blair horner

Blair Horner: Lead Poisoning Threat Persists In NY

Feb 19, 2018

Almost 50 years after New York banned the sale of lead in paint, each year some 1,800 children are found to be lead poisoned in New York.  This epidemic affects mostly young children of color from low-income communities who live in poorly maintained housing, where windows, doors, walls and ceilings produce invisible lead dust that is ingested by infants and toddlers through hand-to-mouth behavior and inhalation.

Blair Horner: NY's Political Culture Again On Trial

Feb 5, 2018

For the past two weeks, a former top aide to governor Cuomo has been on trial for corruption.  According to federal prosecutors, he was a key figure in a widespread bribery scheme that included shaking down those seeking government contracts for special treatment in exchange for campaign contributions and money for him and his associates.  The trial continues and the individual is presumed innocent.  But this trial – combined with others in recent years – offers unique insights into what ails Albany.  There are four overarching problems that emerge when reviewing the totality of the corruption cases brought in New York.

Blair Horner: Climate News Just Keeps Getting Worse

Jan 29, 2018

Earlier this month, the European Union’s climate change center (the Copernicus Climate Change Service) named 2017 as the second hottest worldwide temperature on record, just behind 2016.  The EU said that the Earth’s surface temperature averaged nearly 58.5 degrees Fahrenheit, which is over 2 degrees warmer than the average in pre-industrial times.

And so it begins: Call it the kick off to New York’s “corruption palooza; the first of the now seven corruption cases go to trial. It is expected that there will be seven high-profile corruption cases going to trial in each of the first seven months of the year.


The fight to get public pension fund officials to pull out of investments in oil, gas, and coal companies hit a new level of intensity last week.  The City of New York announced that it was using its considerable financial clout to advance the fight over climate change by unveiling their plans to sell off $5 billion of the City’s pension investments in fossil fuel companies.  The rationale was that the companies – primarily oil – made business decisions that harmed the City – and the planet. 

As governors move through their tenure, the focus of their State of the State addresses change.  In the first few years, governors shape their addresses as part of a reform package.  As they are in office, and if they get re-elected, that tone changes.  More and more of the State of the State reflects the achievements of the Administration; after all, they are now the status quo and “reforms” imply failures.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
Office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered his 2018 State of the State address today. Here to discuss what the Democrat had to say is WAMC's Alan Chartock, Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group and ​Morgan Hook – a communications specialist who has worked for SUNY and Governors David Paterson and Eliot Spitzer. WAMC's Ray Graf hosts.

Blair Horner: The 2018 State Of The State

Jan 1, 2018

New York State’s constitution requires that “The governor shall communicate by message to the legislature at every session the condition of the state, and recommend such matters to it as he or she shall judge expedient.” Since the early 20th Century, governors have delivered a State of the State speech in addition to delivering a written document. Traditionally, the address was usually held on the first Wednesday of January and presented to an audience of state legislators, dignitaries and other guests. However, for the last two years, the governor did not hold the State of the State on that date. After a two-year hiatus, the governor is scheduled to issue his message on January 3rd, the kickoff of the 2018 legislative session.


As the holiday shopping season hits its peak, not only are consumers buying lots of gifts, they are accumulating an incredible number of plastic bags.  Combined with the ongoing plastic bag use, New Yorkers gets an incredible number of plastic bags – almost always for one, and only one-time, use.  According to the Cuomo Administration, “residents use 23 billion plastic bags annually.  A significant number of these bags make their way into the environment causing litter and damaging wildlife, which can be seen within our waterways, along our streets and in our oceans and lakes.  Moreover, these bags do not biodegrade – they persist for years.”

Last week, the New York State Assembly Higher Education committee held a public hearing to review the performance of the new Excelsior Scholarship program.  The Excelsior Scholarship was established in this year’s state budget and was rolled out with great fanfare by Governor Cuomo and Vermont’s U.S. Senator Sanders.

Blair Horner: Progressive New York?

Dec 11, 2017


New York considers itself a “progressive” state.  Progressive meaning that New York’s political leaders view the policies of the state as “cutting edge” in its responses to society’s problems.  And in New York State, there is a track record that backs up that view.

Thanksgiving was the start of the holiday shopping season. The holiday shopping season is a time when many adults look for gifts for children. And while the holidays are a time for fun and giving, it is important that it be a safe time as well.

Blair Horner: American Democracy Hits A New Low

Nov 27, 2017


There has been a palpable decline in political ethics in America.  What was once suspected – that elected officials could their trade policy positions for campaign contributions – has become more and more openly discussed.  It’s as if elected officials no longer see themselves as servants to the public, but instead as servants to the rich and powerful.

Blair Horner: Climate Change - Failing To Act?

Nov 20, 2017

There can be no doubt that the planet is warming; 2016 was the fifth time in the 21st century a new record high annual temperature has been set (along with 2005, 2010, 2014, and 2015) and also marks the 40th consecutive year (since 1977) that the annual temperature has been above the 20th century average.  To date, all 16 years of the 21st century rank among the seventeen warmest on record (1998 is currently the eighth warmest).  The five warmest years have all occurred since 2010.

Blair Horner: Whither Reform?

Nov 13, 2017

Last week, New Yorkers turned down an opportunity to call a constitutional convention. If it had been approved, delegates would have been elected and given the mandate to propose changes to New York State’s governmental blueprint.

Blair Horner: Three Questions For Election Day

Nov 6, 2017

This year’s Election Day offers voters a range of candidates for local office. In addition, New Yorkers will have three questions on the ballot that could impact the state’s constitution.

Blair Horner: Superstorm Sandy's Fifth Anniversary

Oct 30, 2017

Climate change is not something that will impact in the future – it’s happening now.  An unrelenting heat wave in California and on the west coast has helped fuel forest fires, there has been massive flooding in India, Bangladesh and Nepal that have devastated that region, hurricanes Irma and Maria have decimated the Caribbean, hurricane Harvey caused catastrophic flooding in Texas.

In an era of growing poverty, homelessness and hunger, it’s amazing how little attention the problem of food waste gets by policymakers.  According to a 2016 report (in the Guardian), roughly 50 percent of all produce in the United States is thrown away—some 60 million tons (or $160 billion) worth of produce annually, an amount constituting “one third of all foodstuffs.”


We live in a representative democracy.  We elect our representatives to go to national, state or local office to represent our interests and solve problems.  Of course, not all problems can be solved and the policy triage of what gets attention and what doesn’t is the decision of the representative based on what his or her constituents want or need.

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court began its look into the widespread practice of gerrymandering.  Gerrymandering is the manipulation of political boundaries (for the state legislature, for example) to favor one party.

Despite the nonsense that Americans hear from their national elected leaders, climate change is the single biggest policy challenge we face.  There is no doubt that the planet is heating up and that human activities are the primary driver of global warming.  The burning of fossil fuels, coal, oil and gas, are the most significant culprits in those human activities.

If you promised to do something, but you found out that if you fulfilled your promise tens of millions of people would be hurt, and some may die, would you do it?

Blair Horner: Consumers’ Finances At Risk

Sep 18, 2017

Recently, it was revealed that Equifax, one of the big three credit reporting agencies, had been hacked, potentially compromising the data of 143 million Americans, which is more than 40 percent of the entire U.S. population.

Blair Horner: Immigrants In America

Sep 11, 2017

The incredible natural calamities occurring around the world have understandably taken away public attention from important policy decisions, such as the Trump Administration’s move to end federal policy protecting the children of undocumented immigrants. 

Blair Horner: The Campaign Season Begins

Sep 4, 2017

Not only does Labor Day herald the beginning of the football season, it also kicks off the final quarter of New York’s election campaigns.  And while the focus of this year’s elections is on local offices, there are three ballot questions that impact the state’s constitution.

A standard page out of the American Business playbook is that if there is a serious problem emerging down the road, corporate chieftains ramp up a massive disinformation and lobbying campaign to undermine the threat.

Blair Horner: Colleges Open Up

Aug 21, 2017

All across New York State, colleges and universities are opening up for the Fall 2017 academic semester.  This annual rite of passage is life-changing for the students and deeply impactful for the families.  One key way that college can impact is the cost.

Blair Horner: The State Of The Climate

Aug 14, 2017

Last week the nation’s top science agencies released a report on the planet’s deteriorating climate.  The report, State of the Climate 2016, by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration made it official: 2016 was the warmest year in recorded history.  And it was the third year in a row that the record was set.

Blair Horner: The World Gets A New, Huge Iceberg

Jul 17, 2017

Last week a gigantic portion of the Antarctica ice sheet broke off.  This isn’t the first time an enormous chunk collapsed into the sea, but it may be the biggest.  This gigantic iceberg is part of the “Larsen C” ice sheet and measures 6,000 kilometers in size, or roughly the size of the state of Delaware. 

On Thursday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the corruption conviction of former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver – who was facing 12 years in prison after being convicted of taking $4 million in kickbacks. Prosecutors said the powerful Democrat used his powerful post to help a doctor and real estate developers. The court said the judge’s instructions on the theft of honest services law were unclear in light of the 2016 Supreme Court decision on ex-Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, has long been a champion for ethics reform in the state legislature. He spoke with WAMC’s Ian Pickus about what the decision means for that effort. 

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