Editorials Blast Cuomo Raid on Clean Water Funds

Governor Cuomo’s recent efforts to use $511 million in Clean Water funds to build a new Tappan Zee Bridge has been blasted in seven newspaper editorials, as well as by a coalition of environmental and good government groups that includes Reinvent Albany.  The low and zero interest Clean Water State Revolving Fund financing was created under the federal Clean Water Act to pay for new and improved sewer treatment plants. ( A 2008 state report says cities and towns will have to spend $1.8 billion a year for the next two decades to replace aging and deteriorating waste water infrastructure.)

Unfortunately, Governor Cuomo intends to use the clean water funds to tear down the old TZ Bridge and other construction tasks associated with the $3.9 billion bridge replacement project. It is not the finest moment for a governor who vowed to end fiscal gimmickry. Particularly disturbing is that if Cuomo succeeds in taking — mainly federal — clean water funds for a bridge project, he will open the door for other governors to do the same.

Editorials Opposing Clean Water Fund Raid

New York Times 6/24/2014 “The proposal…clearly seems at odds with the revolving fund’s historic mission.”
Journal News 6/27/2014 “The latest betrayal of repeated promises of transparency.”
Times Union 6/30/2014 “Concern that this is bad precedent…why is all this money is sitting around to begin with?”
Watertown Daily Times 7/8/2014 “Gov. Cuomo could be shortchanging vital water improvement projects.”
Register Star 7/9/2014 “A half-billion dollars is a huge chunk of change to remove from this fund.”
Poughkeepsie Journal 7/10/2014 “The state needs a clear, unambiguous and transparent funding path.”
Times Herald Record 7/10/2014 “Rules (limiting spending to clean water) are being distorted beyond recognition.”
Times Union Column 7/7/2014 “Every aspect of this so-called loan is high chutzpah…”
Buffalo News 7/14/2014 “This questionable loan has had virtually no public input and no serious vetting.”

Money in Politics in NY: Jul. 11 Edition

State Sen. Libous Facing Charges of Lying to Prosecutors

New York State Senator Thomas Libous, a 13-term incumbent representing Binghamton, was arraigned in federal court last Tuesday for allegedly making false statements to the FBI. Federal prosecutors claim that Libous lied about using his influence as a state senator to boost his son’s salary at a Westchester law firm. Libous and his son, Matthew, have pleaded not guilty to the charges. The indictment states that the elder Libous arranged for an Albany lobbying firm to pay $50,000 to the law firm where his son was employed, in order to inflate his son’s salary.

He “took advantage of his position as senator and chairman of the Transportation Committee by corruptly causing lobbyists, who wanted Libous’ influence to benefit their clients, to funnel money through a law firm to his son,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara explained. When questioned by prosecutors regarding these charges, Libous denied involvement in any deal between the lobbying firm and the law firm, according to the indictment. Matthew Libous is being simultaneously accused of tax evasion. If the senator is convicted, it would increase the number of Albany legislators that have been forced out of office due to misconduct since 2000 to 27. Read more…

NYS Open Data Making Solid Progress

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 1.42.13 PM

Sometimes, something as seemingly routine as publishing a government quarterly important are important.  Open data advocates were happy to see that Governor Cuomo’s Open NY, open data initiative, recently published its July quarterly update on the state’s open data portal, data.ny.gov. The Open NY team is working to establish, and sustain, a new open data culture within government. The quarterly public updates help maintain momentum and accountability and allow the public to see what kind of progress Open NY is making.

The good news here is that the report reveals that Open NY has been making solid progress. In particular, the Open NY team and the State DOH continue to publish new public health and health cost data that is very useful to industry, journalists, academics and public interest groups.

Open data supporters are eager to see Open NY help another agency — perhaps DEC — achieve the open data success of the award winning Health Department. Stakeholder groups would also like to see the Open NY team and state agencies use Freedom of Information Law request logs to identify what agency data should be published.

Highlights from Open NY Quarterly report:

  • Data is available across ten categories, and includes 796 data sets, and more than 60 million records.
  • The number of data catalog items has more than doubled since data.ny.gov launched on March 11, 2013 with 244 data sets.
  • A new Developer Resources beta page was released on March 19, 2014, and includes code samples  to facilitate data mashups.
  • Data.ny.gov has been accessed in over 160 countries, all 50 States and over 6,500 cities worldwide – including over 5,000 U.S. cities.

The quarterly report also highlights the success of the state’s Open Data Handbook, which was lauded by the National Association of Chief Information Officers as a national best practice. The report also cites the success of a number of civic hackathons or “App Challenges” which have used data from Open NY.

Read the entire report here.