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James M.E. O'Grady

James M.E. O’Grady

Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle is reportedly angling to succeed Sheldon Silver as Speaker, despite publicly declaring his support for his “friend.”

It’s been more than a century since the assembly had a Speaker from Rochester. Only one Rochesterian has served in that powerful role: James M.E. O’Grady.

O’Grady was born in Rochester in 1863. He attended the Rochester Free Academy, the city’s first public high school, and the University of Rochester. He became a lawyer, serving on the school board from 1887 to 1892. A Republican, he joined the Assembly in 1893 and became Speaker in 1897.

On November 16, 1894, the New York Times reported on the jockeying for the Speaker position:

Mr. O’Grady says he is not depending on anybody’s influence or dictation to get the position, but is after it on his own responsibility and by his own efforts. He evidently is working principally on the claim of this district for recognition, as Tuesday at Buffalo, in expressing himself as hopeful of getting the solid vote of Western New-York, he said:

“Erie County has Comptroller Roberts and Judge Haight; Syracuse has the Attorney General; Utica has the State Engineer, and Albany the Secretary of State, while Rochester has been left out in the cold.”

O’Grady served as Speaker for two years. He was then elected to Congress, serving from 1899 to 1901. He didn’t get nominated for a second term because of a falling out with the local political boss, George Aldridge. O’Grady returned to Rochester to practice law.

O’Grady died in 1928 at Genesee Hospital. he is buried at Holy Sepulchre Catholic Cemetery.


New York Times, November 4, 1928

New York Times, November 4, 1928


Sheldon Silver Fallout Roundup:


– Sheldon Silver will temporarily relinquish his duties as Speaker.

– Assembly Republicans plan to force their Democratic colleagues to vote on Silver’s ouster. That could come back to haunt Silver’s supporters at election time.

– The Assembly killed a state law barring exactly the type of bad deeds Silver is accused of.

– David Koon: “I couldn’t get a pay raise for my people or an extra phone or an extra computer or anything without” Silver’s stamp.


Links of the Day:


– Experts say New York schools are not in crisis, as the governor suggests.

– “Educators and parent advocates I’ve heard from since then can’t believe (Cuomo) is so out of touch.”

– There’s an oversupply of teacher candidates, creating a tough job market.

– The Rochester City School District boots volunteers and makes them jump through hoops.

– Here’s reason Western New York gas prices are higher. (It kills me people are complaining cheap gas is not cheap enough.)

– Buffalo area state lawmakers want to kill Wilmot’s planned casino.

– University of Rochester researchers say pregnant women can eat fish.

Car, go park yourself.

State Capital BuildingLieutenant Governor Robert Duffy came in last place in a newspaper’s ranking of Albany power brokers.

City & State ranked Duffy 100th in its “Albany Power 100” list. Here’s what it said:

The former mayor of Rochester is in a largely symbolic role now, standing in for the governor at ribbon-cutting ceremonies and serving as Cuomo’s personal cheerleader. But he could be the next David Paterson. You never know.

Ouch. Mayor Tom Richards said the characterization is not fair, as Duffy has steered the Regional Economic Development Councils. Richards also said Duffy is very involved in helping Rochester in any way he can.

Guess who is near the top of the City & State list? Assemblyman Joe Morelle, now the assembly’s second-in-command:

He doesn’t seek the spotlight, but he’s become a favorite of the governor and Assembly members on both sides of the aisle. If Shelly ever calls it quits, Morelle would be the clear choice to be the next Speaker if he weren’t from upstate New York. Chair of the Monroe County Democratic Party, he is a juggernaut in his area, even recently electing his son Joe Jr. to the county legislature.

Links of the Day:

The state is threatening to close a Buffalo charter school. This is the downside of experimenting with children’s education. When it doesn’t work, it’s very disruptive.

– When the president of the Auburn Teachers Association killed herself, the union found $808,000 missing.

-The Syracuse city school district wants to open a school for gifted students.

Remembering the days of the Kodak bonuses.

It seems every high-profile campaign has a mystery poll. The phone-calling has started early in the Brooks v. Slaughter race.

Several people say they’ve been called at home and asked whom they would support in a Brooks-Slaughter match-up and a Brooks-Morelle match-up.

That would be Joe Morelle, Democratic party chairman and state assemblyman. He’s not running, however. Slaughter is the candidate.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties deny they are behind the poll. Assuming the party chairs are not lying, someone affiliated with their parties doing this without their knowledge.

If Republicans are behind this poll, they could be worried Slaughter will drop out. The GOP has also been pushing the “Slaughter is ill” rumor for a while. Conducting a poll and hoping it makes the news (or a blog) could be a way to discredit Slaughter, but that seems like a lot of effort to further a rumor. People conduct polls because they want data.

Slaughter seemed just fine at a press conference a couple weeks ago and says she’s in good health. She also insists she’s running and there are absolutely no indications she’s even thinking of backing out.

If Democrats are behind the poll, they could have inside knowledge about Slaughter’s intentions. Even if she’s in 100 percent good health, she’s 82 and anything could happen. That’s a pretty cynical way to look things.

I expect we’ll see a lot of mystery polls, campaign literature and other stuff this campaign. It’ll be a long seven months.

Links of the Day:

Communities across New York State, including Brighton, have enacted bans on hydrofracking. Would they hold up if the state eventually allows drilling? The Associated Press reports a state lawmaker is introducing legislation that would allow home rule:

New York law does allow municipalities to zone mining activities that have significant surface impacts, such as gravel mines. But in 1981, state law was amended to exempt oil and gas from mining activities subject to local regulations. The home rule bills would remove that exemption.

– State senator Jim Alesi and Assemblyman Joe Morelle are sponsors of a bill that would require registered nurses to get bachelor’s degrees. There is a trend of nurses getting master’s degrees and doctorates. But in a time of growing health care shortages, would this impede entry into the profession?

Bob Lonsberry says Maggie Brooks should have exercised “justice or mercy” when Airport Director Susan Walsh was busted for DWI. She did neither:

The next day, Maggie Brooks said nothing of substance. Since then, the matter has disappeared into the black hole of an “internal investigation.” More than a week later, there is no new information or leadership from the county.

That is unacceptable. This matter has been mishandled by the county executive, to the hurt of the public interest and to the abandonment of the responsibility of leadership.

UPDATE 3:28 p.m. – Susan Walsh has resigned.

A New York Times Room for Debate asks if teachers are overpaid.

– A final note on Rochester’s lame New Year celebrations. Check out this photo from Buffalo’s festivities.

The Democrat and Chronicle reported today Assemblyman David Gantt would reintroduce his legislation giving Rochester’s mayor control of the school district.

This is not a surprise, as it has already passed the assembly. The bill has powerful allies in Gantt, Assemblyman Joe Morelle, Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy and the business community. But the state senate is a lot trickier, as senators Joe Robach and Jim Alesi have expressed strong reservations.

Meanwhile, a lot has changed in the two years since then-Mayor Duffy campaigned for control of schools.

  • We have a new mayor who may not want the job as badly as his predecessor. Tom Richards  never talks about mayoral control unless prompted and doesn’t do so with any depth. While Richards has expressed support for mayoral control, I find it hard to believe Albany would hand over control of a $700-million-a-year, 32,000-student district to a man who lacks any outward passion for taking the reigns. There’s still time for Richards to show he wants control of the district. So far, he hasn’t laid out any vision.
  • Opposition to mayoral control has grown among area residents. The 2011 Voice of the Voter poll shows 50 percent of respondents oppose and 38 percent support mayoral control. In the 2010 poll, only 30 percent opposed mayoral control.
  • New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s record on education has been knocked in polls and gains in test scores under his leadership were nearly wiped out.
  • The Rochester City School District is no longer run by mayoral-control-friendly Jean-Claude Brizard.  The district is in a state of relative calm compared to the turmoil of the last few years. Is it time to rock the apple cart as the school board searches for a new leader – one who may already be in the position? Maybe it’s the perfect time, if you want to install the mayor as chief.