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Williams Challengers Fail to Qualify for Official Public Advocate Debate, But Candidates May Spar Anyway



Williams Challengers Fail to Qualify for Official Public Advocate Debate, But Candidates May Spar Anyway

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, one of three citywide elected officials, is up for reelection this fall, but it looks like the Brooklyn Democrat won’t have to defend his (albeit short) tenure so far in a public forum with his two challengers. Neither Staten Island City Council Member Joe Borelli nor nonprofit leader Devin Balkind, the Republican and Libertarian nominees, respectively, seeking to unseat Williams, has qualified for the first of two official, televised debates scheduled in the public advocate race.

And from all indications, the second debate may also be out of the question, leaving it to Williams to decide whether to voluntarily debate his opponents in what is a special election to decide who is the public advocate for 2020 and 2021, the year of the next full city election cycle. Williams won the initial nonpartisan special election in February that decided the seat for the rest of this year after Letitia James stepped down after being elected New York Attorney General.

The New York City Campaign Finance Board hosts two mandatory debates before every citywide election for candidates who participate in the public matching funds program, which awards public money to match small dollar donations at either a 6-to-1 or 8-to-1 ratio, and meet the qualifying thresholds.

Those thresholds are meant to ensure that only viable candidates take the stage. For the first debate for this year’s public advocate election, set for this Thursday, October 10, candidates had to have raised and spent $113,875 by October 4, the latest campaign finance disclosure deadline.

Only Williams met the criteria, having raised $133,009 and spent $138,953 so far. Borelli, a former Assembly member popular in his deep red South Shore district, has raised $42,959 and spent $22,683 on his longshot bid to replace a Democrat in an overwhelmingly blue city. The Libertarian Party’s Balkind, who was also the party’s nominee for the same position in 2017, has raised just $3,825 and spent only $1,313.

Borelli and Balkind also don’t seem likely to qualify for the second debate, scheduled for October 29, which has higher qualifying thresholds including a raise-and-spend requirement of $136,650. Even Williams’ expenditure is just short of that mark at this point in what is shaping up to be a sleepy race for a citywide post first in line to the mayor. The candidates must also show either an endorsement from a local, state, or federal official representing the city or from a membership organization (such as a union) with 250 members who live in the city; or must have at least 750 small-dollar donors, who gave $250 or less, from the city in order to qualify.

Nonetheless, both challengers are pushing Williams to agree to debate them in other forums, but he has been noncommittal so far.

“Our campaign is moving full speed ahead leading up to the November 5th general election,” Williams said in a statement through a spokesperson. “We aren’t taking anything for granted, so as we enter into the final stretch, we will be working aggressively to speak directly to voters to discuss the work we’ve done since entering office and plan moving forward to address some of the toughest challenges New Yorkers face today.”

Early voting, being implemented for the first time in New York this year, kicks off October 26 and runs through November 3. Election Day is November 5. There are few elections on the ballot this fall, but there are several ballot questions of proposals from the 2019 New York City Charter Revision Commission to change aspects of city elections and governance. While there are some local races, the public advocate special election is the only other citywide vote at hand.

Manhattan Neighborhood Network is attempting to organize a debate and both Borelli and Balkind have expressed a commitment to participating, pending scheduling and Williams’ participation. Williams’ spokesperson, when asked if the public advocate would participate, said the campaign is “working to lock in our participation for a separate debate soon.” It is unclear at this point if NY1 will successfully host a debate that is not part of the official Campaign Finance Board program. A spokesperson for Spectrum News, NY1’s parent company, said in a statement, “We look forward to hosting a debate before the election with both candidates on NY1.”

Borelli, who conceded that it’s doubtful he’ll qualify for the second debate, has for months been calling on Williams to do a series of podcast debates without a moderator that would be broadly accessible to members of the public. He made that request in a June 12 letter he sent to Williams, in which he freely acknowledged that the incumbent is the frontrunner and said neither of them should accept public funds from the CFB to reduce the cost of the election. “[I] am proposing a way to reach all New Yorkers in a novel, unique, and groundbreaking way,” he wrote.

“I asked him to do a weekly podcast on whatever topics he wanted to discuss, for a few weeks leading up to the election,” Borelli said in a text message on Monday. “I actually think it would be an entertaining show.” Williams has not accepted the invitation.

Borelli also said he didn’t want to attend debates limited to advocacy group members. “For example, I wouldn’t waste my time at a debate hosted by a ‘Close Rikers’ advocacy group. I’d chalk their support up to a loss before I waste a moment,” he said of the types of issue or community-based candidate forums that often dot campaigns, as they did ahead of the February public advocate special election, where more than 20 candidates appeared at many events to talk to voters. There were also two televised, officially-sanctioned debates in that special election, which Williams won in a runaway despite the crowded field including many sitting office-holders.

For Balkind, a public debate could potentially drum up some limited amount of support. “If I have a platform to share my solutions I’ll prove there are more libertarians in this city than there are Trump supporters,” he said in an email, pointing to a rapid growth in the Libertarian Party’s membership. “We won official status in New York State for the first time in 2018. I’m the first candidate of the official party. The sky is the limit,” he said. Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Larry Sharpe won 95,033 votes in last fall’s election, coming in fourth, and therefore securing the party’s ballot line for four years.

Balkind also chided civic institutions for not organizing debates outside the official ones sponsored by the CFB and its partners. “With modern technology it’s never been cheaper and easier to produce a video broadcast,” he said. “We need civic organizations to take more responsibility for the health of our city’s democracy. Why are New Yorkers relying on a partnership between a government agencies (NYCCFB) and a for profit corporation (Spectrum Cable) to produce debates? We reap what we sow and this a reason why government bureaucracies and corporations are getting what they want from New York City’s political class, but everyday New Yorkers aren’t.”

by Samar Khurshid

GothamGazette The Place for New York Policy and Politics

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Internal emails reveal de Blasio had City Hall staff help with re-election bid




mayor de blasio

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.



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“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.)

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Elijah Cummings, senior Democrat involved in Trump impeachment probe, dies aged 68




Elijah Cummings
  • 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.’

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.




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