WEOS Finger Lakes Public Radio

Karen DeWitt

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.

She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers. 

Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.

She is a past recipient of the prestigious Walter T. Brown Memorial award for excellence in journalism, from the Legislative Correspondents Association, and was named Media Person of the Year for 2009 by the Women’s Press Club of New York State.

Karen is a graduate of the State University of New York at Geneseo.

Governor Andrew Cuomo says he does not think a statute of the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus in New York City’s Columbus Circle should be removed. The governor was asked about it at his daily press briefing Thursday.

“I understand the feelings about Christopher Columbus  and some of this acts which nobody would support ,” Cuomo said.

He says the statue has come to represent appreciation for the “Italian-American contribution to New York ”.

“For that reason, I support it,” the governor said.

There’s a growing movement to defund the police, after the death of George Floyd and incidences of police brutality in the nationwide protests that came in the aftermath.   New York State’s leaders say they would rather restructure the forces than cut their budgets.

The New York State Legislature Wednesday wrapped up passage of a package of bills on police reform as the Senate Leader delivered a very personal speech on how systemic racism has affected her life.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the first African-American woman, and first woman to lead the Senate, said in her speech that she has often talked about her father, a World War II veteran, who served in a segregated U.S. Army. She said that as a mother of three sons and four grandchildren she "lives in worry."

The New York Assembly and Senate approved the repeal of a measure that’s been used to shield police disciplinary records from the public. But opponents, including police unions and some Republican senators, says it unfairly singles out officers for scrutiny that other public servants don’t face.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, the first African-American to hold that title, has long supported the repeal of the provision in the state’s Civil Rights law known as 50-a, but it has long languished in the legislature.

The New York State Legislature met in session at the state Capitol Monday, to begin work on a package of bills aimed at reforming the police; Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised to sign the bills.  If approved, New York would be the first state to act on police reforms since the death of George Floyd.

Saturday is the deadline for voters in the state’s school board and school budget elections to get their ballots in the mail.

There will be no in-person voting in the June 9 elections due to safety precautions because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

All voting will be by mail. Under an executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, all voters are permitted to use the absentee ballot option to cast their votes. Schools, closed for months because of the pandemic, will not have polling places this year. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is urging the thousands of New Yorkers who are participating in social justice protests to get tested for the coronavirus to help prevent another potential outbreak. 

Cuomo said there are enough tests available now for everyone who participated in a protest to get tested. He said even though most demonstrators wore masks, it was a crowded environment, and they should just assume that they were exposed to the virus. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says outdoor dining can begin Thursday in upstate regions of the state that are now in phase two of reopening. 

Eateries in the Capital Region, central New York, the Rochester-Finger Lakes area, the Mohawk Valley, the North Country, the Southern Tier and western New York can reopen for outdoor dining, subject to safety rules.

The outdoor tables must be spaced 6 feet apart,  all staff must wear face coverings and customers also have to wear masks or face coverings when not seated.

There were fewer incidences of looting of stores and other businesses around the state on Tuesday night, after three nights that left many stores damaged and empty of merchandise.  

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his daily briefing Wednesday, credited better efforts by the police, and walked back some critical comments he made Tuesday about the NYPD.

Cuomo also read from the Bible to make a point about President Donald Trump's controversial photo opportunity on Monday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he’s outraged and disappointed over the continued looting of several stores that took place overnight in New York City, and he said that city’s mayor and police department did not do their jobs.

But he stopped short of saying that he would deploy the state’s National Guard to any city without a request by its political leaders.  

Cuomo said the people who are breaking into the stores and stealing are different from the largely peaceful protesters, whom he supports. He said the two groups need to be treated differently.