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Republicans shy away from town hall meetings ⋆ Epeak . Independent news and blogs

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Good morning! Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be in New York City and Erie County today; he’s making a 4:15 p.m. announcement in the village of Williamsville.

How’s your basement pump working? Sunday could hit 47 degrees. And Monday, Presidents Day, looks unseasonably warm as well.

To the headlines:

Next week’s recess will see Democratic Rep. Paul Tonko hosting a town hall to field questions from any constituent who wants to show up. Republicans John Faso and Elise Stefanik? Ehhhhh, not so much. (TU)

$8.1 million: That was the price for the hundreds of state tourism signs that have been deemed illegal by federal officials, state transportation officials said Wednesday. That’s much higher than previous cost estimates. (TU)

A decade after his autistic son died at the hands of a care worker, disability advocate Michael Carey says the state still isn’t doing enough to protect its most vulnerable citizens. (TU)

The pharmaceutical industry launched a campaign against Cuomo’s proposals to control drug prices, saying they threaten New York jobs and innovations — and may be illegal. (TU)

Cuomo has earned a reputation for frequently keeping vacant state and federal-level seats unfilled for months at a time before calling special elections. It’s a strategy that maddening to his critics, who’ve often accused the governor of playing games with the election process to serve his own political purposes. (Politico)

Noted: There are “no plans at the moment” to bring cashless tolling upstate. (BN)

On Long Island on Wednesday, Cuomo called for county executives to put cost saving plans in front of voters this November in order to curb rising local property taxes. Cuomo has long urged government consolidation, blaming a “proliferation” of local governments for driving up property taxes. Critics, however, say state mandates are the real culprit. (Newsday, BN)

Cuomo announced Wednesday that music streaming service Spotify will move its U.S. headquarters to lower Manhattan from Midtown, creating more than 1,000 new jobs on top of 832 that already exist. And for your listening pleasure, here’s the governor’s Spotify playlist: “Excelsior Vol. 1.” (CapCon)

In Washington:

Fast-food executive Andrew Puzder withdrew from his nomination as labor secretary on Wednesday. White House spokesman Sean Spicer declined to comment on possible replacements. (AP)

“It’s a criminal action, criminal act”: President Trump said former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn was brought down by illegal leaks to the news media. For Trump, it’s a far cry from his “I love WikiLeaks” days. (NYT)

The White House plans to assign a Trump ally, New York billionaire Stephen A. Feinberg, to lead a broad review of American intelligence agencies. Members of the intelligence community fear it could curtail their independence and reduce the flow of information that contradicts the president’s worldview. (NYT)

Flynn’s resignation is shifting the balance of power between President Trump and Congress. Nonetheless, a large-scale investigation of Trump’s campaign associates and Russian intelligence is not assured. (WP, NYT)

Trump met Wednesday with Israeli Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu, and he dropped a U.S. commitment to an Israeli-Palestinian two-state solution. (Reuters)

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