Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Albany Lawmakers Fleeing For Higher Pay

As state lawmakers wrapped up a rather uninspiring legislative session, another sizeable exodus is underway as 12 state elected officials (6 percent of the state legislature) are seeking higher ground in local office. It appears local office is more appealing to state elected officials these days.

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Not one of those fleeing the friendly confines of Albany is Jewish, and the open seats could increase the ranks of Jewish elected officials in the state capital if Jews run in the special election next year. Twenty-six of the 213 members (12 percent) of the state legislature identify as Jewish. Only one is a Republican, Senator Michael Ranzenhofer (R – Amherst, Erie County).

One constant refrain from state lawmakers is the complaint about the $79,500 base salary they earn in Albany while lower level government positions pay more, require less travel, and allow for more family time. (For example, members of the New York Council receive a base salary of $148,500 a year.

Among those running for local office:

14-year incumbent Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., 74, (D – Soundview, the Bronx) wants to return to the New York City Council where he served for one year before joined the ranks of the state Senate. If successful, Diaz would replace Councilwoman Annabel Palma, who is term limited;

12-year incumbent Assemblyman Tom McKevitt, 46, (R – East Meadow, Nassau County) is running for a seat on the county legislature;

Seven-year incumbent Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, 54, (R – Melrose, Rensselaer County), is running for county executive;

Seven-year incumbent Assemblyman Francisco Moya, 43, (D – Corona, Queens) is running for the New York City Council to replace the retiring Julissa Ferreras-Copeland;

Seven-year incumbent Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez, 41, (D – East Harlem, Manhattan) is running for the New York City Council to replace the term-limited City Council President Melissa Mark-Viverito;

Five-year incumbent Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, 52, (D – Morris Park, The Bronx) is running for the New York City Council to replace the term-limited Jimmy Vacca;

Five-year incumbent Michael “Mickey” Kearns, 48, (D – South Buffalo, Erie County) is running for county clerk on the Republican and Conservative party lines;

Four-year incumbent Senator George Latimer, 64, (D – Rye, Westchester County) is running for county executive;

Four-year incumbent Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, 38, (R – Huntington, Suffolk County) is running for Huntington Town Supervisor;

Bill Perkins, 67, (D – Harlem, Manhattan) was elected to the New York City Council in March after serving in the state Senate for 10 years. Perkins served on the city council from 1997 – 2002, was term-limited and ran for the state Senate. Now he’s back in his old council seat and must run for a full four-year term this year.

Joe Saladino, 55, (R – Massapequa, Nassau County) was appointed Oyster Bay town supervisor in February after serving in the state Assembly for 13 years. Saladino must run for a full term.

Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, 37, (R – Great Kills, Staten Island) is gunning for probably the biggest prize of all – mayor of New York City. She says her campaign is focused on upgrading and improving the subway system, including the signaling devices that date back to pre-World War II, homelessness, and reining in the city’s spending.

“My campaign is about the quality of life issues that have been deteriorating under this mayor,” Malliotakis told The Jewish Press. “I would be a fiscal conservative, law and order mayor. As a Republican, I would be in a better position to lobby Washington when it comes to issues affecting New York City. At the same time I’ve been able to take on the governor when it comes to tolls, fares, and MTA issues but I have the ability to work with him also as was exemplified after Hurricane Sandy. With me you will have someone who will be able to work across party lines as I have in the Assembly, being in the minority conference.”

Jewish Judge Confirmed For State’s Top Court

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s latest pick for associate justice on the Court of Appeals, Paul Feinman, has been confirmed by the state Senate. He is the first openly gay member of the high court and replaces Sheila Abdus-Salaam, who committed suicide earlier this year. She was the first black woman and the first Muslim to sit on the high court.

Feinman is the eighth person Cuomo has nominated to serve on the tribunal and the second who identifies as being Jewish.

The 57-year-old Feinman, elected to the Supreme Court in 2007, was appointed associate justice of the Appellate Division by Governor Cuomo in 2012. He previously served as an acting supreme court justice from 2004 to 2007. Prior to that, he was a civil court judge, first elected in 1996 and re-elected in 2006.

Oh Canada, How I Love Thee

There are approximately 500,000 Jews living in Canada – the fourth largest Jewish population in the world, behind Israel, the Unites States, and France. There are more than 50 Chabad houses across their ten provinces and three territories.

On July 1, 1867, the Confederation declared its independence from the United Kingdom. In anticipation of the country’s 150th anniversary, Phyllis Yaffe, the consul general of Canada in New York paid a visit to Albany and shared a hug with New York’s Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, a Buffalo native.

The main message from New York and Canadian officials is that despite President Trump’s opposition to the Paris Climate Accord, the Empire State government has agreed to uphold the principles of the agreement, pleasing its neighbors to the north.

“We can still, as a state, have a relationship with Canada to protect our shared assets like Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, the Niagara River, St. Lawrence River, we have a lot that binds us,” Hochul told The Jewish Press. “There’s a lot that we want to do together and I just wanted to put an exclamation point on that relationship and tell them how valued they are.”

“Canada has said that we will work with the states that appreciate the enormous impact that the Paris accord will make on the world,” said Yaffee. “The issue with the Paris accord is that when you bring together the whole world, you can make a difference. We are really pleased that New York has taken that stand. We will work hand in glove with them.”

The economic interests between New York and Canada are important as well. “We have something like $30 billion worth of trade between New York State and Canada every year,” said Yaffee.

As for New Yorkers who said last year that if Trump were elected president they’d move to Canada, Hochul takes that sentiment in stride. “People love to visit Canada but they also love being New Yorkers.”

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Marc Gronich is news director of Statewide News Service. He also operates the website JBizTechValley.com. He has been covering government and politics since 1981. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press.