2011-10-05 / Political Page

Cuomo Scores $4.4B Hi-Tech Grant To Jar Economy; Does Another Await?

New York state received very encouraging news last week that five high level firms that deal in high technology product development, including IBM, Intel, Samsung, Global Foundries and TSMC, have agreed to invest $4.4 billion over five years in our state developing future computer chips, an undertaking that will create 2,500 permanent jobs here.

Governor Andrew Cuomo was all smiles as he made the announcement, as you might well expect, because of the exciting lift to the state’s economy and job development prospects.

The governor, who was joined by former President Bill Clinton for the exciting announcement, might also have been thinking ahead to another major economic development that may be happening Upstate shortly—the introduction of the natural gas industry’s development in the Adirondack area and beyond—which also promises to bring many tens of thousands of new jobs to a moribund area and new sources of revenue for the state as well.

The governor, who was joined by former President Bill Clinton for the exciting announcement, might also have been thinking ahead to another major economic development that may be happening Upstate shortly— the introduction of the natural gas industry’s development in the Adirondack area and beyond... The governor, who was joined by former President Bill Clinton for the exciting announcement, might also have been thinking ahead to another major economic development that may be happening Upstate shortly— the introduction of the natural gas industry’s development in the Adirondack area and beyond... However, there are strong objections to the natural gas industry coming into the state, dragging in with them the controversial hydrofracking issue, which is the basis of the strong opposition from environmentalists that Cuomo must deal with if he decides to clear the way for the natural gas industry to come into the state.

Environmentalists are very concerned about the hydrofracking digging for gas resources. The controversial method, which requires the blasting of possible underground sources of gas encased in rock formations with a mixture of water and chemicals, may threaten drinking water in the city’s reservoirs in the area.

Presently, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is holding final reviews on its draft Hydrofracking regulations, which were drawn up and would establish the boundaries to excessive drilling for gas while still protecting the state’s reservoirs and other sources of drinking water, and to respond to other environmental questions. The Cuomo administration drew up the regulations as part of the decision it must make to go forward with welcoming the gas drilling and lifting the present restrictions in place to block it.

Councilmember James Gennaro (D–Fresh Meadows) has already listed his objections to block drilling as proposed by the DEC. Last week, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria) joined in opposing them. Vallone stated:

“These regulations do not sufficiently protect our water supply from the potential dangers of fracking. The New York City

Department of Environmental

Protection (DEP) submitted scientific evidence that fracking should be kept at least seven miles from our water supply. Despite that, the state limit is only 1,000 feet, and only requires notice for closer drilling in order for a decision to be made on whether to allow it. The state must act quickly to change this proposal, as well as provide a guarantee that if city water is harmed—state money will be used to fix it.”

In the past, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also always been quick to criticize or block any perceived threats to the city’s water supply and he is closely monitoring Cuomo’s efforts to deal with the moratorium against any drilling of any kind near the city’s water reservoirs in the Adirondack region.

Against the background of the strong opposition to allow the mining industry to pursue its goals here, as they have done in neighboring Pennsylvania, Cuomo has vowed to revive the state’s economy and to produce jobs to relieve the huge unemployment that exists in the depressed Upstate area and elsewhere, and to improve the flow of revenues into the state’s treasury to help deal with the multibillion dollar deficits which face us at budget-making periods.

As we reported at the top of this column, Cuomo was delighted with the deal announced by IBM and the others to invest $4.4 billion in the state that will help boost our economy and create jobs and give the state a foothold to compete against California’s Silicon Valley, the birthplace of the nation’s computer producing industry.

As part of the plan, Cuomo also announced, the state will invest $400 million in the State University of New York (SUNY) College for Nanoscale and Science Engineering in Albany in a further move to develop our high technology development and production capabilities. The SUNY aspect of the overall development planned will retain 250 jobs in Albany, Utica and Canandaigua.

Political writers were quick to point out that this fresh infusion of funding to get New York state into the Silicon Valley chase had boosted Cuomo’s political stature that has made him one of the nation’s best governors.

New York Post columnist Frederic Dicker wrote last week that if Cuomo decides to allow the power industry and its hydrofracking machines into New York state, he will have set the stage for rebuilding the state’s economy in one great leap and in such a short period of time that not only the economic benefits would be priceless, but also the political benefits as well. They could give the young governor a giant boost toward the presidency of the United States in 2016.

BLOOMBERG TAKES THE STAND: Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his long-awaited appearance on Monday as a witness at the trial of John Haggerty, the Forest Hills political operative standing trial on charges of taking the $1.1 million of the mayor’s money but spending only a small amount of it and pocketing the remainder. The money involved was given to the Independence Party by the mayor and then passed along to Haggerty.

Although the mayor’s testimony was heavily sprinkled with many “I don’trecalls” or “I’m-not-aware-of,” he did respond directly during his roughly two and a half hours on the stand that:

“I know directly what we paid $1.1 million for. We did not receive that service, but the money was taken.”

That was according to the Daily News, but both the New York Times and the New York Post, reporting on the same point, quoted the mayor saying Haggerty “promised things that he did not do”.

The rest of the time he was on the stand, Haggerty’s lawyer asked a variety of questions that didn’t have anything to do with the trial. But it appears that the mayor delivered the testimony the prosecutor was looking for in order to make the charges stick against Haggerty.

COUNCIL SPEAKER SIDETRACKS VALLONE BILL: Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.’s bill to require New York City mayors to tell the City Clerk when they will be 250 miles from the city or outside the continental United States for 24 hours will not get a hearing in the City Council, by order of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, so it is essentially dead.

The mayor, who is accustomed to spending many of his weekends travelling or at his getaway in Bermuda, and doesn’t announce it, was expected to oppose it. This could have brought on a confrontation with the council and Quinn, who is an announced candidate for mayor in two years.

Quinn said through a spokesperson that she had more pressing matters to pursue, such as Board of Elections and the city’s Campaign Finance Board.

Vallone said he was disappointed with the Speaker’s action on the bill and said he had introduced it partly because of the mayor’s absence during the heavy snowstorm last December when the city was virtually leaderless and fighting the huge storm got out of hand.

Vallone also said the bill was intended to deal with situations such as the 9/11 attacks. On that day, phone lines were largely inoperable and city residents, lawmakers and others who were running the city were cut off. He said the bill was basically an important public safety issue and he would continue trying to get it enacted into law.

DE BLASIO PAYS $300G FINE TO CITY: Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, also expected to be a candidate for mayor in 2013, has paid the $300,000 fine that had been levied against him after the 2009 city campaign for illegally putting up posters on city property. De Blasio at the time was running for and eventually won the post he presently holds.

With the 2013 mayoral campaign not too far off, de Blasio acknowledged there was lots of work to be done and he didn’t think it would be wise to have any distractions get in the way. It also removes an unpaid fine as a possible campaign issue.

Meanwhile, two other participants in 2009 city campaigns, City Comptroller John Liu and Bill Thompson, who lost the race for mayor, continue to owe large fines for the same offense de Blasio was tagged for. Liu owes $500,000 and Thompson almost as much, and both are challenging the charges, as de Blasio was doing.

Both Liu and Thompson, who may be in the race against de Blasio, City Council Speaker Quinn and possibly others are continuing their opposition to the levies and run the risk of leaving themselves open to a distasteful issue during the campaign.

One last note on the 2013 mayoral race—Quinn continues to lead in the polls for the still distant contest. In a recent Marist College/New York/poll, Quinn leads the pack with 20 percent of the vote, trailed by former Comptroller Thompson with 12 percent, incumbent Liu at 10 percent, de Blasio at seven percent and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer at six percent.

ANOTHER BATTLE FOR QUEENS GOP: The Republican Party leadership in Queens is again being contested, this time aimed at incumbent Phil Ragusa, who in his short tenure has led the party to victories in a congressional race and several city council contests.

Former Councilmember Tom Ognibene is challenging Ragusa’s re-election that was held on September 28 at the Reception House in Flushing. That same night, Ognibene says he was elected party chairman by another group meeting in Richmond Hill which included Bart Haggerty, a longtime anti-organization member from Forest Hills who once worked in the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bart’s brother, John, is presently on trial for allegedly stealing $1.1 million from Bloomberg, money which was supposed to be used to get Bloomberg elected in the 2009 election.

Ragusa’s spokesman, Robert Hornak, said in a release: “It was reported that John Haggerty, understood to be the real ringleader, was on hand helping his brother (Bart) orchestrate this unlawful meeting after another day in his criminal trial for fraud and theft.

“In this new twist of attempts to steal control of the Queens Republican Party through well, fraud and theft, Bart Haggerty ignored a temporary restraining order enjoining their unlawful meeting from being held.”

Ragusa commented: “Now that the hard work of unifying our party begins, despite the best efforts of the Haggerty brothers to fracture the party. We now focus our attentions on November’s elections and victories in 2012.”

Sources reported that although John or Bart Haggerty was supposed to have been the insurgent candidate to challenge Ragusa for the leadership; John Haggerty bowed out because he is on trial and brother Bart excused himself from running to keep the Haggerty name out of it and Bart was replaced by Ognibene.

Both factions were reportedly in Queens Supreme Court yesterday to plead their cases before a judge. For what it’s worth, state Republican Chairman Ed Cox telephoned Ragusa his personal congratulations upon being re-elected to another two-year term.

On Ragusa’s watch, the GOP won the race for Congress in the Queens/Brooklyn 9th CD as Bob Turner pulled an upset and defeated Assemblymember David Weprin for the seat formerly held by Anthony Weiner.

In the last city council elections, the Ragusa-led organization won city council seats now held by Peter Koo of Flushing and Dan Halloran of Whitestone. Before those elections, the only Republican held seat was the one won by Councilmember Eric Ulrich in Ozone Park/Howard Beach.

GIANARIS PRAISES NEW TRAFFIC LAW: State Senator Michael Gianaris (D–Astoria) has praised the effectiveness of a new law, enacted recently, which has led to double the number of drivers ticketed for texting while driving in August 2011 than in August 2010.

The Distracted Driving Bill makes the use of portable devices while driving a primary offense, said Gianaris. But “previously using these devices while behind the wheel was a secondary offense and police could only stop motorists if they were committing another, primary offense—such as speeding or running another red light,” said Gianaris.

The lawmaker explained, “Too often, serious accidents are a result of activities such as texting while driving. The Distracted Driving Bill forces drivers to be more attentive and allows police to more easily prevent violations before harm is done. It is clear that the diligent enforcement of this law has made our roadways safer and resulted in fewer accidents.”

Gianaris pointed out that under the original law, between the six-month period of January to June of this year, a monthly average of 427 distracted driving tickets were issued. But in August, a period of a single month, under the new law, a total of 1,082 drivers were ticketed for driving while texting.

The lawmaker said the improved law authorizes cops to pull over drivers for using portable electronic devices such as cellphones, MP3 players, laptops or any device with a screen while their vehicle is in motion. It also increases the penalty for using a cellphone without a hands-free device.

MALONEY CELEBRATES HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs through October 15, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) issued a statement paying tribute to the many contributions of America’s Hispanic community.

Maloney stated, “I’m proud to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with all my friends in the Hispanic community in

New York and throughout

America and to help recognize the countless ways in which Latinos have enriched our nation, both culturally and economically.

“Our strength as a nation is rooted in our diversity and in our history of welcoming the best and brightest from around the world, who strive to come to America to create a better life for themselves and their families. Nowhere is this strength more evident than in New York, which is truly the melting pot of America. Our diversity, exemplified by the strong and growing Hispanic community in our city, is one of the reasons I’m so proud to be a New Yorker.”

CONTROVERSIAL LIU AIDE QUITS: A top aide to City Comptroller John Liu, who reportedly made comments favorable to North Korea, has quit his post as a senior aide.

Queens politician John Choe, who previously served as chief of staff to Liu when he was a councilmember quit his $105,000-a-year job with the comptroller as of September 30, according to a Liu spokesperson.

There was speculation that Choe’s continued employment on Liu’s staff might raise embarrassing questions for Liu if and when he runs for mayor in 2013.

GILLIBRAND’S AUTISM BILL PASSES: In a news release last week, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D–N.Y.) announced that the Senate had unanimously approved her legislation to extend programs authorized under the original Combating Autism Act for three more years.

Gillibrand’s bipartisan Combating Autism Reauthorization Act will “help provide essential services, treatment and support for families,” Gillibrand said.

“Cases of autism are increasing at an alarming rate,” the senator continued, saying, “It’s vital that we invest in new research that will benefit the lives of millions.”

Gillibrand noted that autism is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the U.S., affecting on average one in 110 children and one in 70 boys. An estimated 48,000 children across New York suffer from autism, Gillibrand added—more than pediatric cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined.

MILLER’S SEX OFFENDER BILL SIGNED: Assemblymember Mike Miller’s (D–Woodhaven) bill to require the registration of the employment address of level two sex offenders and an update of an obsolete practice of tracking all sex offenders has been signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Miller explained, “This bill is part of a comprehensive package of bills I have in the Assembly aimed at keeping our children safe from predators.” He said he was glad the governor signed the bill, but “there are still more issues to address and I hope the senate and the governor pass my other bills as well.”

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