Archive for May, 2009
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Weekly Web Wrap
May 29th, 2009

  • How Should the State Use Technology to Improve?
    (State Senate Blog)
  • Bomb Plot Spurs Demand For More Security Funds
    (The Jewish Week)
  • A Call to Open 311
    (techPresident via Daily Politics)
  • Albanys Spending Cap
    (NY Fiscal Watch)
  • Breaking Up Commuter Rail Bottlenecks
    (Regional Plan Association)
  • Supervised Drug-Injection Facilities in New York? We Should and Can
    (Alternet)
  • By on May 29, 2009, 3:21 pm
    In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on Weekly Web Wrap

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    Death by 'Friendly Fire'
    May 29th, 2009

    The fatal shooting of a black police officer in East Harlem last night is once again raising the troubling issue of how police officers react to black men on city streets.

    According to the account in the Times, Officer Omar Edwards, who was in plainclothes, was shot shortly after he came off duty by a fellow officer who mistook him for a criminal. The officer who fired the fatal shots — Andrew Dunton — is white and lives on Long Island. He also was not in uniform, the Daily News reported. Edwards apparently had been chasing a man who he believed had broken into his car.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on May 29, 2009, 1:32 pm
    In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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    Paterson's New Gun Legislation
    May 29th, 2009

    Gov. David Paterson announced a package of legislation yesterday that would increase the state’s use of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The database is used to check the records of people applying for gun licenses. As we reported earlier this month, it took the state nearly a year to take advantage of changes enacted last year that allowed the state to report cases of involuntarily commitments to mental health facilities to the NICS database. Read the rest of this entry »

    By on May 29, 2009, 11:50 am
    In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 3 Comments »

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    The Working Families Party Endorses...
    May 28th, 2009

    The Working Families Party has issued a slew of endorsements for the fall elections but still has not weighed in on the mayoral races. In the other citywide contests, though, it backs John Liu for comptroller and Bill de Blasio for public advocate.

    In the boroughs, the party has endorsed John Luisi over incumbent James Molinaro in Staten Island. All the other sitting presidents get the party’s nod. In the hotly contested Manhattan district attorney contest, the party decided on Richard Aborn.

    Many incumbent City Council members seeking re-election also won the party’s approval, although it has not issued a backing in a number of races. The party did endorsed seven challengers: Danny Dromm, who is running against Helen Sears; Frank Gullisco, a Democrat who hopes to unseat newly minted GOP Councilmember Eric Ulrich; Maritza Davilla opposing Diana Reyna; Mark Winston-Griffith, who is taking on Al Vann; and Jumaane Williams, who is challenging Kendall Stewart. On Staten Island, the party is backing two challengers: Janine Materna, who opposes Vincent Ignizio, and Debi Rose, who lost narrowly to Kenneth Mitchell in a special election earlier this year and is hoping to reverse those results in September.

    In open contests, the party’s gave its seal of approval to S.J. Jung (District 20), James Van Bramer (26), Lynn Schulman (29), Steve Levin (33) and Brad Lander (39).

    By on May 28, 2009, 11:31 am
    In category: Gotham City | 2 Comments »

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    It's Official
    May 27th, 2009

    Citing the mayor’s unlimited campaign spending and a campaign that is likely to rely on advertising as opposed to substance, Rep. Anthony Weiner made his non-candidacy candidacy official this morning with an op-ed in the New York Times declaring he will sit this one out.

    In response, the Bill Thompson campaign, which along with Tony Avella will vie for the Democratic ticket, released this statement:

    “Congressman Anthony Weiner would be a formidable candidate for any position that he seeks. I respect his decision to stay in Washington during this important time in our nation’s history. However, my decision to run for Mayor has nothing to do with who else may be in the race and everything to do with how I will bring change and new leadership to City Hall. I am running for all New Yorkers who want good paying jobs, affordable housing, support for small businesses and a school system that focuses on educating our children.

    By on May 27, 2009, 11:23 am
    In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY,Public Finance | 2 Comments »

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    Weiner Stays Out of Race
    May 26th, 2009

    City Hall News is reporting that Rep. Anthony Weiner will not run for mayor this year, leaving only Comptroller William Thompson Jr. and Councilmember Tony Avella in the Democratic primary.

    The news is attributing Weiner’s bow out to a “source with knowledge of the decision.”

    The Democratic victor will face a seriously uphill battle against Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the general election this fall.

    By on May 26, 2009, 12:18 pm
    In category: Electoral Politics,Governing,nextNY | Comments Off on Weiner Stays Out of Race

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    Obama Chooses Bronx Judge
    May 26th, 2009

    President Barack Obama has just announced that he has selected Sonia Sotomayor, a federal appeals court judge raised in the Bronx, as his nominee for the Supreme Court. If confirmed to replace retiring Justice David Souter, Sotomayor would be the first Hispanic on the court — her parents came here from Puerto Rico — and only the third woman.

    Sotomayor, whose father died when she was 9 years old, went to Catholic schools. Raised in a housing project, she attended Princeton, which she once likened to an “alien country.” She went on to Yale Law School, serving as editor of the Yale Law Journal. After graduating she worked for the Manhattan district attorneys office. The first president George Bush named her to federal district court in 1991, and in 1997, President Bill Clinton appointed her to her current job.

    Despite her compelling personal story, Sotomayor could attract opposition from conservatives who see her as too activist a judge. With her name under consideration for the nomination, a video circulated in which she said the courts are the place where “policy is made,” although she added, “And I know this is on tape and I should never say that, because we don’t make law. I know.”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on May 26, 2009, 10:38 am
    In category: Civil Rights,Gotham City,Law | 1 Comment »

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    How Serious Was the Terror Plot?
    May 22nd, 2009

    Wednesday’s thwarted terrorist plot sparked quite the conversation amongst the national press this week.

    First, Christopher Dickey, author of “Securing the City: Inside America’s Best Counterterror Force – the NYPD,” seeks to explain the rational behind publicizing such attempted acts.

    “There are several basic reasons these cases are publicized,” he writes in Newsweek. “The obvious ones are that the alleged terrorists are breaking the law, and even if they are inept they might succeed in hurting people. Another is to heighten public awareness that a terrorist threat continues. In many cases the NYPD chooses not to prosecute, preferring to disrupt plots and recruit new sources of intelligence. And the public revelation of a case like this also has a useful psychological message: if you are three or four guys conspiring to carry out terrorist acts in the New York area, one of you is likely to be an informant.”

    But The Nation’s Robert Dreyfuss takes it a step further and questions the plot itself, calling it ‘bogus.’

    “Despite the pompous statements from Mayor Bloomberg of New York and other politicians, including Representative Peter King, the whole story is bogus,” he argues. “The four losers may have been inclined to violence, and they may have harbored a virulent strain of anti-Semitism. But it seems that the informant whipped up their violent tendencies and their hatred of Jews, cooked up the plot, incited them, arranged their purchase of weapons, and then had them busted.”

    Zachary Roth agrees: “It’s not clear whether these men would have carried out any terror plot without encouragement and material support from an FBI informant,” he says on TPMMuckracker.

    Still, the real mistake in all of this was plotting against New York City, because it is most prepared to deal with such attacks, writes Bobby Ghosh in Time Magazine.

    “Because of New York’s superior resources, authorities were able to take more time months, as it turns out using intensive surveillance to map out the full details of the plot and to see if the plotters had connections to other domestic or international groups.”

    By on May 22, 2009, 3:37 pm
    In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety | 2 Comments »

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    Weekly Web Wrap
    May 22nd, 2009

  • MTA Analyses That Should But Wont Happen
    (Room Eight)
  • The MTAs Pension and Benefits Problems
    (Second Ave. Sags)
  • Highway Leverage
    (NY Fiscal Watch)
  • Richard Aborn for Manhattan District Attorney
    (The Nation)
  • Ninety Years of Racial Demographic Maps
    (Social Explorer via Digital Urban)
  • Fewer Airports Could Mean Less Air Congestion
    (Feakonomics via Planetizen)
  • More Area Hyperlocal News Sites Coming Soon
    (paidContent via NYConvergence)
  • A One-Time Cure for the Summertime Job Blues
    (IBO Weblog)
  • Senate Cities Committee Uses Markup Process
    (ReformNY)
  • By on May 22, 2009, 3:20 pm
    In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on Weekly Web Wrap

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    Breakfast With Espada
    May 21st, 2009

    Just got back to Albany after spending the day with Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. We discussed policy and controversy in between and during Espada’s many commitments in his district. The interview was arranged on Wednesday afternoon and began Thursday morning at Espada’s Bronx apartment while he enjoyed a bowl of cereal with lactose free milk.

    Yes, that Bronx apartment — the one Espada is accused of not really inhabiting, the focus of that whole residency investigation by the Bronx district attorney. The conversation continued while Espada hosted a forum on how minority-and women-owned businesses can benefit from stimulus money, a hearing on mayoral control of the schools at Bronx Community College and finally at the 731 White Plains Rd. Soundview Health Center, in between staff meetings and a discussion on how to promote the Bronx with a representative from Yes the Bronx.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on May 21, 2009, 10:23 pm
    In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany,Gotham City,Governing,Housing | 4 Comments »

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    PBS on New York Transportation
    May 21st, 2009

    As part of its series on infrastructure problems nationwide, PBS yesterday aired a documentary called “Road to the Future.” This program covers urban transportation, and its fourth part focused on New York City. The segment discusses Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan’s efforts at opening up the streets to more than cars, Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan, and the effects of Robert Moses on neighborhoods of color, particularly the South Bronx. As part of the Web feature, you can also read an analysis of the congestion pricing plan, view an extended interview with Sadik-Khan and read a post about federal stimulus funds and transportation projects in New York.

    By on May 21, 2009, 4:00 pm
    In category: Transportation | 2 Comments »

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    Charter School Students and Tests
    May 20th, 2009

    As charter schools receive enthusiastic backing from the Obama administration and the city relies increasingly on them, it has become an article of faith that the publicly funded, privately operated schools work. But an analysis by Vanessa Witenko for Inside Schools casts doubt on their much ballyhooed success.

    Earlier this month, the state released test scores showing impressive results for kids in charter schools, with 77 percent meeting standards compared with 69 percent of students in regular public schools, according to one account. But Witenko’s analysis raises questions about the validity of the comparison. She found that charter schools are less likely to enroll homeless students, English language learners and special education students than the city’s regular public schools.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on May 20, 2009, 3:28 pm
    In category: Education,Gotham City,Measuring UP | 3 Comments »

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    A Billion Dollar Deficit (Update)
    May 20th, 2009

    The Independent Budget Office released its executive budget analysis today and in it it found a looming $1.1 billion deficit.

    That’s because Much of the mayor’s proposal relies on legislative uncertainties floating in Albany, including a sales tax increase and the creation of a new pension tier, which both need approval from the State Legislature. (See update below)

    In response, Council Speaker Christine Quinn said this afternoon that she wouldn’t negotiate the budget in the press. But, rest assured, the gap would be closed (it has to be by law).

    “We are in budget negotiations, and we will have a balanced budget by the end of the fiscal year with a revenue package that is fair and appropriate,” said Council Speaker Christine Quinn. “I think it’s a little odd to count actions that haven’t happened when you know (they) will happen.”

    Quinn was also asked about proposed cuts to the city’s civilian police force, which could in turn affect the amount of officers assigned to the street beat. The police commissioner has said the department will have to assign uniformed officers to the posts that have been vacated by civilian officers. This year’s budget calls for the reduction of the civilian force by 989, including 345 layoffs.

    Quinn said these issues remain a concern to the council.

    Update: Doug Turetsky of the IBO just phoned in, and the IBO’s latest analysis does indeed factor in the mayor’s gap closing measures, including the sales tax, the labor concessions and a new pension tier. Turetsky said they project a larger budget gap because of lower revenues and higher expenses, mostly due to the implementation of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s payroll tax.

    By on May 20, 2009, 1:17 pm
    In category: Albany,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,nextNY,Public Finance,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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    A Lesson in School Contracts
    May 19th, 2009

    Ever since a management-consulting firm got a no-bid contract from the Department of Education and recommended changes in bus routes that resulted in children being stranded on the side of the road, critics have assailed the department’s procurement policies. Now, as the state legislature examines whether the current system of mayoral control of schools needs more checks and balances, critics of the department have some additional ammunition.

    An audit by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released today found that the department “needs to improve its procurement requirements … to ensure no-bid contracts are appropriately awarded.”

    The audit, requested by Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, found that, between July 2005 and June 2008, the department gave out 291 no-bid contracts for amounts of $100,000 or more, totaling $342.5 million — a small fraction of the department’s annual $17 billion plus budget. In making these awards, the department did not always document why the contract did not go out for competitive bidding, according to the state comptroller. Further the department violated procedures, for example, having a contract start before it was fully approved.

    “One non-competitive contract in the amount of $16.5 million for strategic, advisory and financial management services was approved on June 1, 2006 but was not advertised in the City Record until 25 days later, undermining the openness of the procurement process,” a statement by DiNapoli’s office said. This was the aforementioned management-consulting contract, with Alvarez & Marsal, an arrangement the department has staunchly defended.

    At a forum last week, schools Chancellor Joel Klein called the issue of no-bid contracts “an urban myth.” (For excerpts from that discussion and other viewpoints on school governance, see The Great School Debate.)
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on May 19, 2009, 12:02 pm
    In category: Albany,Education,Gotham City,Measuring UP,Public Finance | 3 Comments »

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    Bad Night For Smith
    May 18th, 2009

    Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith met with his fellow Democrats for two hours this evening to discuss mayoral control of schools. The results were mixed. Members who are opposed to renewing mayoral control, including the gang of four, left early. Smith told reporters that members are generally in agreement. It is likely that Smith will be able to put together consensus with the help of Republican Senators.

    Smith responded to questions from The Observer’s Jimmy Vielkind about Sen. Pedro Espada Jr.’s failure to file public documents disclosing his campaign finances. Last week Smith set a deadline for Espada to address his campaign filings and the fines he is facing.

    Smith declared on Friday that he was satisfied with Espada’s response. Smith told reporters this evening that Espada had met the three guidelines he set for him to take care of the issue. Vielkind asked why there had not been another requirement that Espada disclose his campaign funding for his 2008 campaign. Smith was not pleased.

    When Vielkind asked Espada for comment he responded “I satisfied all of Malcolm’s concerns, ha ha ha ha ha.” Seriously!

    By on May 18, 2009, 10:02 pm
    In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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    Teitelbaum Resigns
    May 18th, 2009

    Public Integrity Commissioner Herbert Teitelbaum has resigned. His departure comes days after Gov. David Paterson called for the resignations of all 12 members who sit on the commission. Earlier today Paterson issued a press release stating that he intends to introduce legislation that will create an all new ethics board. Liz Benjamin of The Daily Politics has Teitelbaum’s full resignation letter.

    By on May 18, 2009, 3:26 pm
    In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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    Paterson Proposes New Ethics Commission
    May 18th, 2009

    Last week Gov. David Paterson called on the 12 members of the Public Integrity Commission to resign. And, well, they didn’t. So, Paterson announced by press release today that he will introduce legislation later this week to create a new Government Ethics Commission. The new commissions purpose will be to oversee “State government, lobbying and campaign finance.” It is not yet clear how the new body will be constituted and whether the legislation will address the standing Ethics Commission.

    Paterson’s call for the commissioners resignations followed a blistering report from the Inspector General that found the executive director of the commission, Herbert Teitelbaum, leaked information about the Troopergate investigation to a member of then-governor Eliot Spitzer’s cabinet. Read the rest of this entry »

    By on May 18, 2009, 1:48 pm
    In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Paterson Proposes New Ethics Commission

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    Smith Endorses Gillibrand
    May 18th, 2009

    Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith issued a press release this morning announcing his support of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Smith’s endorsement follows the announcement that Rep. Steve Israel has decided not to challenge Gillibrand in a 2010 primary, at the request of President Barack Obama.

    Smith’s endorsement is handy for Gillibrand, as she has much work to do to strengthen her downstate support. After her appointment by Gov. David Paterson, Gillibrand quickly came under fire for her conservative views on gun control, immigration and gay marriage. Gillibrand has shifted her positions on many of these issues and spent a lot of time downstate, but has yet to see major results.

    Smith may be looking to score some points in his never-ending quest to secure support for his majority in upstate districts. Gillibrand is a popular figure upstate, and Smith’s support of her plays to the “one New York” he has been so strongly promoting since he became Majority Leader. Republicans have spent the year painting the Senate Democrats as New York liberals who are out of touch with upstate issues. Read the rest of this entry »

    By on May 18, 2009, 1:09 pm
    In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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    Campaign Filings Trickle In
    May 15th, 2009

    And Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s is likely to dust up the most interest.

    The mayor has already spent $18.67 million on his race for a third term — geared mostly towards the campaign commercials we will likely all see about a dozen times. As of the last filing deadline in March, the mayor had spent $2.92 million. This pace is faster than what we saw from the mayor in 2005, where he spent more than $75 million to win re-election.

    Some of the other mayoral candidates who have filed so far are Tony Avella, who has raised $248,270, and John Catsimatidis with $1.15 million. The non-candidate Rep. Anthony Weiner spent $131,350 in this last cycle. We are still waiting to hear from Thompson.

    For more on Thompson’s race, check out The Underdog.

    Comptroller numbers are all in, and it looks like Councilmember John Liu is leading in expenditures right now with $1.4 million. Councilmember Melinda Katz is not far behind with $1.1 million. Council members David Yassky and David Weprin have not breached $1 million yet, spending $435,408 and $726,865 respectively.

    Only Councilmember Bill de Blasio and civil rights attorney Norman Siegel have filed so far from the public advocate pool, with $1,058,952 and $232,160 raised respectively.

    Stay tuned for more updates later.

    By on May 15, 2009, 5:06 pm
    In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,nextNY,Public Finance | Comments Off on Campaign Filings Trickle In

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    Weekly Web Wrap
    May 15th, 2009

  • Bloomberg’s Misguided Shelter Rent Policy
    (Coalition for the Homeless Blog)
  • City has $300,000 to Look into Streetcars
    (The Transport Politic)
  • Meet the 1,400 Jobless Teachers Who Still Get Paid
    (The New Republic)
  • If Bloomberg Wants to Buy the Election, Let Him Really Pay for It
    (The Indypendent)
  • Times Considering Two Paid Web Options
    (Editor & Publisher)
  • Swine Flu Highlights Need for Paid Sick Days
    (Manhattan Borough President’s Blog)
  • Elliot Sander a Victim of Politics
    (Regional Plan Association)
  • The Saga of Khalil Gibran Academy
    (Rethinking Schools)
  • Williamsburg Waterfront Rezoning Four Years Old This Week
    (Brooklyn 11211 via Brownstoner)
  • The World’s Largest Refuse Heap: a Beacon of Sustainability
    (I (Heart) Public Space)
  • The 33rd District Council Forum
    (Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn)
  • School Spending ‘Restraint’ is All Relative
    (NY Fiscal Watch)
  • A Review of the City’s Plan for WiFi in Parks
    (NYCwireless)
  • By on May 15, 2009, 2:56 pm
    In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on Weekly Web Wrap

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