Happy Friday! Welcome to The Point.
Takin’ it to the streets
If you’re not doing anything Friday afternoon, you might want to grab your camera and head out to Setauket. Protesters will be marching with a trinity of life-size puppets of President Donald Trump, White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and Rep. Lee Zeldin, who represents the 1st Congressional District.
The puppets will be attached by strings to a likeness of financier Robert Mercer, the co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies and a libertarian mega-donor credited with being the strategist who put Trump in the White House. He matched Bannon with Trump.
Organizers say the puppets and the march — to Mercer’s office — are meant to dramatize the influence Mercer holds for what they call his “ultraconservative, ‘alt-right’ vision and agenda for America.”
Named the North Country Peace Group, its members are some of the same people who agitated last month for Zeldin to hold a town-hall meeting, which he did by telephone. It doesn’t appear to have calmed this crowd.
The facts behind the Cuomo-Zeldin health care spat
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Rep. Lee Zeldin spent the week blistering each other on the GOP health care bill, with Cuomo sending out facts and figures to prove it would destroy the state and Zeldin’s eastern Suffolk County district and Zeldin replying with manifestos about how it wouldn’t.
Much of what they are debating is deeply arcane, but one hot button Zeldin is pushing is both factually untrue and, by playground rules, verboten. The congressman argued that Gov. Mario Cuomo would have agreed with him.
Andrew Cuomo is particularly incensed about the Collins-Faso amendment, which would shift all the Medicaid burden carried by New York’s counties (except for New York City) to the state. The amendment would not do so for the other 15 states that also make localities pay a share of Medicaid, and would not provide the state any money to make up a $2.3 billion annual loss.
Zeldin, in a 1,000-word rant sent out Thursday, said then-Gov. Mario Cuomo had proposed the same thing, and he attached a link to a New York Times editorial from 1994 to prove his point.
But either Zeldin didn’t read the piece, didn’t understand it, or didn’t care about the facts: Mario Cuomo’s plan would have used sales-tax revenue taken from the counties and income-tax revenue taken from New York City to fund the shift of Medicaid expenses to the state.
Crank the frustration up to 11
Mayor Bill de Blasio, building on his long-running antagonism with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the GOP-controlled State Senate, came up with a peculiar new phrase on Friday to describe the state’s relationship to the city — “semi-colonial.”
“I’m really sick of it in so many ways,” de Blasio told a caller to WNYC’s Brian Lehrer radio show Friday morning as he railed against the state for preventing him from changing how students are admitted to the city’s eight specialized high schools, where black and Hispanic students are stunningly underrepresented.
“We are at the whim of Albany on how we educate our own children. It makes no sense,” de Blasio said. He suggested he’d rather see a mix of factors go into admissions to the specialized high schools, rather than just a single test score.
To back up his semi-colonial analogy, the mayor noted that city residents account for about 43 percent of the state’s population, and said he thought that marked the highest population ratio of any U.S. city to its own state. Census data show that de Blasio seems to be right — NYC does indeed seem to be at the top of that list. Coming awfully close, though, is Anchorage, which hosts about 40 percent of Alaska’s population.
Randi F. Marshall
It’s opt-out season again
With state-mandated standardized tests in English for third- through eighth-grade students set to begin Tuesday, rhetoric about opting out has been quieter on Long Island than in the past few years.
That might be because education advocates who devoted a lot of energy to the issue in the past, when about 50 percent of Long Island students did not take the tests, are focusing their energy on new battles. One is President Donald Trump’s selection of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education. She supports charter schools and vouchers for private and parochial schools.
But as this truck, seen in a West Babylon parking lot Friday morning, illustrates, the opt-out movement is alive and well.
Point of Clarification
Following up on licensing payments at the Barclays Center
The Barclays Center earned $58.2 million in aggregate revenue from licensing, concessions, sponsorships and other similar contracts in 2016, and estimated that revenue number at $23.8 million as of 2021. The payments the arena made or will make in the future to the Islanders are not included in that revenue data. A Point item on Thursday mischaracterized that data.