Dispatches From Albany
Assemblyman Micah Kellner has been publicly admonished and stripped of his committee chairmanship following an Assembly Ethics and Guidance Committee investigation into allegations that he’d sexually harassed a female staffer in 2009.
In a vague letter released this evening by Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver’s office, the committee said comments made by Mr. Kellner in both 2009 and 2011 “together with other conduct, created a hostile work environment” that violated the Assembly’s sexual harassment policy.
Barron for Barron
If there were any lingering doubts that the Democratic-controlled State Assembly would get behind Bill de Blasio’s legislative agenda, they were dispelled today, according to the mayor-elect.
Councilman Charles Barron can be described in many ways, but demure and dispassionate typically aren’t on the list.
The bombastic councilman, for instance, launched his unsuccessful bid for Congress last year by declaring, “I don’t care what they say, I’m still not saluting the flag!” In the halls of Washington, Mr. Barron vowed he’d continue to “stand up for Robert Mugabe, who’s an African hero–taking land back from white people who stole the land from us in the first place!”
Now, after 12 years as a constant presence at press conferences and rallies, the term-limited eastern Brooklyn councilman will be forced out of office. But he hopes his wife, Inez Barron, an assemblywoman with identical ideological stripes, can cement the Barron legacy.
The controversy never seems to end in New York City politics.
Upper East Side Assemblyman Micah Kellner–one of the few Assembly Democrats to criticize Speaker Shelly Silver’s handling of the Vito Lopez scandal–is now facing sexual harassment allegations of his own.
The City Council candidate was allegedly the subject of a sexual harassment complaint made by a female staffer four years ago. But, according to the New York Times, the complaint was never referred to the Assembly’s ethics committee, prompting the dismissal of a top Assembly lawyer, Bill Collins.
Why is Vito Lopez still in the State Assembly?
It has been two weeks since word leaked out that we the taxpayers paid off, er, compensated two women who claimed that Mr. Lopez, a veteran legislator and chairman of Brooklyn’s Democratic county committee, harassed them in the workplace. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver approved a secret $103,000 payment each—and never saw fit to refer the case to the Assembly’s Ethics Committee.
But that very committee did look into other allegations against Mr. Lopez and found an appalling record of intimidation, inappropriate conduct and harassment. Subsequent news accounts reported that Mr. Lopez, who is 71 years old, frequently commented on the appearance of female staff members, and sometimes made inappropriate advances. Women interviewed by The New York Times said that they felt threatened by Mr. Lopez’s boorish behavior. The assemblyman brusquely told one staff member to remain quiet after she complained about unwanted and aggressive advances from an aide to one of Mr. Lopez’s allies.
In a better world, Mr. Lopez would be thoroughly ashamed and would already be in self-imposed exile. His Assembly seat would be vacant. He would not still be the leader of Brooklyn’s Democrats.
But, of course, we are not talking about a perfect world, or even a decent one.
The Neverending Story
After years of opposition, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has decided to roll the dice on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s dream of opening a casino in New York City. There is just one house rule, according to the Daily New‘s Albany bureau chief Ken Lovett: not in my backyard. (He’s just as parochial as his constituents!)
The locations Silver is open to a casino include Coney Island—where Borough President Marty Markowitz desperately wants one—the new Mets megamall at Willets Point and the so-far-failed plans for one at Aqueduct. But proposals like Times Square and at a rejiggered Javits Center are definitely out.
The thunderstorm had just cleared over Manhattan on Monday morning as the topping out of 4 World Trade Center was about to get underway. Turning down Maiden Lane from Broadway, the 977-foot tower, looming over the space of the small street, glistened even more than usual, freshly polished by the rain.Even against a backdrop of dark clouds, the building, designed by Japanese Pritzker Prize winner Fumihiko Maki, blends in with the sky in a soothing way that almost makes the 72-story structure disappear. It is much lighter—and, in the estimation of The Observer, quite a bit nicer—than its big brother, also rising, across the 16-acre site.
“Welcome to the first tower that will open for business here at the World Trade Center site,” Janno Lieber, right-hand man to Larry Silverstein at ground zero, boomed into a microphone from the podium. It was the only note of competition throughout the festivities, even though everyone knew the smaller tower, while started three years later, had beaten its sibling to the top by at least a few days.
Will there be fair and competitive elections next year in New York?
Governor Cuomo promised, in essence, that there would be. During his successful campaign in 2010, Mr. Cuomo said he would fight for the creation of an independent commission that would be given power to redraw the state’s legislative and congressional districts, a process that unfolds every 10 years. Traditionally, both houses of the Legislature handle this task, and critics have charged that the legislators draw maps that insulate incumbents from serious challenges. Congressional incumbents and state legislators rarely are turned out of office in New York, the result, critics say, of unfair district maps.
Not surprisingly, legislative leaders haven’t jumped at the opportunity to turn over their map-making power to an independent commission. The result is a stalemate between Mr. Cuomo, who is attempting to make good on his promise, and both parties in the Legislature. Republicans and Democrats may not agree on everything, but leaders of both parties are of one mind when it comes to protecting incumbents.
Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver held a celebratory news conference last week during which they announced an agreement on implementing a 2 percent cap on property tax increases. Welcome though that announcement was, it’s clear that the work of achieving real property tax reform is far from over. Read More
Azi Paybarah has the latest at our sister site, PolitickerNY, on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s property tax cap proposal. Scroll down and you’ll see praise from the big-time business group, Partnership for New York City.
firstname.lastname@example.org :: @tacitelli Read More