Andrew Cuomo Has A Reform To Sell You

by Josh Benson (Reprinted from, 7/23/14).

The New York Times did something extraordinary today, producing a report on a much-hyped state investigative commission that, thanks to Governor Andrew Cuomo, could end up having a greater impact than anything the commission was allowed to produce during its short and brutal existence.

The conclusion - that Cuomo gamed the ostensibly independent Moreland Commission on Public Corruption - isn’t surprising, and reconfirms reports that surfaced early on in the commission’s proceedings that the administration was setting the parameters.

But what the Times has done, in a potentially governorship-defining piece of work by Susanne Craig, William Rashbaum and Thomas Kaplan, is lay out in highly entertaining detail how the administration’s cynical manipulation of this hand-picked group of untouchables actually worked.

Investigative red lines, explicitly political reprimands, an administration mole—it’s memorable stuff.

In the short term, the political fallout from the revelations is more likely to be noisy than consequential. Cuomo’s opponents will get lots of use out of this new trove of embarrassing detail. But the story won’t change the fact that Zephyr Teachout is a protest candidate, or that, as Republican Governors Association chair Chris Christie noted on the subject of Rob Astorino, New York is not a realistic target for a Republican pick-up this year.

What the report should do, though, is permanently banish the idea that Cuomo will ever put any skin in the game when he talks about reform. He can talk to voters about how their trust is important to him, and recruit fancy commissioners, and say “Moreland” a lot, but the outcomes of these putatively investigative exercises will always be whatever Cuomo needs them to be.

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Lift Gov. Cuomo’s Curtain

'The administration must reveal details of a politically charged ad campaign.'

by Bill Hammond (Reprinted from, 7/16/14).

In high-quality TV ads popping up in living rooms across the country, Gov. Cuomo is telling the world that New York State is “Open for Business.”

But exactly how he’s spending the public’s money to broadcast that message is closed to public scrutiny.

Way back on July 9, 2013, the Gannett News Service formally requested details on the campaign — including what the ads cost, where they aired and how much is being spent in each state — under the state’s Freedom of Information Law.

A full year later, Gannett is still waiting to receive information the public is clearly entitled to know.

The most recent postponement came in a June 26 letter from the agency responsible, the Empire State Development Corp. The only explanation: “ESD continues to gather and review documents.”

The wait has been long enough that the state’s own Freedom of Information expert, Bob Freeman of the Committee on Open Government, was moved to say: “I would conjecture that the kind of records requested can be located relatively promptly, and that a delay of as much as a year is inconsistent with law.”

It’s even more inconsistent with Cuomo’s words from 2010 — as printed on page 10 of his campaign book, “Clean Up Albany” — when he pledged “to make the state government the most transparent and accountable in history.”

That might be one of the most-quoted statements Cuomo has ever made — because it comes up in all the stories about his administration delaying or denying requests for public information.

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One Man’s Vision of Equality and Disability

by John D. Kemp, President & CEO of The Viscardi Center.

Pictured is Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr., Founder of The Viscardi Center

According to the U.S. Census, there are over 59 million of us in the United States. There are 650 million of us worldwide. And since we represent 10% of the global population, it is important that our success stories are celebrated. Who are we? People with disabilities.

We are an integral fabric in our communities in the United States and around the world. We range from thought leaders and innovators to everyday citizens. Despite our significant contributions, people with disabilities continue to face considerable barriers.

However, strides are being made; we live in a global era that is witnessing expanding human rights, Paralympic athletes pushing the limits of their bodies, corporations aggressively diversifying their workforces by including people with disabilities, and the advent of new medical technologies and treatments to fight chronic diseases. In that spirit of progress, it seems only natural that we reflect on the contributions made by people with disabilities, many of whom have helped us reach this place.

There was a time, unfortunately, when having a disability was seen as a negative thing, even frowned upon … but times are changing. Disability is increasingly accepted – even celebrated – within our family units, our work environments and our communities. We praise “disability” not because the disability defines the individual, but rather because the individual defines the disability. This is exactly why people with disabilities are helping to change the world that we live in for the better.
To that end, I invite you to rejoice in this celebration by nominating a friend, colleague or mentor with a disability for the Viscardi Awards this month. They are designed to recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of people with disabilities being made on a daily basis and over time to include people with disabilities in everyday life and allow every person to achieve to their fullest potential.

The Viscardi Awards were developed to honor the legacy and vision of our founder, Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr., who himself wore prosthetic legs. As one of the world’s leading advocates for people with disabilities, he served as a disability advisor to eight presidents, from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Jimmy Carter.

By taking the time to submit a nomination prior to March 15th, it serves as a reminder that more needs to be done to fully include people with disabilities in society. The people being nominated to receive a Viscardi Award are evidence that societal recognition and change is happening.


John D. Kemp has been President & CEO of The Viscardi Center in New York since February 2011. Born without arms and legs, he has been actively involved in the disability movement, both in the US and internationally, for over 50 years. Additionally, John has been instrumental in the  growth and development of the independent (nonprofit) sector where he serves as an attorney in government and private practice, and as an executive in leadership positions. In 2006, he received the Henry B. Betts Award, widely regarded as America’s highest honor for disability leadership and service, from the American Association of People with Disabilities.

Bending the Cost Curve: Solutions to Expand the Supply of Affordable Rentals

by Andrew Jakabovics, Lynn M. Ross, Molly Simpson, and Michael Spotts - (Urban Land Institute Terwilliger Center for Housing and Enterprise Community Partners).

Summary: This report from Enterprise and the ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing, explores the many factors that raise the cost of affordable rental housing development and provides specific recommendations for bending the housing cost curve.

As public funding sources come under threat - in efforts to reduce government expenditures or simplify the tax code - it becomes increasingly necessary to identify opportunities to lower the cost of providing affordable homes.

This report, which builds upon our previous discussion brief on the subject, (see Bending the Cost Curve on Affordable Rental Development), explores the many factors that raise the cost of affordable rental housing development provides specific recommendations for bending the housing cost curve.

This research is based on a series of interviews and roundtable discussions co-hosted by the Terwilliger Center and Enterprise over 12 months with more than 150 developers, financiers, and policy makers in ten markets. The report states that costs could be lowered by: promoting consolidation, coordination and simplification; removing barriers to reducing construction costs and delays; facilitating a more efficient deal assembly and development timeline; improving and aligning incentives; improving the flexibility of existing sources of financing and creating new financial products; and supporting the development and dissemination of best practices.

Rick Lazio is a member of the Board of Trustees of Enterprise Community Partners and a member of the Board of Directors of the Enterprise Community Loan Fund.

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American Youth, STDs and Catastrophic Antibiotic Resistance

by Melissa Lackland.

By definition, the youth of any society bears the burden of its future: they inherit the problems of the past and are faced with the pressing task of finding solutions to those that have grown worse with neglect. This seems clearer today than at any time during the past half century. The bad politics and bad practices that have resulted in a world economy in long term crisis have impacted on so many areas of modern life that the young in 2014 must have insecurity hard-wired into their brains. If the crises in education, employment, pensions and healthcare weren’t enough of a burden, the complex problem of bacterial resistance to antibiotics is set to become one of the most dangerous threats to all our futures.

A timely warning

A report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013, gives the first clear summary of the likely impact on our health and the nation’s health services. It estimates that even now 23,000 Americans die each year as a result of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and a further 2 million develop serious infections. Director of the CDC, Dr Thomas Frieden, warns that swift action is needed or we will no longer be able to rely on the antibiotics necessary to save lives, as there are no new drugs in the pipeline: ‘If and when we do get new drugs, unless we do a better job of protecting them, we’ll lose those also.’

Over-prescription is the main cause of the problem: in response, bacteria mutate into resistant strains. Very few new antibiotics have been developed in the past thirty years, and few companies are working on new drugs to replace those that are becoming ineffective. The widespread practice of the routine dosing of farm animals with antibiotics, which the CDC report judges largely to be unnecessary and which makes up 80% of antibiotics used in the US, has introduced high levels of antibiotics into the food chain and increased the development of resistant bacteria.

Sexually transmitted diseases

The problem of resistance is hitting the younger sector of the population hardest with new strains of the bacteria that cause sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). While infection rates for most STDs have dropped or at least stabilized, the US still has the highest rate of infections in the western world, particularly with the emergence of new antibiotic resistant strains of gonorrhea and Chlamydia. The age group 15-24 make up only 25% of the sexually active population, but contract 50% of STD infections.

Complicating the story is the alarming increases in the number of infections caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause genital warts and anal, oral, cervical and penile cancers. As a virus, it is not treatable by antibiotics. Although there is an effective vaccine, the number of infections are rising through the lack of effective prevention and awareness programs, particularly those based in our schools. The CDC recommends that the vaccine be given to boys and girls from the age of 11, although debate continues over mandatory vaccination. As things stand, only about 35% of girls and 28% of boys are vaccinated in the US, compared to Australian figures of 72% and 62% respectively. The idea of vaccinating schoolchildren against HPV has been a political hot potato as in some quarters it is seen as encouraging sexual promiscuity.

It’s a similar picture when it comes to discussions of all STDs and children under the age of consent: the moral issues outweigh medical pragmatism; but where the health of the next generation is concerned, can we afford such squeamishness? Stigma is perhaps one of the greatest challenges in reducing infection rates. Testing is vital. The website KwikMed clearly sums up these twin problems: ‘It is clear from the statistics and from anecdotal evidence that a significant proportion across the world would rather avoid the stigma of being tested than look after their own health.’ 25% of US college students are infected with an STD, while 71% use no form of protection. Most STDs are easily curable, but the combination of stigma and denial of the risks to oneself and to partners has helped to produce the current crisis in public health. The CDC has estimated that the cost of treatment for STDs amounts to about $16 billion annually. If for no other reason, the economic impact of this health issue that is now almost out of control shows the urgent need for a solution.

The wider picture

The CDC study into antibiotic resistance was conceived as a vital ‘bringing together’ of current knowledge about drug-resistant bacteria and how to combat the problem, by both developing new drugs and preserving those that are still effective. Alarm has been raised worldwide, with the UK’s chief medical officer describing the problem as a ‘catastrophic health threat,’ following a World Health Organization (WHO) report that brought attention to a situation that is making treatment of bacterial diseases increasingly difficult.

Each year in the US almost 250,000 people are hospitalized with infections due to Clostridium difficile, most of which should have been preventable. The figure for drug-resistant gonorrhea is similar at 246,000. The most dangerous infections are caused by contact with multidrug-resistant bacteria while hospitalized for other issues. These include the most deadly, Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), with 11,000 deaths per 80,000 cases; Acineobacter with 500 death in 7,300 cases; and E. coli and Klebsiella with 1,700 deaths in 26,000 infections. Among the threats in most urgent need of a solution is Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) – the cause of a recent outbreak in Illinois. Because of its high resistance to even the most powerful antibiotics, infection can result in 40-50% fatalities.

Much needed political action that encourages testing, the development of preventative and educational programs, a rigorous culture of hospital cleanliness, and in the area of sexual health, a culture of personal and public responsibility, will not only halt the rates of such infections but also reduce the high costs involved, where currently the process is more one of fire fighting rather than fire prevention.

Melissa Lackland is a former finance worker and journalist who gave up the rat race when family life and motherhood beckoned.  She now works as a freelance writer, though still maintains a passionate interest in all areas of business.