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Schneiderman Sues Over Fracking
May 31st, 2011

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman warned the federal government last month month that he would sue them if they did not oversee the proper regulation of fracking in the Delaware River basin. The federal government hasn’t acted and Schneiderman plans to file his suit later today.

The statement from Schneiderman’s office after the jump:
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By on May 31, 2011, 2:40 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Bloomberg, Bruno, DiNapoli Push Marriage Equality
May 26th, 2011

A number of prominent politicos have sent out strong messages today in favor of same-sex marriage. Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave gave a major speech on marriage equality at Cooper Union today. He was joined by his niece Rachel Tiven who is a lesbian. Bloomberg again called for Senate Republicans to bring a gay marriage bill to a vote. “It is my hope that members of the State Senate majority will recognize that supporting marriage equality is not only consistent with our civic principles it is consistent with conservative principles. Conservatives believe that government should not intrude into peoples personal lives and its just none of governments business who you love.

Former Republican Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno told Fred Dicker on his radio show this morning that he favors gay marriage despite having stood against it for years. “It really comes down in my mind to equal rights for everyone because there are certain benefits that accrue to people who are united in marriage. So yes I support it, I think the time has come and I think that people have a right for their own expression,” Bruno said.

Finally, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released a video with New Yorkers for Marriage Equality and stated his emphatic support for same-sex marriage.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 26, 2011, 3:16 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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CityTime Manager Fudges Timesheets
May 25th, 2011

In an impromptu press conference, Comptroller John Liu revealed even the project manager of the Bloomberg administration’s plagued time keeping project couldn’t keep his own time.

According to a letter Liu received today, Science Application International Corp., the prime contractor on the project, put Gerard Denault on administrative leave in December after the project manager fudged his own time sheets. As a result, the company will refund the city $2.5 million.

“The very company entrusted by our city to build a time keeping system for New York City employees has grossly mismanaged their own time keeping and in the process overcharged the city taxpayers for sums of money still to be determined,” Liu said. “This is a sad day for New York City taxpayers.”

Liu said today he would ask the adminsitration to work with him on this issue. He also called for the administration to freeze all payments to SAIC and force the Department of Investigation to conduct a comprehensive review of other possible violations.

In response, Bloomberg spokesperson Marc LaVorgna sent over the following statement:

We will withhold any and all payments until the completion of the Department of Investigations ongoing review, which includes a forensic accountant we added last year. The project is essentially fully online and operational and SAICs contract with the city expires on June 30th. We already had stated we were not renewing the contract. SAIC is owed $32 million for the completion of the project; no payments will be made until the review is completed.

CityTime has been the bane of Bloomberg’s third term. Mired by delay and cost overruns, the debacle culminated in December when federal authorities indicted six employees for using shell companies to divert city money into their own pockets. Originally the project was supposed to cost about $60 million. Its price tag now is more than $700 million.

By on May 25, 2011, 5:41 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 4 Comments »

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Walcott Fires Back
May 18th, 2011

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott sharply criticized the United Federation of Teachers and the NAACP for their latest effort to block city school shut-downs, calling it “unacceptable.

Earlier today the union, the civil rights group and other individuals and groups announced they had filed suit to block the Department of Education’s plan to close or phase out 22 schools it considers to be failing. (See below.)

Walcott charged that, y trying to block the closures, along with18 so-called co-locations of charter schools and traditional public schools, the suit was “trying to perpetuate once again the status quo” that harms students and protect adults.”

He expressed particular irritation that the UFT et al had gone to court so late in the year when most eighth graders have already selected high schools for next years and some — he did not say how many — had opted for the new schools slated to go into space now occupied by the schools facing closure .

“This lawsuit will hold hostage these individuals,” he said indicating there would be a ripple effect throughout the system.

Last year the groups filed their successful suit against the school closing on Feb. 1. Since that time, the city has introduced new procedures for school closings, holding public hearings and releasing information to comply with state education law. The union and the NAACP, though, argue it is still in violation of the law and its own agreements.

By on May 18, 2011, 4:34 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City,Law | 1 Comment »

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Back to Court on School Closings
May 18th, 2011

A year after they successfully sued to stop school closings, the United Federation of Teachers and the NAACP have returned to court to try to stop the latest round of school phase outs and shut-downs. This year’s action also seeks to halt 18 so-called co-locations of charter schools with traditional public school buildings in Department of Education buildings.

In the action, the UFT and the NAACP, joined by individuals and community groups, charge that the city ignored agreements it had reached last year to help the school its was then trying to close. Fifteen of the schools named in today’s legal action had won a temporary reprieve from last year’s suit. The city announced in December it would try again to close them. Four schools cited last year, though, are not longer slated for shutdown.

In addition, the plaintiffs charge the city did not seek approval from the state education commissioner for the closing, something the suit says it must do.

On the co-locations, the suit charges the plans give students in charter school better access to school facilities than those of the traditional public schools with which it shares space. For example the suit alleges, the department’s plan for the PS114 building would allow PS114 students to use of the gym for three and a half hours every day, while Explore Charter School, with far fewer students, would get the space for almost three hours. The charter students also would have use of the playground for more time.

Following last year’s suit, the Department of Education implemented new procedures for school closings and co-locations, including more public hearings and distributing additional information on the proposed closing or collocation. Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the city has shut more than 90 school and opened 335 schools, many small, both conventional schools and charters.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott is scheduled to respond to the suit later today.

By on May 18, 2011, 2:08 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City,Law | 2 Comments »

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Bloomberg Wants a Vote on Same-Sex Marriage *Update*
May 17th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo may not want to bring same-sex marriage legislation to the floor if it has any chance of failing but Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he thinks a vote is the only appropriate way to judge support of the bill. Bloomberg was in Albany today with Council Speaker Christine Quinn to lobby Republican senators on same-sex marriage legislation and he had this to say on the matter:

I think the public has a right to know where their legislator stands and the only place where you can really find that out is when they have to register that vote publicly.”

Cuomo told reporters last week that he has no interest in seeing marriage legislation fail again:

The discussions that Ive had with the collective group that is working on this in a unified way is we want to pass a bill. we dont want to bring a bill up in the Senate that will fail, right? We dont want to have an instant replay of last year. Its not about having a vote for a sake of a vote. Its about if its going to pass. and the conversations were having now will education as to whether well bring the bill to a vote.

*Update* Bloomberg reportedly stormed out of a meeting with senate Republicans this afternoon looking very unhappy.

By on May 17, 2011, 4:15 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Gas Industry Seems Confident
May 17th, 2011

The natural gas industry is sending out signals that it is confident that they will soon be able to use the controversial process of hydrofracking to unlock valuable natural gas stored in the shale formations of Western New York.

The Star Gazette of Elmira New York is reporting that Miller Environmental Group Inc. announced it will open a location in Elmira to serve western New York and Pennsylvania’s northern tier. According to the article the company will “offer turn-key services for drilling mud, fracturing fluids disposal, decontamination of PCBs from gas pipelines, emergency spill response and site remediation, vacuum truck and trailer transporting services, frac tank rentals, light towers, generators, and pump rentals and more.”

George Wallace, the company’s vice president, told the Star Gazette that their expansion is a sign of, “existing customer demand that has driven this terrific organic growth.”

Existing business may be very good in Pennsylvania but opening a location in New York indicates that perhaps the gas industry is confident that the Department of Environmental Conservation will soon be issuing drilling permits again for hydrofracking. Gov. David Paterson issued a moratorium on the controversial process that expires on July 3 of this year. At that time the DEC will issue a new environmental impact statement and open it up for public comment.

Supporters of the process say that hydrofracking will be a financial windfall for the state and residents of the area where the gas is being unearthed. Environmental groups opposed to it say that the process, that uses a mixture of chemicals, sand and water to unearth the gas, could be harmful to the environment, contaminate water supplies and therefore needs more scientific study.

By on May 17, 2011, 4:03 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Gas Industry Seems Confident

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Silver to Cuomo: The Assembly Has Already Acted on Rent Regs
May 17th, 2011

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver issued a statement in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s video message about renewing and strengthening the city’s rent regulations. Silver points out that the Assembly already passed a rent regulation renewal bill last month while the Senate has yet to act. It seems Silver is not happy with being lumped into the legislature that needs pressuring in Cuomo’s video. Meanwhile, tenant advocates say Cuomo has to do more to force the Senate to act.

Here is Silver’s statement:

“The Assembly has made strengthening New York’s rent laws a priority and passed a comprehensive bill last month. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans have instead focused on giveaways to landlords and policies to undercut rent protections, which would have devastating consequences for middle and low income New Yorkers who will be squeezed out of their neighborhoods and communities. The clock is ticking New York’s rent laws are set to expire on June 15 and families are counting on the state legislature. Working with Governor Cuomo, we are confident that we can provide hard working families with the protections they deserve. That is why we are pleased that Governor Cuomo is providing strong leadership to renew and strengthen our rent laws. Our goal first and always should be to ensure that working families, children and senior citizens can afford to remain in their homes and in their communities.”

By on May 17, 2011, 2:27 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Housing | Comments Off on Silver to Cuomo: The Assembly Has Already Acted on Rent Regs

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Cuomo Doesn't Get Specific in Rent Regulation Message *Update
May 17th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a video message on rent regulation today and although he states firmly that he supports “strengthening” the rent laws, it isn’t clear exactly what policy action he wants. Cuomo has said for months that he wants to strengthen rent laws without telling legislators specifically how he would prefer to see them strengthened.

“In New York, more than 1 million people are protected by New Yorks rent regulation program. However, this program is set to expire June 15, less than 5 weeks from now. That would be a crisis for our state. In fact, what we need to extend and strengthen our rent regulation laws, and we need to do it now.”

Senate Republicans seem in no rush to renew rent laws. They are busy debating bills about Christmas trees in mid May.

Tenant advocates are relying on Cuomo’s leadership to force the issue through the Republican controlled Senate where it seems the majority would rather weaken the rent laws than simply renew them. Advocates would like Cuomo to get specific.

“Its good that he is out there talking about loss of units but there is no substitute for total repeal of vacancy deregulation and he hasnt quite said that he supports that,” said Michael McKee treasurer of Tenants PAC. “Only one person can change the script here and that is Andrew Cuomo. There is no way forward in the Senate without him.”

Tenant advocates will be hitting Albany on Tuesday of next week to get their message across. They also plan a moving tent city from Brooklyn to Albany in June.

Here is the text from Cuomo’s statement: Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 17, 2011, 11:41 am
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Cuomo Doesn't Get Specific in Rent Regulation Message *Update

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Christmas Tree Debate In Senate. Seriously.
May 16th, 2011

The Senate, with only weeks left to deal with ethics reform, redistricting reform, same-sex marriage, rent law renewal and a slew of other heated issues decided to take a detour. They decided to debate the display of “fresh-cut evergreens” in public buildings. No I am not kidding.

Although the Empire State Plaza remained closed this winter–the ice skating rink shuttered, and make shift gates around the entrances because the state couldn’t afford to staff the area–the Republican controlled Senate decided it was important to introduce a bill that would allow the display of Christmas trees in public offices and government buildings.

Sen. Liz Krueger said she was concerned about the safety of displaying trees with lights on them. Sen. John DeFrancisco argued that Krueger was only concerned because of the connotations of evergreen trees displayed during the holidays. Krueger denied this

Sen. Daniel Squadron asks if DeFrancisco would support bill if it only allowed Christmas trees. DeFrancisco responded that Squadron’s question was, “the most asinine,” question he ever received during his time in the legislature.

Sen. Neil Breslin rose to ask for “decorum.” In other words he was scolding DeFrancisco for getting nasty.

Squadron countered by bringing up the fact that the memo circulated with the legislation referred to the the display of “Christmas trees” and was not put forward as a non-secular way to celebrate holidays.

Finally the bills sponsor–Sen. Michael Nozzolio rose to state that the Supreme Court allows for the display of Christmas trees during the holidays in public buildings.

The bill passed with Sens. Liz Krueger, Carl Krueger and Daniel Squadron as the only no votes.

By on May 16, 2011, 4:39 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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New State Education Commissioner Named
May 16th, 2011

As had been widely expected, the state Board of Regents has named state Deputy Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. as education commissioner.

King, 36, is a native of Brooklyn who holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard, a law degree from Yale and a doctorate in education from Columbia. He has deep ties to the charter school movement — having cofounded a charter middle school in Boston and helped start Uncommon Schools, which now has 24 charters.

In a press release, the regents credited King for coordinating New York’s successful bid for federal race to the Top Funds. He also has been involved in the state’s effort to make its testing program more rigorous.

In addition to his professional resume, King has a compelling personal story. His parents were both educators. His mother, though, died when he was in fourth grade at P.S. 276 in Brooklyn. His father was already showing sign of Alzheimer’s disease and died a few years later when King was 12. He attended the elite Phillips Andover Academy but broke some of the school’s rules, resulting in his expulsion in 11th grade. He then went to live with an aunt and uncle in New Jersey where he completed high school.

In a statement released earlier today, King said, “My life story is about the power of schools to shape lives, even against great odds. … I know that all of our schools can be places that ensure our children succeed.”

King, whose father was African American and mother Puerto Rican, will be the first person from either group to serve as run the state Department of Education. At his request the salary for the post was reduced from $2550,000 to $212,500 because of the state’s fiscal problems.

King will replace David Steiner who unexpectedly announced his intention to resign earlier this spring.

By on May 16, 2011, 1:28 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany | 5 Comments »

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Schools Get a 'Restart'
May 13th, 2011

In a possible effort to explore alternatives to simply shutting down schools it considers to be failing, the Department of Education has announced that it has designated 22 struggling schools as “restart.” The schools are on the state’s list of persistently lowest achieving schools

Each school will be eligible for — though not guaranteed — up to $2 million a year for three years in federal funding. It will work with an as-yet-to-be-named nonprofit to turn the school around. Under federal rules, that could be a charter operator oran education management organization. Although some of the schools had been viewed for possible closure in the past, all will remain open and accept students next year for fall 2012.

The Obama administration has four models for troubled schools: Turnaround, Restart, Transformation and Closure. Turnaround and Transformation required the city to reach agreement with the United Federation of Teachers on measures that could have included a longer school day and getting rid of half the school’s staff. Once those talks broke down, the city was left with a choice of Restart and Closure.

The 22 schools include middle and high schols and feature a number of the large ocprehensive high schools sumialr to those the city has shut down over the past several years. Among those are Washington Irving in Manhattan, Grover Cleveland in Queens, Herbert Lehman in the Bronx, and John Dewey and Boys and Girl in Brooklyn.

Nine other schools on the list will neither be closed nor slated for restart. Despite that, the department said, these schools could stil work to implement an improvement plan.

List of schools after the jump.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 13, 2011, 4:14 pm
In category: Education | 3 Comments »

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Cuomo Bares His Teeth Over Homeland Security Funding
May 13th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid attacking plans to slash homeland security funding. House Republicans want to cut the grant for security from $2.2 billion this year to $1 billion next year. Cuomo told the leaders in his letter that with the federal government is warning of retaliatory terrorist attacks for the killing of Osama Bin Laden it might not really be the best time to slash security funding.

“At a time when the federal government is warning that we may see retaliatory attacks for the death of Osama Bin Laden, congressionally proposed cuts to state and local homeland security grants for the FY2012 federal budget would undermine the very initiatives that have been put in place to protect our nation and people from the persistent and evolving threat of terrorism.”

Cuomo goes on to invoke the recent arrests of suspects who were allegedly plotting attacks on synagogues and the Empire State Building.

“Thursday’s arrest by the NYPD of two suspects who were targeting multiple synagogues and the Empire State Building demonstrate that the death of Bin Laden does not mean the threat of terrorism has abated,” Cuomo writes. “With the 10th anniversary of September 11th and the opening of World Trade Center Memorial only months away, this plot was simultaneously the latest success story and sober reminder that our city and state remains in the crosshairs of those who use bombs and bullets to make their points. Osama Bin Laden himself cited the 10th anniversary as a date his followers should target for attack. Now is not the time for the federal government to step back from the partnership with state and local governments in defense of our nation.”

Here is the full letter:

Dear Speaker Boehner and Leader Reid,

At a time when the federal government is warning that we may see retaliatory attacks for the death of Osama Bin Laden, congressionally proposed cuts to state and local homeland security grants for the FY2012 federal budget would undermine the very initiatives that have been put in place to protect our nation and people from the persistent and evolving threat of terrorism.

Since September 11th, New York State has been the target of thirteen terrorist plots. Most were thwarted through the collaborative investigative prowess among local, state and federal law enforcement officials, as well as citizens who reported suspicious activity. Some plots, including Faisal Shazad’s attempted bombing of Times Square and the crowded Theatre District, failed. Under all scenarios, federal support to the state and local officials who are literally on the front lines of the war of terrorism being waged against us is essential. The capability to prevent, protect against, respond to and recover from a terrorist attack requires the full participation of all levels of government. That is exactly what the funding made available through the State Homeland Security Program (SHSP) and Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grants has as its goal.

Thursday’s arrest by the NYPD of two suspects who were targeting multiple synagogues and the Empire State Building demonstrate that the death of Bin Laden does not mean the threat of terrorism has abated. With the 10th anniversary of September 11th and the opening of World Trade Center Memorial only months away, this plot was simultaneously the latest success story and sober reminder that our city and state remains in the crosshairs of those who use bombs and bullets to make their points. Osama Bin Laden himself cited the 10th anniversary as a date his followers should target for attack. Now is not the time for the federal government to step back from the partnership with state and local governments in defense of our nation.

Your leadership is needed to prevent these harmful cuts and to ensure that our nation does not degrade its abilities to meet the threat of terrorism.

By on May 13, 2011, 1:55 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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More Scrutiny for Education Contracts
May 13th, 2011

Highly paid consultants are like fat-cat lawyers. No one claims to like them but they keep getting work — and lots of it.

So, not surprisingly, consultant contracts have become a battleground in the fight over whether New York City should lay off thousands of teachers. Opponents say the consultants should get the ax instead. The department defends their contracts — and keeps writing checks.

Today Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer tweeted about and released a copy of a letter he wrote schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and city Office of Management and Budget director Mark Page challenging the department’s spending on consultants.

Charging that Page had been unable to supply adequate figures, Stinger said he crunched the numbers in the executive budget and “was appalled” to learn the education department plans to increase spending on consultants by $54.4 billion so that it will top $982 million next fiscal. Exact numbers for the cost of averting the layoffs vary but Stringer cites $350 million in his letter.

The department rejected Stringer’s depiction of these contract as “a black hole,” saying many fund required services, such as transportation and help for students with disabilities.

“The borough president either fails to recognize an important fact about these consultant costs or he is intentionally misleading people,” Chancellor Dennis Walcott told the Daily News. “The truth is that over $840 million of the $981 million he cites are dedicated to direct services for our students with the vast majority going toward our students with disabilities which are services that are required under the law.”

In his letter Stringer requests further information on contracts for central computer services, student transportation and teacher recruitment.

Most of these concerns are nothing new, though the impending layoffs certainly give them more weight — and increased political oomph.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 13, 2011, 12:55 pm
In category: City Hall,Education,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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Teacher Layoffs? REALLY?
May 12th, 2011

In a well-coordinated rally and march from City Hall to the financial district, hundreds of teachers protested Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to lay off thousands of teachers. A number of City Council members and possible 2012 mayoral candidate also attended the event

The speakers, the placards and the chant all sounded themes that no doubt will become increasingly familiar to New Yorkers in the weeks between now and July 1, when the city must approve its budget for fiscal year 2012: The cuts are not necessary, the rich need to pay more in taxes, and children should not bear the burnt of the city’s fiscal woes. That assumes, of course — an not everyone does — that the city has real fiscal woes.

“New York is not Wisconsin but we have to fight like it is,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “We have a $3.2 billion surplus. There should not even be a discussion about cuts.”

Rev. A; Sharpton agreed, telling the crowd, “If we’ve got a surplus, why are we laying off teachers?”

(The mayor, of course, disputes this saying he is using what other consider a surplus to pay down the deficit confronting the city for 2013.)

The crowd then moved down Broadway to press it demand that the wealthy needed to pay more. “We want our money back,” they chanted, along with “Who are we? UFT.”

Despite the seriousness of their message the crowd was largely good-natured, a sentiment reflected in the black UFT tee-shirts many wore. With a bow to Seth Meyers and Amy Pohler, it read”

The education mayor?

REALLY?

By on May 12, 2011, 10:46 pm
In category: City Hall,Education,Gotham City,Work and Labor | 1 Comment »

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Living Wage Gets Its Hearing
May 12th, 2011

Labor and city leadership collided this afternoon at a packed and feisty hearing on legislation to require city subsidized developers pay a living wage.

Under a bill introduced nearly a year ago, recipients of more than $100,000 in financial assistance would have to pay all of their employees either $11.50 or $10 an hour plus benefits. The controversial bill has garnered 30 sponsors at the council, but it does not have the Bloomberg administration’s support. Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who controls the council’s agenda, has yet to take a position on the measure.

At today’s hearing, the chief of staff to the deputy mayor for economic development, Tokumbo Shobowale, endured two and half hours of back and forth with council members — the vast majority of those in attendance support the proposal. Shobowale attempted to convince the council that the adminsitration agrees with the premise of raising the standard of living for the working poor. It questions, Shobowale argued, whether a wage mandate is the way to do it.

“It’s not a philosophical difference,” Shobowale said. “It’s looking at the data.”

The hearing followed the release of a study on Monday by the Economic Development Corp., which argued the living wage proposal would result in between 33,000 and 100,000 job losses for the city. The study’s methodology and findings drew ire from supporters of the bill today.

“The administration is so full of it, you might want to consider a high-fiber diet,” said Councilmember Jumaane Williams. “It might help with that situation.”

The hearing amounted to a clash of academics and methodology — with supporters citing studies that supported living wage mandates, and the adminsitration calling its recently released analysis solid, current and comprehensive.

Just this morning, supporters of the bill released a counter analysis of the city’s living wage study, which argued its modeling did not rule out other factors that could affect job growth (like an economic downturn). Supporters also claim the city-sponsored study examines the wrong population of projects — it includes an as-of-right subsidy for industrial and commercial properties the bill is not meant to capture.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 12, 2011, 6:37 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 6 Comments »

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School Elections to Resume
May 12th, 2011

The incredibly attenuated, disrupted and confusing elections for the virtually powerless Citywide And Community Education Councils continue. The Department of Education has just announced the voting period for parents will be May 18 to May 25.

In the announcement, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said any votes cast from May 1 to May 7 –when the election came to a halt — will not be valid.

The parents vote is only advisory. Officials of school parents associations can consider those recommendation when they cast their votes — the ones that count — for members of 32 community education Councils, the Citywide Council on High Schools, the Citywide Council on English Language Learners, the Citywide Council on Special Education and the District 75 Council. That round will take place May 27 to June 3, and the new members will be seated by July 1.

By on May 12, 2011, 4:38 pm
In category: Education,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing | Comments Off on School Elections to Resume

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Protesting Cuts to Child Care
May 11th, 2011

Alshawn Rushing wrote this post.

Thousands of daycare workers, parents and children rallied near City Hall today to protest the mayor’s proposed cuts to childcare and education in the city budget.

“New York City’s child care programs are part of the solution — affordable professional child care enables women to work, without it many would not have that option,” said Lee Saunders, secretary-treasurer of the Association of State, County and Municipal Employees. “We need politicians to make a choice we can be proud of and not take the path of least resistance, balancing the budgets on the backs of children and women.”

The protest comes days after Mayor Michael Bloomberg released his executive budget, which called for layoffs of thousands of teachers and an array of other cuts. The administration also announced that Bloomberg had decided to save 16,000 of the childcare slots that were originally slated to be eliminated. According to protestors and their political allies, though, the budget only restores $40 million of the original $90 million that has been cut. AFSCME maintains that only 9,000 of the original slots slated to be cut has been restored.

Child care is an essential job support for low income families, said AFSCME Council 1707 Executive Director Raglan George. “As goes childcare so goes the neighborhood. We are beginning to see some economic recovery; it is not time to limit essential services.”
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 11, 2011, 4:40 pm
In category: City Hall,Education,Gotham City,Public Finance,Social Services | 5 Comments »

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Lessons from Chancellor Klein
May 11th, 2011

Aside from its paean to charter school executive Eva Moskowitz (see above), former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein’s opus in The Atlantic, offers an interesting collection of recommendations to improves education — more charters, more accountability for teachers — and an attack on some of his familiar btes noires, notably the teachers union and the politicians who grovel before it. The piece offers little to no self-criticism; if things in New York City schools faltered during his stewardship, don’t blame Klein.

While Klein boasts of a rise in high school graduation rates under his watch, he does not mention the scores of city students on standardized tests. Until 2010 (or to put it another way, until after Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s final –we assume — election campaign), Klein and Bloomberg cited rising test scores as proof that their education policies worked. Then the state recalibrated the results — and it turned up the scores did not demonstrate rising achievement after all. Tests had simply gotten easier.

As far as we can see he also does not append much times on the so-called achievement gaps between races. Sharply reducing that gap was a key goal of Bloomberg/Klein education policies. To the disappointment of all New Yorkers, they did not accomplish that. In fact in some areas, such as admissions to elite high schools, the divide has gotten worse.

While promoting himself, Klein most emphatically does not promote the very schools he ran and, in some instances, even created. Instead he boasts of opening charter school in high-poverty communities and letting families chose between the charters and a traditional public school. Confronted with that option, he said, almost all the families chose the charter.

In other words, thousands of families rejected the schools run by Klein and Bloomberg. Klein sees this as a victory and boasts, “The monopolists are beginning to feel the effects of competition.”

Well yes, probably. I realize this analogy is flawed, but to use the business model Klein and Bloomberg often embrace, can you imagine the president of Coke boasting that everyone prefers Pepsi? What would George Steinbrenner have said if all New Yorkers opted to follow the Mets instead of the Yankees?

By on May 11, 2011, 3:52 pm
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Koppell Would Consider Motion to Discharge for Living Wage
May 11th, 2011

Councilmember Oliver Koppell told Gotham Gazette today he would consider triggering a rare council rule to bring his living wage bill to the floor should Council Speaker Christine Quinn choose to oppose it.

“I would consider it, yes,” said Koppell at the Emigrant Savings Bank. “I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that. I’m hoping to convince the speaker to support this or some version of this.”

Typically legislation does not move at the City Council unless it has earned the support of the speaker. Quinn refused to say this afternoon whether she would bring the legislation to the floor or when she would decide whether or not to support it.

The bill, which has strong backing from many of the city’s unions, would require city subsidized developers pay a living wage. The Bloomberg adminsitration does not support the measure. On Monday, the city Economic Development Corp. released a study claiming a wage mandate would stall development and reduce jobs in the five boroughs.

Koppell said today, “The assumptions of the mayor are more than questionable.”

Koppell’s bill has been stalled in committee for nearly a year, despite the fact it has garnered 30 sponsors.

At the beginning of Quinn’s tenure — and in the name of transparency — Quinn revised the council rules to make it easier to bring a bill to the floor if it was stalled in committee. A council member must get seven members to sign a memo to bring the bill to the floor. The full council then determines whether the legislation should have a formal vote.

This procedure is rarely ever used and is considered an affront to the speaker’s leadership.

By on May 11, 2011, 3:51 pm
In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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