Good Morning
Good Morning

The heat is on for debate night 1

Daily Point

Place your bets

Democrats are back on the debate stage, and so are the debate-odds makers. There’s plenty of online action on the 20 presidential candidates who will take part in the showdowns Tuesday and Wednesday nights in Detroit.

Among the more intriguing questions on the Sportbook: Which candidate will get the most speaking time?

As of mid-afternoon, the favorite for Tuesday night is South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, despite the presence of top-tier Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Sen. Kamala Harris leads former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Cory Booker on Wednesday night as the one expected to get the most words in.

Among the odder propositions: How many times will Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand blink? The over-under is 76 1/2. We’re assuming they mean “blink” literally, not metaphorically.

Among the sign-of-the-times propositions: How many non-facts will be uttered on both nights combined? The over-under is 25 1/2. We’re assuming the general election debates will have a higher number.

You also can bet on whether particular words will be said, with the choices including Ford, Chevrolet, AOC, impeach, Dearborn, The Squad, go home, bailout, Martin Shkreli and Mueller. And you can wager on how many times other words — Trump, Puerto Rico, opioid, Motor City — will be uttered.

There is no betting line for whether the debates will be compelling.

- Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Promo Point

Your vote counts

We hope you’re all as excited for Tuesday night’s Democratic debate as we are.

The Newsday Editorial Board again will rate candidates’ performances on a scale of 1 to 5 stars in real-time throughout the two-hour event. And we are inviting Point subscribers to join along on the live action. 

Point subscribers can rate each candidate on the same scale of 1 to 5 stars. What are the odds that the winner will be the same?  

This is an exclusive offer only for Point newsletter subscribers. So if you want to participate, be sure to subscribe for free here. You can join with us to vote on either night, or both.

- Michael Cusanelli @mcusanelliSB

Pencil Point

Working as a team

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Final Point

Venditto’s check is still in the mail

One of the reasons former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto may have taken a guilty plea on state corruption charges last week could be based on the certainty that the outcome of his case would not have changed his pension status. Despite two considerable changes of law to strip public officials convicted of crimes related to their office, Venditto fell through the cracks on both.

Venditto was re-elected to a 10th term in November 2015 by 99 votes amid fraud investigations in town contracting. His swearing-in for a new term on Jan. 1, 2016 was also the official date of his “retirement,” which allowed him to collect his town salary as well as a pension check, not an uncommon move by public officials. He has been collecting his monthly benefit of $6,861.88 since then, according to the state comptroller’s office.

When Albany first tried to tamp down public outrage over corrupt officials taking home pensions, lawmakers came up with a law that only would hurt those who weren’t yet in the pension system, the ”unborn” as it is known in labor law parlance. So any public official who had been in the system before that law’s effective date of Nov. 13, 2011 didn’t need to worry about any consequences if they had a brush with prosecutors down the road.

But when the cavalcade of bad actors didn’t end, the public demanded more. Since the New York State constitution prohibited the diminution of a public pension, it would take an amendment of the constitution, a laborious process that requires two successive votes by the State Legislature and ratification by the voters. By 2017, pension-stripping for breaching the public trust was enshrined in the state Constitution.  

However, that new provision, Section 7 of Article 2 of the State Constitution, says a court could only reduce or revoke the pension of a public official if he or she was convicted of a felony committed on or after Jan. 1, 2018 that has a direct and actual relationship to the performance of the public official's duties.

Venditto was first indicted by a federal grand jury in October 2016 but was acquitted in May 2019. During that period, a Nassau County grand jury in June 2017 indicted him on 10 charges, three felonies and seven misdemeanors, for alleged acts that took place between 2010 and 2016. It was to that state indictment that the former supervisor pleaded guilty to one felony count and one misdemeanor charge in return for no jail time.

- Rita Ciolli @RitaCiolli