School board hopefuls get their own class
For those paying close enough attention, May’s school board elections were a bit of a wake-up call: The movements that had parents and residents speaking out angrily at the board meetings of many Long Island school districts led to school board runs on the part of some activists … and victories.
In Port Washington, three parents energized by what they saw as poor distance-learning plans and foot-dragging on a full return to in-person learning won seats. And in Smithtown three newcomers who’d accused the district of teaching "critical race theory" won, too.
Now that circle could keep turning, big time. With significant Republican wins last week in the books, May 2022 school board races are another potential early indicator of how November’s general election could shape up as Democrats struggle to maintain control of Congress and the New York State Senate and even the governor’s mansion.
And those school board races are getting a new type of attention, with Republican firm Campaign Strategy & Consulting offering a "How to Run For School Board" course on Jan. 13, and Legis. Nick Caracappa, a veteran of a variety of elective runs, on tap as the special guest.
Caracappa, besides his wins as a legislator, has served as president of Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO Local 393, an elective office, for 14 years. He also served on the Middle Country School Board for seven.
The firm organizing the event lists as its principals:
- Founder, real estate investor and entrepreneur Karin Murphy, who was once involved in a so-called "sexting" scandal with former County Executive Edward Mangano that Nassau police eventually concluded was a hoax. Murphy had marketing contracts with the county at the time. Murphy also sued then-Suffolk County DA Thomas Spota and the Suffolk County Police Department in 2017, alleging false arrest and prosecution after she said she was falsely arrested four times in 2015.
- Former Navy SEAL and FBI agent Jonathan Gilliam.
- Strategist, author and media personality Tracey Alvino, who boasts work for the campaign of former President Donald Trump among her achievements.
- Former Judge Janine Barbera-Dalli, who was elected to the Suffolk County District Court in 2012, and was made an acting County Court Judge in 2017. She is now in private practice, and serves as legislative counsel to State Sen. Mario Mattera.
And if this class on how to win a spot on a school board generates as much interest as school board meetings themselves have this past year, it should be a very hot ticket indeed.
— Lane Filler @lanefiller
Gubernatorial timelines loom
With Tish James and Kathy Hochul locking up endorsements from New York elected officials and interest groups, the clock is ticking for other potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates to launch a bid. Or, at least show they’re still actively considering one.
Enter Steve Bellone on Staten Island, Wednesday morning. The Suffolk County executive crossed over into NYC for the launch of a "Hot Spotting the Opioid Crisis" initiative, which includes a "predictive algorithm" to focus efforts on people most at risk of suffering from an overdose, according to a Bellone news release.
Those affiliated with the initiative include the Staten Island Performing Provider System, the MIT Sloan School of Management, and funding from Northwell Health, and Bellone is requesting that the program’s architects make a presentation to the Suffolk County Opioid Task Force to consider its use back home.
It’s certainly good politics for Bellone to show that he is "committed to exploring creative solutions to the opioid crisis," as his spokesman Jason Elan put it. Also politically helpful is the fact that Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan and former Staten Island Rep. Max Rose were there. Both could be allies in a statewide race, and Bellone has been nursing those connections. Both are veterans, like Bellone, and the West Babylon Democrat has previously worked with Ryan on SALT and on spearheading a veterans for Joe Biden push in last year's campaign
With Bellone neither in nor out of the race, there were no endorsements at the Wednesday event. But a timeline is emerging for the term-limited Suffolk County executive.
Elan said Bellone "will be making his intentions clear as to how he can best continue to serve New Yorkers in the next few weeks."
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
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Failure-to-launch bill pending for new maps
Now that voters have rejected the latest proposal for constitutional changes on redistricting, those who follow, if not drive, the intricate process turn their attention to a separate bill pending in Albany.
The bill, sponsored by the Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) and Assembly members Jo Anne Simon (D-Brooklyn) and Harvey Epstein (D-Manhattan), easily passed both houses in June, over Republican opposition.
But it still awaits Gov. Kathy Hochul’s expected signature.
The measure addresses the possibility that the first-ever bipartisan Independent Redistricting Commission will fail to concur on a single set of congressional, Senate and Assembly maps for submission to the legislature.
Lawmakers, as always, retain the power to accept, reject or rework these lines.
Chances that the panel would fail to reach agreement have increased in recent months. Two months ago, to meet a deadline, the commission punted by publishing a Republican set of maps and a Democratic set of maps, which are now the subject of public hearings.
Public input ends before Thanksgiving, and suspense will focus on whether and how the separate proposals can merge into one.
The pending bill says that if the commission "fails to vote on any redistricting plan or plans by the date required for submission, then all plans in the possession of the commission, both completed and in draft form, as well as the data the plans are based upon, shall be submitted to the legislature for the purpose of introducing and voting on implementing legislation."
In other words, lawmakers can use the materials that the commission prepared to draw their own lines. That's how it was done before reforms were enacted by constitutional amendment in the middle of the last decade, when Republicans in the Senate had a seat at the table. Now Democrats have a two-thirds majority in both chambers.
Democrats describe the Gianaris legislation as just a necessary technical legal change. Republicans have warned against stalling and expressed concern that the majority party could prove intransigent toward negotiating a true nonpartisan redistricting.
On Wednesday the commission was convening at Hunter College (CUNY) in Manhattan. Next week they meet in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens. On Monday, Nov. 22, they will be at Nassau Community College (SUNY) and the following day, Stony Brook University (SUNY) Charles B. Wang Center.
Former Nassau Sen. Jack Martins, vice chairman of the commission, has been reminding audiences of the larger, demographic meaning of this redistricting cycle.
At an Albany hearing last week, he noted: "Over the last 10 years, 800,000 people left upstate New York and 800,000 people went into downstate… and these maps will reflect that change to make sure that a district in the North Country or Western New York is the same size by population as one on Long Island."
So regardless of the process that creates them, the final maps promise to show crucial differences from the current ones.
— Dan Janison @Danjanison
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