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Alabama governor on the line?
What could possibly be more unlikely than Alabama electing a Democrat to the U.S. Senate? An Alabama Republican governor listening to a New York Democrat on how to wrap up an election, perhaps. “We don’t care how you did it up north!” is more than just a popular bumper sticker slogan below the Mason-Dixon Line.
Nevertheless, Glen Cove Assemb. Charles Lavine sent a letter Wednesday to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey imploring her to ensure the state’s 67 counties report results from Tuesday’s elections quickly “so that Senator Elect (Doug) Jones may take the oath of office without undue delay.” The letter comes as Jones’ opponent, Roy Moore, refuses to concede a race he lost by about 20,000 votes in unofficial results.
Lavine has a calling card in this state-to-state conversation: He is chairman of the Assembly’s election law committee. He told The Point Thursday that is part of what led him to write to Ivey, but that he’s mostly worried that Alabama’s Republican Secretary of State, John Merrill, doesn’t much respect the voting rights of Democrats.
“If the state of Alabama had someone in charge of elections who wasn’t an ideologue, I would not have been compelled to send it,” Lavine said.
In the letter Lavine cited two quotes from Merrill as cause for alarm:
“As long as I am Secretary of State of Alabama, you’re going to have to show some initiative to become a registered voter,” and “If you’re too sorry or lazy to get up off your rear end and go register to vote, you don’t deserve the privilege.”
Hopefully, his letter is well received. Perhaps Ivey will even respond with some solid advice about fixing painfully restrictive ballot access, early voting and voter registration regulations in the oh-so enlightened Empire State.
The price of counsel
They say you have to spend money to make money, but does that include a county official enlisting expensive, party-connected outside counsel? That’s what Nassau County Clerk Maureen O’Connell, a Republican, did recently. She sent John Ciampoli, the former county attorney and the GOP’s go-to election lawyer, to a hearing for the county’s fiscal oversight board to argue her department should be exempted from across-the-board cuts.
O’Connell sent two office employees with Ciampoli to the Dec. 7 meeting of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, where NIFA voted to enforce about $18 million in spending cuts to the 2018 budget. That’s about six-tenths of 1 percent of total spending, which is to come from spending other than payroll.
O’Connell says she sent them to argue that her office should be exempted from cuts because the office budget is “bare bones” already and there is not a penny to trim, the services it provides are mandated by the state constitution, and the office brings in $60 million a year in revenue, about 20 times its annual budget.
Ciampoli seems a surprise choice, an elections specialist who served from 2010-2013 as the county attorney and was named as the $160,000-a-year counsel to the board of directors of the Nassau University Medical Center in February. He is also of counsel at Sinnreich, Kosakoff & Messina LLP.
O’Connell argues she did not use a lawyer from the county attorney’s office because she feared it might “be a conflict,” but did not elaborate. Asked whether it made sense to hire an attorney to argue her office can’t spare a penny, O’Connell said she didn’t know whether Ciampoli would charge for the work, or how much.
As it happens, NIFA didn’t let Ciampoli or the clerk’s staff members speak, so maybe Ciampoli will slip a GOP pal a freebie. After all, he knows better than most that what goes around comes around.
Making a list, checking it twice
New York City is bracing for the 2019 L train shutdown, when the line’s East River tunnel and service in Manhattan will be shuttered for 15 months to perform necessary repairs.
Passengers along the line agree it’s a pretty big deal. But to underscore the L’s importance, New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg turned to Long Island.
“The L train carries as many people into Manhattan as the entire Long Island Rail Rroad,” she told the City Council on Thursday.
According to the MTA, daily ridership at Pennsylvania Station (people the LIRR carries under the East River) is roughly 230,000. That’s close to the L numbers Trottenberg cited during the council hearing: the 225,000 daily riders on the L between Manhattan and Brooklyn.
There hasn’t been much love for LI from city transportation officials lately. Trottenberg was one MTA board member who complained about funding for the LIRR’s third track project. But in at least one way the two regions are inextricably bound: a Summer of Hell for LI, a Year-and-a-Quarter of Hell from Canarsie to Chelsea.