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Voices in the Crowd
By Daniel Flatley & Perry White
Times Staff Writer & City Editor
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Voices in the Crowd

Former Rep. Owens: failure to pass DHS funding bill will have a devastating effect

First published: February 13, 2015 at 12:15 am
Last modified: February 13, 2015 at 12:13 am

Former Rep. William L. Owens issued a statement expressing “dismay” at the failure of the U.S. Senate to pass legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security.

“The failure to pass a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill will have a devastating effect as it will shut down our borders and negatively impact national security and our local economy,” Mr. Owens said. “The Republican majority in Congress claims this is the result of the President’s Executive Order on immigration as opposed to the Republican-controlled Congress’s own failure to offer comprehensive immigration reform or to act on the bipartisan Senate immigration bill passed in the previous Congress. If my former colleagues were more serious about this issue, they would vote to revive the Senate bill and to strike the Executive Order. I would vote for this approach if I were in Congress. It is a rational compromise and good governance.”

A Democrat, Mr. Owens was first sent to Congress following a special election in 2009. He ran for the office again in 2010 and 2012 and served two full terms representing the 21st Congressional District before announcing he would not seek re-election in 2014. He now works as a strategic adviser for McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, Washington, D.C., as well as for his law firm Stafford, Owens, Piller, Murname, Kelleher & Trombley, PLLC, Plattsburgh.

Mr. Owens said in a email Thursday that he decided to speak out on the issue because “this would be devastating to local economies if border shut down or curtailed.”

Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, was elected in November to represent the 21st Congressional District. She voted in support of H.R. 240, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, which passed the House 236 to 191.

The bill has hit a roadblock in the Senate, where Democrats have repeatedly blocked the bill from coming to the floor. The Democrats object to provisions in the bill that would undo President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration — a part of the legislation Republicans included to fight what they describe as an abuse of executive authority on the part of Mr. Obama.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, blamed Senate Democrats for the impasse as well as Senate Republican leadership for failing to resolve the issue. Mr. Boehner has refused to bring a bill to the floor without the provisions undoing Mr. Obama’s actions on immigration.

Congress is facing a Feb. 27 deadline to pass legislation to fund DHS. — DPF


Stefanik named to leadership post on subcommittee

First published: February 05, 2015 at 11:34 am
Last modified: February 05, 2015 at 11:34 am

Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, has been named vice chairwoman of the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Readiness.

The 21st District congresswoman, the youngest member in the House, was selected by her colleagues for the position.

“I am grateful to Chairman Thornberry and my colleagues on the Committee for the opportunity to serve in this important position,” said Rep. Stefanik in a news release. “The Readiness Subcommittee has extraordinary responsibility overseeing the budget for the Department of Defense. From this position, I will be able to work to undo the damaging effects that the sequester is having on our military readiness as well as bring a strong voice to protect and strengthen the interests of Fort Drum. I look forward to working closely with Subcommittee Chairman Rob Wittman on these important issues.”

The Readiness Subcommittee is responsible for the single largest account within DoD’s budget, the release said.

Military readiness, training, logistics and maintenance issues and programs, military construction, installations and family housing issues, and the BRAC process are all part of the subcommittee’s purview.

Fort Drum and its proponents will likely be pleased that Ms. Stefanik is vice chairwoman of the subcommittee that oversees the Base Realignment and Closing process.



Heastie fills Assembly leadership positions

First published: February 05, 2015 at 9:11 am
Last modified: February 05, 2015 at 9:11 am

Two days after taking over the leadership of the Assembly, Speaker Carl E. Heastie announced his leadership appointments.

Unsurprisingly, Assembly members from the Greater New York City region took all but two of the top 21 appointments, with the Bronx, Queens and Long Island heavily represented.

The only two upstaters named were Majority Leader Joseph D. Morrell from Rochester, and Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton of Ithaca as chairwoman of the Majority Steering Committee. Ms. Lifton held no leadership positions under ousted Speaker Sheldon Silver.

The only Democrat in the north country, Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, Theresa, was named chairwoman of the Farm, Food and Nutrition Task Force. She was moved to that post from the chairmanship of the Commission on Rural Resources.

Many committees have new chairmen, but Ways and Means will still be led by Herman Farrell, and Agriculture still will be headed by William Magee, of the Madison County hamlet of Nelson.

One notable appointment is the continuation of Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, Queens, as chairwoman of the influential Education Committee. She was the final challenger for the Speaker’s position, bowing out a day before the Democratic Caucus unanimously chose Mr. Heastie.



Stefanik to hold Glens Falls office grand opening

First published: February 03, 2015 at 4:02 pm
Last modified: February 03, 2015 at 4:02 pm

Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, is scheduled to hold a grand opening ceremony at her district office in Glens Falls from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday at 136 Glen St.

The event is open to all constituents of New York’s 21st Congressional District, according to Ms. Stefanik’s office.


Blankenbush: new Speaker must commit to reforms; Congressional office gets the Downton Abbey treatment

First published: February 03, 2015 at 10:33 am
Last modified: February 03, 2015 at 10:33 am

Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, released a statement Tuesday calling on the next speaker of the Assembly to embrace and adhere to meaningful ethics reform.

There is currently a contest for speaker, though most reports confirm that Carl Heastie, a Democrat from the Bronx, is set to assume power today.

“New Yorkers have been waiting far too long for reforms, their trust in government has been violated over and over again by elected officials who break our laws and take advantage of their positions of power. When the Democrats select a new speaker, that person must take advantage of this opportunity to hit the restart button and adopt strong ethics reforms that take a no-tolerance stance on politicians engaging in criminal activities, set term limits for leadership positions such as speaker, and fairly distribute resources among legislators so residents, especially upstate, are fairly represented,” Mr. Blankenbush said.

Former Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan was arrested in January on federal corruption charges. After a whirlwind week in Albany, he announced he would step aside from his position of authority while he defends himself against the charges.


■       ■       ■

Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., visited Watertown in September to stump for Elise M. Stefanik, who was then a candidate for Congress. Now Ms. Stefanik is Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, and Mr. Schock is getting attention in Washington for his new Downton Abbey-inspired digs in the Rayburn House Office Building.

According to the Washington Post, Mr. Schock, one of the youngest members of Congress, had his office decorated in the style of the popular PBS show with the help of an interior decorator from his home state who specializes in repurposing cast-off items.

Annie Brahler, owner of Euro Trash, decorated Mr. Schock’s office for free, although the Congressman reportedly had to pay for the furnishings. Still, Mr. Schock did not want to discuss the decor with the Washington Post, according to reporter Ben Terris.

To read the story, visit:



Stefanik to visit north country Thursday, co-sponsors bill combating human trafficking

First published: January 28, 2015 at 5:14 pm
Last modified: January 28, 2015 at 9:56 pm

Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, will be attending two events in the 21st Congressional District Thursday.

Ms. Stefanik will visit Clarkson University and SUNY Potsdam.


■       ■       ■

Ms. Stefanik posed a question at the first meeting of the Armed Services Committee, according to Capitol Confidential.

The question was about acquisition chain of command, the story said.

Ms. Stefanik reportedly asked, “What steps are you currently taking to clarify both authorities and improving accountability of the decision-makers within and throughout the chain of command?”

Under Secretary of Defense Frank Kendall said there are accountability measures in place, including removal of ineffective people.

To read the story, visit:


■       ■       ■

Ms. Stefanik co-sponsored a bill aimed at combating human trafficking that was passed out of the House Tuesday along with a host of measures.

The bill is H.R. 350, “The Human Trafficking Prevention, Intervention and Recovery Act of 2015.”

“Sadly, the horrific crime of human trafficking is far too prevalent in our society,” Ms. Stefanik said. “That’s why I was happy to support these common-sense proposals to help victims of trafficking as well as to help law enforcement go after the perpetrators of these heinous crimes. Specifically, I was proud to see legislation I co-sponsored to help ensure that our nation’s law enforcement agencies and communities have the best information on how to prevent and deter these crimes pass unopposed by voice vote.”


■       ■       ■

State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, released the results of her 2015 legislative survey Wednesday.

According to the results, strong support for reforming Common Core, concerns regarding raising the minimum wage and support for making the state’s two percent property tax cap permanent are among the results, Sen. Ritchie’s office said.

To view the full results of the survey, visit:



Intrigue in Albany: Speaker Silver reportedly losing support

First published: January 26, 2015 at 4:18 pm
Last modified: January 26, 2015 at 4:18 pm

The state Assembly is reportedly scheduled for a 5 p.m. session as word of a movement to oust Democratic majority Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, filters out of Albany.

“It’s really up in the air right now,” said Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River.

According to Capitol Confidential, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, told reporters that the power-sharing deal put forward by Mr. Silver was unworkable.

“We didn’t think it would function, we didn’t think it was workable at all,” Ms. Paulin said. “We weren’t sure how anybody would make decisions. We were concerned we would be thrown into a chaotic state and would not be able to get the Assembly agenda done.”

The New York Times reported Monday that Mr. Silver had arranged to step aside and delegate his duties and authority to five senior Assembly Democrats. Mr. Silver was charged with five county of corruption last week.

By midday, however, that arrangement seems have crumbled, as other prominent Assembly Democrats began voicing their dissent.

Assemblyman Keith Wright, a longtime Democratic legislator from Harlem, called for Mr. Silver’s resignation.

Mr. Blankenbush said he heard other rumors about a growing movement in the Democratic Conference to wrest power away from the embattled speaker.

State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, issued a statement earlier in the day calling for Mr. Silver to resign his position.

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, who defended Mr. Silver last week, has not yet returned a request for comment.

Assembly Democrats were scheduled to enter conference at 4 p.m., according to Mr. Blankenbush.



Griffo: Silver needs to step down

First published: January 26, 2015 at 2:05 pm
Last modified: January 26, 2015 at 2:05 pm

State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, issued a statement Monday calling on embattled Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to step down from his post while he defends himself against federal corruption charges.

The New York Times reported that Mr. Silver would temporarily delegate his duties as speaker to five senior Assembly Democrats. He was charged Thursday was five counts of corruption and using his political power to amass personal wealth.

“Sheldon Silver needs to step down from his post as Assembly speaker,” Sen. Griffo said. “This cockamamie idea where five people are going to take turns negotiating on behalf of their conference is going to severely undermine the effectiveness of the budget process. It’s too important to the people of New York that we deliver an on-time budget.”

Sen. Griffo was critical of the power-sharing idea, which he said was unworkable.

“This proposed power sharing is never going to work,” Sen. Griffo said. “Here’s why: In negotiations, compromises are inevitably made. It’s a give-and-take, in which one area of the budget sustains a cut so another can receive funding. How in the world are we going to make progress if five people need to negotiate among themselves before they can negotiate with the governor and the Senate?”



Stefanik to attend medical summit, plays role in abortion debate; of complaints and indictments, three men in a room and Joe Bruno; fight in north country over Silver support

First published: January 23, 2015 at 2:03 pm
Last modified: January 23, 2015 at 6:17 pm

Rep. Elise M. Stefanik is planning to attend a Medical Society of the State of New York event Saturday in Lake Placid.

According to Ms. Stefanik’s office, the event will be attended by “dozens of physicians” from New York and will focus on medicine and health care.

The event will be held from 10:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at 77 Mirror Lake Drive, Lake Placid.


■       ■       ■

Ms. Stefanik played a role in the debate over abortion in Congress this week, according to a story published by Hearst Newspapers Thursday.

The story, which was carried by the Albany Times Union, outlines Ms. Stefanik’s involvement in negotiations that took place over a bill — the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act — that was eventually scuttled after Republican women met with House GOP leadership Wednesday to register objections to the proposed legislation’s restrictive language.

Ms. Stefanik did vote for H.R. 7 — the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act — which would halt tax credits under the Affordable Care Act for insurance that includes abortion coverage even if individuals and businesses use their own money for the plans, according to Dan Freedman, Hearst Newspapers national editor.

The bill passed the House 242-179 with only one Republican, Richard Hanna, R-Utica, voting against it. President Barack Obama has said he would veto the bill.

In an emailed statement, Ms. Stefanik’s spokesman Tom Flanigan said Ms. Stefanik attended the Wednesday meeting while considering her position on the Pain Capable legislation, which House GOP leadership then decided to withdraw from the floor and replace with H.R. 7.

As he did when contacted by Mr. Freedman, Mr. Flanigan did not say whether Ms. Stefanik opposed the Pain Capable legislation.

“Congresswoman Stefanik voted in favor of this bipartisan legislation (No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act) that will codify the Hyde Amendment and protect American taxpayers from footing the bill for abortions,” Mr. Flanigan wrote. “Consistent with Congresswoman Stefanik’s position, the funding limitations do not apply to an abortion related to rape, incest, or protecting the life of the mother.”


■       ■       ■

People everywhere are having fun with the fallout from the arrest of New York state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was charged Thursday with corruption in a five-count federal criminal complaint.

We pause here to note that, as U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said during his press conference Thursday, there’s a difference between a criminal complaint and a criminal indictment.

“One’s a complaint and one’s an indictment,” Mr. Bharara said, unhelpfully, before revising his comments to include the following: “I’m sorry. A complaint is approved by a judge upon the affidavit of a law enforcement officer based on probable cause. An indictment is a document approved by a grand jury, a federal grand jury. And so when you proceed by complaint, that doesn’t negate the necessity of ultimately having to obtain an indictment if you go forward, so you can expect an indictment in the future.”

Also, let’s not forget the delightful idiom “three men in a room,” which has been used in several publications, including the Times, to describe the backroom dealings between the governor, the Assembly Speaker and the Senate majority leader.

Mr. Bharara, again in full dry-humored dudgeon, remarked yet again on this phenomenon at New York Law School Friday.

“Why three men? Can there be a woman? Do they always have to be white? How small is the room that they can only fit three men? Is it three men in a closet? Are there cigars? Can they have Cuban cigars now? After a while, doesn’t it get a little gamey in that room?” Mr. Bharara asked rhetorically, according to the New York Observer.

Speaking of three men in a room, former state Sen. Joseph L. Bruno, once the Republican Senate majority leader, took to the airwaves to talk about his experiences with the federal criminal justice system with New York Post columnist and radio host Frederick U. Dicker.

Mr. Bruno was accused of fraud and corruption before ultimately being cleared of all charges.

“Our system of federal justice is out of control,” Mr. Bruno said during the interview, asserting that most people indicted by a federal prosecutor either plead guilty or are convicted because they lack the resources to properly defend themselves.

Mr. Bruno argued for a full-time legislature during the interview.

“If people are corrupt at heart, if they don’t have integrity, they’re going to find a way,” Mr. Bruno said. “We should talk about the system itself... I want to talk about the system. What I’m saying to you and anyone who wants to hear it, part-time is open to conflict of interest.”


■       ■       ■

Not to be outdone by the rhetorical flourishes employed by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Manhattan and the forecasts of chaos in Albany following the Assembly speaker’s arrest, a mini-spat has broken out in the north country over support for Mr. Silver espoused by Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa.

Donald G. M. Coon III, the Jefferson County Republican Committee Chairman, and John L. Byrne III, Mrs. Russell’s one-time challenger, both issued strongly worded statements reacted to Mrs. Russell’s support of the embattled speaker.

Mrs. Russell fired back, calling the attacks “downright repulsive,” and leveling charges that the Republican Party sought to conceal Mr. Byrne’s arrest history and then dismiss it as a non-issue during the campaign.

Mr. Byrne has admitted to charges of aggravated harassment, which he said stemmed from a verbal dispute over boat storage in Manlius. He has also acknowleged several fines he incurred while he a bar owner in Oneonta.

Russell J. Finley, the Conservative Party candidate in the 116th Assembly District race, did not want to be left out of the action, and emailed the following statement, slamming both Mrs. Russell and Mr. Byrne:

“The parties never want to admit they are wrong and everyone is afraid of bucking the status quo. It is no different at the Federal level no one wanted Boehner, but he is back in. Also locally the Republican Party continued to support Byrne even though it was proven that his plastic business didn’t exist, his camp ground was belly up, and he had a criminal record. As disgusting as I and everyone else finds it that people like Silver continue to be in power, it should not be surprising that the parties continue to support them. It won’t change until people start looking at the person not the party. The object is supposed to be to get BETTER people, not DIFFERENT people that are the same as what we already have,” Mr. Finley wrote, in part.


n n n

A miscellany of things that would otherwise not appear:

State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, was appointed Thursday as chairman of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee.

Mrs. Russell has announced a strategy to win all $1.5 billion in economic development funds that would otherwise be distributed through a competitive process by partnering with neighboring regional economic development councils to support cross regional projects that focus on increasing exports, according to her office.

State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, has been reappointed chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and has also been named to the Finance and Transportation Committees.



Rep. Stefanik to attend education-related meetings Friday in eastern part of NY21

First published: January 22, 2015 at 11:29 am
Last modified: January 22, 2015 at 11:29 am

Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, will be attending several education-related meetings and events Friday in the eastern portion of the 21st Congressional District.

Ms. Stefanik is a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Here is a schedule of the events:

9-10 a.m.: Tour of Clean Technologies Early College High School Campus, 345 Hermes Road, Malta

10-11 a.m.: Superintendent Round Table — Ballston Spa CSD, HVCC’s TEC-SMART Building, 345 Hermes Road, Malta

11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Lunch Discussion/Q&A with Student Council and IB U.S. History students, Ballston Spa High School, 220 Ballston Ave., Ballston Spa

12:45-1:30 p.m.: Read to Kindergarten Class at Gordon Creek Elementary School, 50 Wood Road, Ballston Spa

2:15-3:15 p.m.: Meeting with New York State United Teachers, 800 Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham


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