ALBANY — The fate of mayoral control over New York City schools could come down to a political game of chicken, with the Assembly Democrats in the position to force the Senate GOP into a take it-or-leave it three-year extension of the expiring law, insiders say.
The Assembly Democrats have already passed a three-year extension that is supported by Mayor de Blasio. The Senate GOP, which has been warring with the mayor, on Friday introduced its own plan to extend the law by one-year while also giving the governor a role in how the system is run, a bill opposed by de Blasio and the Dems.
With the legislative session set to conclude next week, insiders say the Democrats could force the Republicans’ hand by simply leaving Albany without revisiting the issue.
The Senate would then have to either approve the Assembly bill or allow the law to expire, something Dems would be betting the Republicans don’t want to actually happen.
Such a tactic is not unprecedented. The Senate Republicans when fellow GOPer George Pataki was governor passed an extension of the rent control laws at the end of the legislative session that tenant advocates and the Assembly opposed. But the Senate went home, forcing the Assembly to pass the Senate measure in order to avoid a complete end to the rent regulation system.
Senate Republicans argue when it comes to mayoral control they again hold all the leverage. “The Senate isn’t going to swallow anything,” a GOP insider said.
The Republicans philosophically support the concept of mayoral control even if they have reservations about de Blasio’s handling of the schools. And while a number of Democrats are not big fans of mayoral control, they don’t like the idea of the Republicans toying with the mayor for what they say are political reasons.
Assembly Democratic spokesman Michael Whyland had no comment. Some believe a one-year extension with no changes is still a likely outcome.
Gov. Cuomo, who has talked of the need for major efficiencies at the City University of New York, has nominated his budget director, Robert Mujica, and powerful public relations consultant and longtime family friend Ken Sunshine for spots on the CUNY Board of Trustees.
Cuomo last week quietly sent their names up the Senate for confirmation. The nomination of Mujica, a CUNY graduate, is particularly interesting to some insiders given he controls the state purse strings for Cuomo.
Cuomo in January sought to shift $485 million in state CUNY funding on to New York City. He eventually backed off, but pushed for the hiring of a management efficiency expert to help find savings within the system.
State Sen. Adriano Espaillat is running to replace Rangel.
(Bryan R. Smith/Bryan R. Smith)
While the ongoing feud between Cuomo and de Blasio flared up again last week over a leaked criminal referral into the mayor’s fund-raising operations, one specific attack against the mayor raised eyebrows.
After a state Inspector General report found a Republican state Board of Elections official was behind the leak, Basil Smikle, the governor’s hand-picked state Democratic Party executive director, chimed in with a statement calling on de Blasio to apologize for saying it had been Cuomo allies who released the report. “Enough with the games — the mayor owes the public servants he falsely accused and denigrated an apology,” Smikle said.
Several Democratic insiders criticized the response. “It’s highly inappropriate,” said one source with no clear ties to either camp. ‘We’re all Democrats. Enough with the cheap shots. Since when do we use state party officials to denigrate a fellow Democrat, much less a Democrat who leads the most important city.”
Smikle said he had an obligation to speak up. “The Democratic Committee is responsible for protecting the Democratic brand in New York, and having a Democratic mayor hurling false accusations at a Democratic governor, to say nothing of career public servants, for something a GOP operative admitted to doing, only provides cover to the Republicans,” he said.
Trying to divert attention from a federal probe into his administration, Cuomo’s state agencies have been asked to put together lists of their successes that can be touted publicly, sources said.
Six candidates looking to replace Rep. Charles Rangel will face off in the June 28 congressional primary.
On top of that, state Operations Director James Malatras has twice convened staff in recent weeks to urge them to keep focus on their work, the insiders said.
“He said that the best way to get out from the cloud over us is to just work hard,” said one source. “You don’t know what’s going to happen here and you just can’t wait. The tendency when things are going like this is to withdraw. He said you have to do the job and have to work harder now.”
A Cuomo aide called it “routine” for agencies to highlight the work they’ve done and for the director of state operations to meet with staff.
State Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeffrey Klein is endorsing Sen. Adriano Espaillat’s congressional bid to replace retiring veteran Rep. Charles Rangel.
“In Senator Adriano Espaillat I have always found a partner in any fight to help working- and middle-class New Yorkers,” Klein said.
Espaillat is facing Assemblyman Keith Wright (D-Manhattan) and five other Dems in the June 28 congressional primary.