Alice Cancel Settles Into Her New Job as Albany Lawmaker

About five weeks ago, Alice Cancel was sworn in as Sheldon Silver’s replacement in Albany. This week we caught up with the Lower East Side assemblywoman elected to represent the 65th Assembly District for the remainder of Silver’s term.

In a phone interview Tuesday evening, Cancel said she’s skeptical of Mayor de Blasio’s push for permanent control of New York City’s public schools. The current law expires at the end of this month. The governor and assembly speaker have proposed extending mayoral control for three years; Senate Republicans are only want a one year extension.

In her campaign, Cancel said she believed school administrators (and the mayor by extension) were failing to give parents a meaningful role in their childrens’ educations. “Parents need to have a strong voice,” she said, noting that her concerns are unrelated to the current mayor. “What if we have another Rudy Giuliani?” Cancel asked. “We wan’t have permanent control. I would support temporary renewal.”

Another Albany issue of particular local interest is a law approved by the City Council last month instituting a 5 cent fee on plastic bags. City Council member Margaret chin was a prime sponsor. The State Senate passed legislation prohibiting the measure and the assembly was poised to do the same. [City Council and state legislative leaders are now talking about revisions.] Cancel said environmental issues are important to her and she’d like to see a version of the legislation implemented. But in the face of intense industry lobbying, some members have called the fee a tax on the poor. Cancel said she planned to talk with Council member Chin about potential changes in the law.

Finally, Cancel said she remains hopeful that “something will get done” related to stronger ethics rules for lawmakers before the current session ends. Albany lawmakers and the governor have been under fire for failing to make the issue a priority in the aftermath of Sheldon Silver’s conviction and the conviction of former Senate leader Dean Skelos. The governor’s latest proposal is not being warmly received by government watchdog groups. Cancel said there are a lot of ideas on the table. Lawmakers, she said, are well aware their constituents are unhappy about the lack of progress on ethics reform. “We want to pass legislation,” she added.

Cancel was appointed to four committees: Banks, Cities, Housing and Social Services. She’s established a district office at 250 Broadway (across from City Hall). Monica Guardiola, a longtime adviser and former staffer in Silver’s assembly office, was appointed chief of staff. Cancel said she will be conducting interviews for two additional staff positions tomorrow. If you’d like to contact her offices, you can click here.

Cancel is gearing up for the Democratic Primary, which is scheduled to take place Sept. 13. It will be a crowded field competing in the heavily Democratic District for the seat in the 65th Assembly District. There were persistent rumors that Cancel would not be running in the primary. But she reiterated once again this week that she has every intention of fighting to keep the seat she won six weeks ago.