The News' Bob McCarthy talks with Brian Meyer about a number of important races:

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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 |