Speaker’s office? More like speeder’s office.
Cars belonging to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s office have been caught speeding by traffic cameras an astounding seven times since 2016, including two times in 2019, according to data scraped by traffic-ticket bot HowsMyDriving.
The Speaker’s office confirmed the violations.
“While the Speaker was not the driver of this vehicle, he is very disappointed and has spoken to the staff members who were operating the vehicle,” Mike Whyland, the communications director for Heastie’s office, told Streetsblog. “He reminded them that reason we passed the speed-camera legislation was to ensure the safety of students and the public, and that these violations are unacceptable.”
The staffers, who paid for their own tickets, according to Whyland, won’t face any consequences beyond the Speaker’s lecture on safe driving. Whyland declined to identify them publicly.
The saga began on Sunday, when Albany-based reporter Joe Mahoney shared a picture on Twitter of Governor Cuomo cruising around the capital in a blue Pontiac GTO. Seeing the interesting picture, a Twitter user ran the car’s license plate, “1,” through @HowsMyDriving.
According to the data scraped by the bot, the license plate has seven school-zone speeding tickets attached to it. That wasn’t definitive, however. Plugging the coordinates “NY:1” into the bot will scrape the data for all kinds of plates, and “there may be multiple ‘1’ NY plates,” HowsMyDriving creator Brian Howald noted.
A closer look at the data that the Twitter bot processed showed that the violations did not belong to the blue Pontiac the governor was driving. All seven speed-zone violations had accrued, in fact, to cars with New York Assembly plates, first a black 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee and then a black 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe.
The Twitter chatter about governor’s GTO and its “vanity” license plate prompted a retort from Albany lobbyist Evan Stavisky, who tweeted that “1” isn’t simply a macho, vanity license-plate number; it’s the plate number given to leaders in the executive and legislative branches — in this case, the Speaker of the Assembly. (Even many New York counties and municipalities dole out low license-plate numbers as a perk of office.)
The news that the violations attached to cars used by the Speaker ticked off City Council Member Brad Lander, who’s sponsoring the Reckless Driver Accountability Act, a bill that would impound any car receiving more than five moving violations in one year in New York City.
“Part of the goal of bringing visibility to reckless driving is to hold everyone accountable,” Lander told Streetsblog. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a council member, or a police officer, or the mayor — you have a responsibility to drive like your neighbors are human beings. Most drivers, if they get one of those violations, slow down and don’t get a second one. And that is the kind of behavioral change we want from everyone.”
Although all seven violations occurred in the confines of New York City, either in the Bronx or in Brooklyn, because the staffer or staffers who sped in Heastie’s cars didn’t amass five tickets in a single year neither car would have been booted if Lander’s bill became law. It doesn’t make the driving any less dangerous, however.
Drivers trigger speed cameras in New York City when they are moving at least 11 miles an hour above the speed limit of 25 miles an hour — that is, at 36 miles an hour or more. The chances of a pedestrian dying from the impact of a car moving more than 30 miles per hour is much greater than at lower speeds; the high probability of killing a pedestrian at such speeds, in fact, has prompted calls to cap city speed limits at 20 miles an hour.
Heastie, of course, is not the only New York City politician who’s been nailed for unsafe driving. The personal car of Public Advocate Jumaane Williams had an astonishing 27 school-zone speeding tickets attached to it from 2013 through 2018. Williams first said that the news of his tickets was a political attack, but later apologized for the dangerous driving in an interview with Streetsblog, and later tweeted “I’ve accepted responsibility and will change behavior to protect our kids.”
Arch-speed-camera foe, then-State Senator Marty Golden of Brooklyn was dinged for 10 school-zone speeding tickets and two red-light-camera violations from 2015 through 2017.
Mayor de Blasio’s drivers also have been caught speeding and rolling through stop signs; in one instance, the mayor’s driver crashed in Manhattan and tried to cover it up — embarrassing his boss. The behavior hasn’t ended: A Brooklyn resident tweeted on Tuesday morning that he saw the mayor’s SUV being driven recklessly through a crosswalk in Park Slope.
Internal emails reveal de Blasio had City Hall staff help with re-election bid
Mayor Bill de Blasio regularly used his City Hall staff to boost his 2017 re-election bid while state and federal authorities were investigating his campaign fundraising practices, according to internal emails released Thursday.
City rules prevent public employees from using their official time for political purposes. Yet over 205 pages of emails between the mayor and his two sets of staff, obtained through a Freedom of Information request and first reported by the Daily News, show that they routinely flouted those rules.
In the most glaring example happened in December 2016 when the mayor asked his campaign and City Hall staff to coordinate a meeting with a deep-pocketed donor — and then tried to rope a deputy mayor into the fundraising effort.
“Steve Mostyn is in town from Dallas,” the mayor wrote to his City Hall scheduler and the deputy finance director for his campaign on Dec. 5, 2016.
“Very important I see him. Pls set up,” de Blasio wrote. His campaign finance director, Elana Leopold, followed up on her boss’s email.
“Mayor wants an hour w him and wants Herminia to stop by to say hi at the front of [sic] back end,” Leopold wrote, referring to then Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Hermania Palacio.
De Blasio’s official scheduler, Prisca Salazar-Rodriguez, suggested having the meeting at City Hall before his Leopold said, “I don’t think it’s allowed to be at City Hall.”
Members of Mostyn’s family later donated nearly $10,000 to the mayor’s reelection campaign.
A mayoral spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein said “the mayor wanted to Deputy Mayor Palacio to attend because they had a personal connection and he thought they’d enjoy meeting. She wasn’t able to attend, however, and the meeting did not occur at City Hall.”
“City Hall and the campaign followed all rules and regulations. There is nothing prohibiting the teams from coordinating on scheduling,” Goldstein said.
But Alex Camarda, with the good government group Reinvent Albany, said the emails showed the mayor needs a state versus church divide to keep his political and official activities separate.
“The mayor’s campaign and City Hall should establish procedures that create clearer boundaries in setting up meetings and communications to separate campaign work from government work,” Camarda said.
“We’re Confident…”: Trump Appears To Confirm US Nukes Are In Turkey
US government officials have long avoided disclosing or even confirming widely believed locations of US nuclear weapons.
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump has often said things he perhaps shouldn’t have and repeatedly has disclosed sensitive information as president. On Wednesday, he did it again, appearing to confirm that the United States has nuclear weapons in Turkey.
At the White House, Trump was asked about those weapons’ security, now that Turkey has gone against U.S. wishes by invading northern Syria after the Trump-ordered U.S. withdrawal from the region. He didn’t explicitly confirm that the weapons were there, but he went along with the premise, saying that “we’re confident” they’ll be safe “and we have a great air base there – a very powerful air base.”
U.S. government officials have long avoided disclosing or even confirming widely believed locations of U.S. nuclear weapons.
“As a matter of policy, the Defense Department does not comment on the presence of nuclear weapons in Turkey or anywhere else in Europe,” said Kingston Reif, the director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association.
“U.S. and NATO officials do not, as a matter of policy, confirm the existence, locations or numbers of tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Europe,” said Jessica Varnum, deputy director at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies’ James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
The existence of the weapons in Turkey isn’t exactly a secret, though. Reif noted that “the Air Force, in its fiscal year 2015 budget request, noted the presence of ‘special weapons’ at ‘storage sites in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey.”‘ Other experts noted that it’s not easy to hide such weapons.
Last July a document published by a NATO-affiliated body, which later was deleted, appeared to confirm that nuclear weapons were being housed in those same five countries. The document from a Canadian senator for the Defense and Security Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly said the U.S. nukes were in Incirlik in Turkey.
Vipin Narang, a nuclear proliferation expert at M.I.T., highlighted another issue with Trump saying that “we have a great air base there.”
“Incirlik is Turkey’s air base, not ours,” Narang said. “And that is essentially the problem. We store these nuclear weapons in secure vaults on a Turkish air base, where we either have to secure them under the present circumstances, or bring transport aircraft to the base, move them on a Turkish air base and then fly them out of Turkish airspace if we wanted to extract them.
“Under the present circumstances, that is not a simple logistical or security feat.”
The security of those weapons has been a growing concern this week. The New York Times reported that State and Energy Department officials were looking at how to evacuate the weapons from Turkey if the situation in the region deteriorates.
As an Air Force Times report this week showed, though, officials would still avoid confirming the locations, even if they seemed plainly obvious:
“In an interview this summer with Air Force Times on the future of Incirlik amid rising tensions with Turkey, former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James would not confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons there. But, hypothetically speaking, she said that if nuclear weapons did have to be removed from that base, it would be a complicated operation. It would require negotiations with the nation that would become the weapons’ new host, James said. And it would require a great deal of logistical and security work.
“If the Air Force found a new nation willing to host the nukes, James said, it would have to take ‘the greatest of care’ in their removal and transport. If the receiving base did not have the facilities or security necessary, James said, it would require a significant construction effort. And NATO would likely be involved.”
Trump in May 2017 shared highly classified information with top Russian officials in the Oval Office – information that U.S. officials worried could jeopardize a valuable intelligence source. He also reportedly told the Philippines’ president in April 2017 that the United States had two nuclear submarines off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, according to the New York Times. And two months ago, Trump tweeted what appeared to be an image from a classified satellite or drone in Iran.
Presidents have broad authority to declassify whatever they want, but that doesn’t mean the disclosures are necessarily beneficial for the U.S. government.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by TansportationVoice staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
Elijah Cummings, senior Democrat involved in Trump impeachment probe, dies aged 68
- Cummings died aged 68 from ‘complications of longstanding health challenges’
- Comes two years after he had an operation to repair his aortic valve, and a month after he went to hospital saying that he would be back at work in a week
- 13-term representative from Maryland was chair of the Oversight Committee, and spearheaded several investigations into Trump
- He famously rowed with Trump after President called Baltimore ‘rat-infested’
Elijah E Cummings, a senior Democrat who was a key player in the Trump impeachment inquiry, has died aged 68.
Cummings, who chaired the House Oversight and Reform Committee, passed away at Baltimore’s John Hopkins Hospital at 2.45am on Thursday, his office said.
The Maryland representative, who has been in office since 1996, died of ‘complications concerning longstanding health challenges’.
His death comes two years after he had surgery to repair his aortic valve, and a month after he was admitted to hospital for further treatment.
He leaves behind wife Maya Rockeymoore – who he married in 2008 – and his three children, including daughters Jennifer and Adia
She said: ‘Congressman Cummings was an honorable man who proudly served his district and the nation with dignity, integrity, compassion and humility.
‘He worked until his last breath because he believed our democracy was the highest and best expression of our collective humanity and that our nation’s diversity was our promise, not our problem.’
When he was admitted in early September, Cummings predicted that he would be back in Washington within a week.
A sharecropper’s son, Cummings became the powerful chairman of a U.S. House committee that spearheaded investigations into President Donald Trump.
He was also a formidable orator who passionately advocated for the poor in his district that encompassed a large portion of Baltimore.
As chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cummings led multiple investigations into Trump’s governmental dealings.
The investigations angered the president, who criticized the congressman’s district in 2019 as a ‘rodent-infested mess’ where ‘no human being would want to live.’
Cummings responded that government officials must stop making ‘hateful, incendiary comments’ that only serve to divide and distract the nation from its real problems.
‘Those in the highest levels of the government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior,’ Cummings said in a speech at the National Press Club.
The Oversight Committee – as the main investigative committee of the House – was one of six involved in the impeachment inquiry into Trump and was spearheading efforts to gather evidence, alongside the Intelligence Committee.
Cummings’ long career spanned decades in Maryland politics. He rose through the ranks of the Maryland House of Delegates before winning his congressional seat in a special election in 1996 to replace former Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who left the seat to lead the NAACP.
Cummings was an early supporter of Barack Obama’s presidential bid in 2008. And by 2016, Cummings was the senior Democrat on the House Benghazi Committee, which he said was ‘nothing more than a taxpayer-funded effort to bring harm to Hillary Clinton’s campaign’ for president.
Throughout his career, Cummings used his fiery voice to highlight the struggles and needs of inner-city residents. He was a firm believer in some much-debated approaches to help the poor and addicted, such as needle exchange programs as a way to reduce the spread of AIDS.
His constituents began mourning shortly after his death at 2:45 a.m. on Thursday. The Baltimore archdiocese tweeted that Cummings ‘generously shared his God-given gifts and talents w/the people of his beloved city, state and nation for so many years. We give thanks for his dedicated service and pray for the repose of his soul.’
Dear Mr. #Cummings rest in Peace Sir. 🙏✝️🙏
We give thanks for his dedicated service and pray for the repose of his soul.” pic.twitter.com/HV9KF6KYrv
— USMC Cougar (@CougarUsmc) October 17, 2019
Cummings was born on Jan. 18, 1951. In grade school, a counselor told Cummings he was too slow to learn and spoke poorly, and he would never fulfill his dream of becoming a lawyer.
‘I was devastated,’ Cummings told The Associated Press in 1996, shortly before he won his seat in Congress. ‘My whole life changed. I became very determined.’
It steeled Cummings to prove that counselor wrong. He became not only a lawyer, but one of the most powerful orators in the statehouse, where he entered office in 1983.
He rose to become the first black House speaker pro tem. He would begin his comments slowly, developing his theme and raising the emotional heat until it became like a sermon from the pulpit.
Cummings was quick to note the differences between Congress and the Maryland General Assembly, which has long been controlled by Democrats.
‘After coming from the state where, basically, you had a lot of people working together, it’s clear that the lines are drawn here,’ Cummings said about a month after entering office in Washington in 1996.
Cummings chaired the Congressional Black Caucus from 2003 to 2004, employing a hard-charging, explore-every-option style to put the group in the national spotlight.
He cruised to big victories in the overwhelmingly Democratic district, which had given Maryland its first black congressman in 1970 when Parren Mitchell was elected.
By ASSOCIATED PRESS and CHRIS PLEASANCE
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