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State of the Union guest list
At the Grammys and the Academy Awards, the popular question on the red carpet has always been, “Who are you wearing?”
As the State of the Union address approaches, the big question for politically prominent attendees is, “Who are you bringing?”
The answer can make a political statement, fan the flames of controversy, show support for President Donald Trump or illustrate disagreement with his opinions.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will bring the mayor of San Juan (more on that below). Sen. Charles Schumer will bring Stephanie Keegan of Westchester County, who is the mother of Daniel Keegan, a veteran who overdosed on heroin while waiting to be seen at his local Veterans Affairs hospital.
Rep. Lee Zeldin was the first out of the box with his news release last week that he will take Donato Panico, the longtime Smithtown owner of Panico Community Market, who recently closed his business to concentrate on his charity, Heros 4 Our Heroes, which provides food for first responders.
Rep. Peter King will bring his son-in-law, John Sweeney, to the chamber, while King’s daughter, Hempstead Town Board member Erin King Sweeney, will relax back at the Trump International Hotel and join the gentlemen afterward for drinks.
Rep. Tom Suozzi will be accompanied by Nelson Melgar, 27, a Hunter College and Glen Cove High School graduate brought to the United States illegally from Honduras at age 13.
Rep. Kathleen Rice’s guest, if there is one, is still under wraps. Her office did not return calls and emails seeking comment.
Rep. Gregory Meeks is not bringing a guest. The Democrat, furious with Trump over his beef with Jay-Z over the weekend, won’t even attend himself.
Lane Filler... and why Puerto Rico mayor picked Gillibrand
In the State of the Union guest-bringing parlor game, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand scored big for the resistance with Carmen Yulin Cruz, the San Juan mayor who sparred repeatedly with President Donald Trump over the federal response after Hurricanes Irma and Maria slammed Puerto Rico.
Maybe it was the personal touch. According to Cruz’s office, Gillibrand reached out personally with the invitation. Thus, the potential 2020 presidential candidate, always eager these days to bash Trump, secured an alliance with a woman who has already made headlines scorching the president. And Cruz is not shy about continuing that criticism. In an interview with The Point in San Juan months after the original feud, she didn’t hold back, calling “the botched effort of the Trump administration . . . at least as equally devastating” as Irma and Maria.
On Monday, Cruz will take the last JetBlue direct flight to Washington, D.C., her office says, and leave early Wednesday. In between, she will speak at a Latino Victory Fund event also set to feature Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Rep. Joseph Crowley.
And yes, after the speech, she’ll be available for comment.
Behind the Coliseum deal
New York Islanders fans who are happy that their team will play a dozen games at Nassau Coliseum next season — and more than 20 games each in the two seasons after that — have Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to thank, sources told The Point.
Those cued in on the talks, and not in government, confirmed that Cuomo’s involvement in negotiations between the Islanders and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which controls both the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the Coliseum, made the difference in getting to the deal announced at the Coliseum Monday morning.
But it wasn’t just Cuomo’s presence. Money talks, too. The state’s decision to pay the $6 million for the Coliseum infrastructure improvements the NHL says are necessary clearly helped. “For him to come on and do that helped solidify the outstanding questions,” a source with knowledge of the discussions told The Point.
“It was important to get them home early,” a Cuomo source said in explaining the state’s decision to fund the renovations. And, Long Island Association chief executive Kevin Law noted that the Islanders’ presence also could help jump-start the redevelopment of the Hub area around the Coliseum.
Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which will lose the team to Belmont as soon as 2021, will not contribute funds toward Coliseum improvements, a source confirmed.
Randi F. Marshall
- After the high school shooting that left two 15-year-olds dead last week, Kentucky Gov. Matt Blevin delivered a passionate speech saying we can no longer celebrate death in video games, TV shows and movies because Americans have become desensitized to death, killing and empathy. Too desensitized, it seems, to do anything about guns.
- In parts of Africa where the economy is improving, obesity rates are skyrocketing as more people eat more junk food and exercise less. Sound like any other place you know?
- Boeing is replacing two refrigerators on Air Force One — for $24 million. No wonder Boeing wanted the U.S. government to slap a 300 percent tariff on jets imported from Canada.
- President Donald Trump has been complaining that he doesn’t understand why he can’t give orders to “my guys” at the Department of Justice — apparently rejecting the fact that they’re not his guys.
- The New York Islanders will play nearly half of their home games at refurbished Nassau Coliseum over the next three years. What, you wanted more? Well, when your refurbishment leaves you with about half a professional sports arena, about half the games is all you can expect.
- Get out your score cards and sharpen your pencils. Let’s see whether Republicans who attacked Democrats for keeping Harvey Weinstein’s money return contributions raised by casino mogul Steve Wynn now that he’s the latest big donor accused of sexual harassment and assault.
- White House legislative director Marc Short said President Donald Trump “generally sides on the side of transparency.” Which instantly became the most expansive definition of “generally” ever recorded.
- The Oyster Bay Town board approved 87 raises as part of an initiative to bring pay equity to female employees, but 54 of the raises were for men. In fairness, the board never said that all women would receive pay equity, or that inequity for some women could expand.
- An online interactive map showing the location of people using fitness-tracking devices apparently also reveals the location of sensitive U.S. military bases populated by FitBit-wearing servicemen and women. The Pentagon is very concerned that sensitive locations and patterns of activity are being disclosed, but it’s comforting to know that those who have to defend the bases apparently are in good shape.
- Groundhog Day is Friday. Do you really want to know what comes next?