It was quite the week in Albany, and not just because of the state budget negotiations. While those talks were happening behind closed doors, some unusual events caught the eye of anyone following state politics.
State budget silly season
As the state neared the April 1 deadline to pass a massive $168 billion budget, a coyote was found on Tuesday napping on the mezzanine level of the New York State Museum, just down the concourse from the state Capitol. The animal enthralled political onlookers, gaining the moniker “Budget Coyote” and its own Twitter account. The next day, as the state Department of Environmental Conservation released the coyote back into the wild with a clean bill of health, a state police officer arrested Daily News Albany bureau chief Ken Lovett for talking on his phone in the lobby of the Senate Chamber, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo personally showed up to #freekenlovett. And after about a 30-minute stint behind bars, Lovett too was released and wrote a first-person account of his brush with the law.
Singh-ing on de Blasio
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is not on trial, but Harendra Singh had plenty to say about him on the stand. The Queens restaurateur testified during the corruption trial of former Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano that he not only bribed the mayor, but also funneled thousands in illegal campaign contributions through “straw donors” – and that de Blasio allegedly knew about them. Singh made those assertions earlier in the trial, and doubled down on them under questioning by the defense. But the defense pointed out that in a 2015 recording, Singh said he didn’t know anything about “any politicians,” adding that he “could make s–t up, but it would be all lies.”
President Donald Trump’s administration decided to include a question on citizenship as part of the 2020 census, despite concerns that it will deter immigrants from participating and result in an undercount. The decision could have a huge impact on New York, especially New York City, which is home to more than 3 million immigrants and could lose some of the $7 billion it gets in federal funding due to undercounting the population. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is leading a multistate lawsuit to stop the citizenship question from being included.
March for Our Lives in Manhattan
A week ago, students from across the country took the streets, demanding safe schools and new gun safety legislation. In New York City, de Blasio tweeted his support for the 175,000 attendees at the Manhattan march. Among the throng was Paul McCartney, who said he was paying tribute to friend and Beatles bandmate John Lennon, who was killed with a gun.