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Watch Your Government at Work in Your Boxers
October 31st, 2008

If you want to watch a video online of a cat opening a jar, that’s easy. A haunted Ouija Board? Not a problem. But if you want to watch the City Council hearing on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to reduce poverty, you’d be hard pressed to find it.

Councilmember Gale Brewer would like to change that. The Technology in Government Committee, which she chairs, held a hearing this week about a bill to offer live webcasts of all public meetings and archive them online.

The city developed a webcasting pilot six years ago, but Web video has developed increasingly farther since then. For example, live webstreaming is available for free to anybody with a digital camera and internet access (Brooklyn Heights Blog just used one such service to broadcast their debate between State Senate candidates Daniel Squadron and John Chromczak).

In fact, New York city is behind most other big cities on this front, as CityRoom pointed out.

Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause New York, said in written testimony that webcasts are the “obvious next step” in the city’s efforts to use technology to promote accountability and transparency.

But she would also like to see that written testimony available on the council’s Web site.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on October 31, 2008, 4:01 pm
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Web Wrap Up
October 31st, 2008

  • New York ranked world’s most global city.
    (Business Week)
  • Cartoonist’s take on Paterson’s plea for federal assistance.
    (Matt Davies)
  • Feds suspend New York state’s voting machine testing vendor.
    (New Yorkers for Verified Voting)
  • Standard & Poor downgrades Forest City because of Atlantic Yards.
    (The Real Estate)
  • Quiz yourself on your knowledge of New York City.
    (New York City Almanac)
  • Advocate says repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws to shrink the budget gap.
    (Albany Times-Union op-ed)
  • Business intelligence tools uncover $4.5 million owed to Mount Sinai.
    (Information Week)
  • Problems with campaign finance rules for judicial candidates.
    (Judicial Reports)
  • Four bills that could make the city’s buildings truly green.
    (Sallan Foundation)
  • Watch the Squadron-Chromczak Senate debate.
    (Brooklyn Heights Blog)
  • NBC New York relaunches its Web site.
    (NBC New York via Broadcasting & Cable)
  • By on October 31, 2008, 2:11 pm
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    What Does Washington Owe Us?
    October 30th, 2008

    When Gov. David Paterson sat before Congress yesterday to plea for assistance with the state’s rapidly distending budget coffers, he blamed Washington for the dire situation. “The failure of our federal regulatory system has caused too many innocent bystanders to suffer,” he declared.

    Indeed, after the near collapse of insurance behemoth A.I.G., the governor filled the regulatory void for credit default swap markets — to the extent jurisdiction allowed. Credit default swaps are similar to insurance policies, but can be bought and sold without much oversight. (Click here for an illustrated explanation.) Paterson’s administration was able to regulate about a fifth of the $62 trillion market, which is twice the size of the entire U.S. stock market.

    But Albany’s finely cultivated spending habits deserve a starring role in this financial drama as well, note fiscal watchdogs. While tax receipts grew over the past four years, E.J. McMahon writes at NY Fiscal Watch, Albany “managed to spend the money on practically everything other than roads, bridges and waste-water projects,” and go even deeper into debt.

    “They really built their spending on a house of cards last year,” Elizabeth Lynam, of the Citizens Budget Commission, told the New York Times.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on October 30, 2008, 3:14 pm
    In category: Albany,Economy,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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    Term Limits Next Step
    October 29th, 2008

    The next front on term limits, destined for the courtroom, will be kicked off on Monday after a scheduled bill signing ceremony in the Blue Room.

    Once the mayor adds his John Hancock to Intro 845, council members Letitia James and Bill de Blasio will take the issue up in court on the grounds that it violates the city’s conflict of interest law and that it violates the voting rights act, adversely impacting minority populations.

    The council members, along with the comptroller, public advocate, Rep. Anthony Weiner and Gene Russianoff of NYPIRG held a press conference this afternoon to give an update on the legal battle.

    “This fight is far from over,” said de Blasio in a prepared statement. “We will continue to stand up for the right of the people to be involved in this vital process, and ensure their voices are heard.”

    According to the Conflicts of Interest Board decision, acting on term limits was within the legislative rights of the council and doing so would not give members any private financial gain or personal advantage.

    That, say some pols, is wrong.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on October 29, 2008, 4:33 pm
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    Endorsement Time
    October 29th, 2008

    Two key races in the fight for control of the State Senate are in Queens — district 11 and district 15. In both, Democratic City Council members who thought they were term-limited are taking on long-time Republican incumbents. And with the GOP holding a one seat majority in the Senate, either contest could tip the balance once way or the other.

    This morning the Times endorsed both the challengers: James Gennaro, who is seeking to unseat Frank Padavan in the 11th, and Joseph Addabbo, who hopes to topple Serphin Maltese in the 15th. Both, the paper believes, “are committed to the kind of change that Albany needs, including a truly independent redistricting commission.” In backing Gennaro, the Times cites his record on the environment, immigration and women’s rights.

    In other endorsement news, Citizens Union (whose sister organization publishes Gotham Gazette) also endorsed Addabbo but stuck with the incumbent in the 11th district. The good government group sees Addabbo as “a stronger supporter of state government reform than Sen. Maltese.” While calling Gennaro “effective and well liked,” Citizens Union praised Padavan for “his long-held support for much of Citizens Union’s reform agenda and effective representation in Albany.” Addabbo was the only challenger to receive the group’s blessing, while it backed 10 incumbents in addition to Padavan.

    For reports on these and other State Senate and Assembly races, as well as information on urban issues in this year’s campaign and general election information, see Guide for the Last Minute Voter.

    By on October 29, 2008, 2:24 pm
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    Paterson Makes a Connection
    October 29th, 2008

    Gov. David Paterson last night linked two seemingly barely related issues: the recent City Council vote on extending term limits and the way the state draws legislative districts. Taking a short break from the state’s fiscal crisis, Paterson appeared at the annual dinner of the good government group Citizens Union to present an award to his father, Basil Paterson. In making his presentation Paterson looked at two issues that have engaged the good government group.

    The key question when looking at term limits, Paterson said, “is whether or not when the City Council votes there is any public policy issues that’s addressed other than self-aggrandizement.” When the courts confront that, he continued, they might also consider “whether or not state legislators drawing their own districts doesn’t fulfill the same purpose and we should have widespread reform in the apportioning of legislative districts.”

    Click here for audio of Paterson’s remarks.

    (Citizens Union is the sister organization of Gotham Gazette’s publisher Citizens Union Foundation.)

    By on October 29, 2008, 12:08 pm
    In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing | Comments Off on Paterson Makes a Connection

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    Concerns for Election Day
    October 28th, 2008

    With the election a week away and record turnouts anticipated, concerns are mounting about whether polling places, ballot boxes and voting machines will be able to cope.

    In an editorial today, the Times ticks off its many worries about the system in New York city, beginning with the New York City Board of Elections: “a nest of good old-fashioned patronage that Boss Tweed and the boys down at Tammany Hall would have admired.” So far this year, the board, according to the Times, mailed out absentee ballots too late, purged 30,000 voters and could not cope with a flood of last-minute registrants.

    Further complicating matters here is New York’s slow crawl toward installing new voting technology to comply with the http://www.fec.gov/hava/hava.htm Help America Vote Act. Read the rest of this entry »

    By on October 28, 2008, 3:37 pm
    In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing | Comments Off on Concerns for Election Day

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    Weekly Web Wrappings
    October 24th, 2008

  • City pushes new model for high-density public housing.
    (Metropolis)
  • Video of Councilmember Brewer discussing her technology agenda.
    (Broadband Advisory Committee)
  • Information technology helps city’s public hospitals achieve excellence.
    (Government HealthIT via FierceHealthIT)
  • Report calls hybrid taxis dangerous.
    (YellowCabNYC via Streetsblog)
  • New York’s state election Web site rated as “average”.
    (Pew Center for the States)
  • Issues with a Manhattan Surrogate Judge candidate’s donors.
    (Judicial Reports)
  • Tips on saving energy and lowering heating bills.
    (Con Ed)
  • The Tenement Museum’s union fight.
    (NY Press)
  • Moody’s may cut New York Times to junk.
    (Wired)
  • State to face reckoning of over-reliance on Wall Street.
    (City Journal)
  • New York City becomes ninth city to join bird treaty.
    (Parks Department)
  • “Iron Mike” (Bloomberg) helped weaken city’s economy.
    (The Nation)
  • Should Progressives support term-limits?
    (The American Prospect)
  • Audio of .nyc City Council hearing.
    (Internet Society, New York chapter)
  • New word: NYionism (pushing for a homeland for city’s digital resources).
    (Campaign for .nyc)
  • By on October 24, 2008, 12:30 pm
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    Digital Manhattan
    October 23rd, 2008

    Sure, Max Page makes the case that we show our love for New York by destroying it on film. But another way to express feelings for the city is to recreate it online.

    Technology company YouCity specializes in doing just that, and has a 3D map of Manhattan on its Web site as a demo that you can peruse. The company creates such maps for individual clients and can embed other programs and search tools into the maps, which can be viewed from different angles.

    The Digital Urban blog, which found the maps over the summer, considers them game changing. “Such maps certainly raise the bar on what will become the norm in city mapping over the next few years,” they wrote.

    A while back, we covered a similar map of Manhattan that is open to the public, called UpNext. That map can be plugged into social networking sites.

    Now, before those of you in the outer boroughs start feeling left out, Elliot Hanson has created a Sim City version of New York, brownstone Brooklyn and all. He was recently crowned “the world’s most dedicated gamer” by the Guinness Book of World Records for his four year effort at this virtual recreation.

    By on October 23, 2008, 10:19 pm
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    The Vote Breakdown
    October 23rd, 2008

    Below if a list of who voted how for both the mayor’s bill and the Brewer-Gerson-Yassky amendment. The first vote listed is on the amendment. The second is on the bill.

    Totals:
    Mayor’s Bill – approved, 29 to 22
    Amendment – defeated, 28 to 22, one abstention

    Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. – yes, no
    Maria del Carmen Arroyo – no, yes
    Tony Avella -yes, no
    Maria Baez – no, yes
    Charles Barron – yes, no
    Gale A. Brewer – yes, no
    Anthony Como – no, no
    Leroy G. Comrie, Jr. – no, yes
    Bill de Blasio – yes, no
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on October 23, 2008, 5:21 pm
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    One Down, Two to Go
    October 23rd, 2008

    Members of the Gov. Ops CommitteeThe first term limits vote is in and it’s unanimous.

    The City Council’s Governmental Operations Committee unanimously approved Intro 845 this morning, clearing the way for it to go to the full council this afternoon. The vote was 6 to 0, and Councilmember Larry Seabrook was absent. For a list of members, go here.

    Most of the committee members had already announced how they would vote on the issue before the vote this morning, except for Inez Dickens — an influential freshman, who had been widely seen as a candidate for speaker after the 09 election. Dickens said, “After deep personal thought, I have decided to vote yes.”

    Now it’s on to the full chamber.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on October 23, 2008, 11:04 am
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    Giving the Council Options
    October 22nd, 2008

    Yassky, Brewer and Gerson to propose term limit amendment

    Council members David Yassky, Gale Brewer and Alan Gerson want to give the council some options, they said at a joint press conference on the City Hall steps this afternoon.

    To do that, they will introduce an amendment on the floor of the chamber tomorrow during the council’s stated meeting requiring a City Charter review commission and referendum on term limits before an extension could take effect.

    “This critical issue whether the decision about term limits should be made by referendum or by Council action should be put squarely before the City Council,” reads the joint statement (available in full here). “Accordingly, we intend to ensure that Council Members have the option to vote on a referendum proposal as an alternative to the Mayor’s proposal to amend term limits legislatively.”

    Each said they were still undecided — despite the grilling from the City Hall press corps — and would not divulge how they would vote if their amendment was defeated. Yassky pledged to not abstain, while Gerson said it was an option.

    Essentially, their amendment takes the James-de Blasio bill (which requires the city set up a review commission to look into term limits then send it to the voters) and incorporates it into the mayor’s bill (which simply extends the city’s term limits from two to three terms).
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on October 22, 2008, 2:11 pm
    In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law | 7 Comments »

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    Money in the Mist
    October 22nd, 2008

    Love it or loathe it, Olafur Eliasson’s New York City Waterfalls apparently provided a boost to the city in these tough economic times. According to a report issued by the city yesterday, the controversial art installation generated $69 million for the city economy.

    Seems a lot for a project that, as Daily Intel put it, “Mostly just made you go, ‘Oh yeah, the waterfalls,’ when you happened to pass by a spot where you could see them.”

    So how did they come up with that figure?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on October 22, 2008, 1:39 pm
    In category: Arts,Economy,Gotham City,Parks,Public Finance | Comments Off on Money in the Mist

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    Amendment In the Works
    October 22nd, 2008

    According to the Daily Politics, council members Gale Brewer, David Yassky and Alan Gerson will introduce an amendment on the floor tomorrow that would prohibit the mayor’s term limit bill — if approved — from taking effect until a term limit extension was also approved via referendum.

    The three are supposed to hold a press conference about it in t-minus 15 minutes.

    Rarely are amendments introduced during a stated meeting, and since neither Yassky, Brewer or Gerson are members of the Governmental Operations Committee one would presume that’s where they plan to do it.

    According to the City Council’s rules, any member can propose an amendment on the floor of the chamber. He or she would have two minutes to make his or her case. If it’s approved, then the legislation would have to be laid over for the next full council meeting.

    The full rule is after the jump.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on October 22, 2008, 12:22 pm
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    Vallone Sides with Bloomberg
    October 21st, 2008

    Well, we know at least one of the undecided-turned-supporting votes that could have spurred the council vote on Thursday. Councilmember Peter Vallone, who had been undecided, will be voting for a term limits extension.

    This release just came in from his office:

    VALLONE TO SUPPORT THREE TERMS

    Statement from Vallone on the Mayor’s bill to extend current term limits from two terms to three

    Astoria, New York “This is one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make. There are good people and good policies on either side of this issue. I have carefully considered both sides, and weighed every opinion I’ve heard.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on October 21, 2008, 2:57 pm
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    Vote on Thursday
    October 21st, 2008

    This just in from the City Council:

    Governmental Operations Committee will vote at 10 a.m. on Thursday on the term limits legislation, followed by a full council vote (that is if the committee approves it) at its stated meeting later that afternoon — now scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

    When I asked Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s communications director, Jamie McShane, whether this meant that they had the votes to get the mayor’s bill through, he said no comment.

    Reports elsewhere, though, make that assumption. For more on term limits, see this story on how it could shift the city’s separation of powers and see this chart on the legislation the council could consider.

    By on October 21, 2008, 2:29 pm
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    The Council's Choice
    October 21st, 2008

    The vote to extend term limits — whenever it comes — will give the oft ridiculed New York City Council a chance to redeem itself — in the eyes of the Daily News. In an editorial today, the paper says it has seen “glimmers that the council is capable of acting in the best interests of the city at large,” but adds that the body now “faces its biggest test in term limits. For the good of 8 million citizens … a majority of the members must enable New Yorkers to have full choices on the 2009 mayoral ballot.” In case you’re wondering that mean changing the law, approved in two voter referenda, to give Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other city officials four more years.

    But as Courtney Gross reports in Gotham Gazette this week, there is another point of view. “By acting legislatively on term limits … opponents argue, the council could diminish the so-called power it has acquired since the City Charter was revised two decades ago,” her article says. “By reversing two referenda approved by millions of voters in the 1990s, the council would be surrendering to the will of the mayor and simultaneously subverting the will of its own constituencies.”

    By on October 21, 2008, 8:32 am
    In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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    Powell's Hometown
    October 20th, 2008

    Colin Powell’s endorsement of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama yesterday was big news. But largely lost in the media frenzy was Powell’s acknowledgement that you can live in a medium sized town — or even a big city — and still be a good person.

    In his comments on Meet the Press, Powell praised Obama for reaching out across many divisions in America. “He’s thinking about all villages have values, all towns have values — not just small towns have values,” Powell said.

    The comment from the former secretary of state — viewed as a dig at statements at the GOP convention and vice presidential candidate Sarah Pallin’s remark that she enjoys visiting “very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation” — are in some respects not surprising. Powell grew up in the Bronx and graduated from City College.

    WNYC’s Brian Lehrer focused on the sentence nonetheless. “Colin Powell was willing to go on Meet the Press and say all towns have values,” Lehrer noted this morning. “People don’t articulate that in either party.”

    For more on anti urban bias in the presidential campaign, see Gotham Gazette’s Small Town Values in a Big City Election.

    By on October 20, 2008, 3:07 pm
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    Weekly Web Wrap
    October 17th, 2008

  • Endorsing all the city’s congressional incumbents – except Rangel.
    (Esquire Magazine)
  • Comparisons of city’s income tax should include state’s tax.
    (NY Fiscal Watch)
  • State should release data on energy terminations.
    (PULP Blog)
  • Blogger/Democratic consultant says state GOP is on the ropes.
    (Capitol Gains)
  • Wages for young New York workers are stuck at ’79 levels.
    (Fiscal Policy Institute)
  • A new renewable energy industry is dependent on a skilled workforce.
    (American Solar Energy Society)
  • What a third term could mean for design, architecture, and planning.
    (Architect’s Newspaper)
  • An endorsement for Obama – on the Working Families Party line.
    (The Nation via The Politicker)
  • Making the city a biotechnology mecca.
    (Gencast Network)
  • Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s secret term-limits operatives.
    (Daily Politics)
  • All of Verizon’s FiOS electric problems must be fixed by June ’09.
    (Multichannel News via FierceTelecom)
  • By on October 17, 2008, 2:49 pm
    In category: Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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    Felder: There is going to be a short skit before the hearing
    October 16th, 2008

    City Councilmember Simcha Felder, chair of the Governmental Operations Committee, was joking, of course, when he said the marathon hearing on term limits today would start with a skit. The hearing, taking place in a City Hall chamber so packed the crowd spilled over into an adjacent room, is proving to be entertaining enough without one.

    As he began the hearing, Felder said, “Im not going to tolerate any clapping, Im not going to tolerate any booing or whistling or anything, even if youre doing it in my favor.” He added that if participants “feel the necessity to do something outrageous or get some attention, go outside and do so now, and come back when you feel better.”

    But the term limits issue has emotions running high — and it shows.

    Youve got a lot of nerve, said Councilmember Charles Barron, beginning his question to the hearings first witness, former Gov. Mario Cuomo. Cuomo had stated that term limits “didnt work,” a claim Barron called “an insult to every one sitting here that came in through term limits.”

    With some effort, Felder managed to get the hearing back under control after this exchange, but witnesses and council members are still getting in an occasional jab. Former Mayor Ed Koch, the fourth witness, testified in favor of extending term limits to three terms. Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. began his question for Koch with, On this issue, Im undecided.

    Koch, who was mayor when Peter Vallone Sr. served on the council, shot back, “Talk to your father.”

    By on October 16, 2008, 5:57 pm
    In category: Gotham City,Governing | 1 Comment »

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    Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation,the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation's public education programs. Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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