CITY Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/city 2019-01-24T12:58:50+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Ron Kim 2019-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8222-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-ron-kim Ben Max bmax@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 23, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Ron Kim<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/ron-kim-wbai-200px.jpg" alt="ron kim wbai 200px" width="150" height="153" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Assemblymember Ron Kim, a Queens Democrat, is running for Public Advocate in the special election set for February 26. He joined the show to discuss his resume and his candidacy, which is staked on a "people over corporations" platform that is critical of the deal to bring Amazon to Queens and centered on a plan to try to eliminate the student debt that New Yorkers hold. Kim promises a drastic shift in focus for the office, away from even its City Charter-mandated responsibilities, he said.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/563630514&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 23, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Ron Kim<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/ron-kim-wbai-200px.jpg" alt="ron kim wbai 200px" width="150" height="153" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Assemblymember Ron Kim, a Queens Democrat, is running for Public Advocate in the special election set for February 26. He joined the show to discuss his resume and his candidacy, which is staked on a "people over corporations" platform that is critical of the deal to bring Amazon to Queens and centered on a plan to try to eliminate the student debt that New Yorkers hold. Kim promises a drastic shift in focus for the office, away from even its City Charter-mandated responsibilities, he said.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/563630514&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Nomiki Konst 2019-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8223-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-nomiki-konst Ben Max bmax@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 23, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Nomiki Konst<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/nomiki-konst-200.jpg" alt="nomiki konst 200" width="150" height="171" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Nomiki Konst is a journalist and activist who was a Bernie Sanders delegate in 2016 and then a member of a commission to reform the Democratic National Committee, and now she is a candidate for New York City Public Advocate in the special election set for February 26. Konst joined the show to discuss her background and her platform, which includes a focus on holding city government accountable and fighting inequality - including by calling for a $30 per hour minimum wage for as many workers as the city can control without legislation. She's a critic of the deal to bring Amazon to Queens and of how the real estate industry's outsized role in New York politics.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/563632410&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 23, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Nomiki Konst<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/nomiki-konst-200.jpg" alt="nomiki konst 200" width="150" height="171" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Nomiki Konst is a journalist and activist who was a Bernie Sanders delegate in 2016 and then a member of a commission to reform the Democratic National Committee, and now she is a candidate for New York City Public Advocate in the special election set for February 26. Konst joined the show to discuss her background and her platform, which includes a focus on holding city government accountable and fighting inequality - including by calling for a $30 per hour minimum wage for as many workers as the city can control without legislation. She's a critic of the deal to bring Amazon to Queens and of how the real estate industry's outsized role in New York politics.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/563632410&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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City Council Set to Pass Legislation Authorizing Legal Defense Funds 2019-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8224-city-council-set-to-pass-legislation-authorizing-legal-defense-funds Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/mayorcouncilfisacl.jpg" alt="mayorcouncilfisacl" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(Photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p>A bill that would allow elected officials to set up trusts to raise money from private sources to cover legal fees is set to be approved by the New York City Council on Thursday.</p> <p>The <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3823152&amp;GUID=665DDDF9-0F16-445F-857A-70A6A5BD5068&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">legislation</a>, sponsored by City Council Member Stephen Levin, would allow city officials to raise as much as $5,000 from individual donors through trusts, to pay for legal fees arising from criminal or civil investigations that are unrelated to their governmental duties, such as those involving campaign activity (legal fees related to government duties can be covered by public funds).</p> <p>The trusts would have to file detailed quarterly reports on fundraising and spending with the city Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB), and would be prohibited from taking donations from lobbyists, corporations, LLCs, and people doing business with the city. The reports will be posted publicly online.</p> <p>Levin’s bill is meant to fill a gap in the city’s legal framework that allows elected officials to use taxpayer funds to cover their defense in investigations arising from their official duties, but not in the case of non-governmental activity. Mayor Bill de Blasio found that out the hard way after facing dual state and federal probes into his fundraising activities through outside nonprofit groups and, in one, related government actions, which eventually led to no charges being filed but left the mayor with hefty legal fees running into the hundreds of thousands, even after he reversed course to utilize public funds to cover the bulk of over $2 million in fees related to the federal inquiry of whether he directed government favors based on campaign donations.</p> <p>The mayor initially sought to use a legal defense fund to cover the costs but the COIB issued an advisory opinion limiting any donations to a mere $50, viewing them as gifts to an elected official which are severely limited by law. The mayor then used public funds to pay for the costs related to his government duties -- about $2.6 million -- but said he could not cover a separate bill that related to his non-governmental activity. De Blasio is not the only elected official who has had significant legal bills to deal with related to their official or non-governmental activity, he and others have pointed out.</p> <p>The legislation is scheduled for a vote at a hearing of the City Council’s Governmental Operations Committee on Thursday morning, in what seems to be a rushed vote -- the bill was introduced on January 9 and the committee held an initial hearing on it last Monday, at which several questions were raised by COIB representatives and Council members. Spokespeople for Levin and for Council Speaker Corey Johnson said the bill is expected to pass through the committee and to be approved at a meeting of the full Council in the afternoon. It is very rare for any legislation at the City Council to move so quickly from introduction to passage.</p> <p>The government reform community is split in its opinion on the legislation. Groups like Common Cause New York and Reinvent Albany have supported the effort to create a framework around legal defense funds, while another reform group, Citizens Union, disagrees with the very concept. In a letter of opposition sent to the Council on Wednesday, Citizens Union argued that the bill “creates the risk or appearance of corruption and undue influence, and will necessitate a complex regulatory scheme to mitigate.” The group urged the Council to, at minimum, tweak the legislation to bring donation limits in line with the lower limits that apply to campaign contributions.</p> <p>The Campaign Finance Board, which monitors campaign fundraising and expenditure in municipal elections, also raised concerns about the bill. Executive Director Amy Loprest noted in her testimony before the governmental operations committee on January 14 that the legislation seems to allow officials to use trusts to pay for fines incurred from campaign finance violations. Officials can already cover those costs from their campaign accounts, which are subject to stricter fundraising limits.</p> <p>“By providing certain candidates, i.e. those who are elected officials or public servants, with an additional vehicle to raise funds, Int. No. 1325 creates a path for those candidates to solicit and accept contributions from individuals that aggregate well over the existing contribution limits,” Loprest said in her testimony, urging that the bill be amended. “A clear majority of voters in last November’s Charter referendum voted to reduce these limits by more than half, with reducing the risk of corruption as the main rationale.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/mayorcouncilfisacl.jpg" alt="mayorcouncilfisacl" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(Photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p>A bill that would allow elected officials to set up trusts to raise money from private sources to cover legal fees is set to be approved by the New York City Council on Thursday.</p> <p>The <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3823152&amp;GUID=665DDDF9-0F16-445F-857A-70A6A5BD5068&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">legislation</a>, sponsored by City Council Member Stephen Levin, would allow city officials to raise as much as $5,000 from individual donors through trusts, to pay for legal fees arising from criminal or civil investigations that are unrelated to their governmental duties, such as those involving campaign activity (legal fees related to government duties can be covered by public funds).</p> <p>The trusts would have to file detailed quarterly reports on fundraising and spending with the city Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB), and would be prohibited from taking donations from lobbyists, corporations, LLCs, and people doing business with the city. The reports will be posted publicly online.</p> <p>Levin’s bill is meant to fill a gap in the city’s legal framework that allows elected officials to use taxpayer funds to cover their defense in investigations arising from their official duties, but not in the case of non-governmental activity. Mayor Bill de Blasio found that out the hard way after facing dual state and federal probes into his fundraising activities through outside nonprofit groups and, in one, related government actions, which eventually led to no charges being filed but left the mayor with hefty legal fees running into the hundreds of thousands, even after he reversed course to utilize public funds to cover the bulk of over $2 million in fees related to the federal inquiry of whether he directed government favors based on campaign donations.</p> <p>The mayor initially sought to use a legal defense fund to cover the costs but the COIB issued an advisory opinion limiting any donations to a mere $50, viewing them as gifts to an elected official which are severely limited by law. The mayor then used public funds to pay for the costs related to his government duties -- about $2.6 million -- but said he could not cover a separate bill that related to his non-governmental activity. De Blasio is not the only elected official who has had significant legal bills to deal with related to their official or non-governmental activity, he and others have pointed out.</p> <p>The legislation is scheduled for a vote at a hearing of the City Council’s Governmental Operations Committee on Thursday morning, in what seems to be a rushed vote -- the bill was introduced on January 9 and the committee held an initial hearing on it last Monday, at which several questions were raised by COIB representatives and Council members. Spokespeople for Levin and for Council Speaker Corey Johnson said the bill is expected to pass through the committee and to be approved at a meeting of the full Council in the afternoon. It is very rare for any legislation at the City Council to move so quickly from introduction to passage.</p> <p>The government reform community is split in its opinion on the legislation. Groups like Common Cause New York and Reinvent Albany have supported the effort to create a framework around legal defense funds, while another reform group, Citizens Union, disagrees with the very concept. In a letter of opposition sent to the Council on Wednesday, Citizens Union argued that the bill “creates the risk or appearance of corruption and undue influence, and will necessitate a complex regulatory scheme to mitigate.” The group urged the Council to, at minimum, tweak the legislation to bring donation limits in line with the lower limits that apply to campaign contributions.</p> <p>The Campaign Finance Board, which monitors campaign fundraising and expenditure in municipal elections, also raised concerns about the bill. Executive Director Amy Loprest noted in her testimony before the governmental operations committee on January 14 that the legislation seems to allow officials to use trusts to pay for fines incurred from campaign finance violations. Officials can already cover those costs from their campaign accounts, which are subject to stricter fundraising limits.</p> <p>“By providing certain candidates, i.e. those who are elected officials or public servants, with an additional vehicle to raise funds, Int. No. 1325 creates a path for those candidates to solicit and accept contributions from individuals that aggregate well over the existing contribution limits,” Loprest said in her testimony, urging that the bill be amended. “A clear majority of voters in last November’s Charter referendum voted to reduce these limits by more than half, with reducing the risk of corruption as the main rationale.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Public Advocate Special Election Field Narrows Slightly, with Ballot Challenge Decisions Looming 2019-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8227-public-advocate-special-election-field-narrows-slightly-with-ballot-challenge-decisions-looming Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/poll_site_empty.jpg" alt="poll site empty" width="600" height="311" /></p> <p>(photo: Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>Nearly two dozen candidates <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8201-23-candidates-submit-petitions-to-get-on-february-26-public-advocate-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener">filed ballot petition signatures</a> with the New York City Board of Elections to run for Public Advocate in the special election scheduled for February 26, but at least three of the 23 have already been disqualified while eight others face challenges that could prevent them from getting on the ballot.</p> <p>BOE rules for ballot access are notoriously complex and candidates are often kicked off based on technicalities, inviting legal challenges that sometimes end up in court. There are 20 candidates remaining in the race after community activist Ifeoma Ike, perennial candidate Walter Iwachiw, and Helal Sheikh, a former City Council candidate, were deemed ineligible to run. Ike made the mistake of filing her certificate of acceptance two days after the deadline and Sheikh omitted the name of the election from his paperwork. Iwachiw failed to correct deficiencies in his petition and did not submit the required 3,750 signatures required to get on the ballot.</p> <p>Other candidates in the race are facing objections to their ballot petitions, which will be decided by the BOE at a hearing on Tuesday, January 29, leading to finalization of the ballot.</p> <p>Those candidates facing challenges include former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Rafael Espinal, attorney Manny Alicandro, attorney Dawn Smalls, Reform Party leader Michael Zumbluskas, retired professor and libertarian Gary Popkin, Assemblymember Ron Kim, and former congressional candidate Danniel Maio. Objectors had until January 23 to file specifications for their objections. Alicandro, Zumbluskas, Smalls and Maio were all challenged by Joann Ariola, the chair of the Queens County Republican Party, which is supporting Council Member Eric Ulrich’s candidacy.</p> <p>Several candidates also successfully changed their party names for the nonpartisan election -- each candidate had to create their own party line that could not conflict with an existing party or another candidate’s party on the ballot.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/poll_site_empty.jpg" alt="poll site empty" width="600" height="311" /></p> <p>(photo: Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>Nearly two dozen candidates <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8201-23-candidates-submit-petitions-to-get-on-february-26-public-advocate-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener">filed ballot petition signatures</a> with the New York City Board of Elections to run for Public Advocate in the special election scheduled for February 26, but at least three of the 23 have already been disqualified while eight others face challenges that could prevent them from getting on the ballot.</p> <p>BOE rules for ballot access are notoriously complex and candidates are often kicked off based on technicalities, inviting legal challenges that sometimes end up in court. There are 20 candidates remaining in the race after community activist Ifeoma Ike, perennial candidate Walter Iwachiw, and Helal Sheikh, a former City Council candidate, were deemed ineligible to run. Ike made the mistake of filing her certificate of acceptance two days after the deadline and Sheikh omitted the name of the election from his paperwork. Iwachiw failed to correct deficiencies in his petition and did not submit the required 3,750 signatures required to get on the ballot.</p> <p>Other candidates in the race are facing objections to their ballot petitions, which will be decided by the BOE at a hearing on Tuesday, January 29, leading to finalization of the ballot.</p> <p>Those candidates facing challenges include former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Rafael Espinal, attorney Manny Alicandro, attorney Dawn Smalls, Reform Party leader Michael Zumbluskas, retired professor and libertarian Gary Popkin, Assemblymember Ron Kim, and former congressional candidate Danniel Maio. Objectors had until January 23 to file specifications for their objections. Alicandro, Zumbluskas, Smalls and Maio were all challenged by Joann Ariola, the chair of the Queens County Republican Party, which is supporting Council Member Eric Ulrich’s candidacy.</p> <p>Several candidates also successfully changed their party names for the nonpartisan election -- each candidate had to create their own party line that could not conflict with an existing party or another candidate’s party on the ballot.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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9 Key Takeaways for New York City from Cuomo's State of the State and Budget 2019-01-21T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-21T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8217-9-key-takeaways-for-new-york-city-from-cuomo-s-state-of-the-state-and-budget Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/govcuomo-jus.jpg" alt="govcuomo jus" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio applauds Governor Cuomo (photo via the Governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State speech and accompanying $175.2 billion state budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 had something for everything. The 354-page policy book lays out proposals, big and small, on everything from criminal justice reform, transit and infrastructure funding, workforce protections to rent regulations, voting and ethics reform, farmer benefits, legalizing marijuana, women’s rights and reproductive health, LGBTQ protections, and environmental regulation, to name just a few.</p> <p>The budget proposal, with its long list of policy priorities, has several measures that will have significant consequences for New York City and its own budget, the first draft of which Mayor Bill de Blasio will soon present. The state fiscal year begins April 1, the city’s begins July 1. Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan fiscal watchdog, <a href="https://cbcny.org/advocacy/statement-nys-executive-budget-fy-2020">noted</a> in its assessment that the governor’s budget proposal cuts nearly $100 million in reimbursements and aid to the city.</p> <p>And while some of the governor’s initiatives may benefit the city or line up with de Blasio’s priorities, there are others that could end up being a burden and might prompt staunch opposition from the mayor and state legislators who represent districts in the five boroughs. De Blasio expressed concern about a few proposals in the hours after the governor’s presentation, while conceding that “there's a lot to like in the speech.” Below are eight key takeaways for the city from Cuomo’s policy and budget plans.</p> <p><strong>Cuomo wants the city to split MTA costs with the state. De Blasio disagrees.</strong><br /> Cuomo has embraced congestion pricing as a key proposal to garner resources for the MTA and stem the tide of years of disinvestment that have left large funding obligations and a crumbling subway system. While he has still not fully fleshed out a congestion pricing plan, Cuomo estimated such a system could bring in about $15 billion in revenue over a ten-year period, but also insisted that any shortfall to fund the subways and buses over and above that should be split 50-50 between the city and the state. He argued that over several MTA capital plans the city’s contributions to the MTA have been falling and the state’s contributions have been rising, a characterization that de Blasio later took issue with.</p> <p>Cuomo, who effectively controls the MTA and appoints a plurality of its board members and its leadership, is proposing an overhaul of the agency’s management, which he has blamed for repeated failures over the years and again in his speech. “It was purposefully designed so that everyone can point fingers at everybody else, and nobody's responsible,” he said, even though he has claimed credit for its successes in the past and he has recently re-exerted control relative to the L-train shutdown.</p> <p>The details of Cuomo’s MTA management reform plan are also still not fully clear.</p> <p>De Blasio has repeatedly said the best solution to the MTA’s financial woes is a millionaire’s tax, an idea that is anathema to Cuomo. In his Albany news conference shortly after the governor’s speech, the mayor reiterated the proposal as he pushed back against the governor’s suggestions. “Now, there’s a lot of good ideas on the table and here's a chance to decide which combination of those ideas will actually solve the problem,” he said of funding the MTA. “But yet you can't take it out of the city budget, it’s not going to work.” Though he continues to say he prefers the millionaire’s tax, de Blasio’s rhetoric around congestion pricing has warmed considerably.</p> <p><strong>Reforms needed to close Rikers Island may soon be reality</strong><br />The governor’s budget proposal includes support for several criminal justice reforms which de Blasio has said are crucial to the plan to close the Rikers Island jail complex within 10 years. Among those are ending cash bail, among other reforms to pretrial detention processes, and passing Kalief’s Law, a speedy trial reform named for Kalief Browder, the Bronx youth who spent three years on Rikers Island on charges of stealing a backpack. Never convicted, Browder was released but later died by suicide, which was attributed to his harsh treatment while in detention.</p> <p>De Blasio has said that bail and speedy trial reform would work in concert with ongoing efforts to reduce the population of Rikers down below 5,000, the threshold the city estimates it would need to reach in order to house detainees in borough-based facilities that are being planned. The city jail population is now under 8,000, de Blasio announced during his State of the City address.</p> <p><strong>Rent regulations will help de Blasio’s affordable housing plan</strong><br />De Blasio’s ambitious plan to create and preserve 300,000 units of affordable housing by 2026 is on track according to city estimates and broke a record in 2018 by financing 34,160 affordable units, the most in one year for any administration. That plan could benefit massively from a push by the governor and the Legislature to strengthen rent regulations, which are set to expire at the end of June.</p> <p>Cuomo has expressed support for ending vacancy decontrol whereby upon certain vacancies landlords can remove units from the regulated rolls, eliminating preferential rent limits, and reforming the process by which landlords can assess tenants for improvements to buildings and apartments. All are items that de Blasio praised while noting that he would have to see more details. Such regulations would have been “inconceivable” when Republicans controlled the state Senate, he said as he anticipated seeing stronger laws in place this year. “It's going to help us preserve affordable housing in New York City,” de Blasio said. “And certainly from what the governor said in the speech, I'm encouraged.</p> <p><strong>Education and mayoral control</strong><br />Cuomo proposed a 3.6 percent increase in education funding statewide -- an increase of $1 billion from the current year for a total of $27.7 billion -- and proposed a new school funding formula called “Education Equity,” emphasizing that current funding is not flowing to the poorest schools in poorer school districts.</p> <p>The governor presented new data based on his administration’s analysis of numbers provided to the state by large schools districts that had been required by a law passed last year meant to assess exactly how districts are allocating education funds. Cuomo showed data that indicated all the largest school districts are funding their wealthier schools at higher rates than their poorer schools, though de Blasio questioned the presentation and said the city would have more to say soon. It’s not immediately clear how Cuomo’s administration calculated its numbers.</p> <p>Cuomo’s proposal looks like it would set up a fight with the mayor, who insisted that the governor should fully fund the “Foundation Aid” formula as required by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court decision, which Cuomo has argued is settled and a relic of the past.</p> <p>De Blasio did praise the governor for proposing a three-year extension of mayoral control of city schools, which Cuomo has done in the past though he has appeared comfortable settling on multiple one-year extensions (last time it was two years) as a means of frustrating the mayor. “[U]nder a mayoral control model that we have in New York City for the last five years, we have consistently moved resources to schools in greater need,” de Blasio said, noting that Cuomo’s presentation “did not reflect the reality we know in New York City” and promising to correct the record.</p> <p>Notably, Cuomo has not initially indicated a plan to raise the cap on charter schools in New York City, a statutory limit that will soon be hit. Cuomo has been a staunch supporter of charters (and de Blasio has mostly been an opponent), but he has been relatively quiet on the issue as he has moved left over the last few years and repaired his relationship with the teachers unions. Still, Cuomo has made sure that charters have secured key protections in state agreements, though this year could hold a different approach.</p> <p><strong>Speed cameras and bus lane cameras</strong><br /> Last year, a limited speed camera program around schools in New York City lapsed amid legislative intransigence led by state Senate Republicans but was revived through an agreement among the governor, mayor, and New York City Council. Cuomo has proposed reinstating the program in state law through 2022, expanding the number of camera zones from 140 to 290, as well as removing a cap on bus lane cameras and allowing automated cameras to enforce “block-the-box” violations in the proposed congestion pricing zone. The bill would also create a new camera program to combat violations in Manhattan that contribute to congestion.</p> <p><strong>Infrastructure program highlights include JFK, LaGuardia Airports</strong><br />Cuomo touted an additional planned $150 billion investment in infrastructure in his third term, building on projects that are already underway and several new ones that he is expected to launch. Among those are the renovations of LaGuardia Airport, the new JFK Airport, four new Metro North stations in the Bronx, an expansion of the Javits Convention Center, and the opening of the Shirley Chisholm State Park in Brooklyn.</p> <p><strong>Anti-terror initiatives</strong><br /> New York City continues to be one of the most prominent terror targets in the world and Cuomo offered several measures to improve security and preparedness, including legislation to ban gun bump stocks, prohibit weaponized drones, and regulations on the sale of certain explosives.</p> <p>Two measures were directly impelled by incidents in New York City -- the governor proposed a bill to require two pieces of identification to rent a vehicle, citing attacks carried out across the world and particularly the 2017 Halloween attack on the West Side Highway that claimed the lives of eight people. Cuomo also proposed investments in “infrastructure hardening” such as traffic bollards and crash barriers to protect civilians.</p> <p><strong>Lead exposure thresholds</strong><br />Cuomo proposed lowering the threshold of blood lead levels that would lead to an immediate public health response, which could potentially become a prominent issue in New York City where residents of the New York City Housing Authority have been fighting with the administration for years over lead paint in their apartments.</p> <p><strong>Other policies apply to New York City</strong><br />A variety of other policies the governor is backing would apply to New York City and have an impact in the five boroughs, including some measures that have already passed the Legislature, like voting reforms, a ban on gay conversion therapy, and the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. This list also includes the planned expansion of abortion rights, more gun control, the Child Victims Act to address child sex abuse, and the Dream Act to provide state tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants and their children, among other policies. Also in this category is the expected legalization of recreational marijuana for adults 21 years of age and older.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/govcuomo-jus.jpg" alt="govcuomo jus" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio applauds Governor Cuomo (photo via the Governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State speech and accompanying $175.2 billion state budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 had something for everything. The 354-page policy book lays out proposals, big and small, on everything from criminal justice reform, transit and infrastructure funding, workforce protections to rent regulations, voting and ethics reform, farmer benefits, legalizing marijuana, women’s rights and reproductive health, LGBTQ protections, and environmental regulation, to name just a few.</p> <p>The budget proposal, with its long list of policy priorities, has several measures that will have significant consequences for New York City and its own budget, the first draft of which Mayor Bill de Blasio will soon present. The state fiscal year begins April 1, the city’s begins July 1. Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan fiscal watchdog, <a href="https://cbcny.org/advocacy/statement-nys-executive-budget-fy-2020">noted</a> in its assessment that the governor’s budget proposal cuts nearly $100 million in reimbursements and aid to the city.</p> <p>And while some of the governor’s initiatives may benefit the city or line up with de Blasio’s priorities, there are others that could end up being a burden and might prompt staunch opposition from the mayor and state legislators who represent districts in the five boroughs. De Blasio expressed concern about a few proposals in the hours after the governor’s presentation, while conceding that “there's a lot to like in the speech.” Below are eight key takeaways for the city from Cuomo’s policy and budget plans.</p> <p><strong>Cuomo wants the city to split MTA costs with the state. De Blasio disagrees.</strong><br /> Cuomo has embraced congestion pricing as a key proposal to garner resources for the MTA and stem the tide of years of disinvestment that have left large funding obligations and a crumbling subway system. While he has still not fully fleshed out a congestion pricing plan, Cuomo estimated such a system could bring in about $15 billion in revenue over a ten-year period, but also insisted that any shortfall to fund the subways and buses over and above that should be split 50-50 between the city and the state. He argued that over several MTA capital plans the city’s contributions to the MTA have been falling and the state’s contributions have been rising, a characterization that de Blasio later took issue with.</p> <p>Cuomo, who effectively controls the MTA and appoints a plurality of its board members and its leadership, is proposing an overhaul of the agency’s management, which he has blamed for repeated failures over the years and again in his speech. “It was purposefully designed so that everyone can point fingers at everybody else, and nobody's responsible,” he said, even though he has claimed credit for its successes in the past and he has recently re-exerted control relative to the L-train shutdown.</p> <p>The details of Cuomo’s MTA management reform plan are also still not fully clear.</p> <p>De Blasio has repeatedly said the best solution to the MTA’s financial woes is a millionaire’s tax, an idea that is anathema to Cuomo. In his Albany news conference shortly after the governor’s speech, the mayor reiterated the proposal as he pushed back against the governor’s suggestions. “Now, there’s a lot of good ideas on the table and here's a chance to decide which combination of those ideas will actually solve the problem,” he said of funding the MTA. “But yet you can't take it out of the city budget, it’s not going to work.” Though he continues to say he prefers the millionaire’s tax, de Blasio’s rhetoric around congestion pricing has warmed considerably.</p> <p><strong>Reforms needed to close Rikers Island may soon be reality</strong><br />The governor’s budget proposal includes support for several criminal justice reforms which de Blasio has said are crucial to the plan to close the Rikers Island jail complex within 10 years. Among those are ending cash bail, among other reforms to pretrial detention processes, and passing Kalief’s Law, a speedy trial reform named for Kalief Browder, the Bronx youth who spent three years on Rikers Island on charges of stealing a backpack. Never convicted, Browder was released but later died by suicide, which was attributed to his harsh treatment while in detention.</p> <p>De Blasio has said that bail and speedy trial reform would work in concert with ongoing efforts to reduce the population of Rikers down below 5,000, the threshold the city estimates it would need to reach in order to house detainees in borough-based facilities that are being planned. The city jail population is now under 8,000, de Blasio announced during his State of the City address.</p> <p><strong>Rent regulations will help de Blasio’s affordable housing plan</strong><br />De Blasio’s ambitious plan to create and preserve 300,000 units of affordable housing by 2026 is on track according to city estimates and broke a record in 2018 by financing 34,160 affordable units, the most in one year for any administration. That plan could benefit massively from a push by the governor and the Legislature to strengthen rent regulations, which are set to expire at the end of June.</p> <p>Cuomo has expressed support for ending vacancy decontrol whereby upon certain vacancies landlords can remove units from the regulated rolls, eliminating preferential rent limits, and reforming the process by which landlords can assess tenants for improvements to buildings and apartments. All are items that de Blasio praised while noting that he would have to see more details. Such regulations would have been “inconceivable” when Republicans controlled the state Senate, he said as he anticipated seeing stronger laws in place this year. “It's going to help us preserve affordable housing in New York City,” de Blasio said. “And certainly from what the governor said in the speech, I'm encouraged.</p> <p><strong>Education and mayoral control</strong><br />Cuomo proposed a 3.6 percent increase in education funding statewide -- an increase of $1 billion from the current year for a total of $27.7 billion -- and proposed a new school funding formula called “Education Equity,” emphasizing that current funding is not flowing to the poorest schools in poorer school districts.</p> <p>The governor presented new data based on his administration’s analysis of numbers provided to the state by large schools districts that had been required by a law passed last year meant to assess exactly how districts are allocating education funds. Cuomo showed data that indicated all the largest school districts are funding their wealthier schools at higher rates than their poorer schools, though de Blasio questioned the presentation and said the city would have more to say soon. It’s not immediately clear how Cuomo’s administration calculated its numbers.</p> <p>Cuomo’s proposal looks like it would set up a fight with the mayor, who insisted that the governor should fully fund the “Foundation Aid” formula as required by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court decision, which Cuomo has argued is settled and a relic of the past.</p> <p>De Blasio did praise the governor for proposing a three-year extension of mayoral control of city schools, which Cuomo has done in the past though he has appeared comfortable settling on multiple one-year extensions (last time it was two years) as a means of frustrating the mayor. “[U]nder a mayoral control model that we have in New York City for the last five years, we have consistently moved resources to schools in greater need,” de Blasio said, noting that Cuomo’s presentation “did not reflect the reality we know in New York City” and promising to correct the record.</p> <p>Notably, Cuomo has not initially indicated a plan to raise the cap on charter schools in New York City, a statutory limit that will soon be hit. Cuomo has been a staunch supporter of charters (and de Blasio has mostly been an opponent), but he has been relatively quiet on the issue as he has moved left over the last few years and repaired his relationship with the teachers unions. Still, Cuomo has made sure that charters have secured key protections in state agreements, though this year could hold a different approach.</p> <p><strong>Speed cameras and bus lane cameras</strong><br /> Last year, a limited speed camera program around schools in New York City lapsed amid legislative intransigence led by state Senate Republicans but was revived through an agreement among the governor, mayor, and New York City Council. Cuomo has proposed reinstating the program in state law through 2022, expanding the number of camera zones from 140 to 290, as well as removing a cap on bus lane cameras and allowing automated cameras to enforce “block-the-box” violations in the proposed congestion pricing zone. The bill would also create a new camera program to combat violations in Manhattan that contribute to congestion.</p> <p><strong>Infrastructure program highlights include JFK, LaGuardia Airports</strong><br />Cuomo touted an additional planned $150 billion investment in infrastructure in his third term, building on projects that are already underway and several new ones that he is expected to launch. Among those are the renovations of LaGuardia Airport, the new JFK Airport, four new Metro North stations in the Bronx, an expansion of the Javits Convention Center, and the opening of the Shirley Chisholm State Park in Brooklyn.</p> <p><strong>Anti-terror initiatives</strong><br /> New York City continues to be one of the most prominent terror targets in the world and Cuomo offered several measures to improve security and preparedness, including legislation to ban gun bump stocks, prohibit weaponized drones, and regulations on the sale of certain explosives.</p> <p>Two measures were directly impelled by incidents in New York City -- the governor proposed a bill to require two pieces of identification to rent a vehicle, citing attacks carried out across the world and particularly the 2017 Halloween attack on the West Side Highway that claimed the lives of eight people. Cuomo also proposed investments in “infrastructure hardening” such as traffic bollards and crash barriers to protect civilians.</p> <p><strong>Lead exposure thresholds</strong><br />Cuomo proposed lowering the threshold of blood lead levels that would lead to an immediate public health response, which could potentially become a prominent issue in New York City where residents of the New York City Housing Authority have been fighting with the administration for years over lead paint in their apartments.</p> <p><strong>Other policies apply to New York City</strong><br />A variety of other policies the governor is backing would apply to New York City and have an impact in the five boroughs, including some measures that have already passed the Legislature, like voting reforms, a ban on gay conversion therapy, and the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. This list also includes the planned expansion of abortion rights, more gun control, the Child Victims Act to address child sex abuse, and the Dream Act to provide state tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants and their children, among other policies. Also in this category is the expected legalization of recreational marijuana for adults 21 years of age and older.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
The 2019 Special Election for Public Advocate 2019-01-22T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-22T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8188-the-2019-special-election-for-public-advocate Gotham Gazette bmax@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/pa-10-candidates.jpg" alt="pa 10 candidates" width="600" height="350" /></p> <p>(l-r) Tish James, Ydanis Rodriguez, Melissa Mark-viverito, Jumaane Williams, Latrice Walker<br />Rafael Espinal, Danny O'Donnell, Michael Blake, Erich Ulrich, Ron Kim</p> <hr /> <p>..</p> <table style="width: 600px;" cellspacing="3" cellpadding="3"> <tbody><!-- --> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8175-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-public-advocate-special-election" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/ballot-tish.jpg" alt="Everything You Need to Know About the Special Election for Public Advocate" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8175-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-public-advocate-special-election" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Everything You Need to Know About the Special Election for Public Advocate</a></p> <p>January 04, 2019</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8201-23-candidates-submit-petitions-to-get-on-february-26-public-advocate-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/first-ave-marathon.jpg" alt="23 Candidates Submit Petitions to Get on February 26 Public Advocate Ballot" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8201-23-candidates-submit-petitions-to-get-on-february-26-public-advocate-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener">23 Candidates Submit Petitions to Get on February 26 Public Advocate Ballot</a></p> January 15, 2019</td> </tr> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <!-- --> <tr> <td style="width: 400px;"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8223-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-nomiki-konst" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/nomiki-konst-400.jpg" alt="Max &amp; 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Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Michael Blake" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8204-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-michael-blake" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Michael Blake</a></p> January 17, 2019</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8205-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-danny-o-donnell" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/danny-odonnell-400b.jpg" alt="Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Danny O'Donnell" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8205-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-danny-o-donnell" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Danny O'Donnell</a></p> January 17, 2019</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8172-max-murphy-podcast-should-andrew-cuomo-run-for-president" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/dawn-smalls-400.jpg" alt="Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Dawn Smalls" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8172-max-murphy-podcast-should-andrew-cuomo-run-for-president" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Dawn Smalls</a></p> January 17, 2019</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8208-in-first-mailer-of-public-advocate-race-kim-targets-amazon-and-prominent-opponents" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/box-kim-mail1600.jpg" alt="In First Mailer of Public Advocate Race, Kim Targets Amazon, and Prominent Opponents" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8208-in-first-mailer-of-public-advocate-race-kim-targets-amazon-and-prominent-opponents" target="_blank" rel="noopener">In First Mailer of Public Advocate Race, Kim Targets Amazon, and Prominent Opponents</a></p> January 17, 2019</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/8196-public-advocate-election-makes-case-for-instant-runoff-voting" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/elec-apoll.jpg" alt="mxm logo 400px" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/8196-public-advocate-election-makes-case-for-instant-runoff-voting" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Public Advocate Election Makes Case for Instant Runoff Voting</a> (opinion)</p> January 14, 2019</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8187-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-eric-ulrich" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/eric-ulrich-january-9-400.jpg" alt="Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Eric Ulrich" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8187-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-eric-ulrich" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Eric Ulrich</a></p> January 10, 2019</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8173-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-rafael-espinal" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/rafael-espinal-1-2-wbai-400.jpg" alt="Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Rafael Espinal" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8173-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-rafael-espinal" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Rafael Espinal</a></p> January 03, 2019</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/8149-my-vision-for-the-role-of-public-advocate-ron-kim" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/rk_city_hll.jpg" alt="Gustavo Rivera and Bill Hammond" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/8149-my-vision-for-the-role-of-public-advocate-ron-kim" target="_blank" rel="noopener">My Vision for the Role of Public Advocate: Ron Kim</a> (opinion)</p> December 18, 2018</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8136-declared-or-exploring-candidates-for-new-york-city-public-advocate" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/10-candidates.jpg" alt="wbai hirsh jw 400b" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8136-declared-or-exploring-candidates-for-new-york-city-public-advocate" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Declared and Exploring Candidates for New York City Public Advocate</a></p> December 12, 2018</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/8124-handicapping-the-public-advocate-special-election" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/14907018821_253c6b17b0_z.jpg" alt="gr mp 400px" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/8124-handicapping-the-public-advocate-special-election" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Handicapping the Public Advocate Special Election</a> (opinion)</p> December 06, 2018</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8105-promising-to-tell-new-yorkers-the-truth-mark-viverito-launches-public-advocate-campaign" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/11847446706_6aea306d5e_z.jpg" alt="Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Congestion Pricing &amp; the MTA in 2019" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8105-promising-to-tell-new-yorkers-the-truth-mark-viverito-launches-public-advocate-campaign" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Promising to 'Tell New Yorkers the Truth,' Mark-Viverito Launches Public Advocate Campaign</a></p> November 28, 2018</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8076-at-first-debate-candidates-for-public-advocate-pitch-visions-for-the-role" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/public-adv-debate-first-ls.png" alt="latrice walker wbai 400" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8076-at-first-debate-candidates-for-public-advocate-pitch-visions-for-the-role" target="_blank" rel="noopener">At First Debate, Candidates for Public Advocate Pitch Visions for the Role</a></p> November 16, 2018</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8074-listen-public-advocate-candidate-forum-nov-2018" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/pa_forum_aarp_afterward.jpg" alt="Public Advocate Candidate Forum - Nov. 14, 2018" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8074-listen-public-advocate-candidate-forum-nov-2018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">LISTEN: Public Advocate Candidate Forum - Nov. 14, 2018</a></p> November 14, 2018</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8069-field-for-public-advocate-special-election-comes-into-focus" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/39766002621_7e972f43a2_z.jpg" alt="Field for Public Advocate Special Election Comes Into Focus" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8069-field-for-public-advocate-special-election-comes-into-focus" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Field for Public Advocate Special Election Comes Into Focus</a></p> November 13, 2018</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8013-in-run-for-public-advocate-blake-offers-federal-and-state-experience" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/michael-blake-pub-adv-city.jpg" alt="In Run for New York City Public Advocate, Blake Offers Federal and State Experience" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8013-in-run-for-public-advocate-blake-offers-federal-and-state-experience" target="_blank" rel="noopener">In Run for New York City Public Advocate, Blake Offers Federal and State Experience</a></p> October 25, 2018</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7918-vacancy-in-the-public-advocate-s-office-call-the-city-council-speaker" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/tish-james-co-jo-cityhall.jpg" alt="Vacancy in the Public Advocate's Office? Call the City Council Speake" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7918-vacancy-in-the-public-advocate-s-office-call-the-city-council-speaker" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Vacancy in the Public Advocate's Office? Call the City Council Speaker</a></p> September 07, 2018</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7910-potentially-crowded-public-advocate-special-election-could-feature-two-former-council-speakers" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/3749385121_4288a8d47c_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo-Molinaro Debate Analysis" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7910-potentially-crowded-public-advocate-special-election-could-feature-two-former-council-speakers" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Potentially Crowded Public Advocate Special Election Could Feature Two Former Council Speakers</a></p> September 04, 2018</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/pa-10-candidates.jpg" alt="pa 10 candidates" width="600" height="350" /></p> <p>(l-r) Tish James, Ydanis Rodriguez, Melissa Mark-viverito, Jumaane Williams, Latrice Walker<br />Rafael Espinal, Danny O'Donnell, Michael Blake, Erich Ulrich, Ron Kim</p> <hr /> <p>..</p> <table style="width: 600px;" cellspacing="3" cellpadding="3"> <tbody><!-- --> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8175-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-public-advocate-special-election" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/ballot-tish.jpg" alt="Everything You Need to Know About the Special Election for Public Advocate" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8175-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-public-advocate-special-election" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Everything You Need to Know About the Special Election for Public Advocate</a></p> <p>January 04, 2019</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8201-23-candidates-submit-petitions-to-get-on-february-26-public-advocate-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/first-ave-marathon.jpg" alt="23 Candidates Submit Petitions to Get on February 26 Public Advocate Ballot" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8201-23-candidates-submit-petitions-to-get-on-february-26-public-advocate-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener">23 Candidates Submit Petitions to Get on February 26 Public Advocate Ballot</a></p> January 15, 2019</td> </tr> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <!-- --> <tr> <td style="width: 400px;"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8223-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-nomiki-konst" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/nomiki-konst-400.jpg" alt="Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Nomiki Konst" width="200" height="84" /></a></td> <td> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8223-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-nomiki-konst" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Nomiki Konst</a></p> <p>January 23, 2019</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 400px;"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8222-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-ron-kim" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/ron-kim-wbai-400px.jpg" alt="Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Ron Kim" width="200" height="84" /></a></td> <td> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8222-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-ron-kim" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Ron Kim</a></p> <p>January 23, 2019</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8204-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-michael-blake" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/michael-blake-400px.jpg" alt="Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Michael Blake" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8204-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-michael-blake" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Michael Blake</a></p> January 17, 2019</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8205-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-danny-o-donnell" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/danny-odonnell-400b.jpg" alt="Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Danny O'Donnell" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8205-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-danny-o-donnell" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Danny O'Donnell</a></p> January 17, 2019</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8172-max-murphy-podcast-should-andrew-cuomo-run-for-president" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/dawn-smalls-400.jpg" alt="Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Dawn Smalls" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8172-max-murphy-podcast-should-andrew-cuomo-run-for-president" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Dawn Smalls</a></p> January 17, 2019</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8208-in-first-mailer-of-public-advocate-race-kim-targets-amazon-and-prominent-opponents" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/box-kim-mail1600.jpg" alt="In First Mailer of Public Advocate Race, Kim Targets Amazon, and Prominent Opponents" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8208-in-first-mailer-of-public-advocate-race-kim-targets-amazon-and-prominent-opponents" target="_blank" rel="noopener">In First Mailer of Public Advocate Race, Kim Targets Amazon, and Prominent Opponents</a></p> January 17, 2019</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/8196-public-advocate-election-makes-case-for-instant-runoff-voting" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/elec-apoll.jpg" alt="mxm logo 400px" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/8196-public-advocate-election-makes-case-for-instant-runoff-voting" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Public Advocate Election Makes Case for Instant Runoff Voting</a> (opinion)</p> January 14, 2019</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8187-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-eric-ulrich" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/eric-ulrich-january-9-400.jpg" alt="Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Eric Ulrich" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8187-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-eric-ulrich" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Eric Ulrich</a></p> January 10, 2019</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8173-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-rafael-espinal" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/rafael-espinal-1-2-wbai-400.jpg" alt="Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Rafael Espinal" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8173-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-rafael-espinal" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Rafael Espinal</a></p> January 03, 2019</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/8149-my-vision-for-the-role-of-public-advocate-ron-kim" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/rk_city_hll.jpg" alt="Gustavo Rivera and Bill Hammond" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/8149-my-vision-for-the-role-of-public-advocate-ron-kim" target="_blank" rel="noopener">My Vision for the Role of Public Advocate: Ron Kim</a> (opinion)</p> December 18, 2018</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8136-declared-or-exploring-candidates-for-new-york-city-public-advocate" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/10-candidates.jpg" alt="wbai hirsh jw 400b" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8136-declared-or-exploring-candidates-for-new-york-city-public-advocate" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Declared and Exploring Candidates for New York City Public Advocate</a></p> December 12, 2018</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/8124-handicapping-the-public-advocate-special-election" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/14907018821_253c6b17b0_z.jpg" alt="gr mp 400px" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/8124-handicapping-the-public-advocate-special-election" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Handicapping the Public Advocate Special Election</a> (opinion)</p> December 06, 2018</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8105-promising-to-tell-new-yorkers-the-truth-mark-viverito-launches-public-advocate-campaign" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/11847446706_6aea306d5e_z.jpg" alt="Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Congestion Pricing &amp; the MTA in 2019" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8105-promising-to-tell-new-yorkers-the-truth-mark-viverito-launches-public-advocate-campaign" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Promising to 'Tell New Yorkers the Truth,' Mark-Viverito Launches Public Advocate Campaign</a></p> November 28, 2018</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8076-at-first-debate-candidates-for-public-advocate-pitch-visions-for-the-role" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/public-adv-debate-first-ls.png" alt="latrice walker wbai 400" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8076-at-first-debate-candidates-for-public-advocate-pitch-visions-for-the-role" target="_blank" rel="noopener">At First Debate, Candidates for Public Advocate Pitch Visions for the Role</a></p> November 16, 2018</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8074-listen-public-advocate-candidate-forum-nov-2018" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/pa_forum_aarp_afterward.jpg" alt="Public Advocate Candidate Forum - Nov. 14, 2018" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8074-listen-public-advocate-candidate-forum-nov-2018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">LISTEN: Public Advocate Candidate Forum - Nov. 14, 2018</a></p> November 14, 2018</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8069-field-for-public-advocate-special-election-comes-into-focus" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/39766002621_7e972f43a2_z.jpg" alt="Field for Public Advocate Special Election Comes Into Focus" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8069-field-for-public-advocate-special-election-comes-into-focus" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Field for Public Advocate Special Election Comes Into Focus</a></p> November 13, 2018</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8013-in-run-for-public-advocate-blake-offers-federal-and-state-experience" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/michael-blake-pub-adv-city.jpg" alt="In Run for New York City Public Advocate, Blake Offers Federal and State Experience" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8013-in-run-for-public-advocate-blake-offers-federal-and-state-experience" target="_blank" rel="noopener">In Run for New York City Public Advocate, Blake Offers Federal and State Experience</a></p> October 25, 2018</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7918-vacancy-in-the-public-advocate-s-office-call-the-city-council-speaker" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/tish-james-co-jo-cityhall.jpg" alt="Vacancy in the Public Advocate's Office? Call the City Council Speake" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7918-vacancy-in-the-public-advocate-s-office-call-the-city-council-speaker" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Vacancy in the Public Advocate's Office? Call the City Council Speaker</a></p> September 07, 2018</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7910-potentially-crowded-public-advocate-special-election-could-feature-two-former-council-speakers" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/3749385121_4288a8d47c_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo-Molinaro Debate Analysis" width="200" /></a></td> <td valign="top"> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7910-potentially-crowded-public-advocate-special-election-could-feature-two-former-council-speakers" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Potentially Crowded Public Advocate Special Election Could Feature Two Former Council Speakers</a></p> September 04, 2018</td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">&nbsp;</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> With De Blasio in Debt, City Council Considers Bill to Allow ‘Legal Defense Trusts’ 2019-01-22T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-22T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8218-with-de-blasio-in-debt-city-council-considers-bill-to-allow-legal-defense-trusts Andrew Millman amillman@gg.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/nycczerohearingsl.jpg" alt="nycczerohearingsl" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>City Council Member Stephen Levin (photo via New York City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio owes hundreds of thousands of dollars to lawyers who helped him during legal investigations that ultimately resulted in no criminal charges against the mayor, but left him with bills to pay even after he reversed course and decided to use public funds to cover the portion of his legal expenses related to his government work. The remaining balance, for work related to campaign activity de Blasio was involved with that was the subject of part of the inquiries, has left de Blasio looking for a new way to pay off his debts: a legal defense fund whereby he raises money from donors willing to help him.</p> <p>But, there’s been a key catch: the city does not have a legal framework for allowing public officials to create such accounts, and the advice the mayor got from the city’s Conflict of Interest Board limited him to receiving very small gifts from prospective benefactors.</p> <p>Spotlighting this perceived gap in the city’s legal and campaign finance framework, de Blasio’s situation, as well as others before him, has spurred action, and the City Council has begun to consider a new law to create “legal defense trusts.”</p> <p>On Monday, January 14, the Council’s Committee on Government Operations held a hearing on <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3823152&amp;GUID=665DDDF9-0F16-445F-857A-70A6A5BD5068&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a bill</a> proposed by Council Member Stephen Levin, a Brooklyn Democrat, that would allow city officials to establish such trusts for fees incurred during an investigation or trial. The bill sets a donation limit at $5,000 per donor, which is more than double the $2,000 limit for campaign contributions, with no limit on how much an official can raise in such a fund. As written, the bill bans lobbyists, persons doing business with the city, corporations, and LLCs from contributing to legal defense trusts. Additionally, any legal defense trusts would be required to make quarterly reports to the Conflict of Interest Board on their donations, which would then be made public and posted online, in a manner similar to the Campaign Finance Board’s reporting of political donations. No campaign funds could be used for a legal defense trust or vice versa and each trust will be overseen by an independent trustee.</p> <p>Levin said that his bill “would bring transparency and regulation to a system that is in need of improvement.” Under the current law, city officials in civil and some criminal cases are entitled to a legal defense paid for by the city, as long as the cases relate to their public duties. However, offenses unrelated to an official’s public duties (such as political campaigns, issue advocacy, and certain administrative issues) are not paid for by the city.</p> <p>Council Member Fernando Cabrera, a Bronx Democrat and the chair of the Government Operations Committee, explained it as a problem because “public officials are not highly paid and rarely independently wealthy,” and “defending against allegations and investigations for alleged wrongdoing can be financially devastating for someone of average means.”</p> <p>While there have been past instances to raise the issue, the bill and committee hearing were spurred by a March 2017 advisory opinion from the city’s Conflict of Interest Board, which stated that because there was no law specifically addressing the issue, donations to a public official’s legal defense fund are considered gifts under current law and therefore limited to $50 per person. The advisory opinion came after Mayor de Blasio planned to create a legal defense fund to cover fees from state and federal investigations into his fundraising activities.</p> <p>De Blasio, a second-term Democrat, was never mentioned by name during the hearing, but was frequently referred to as a “public official in the headlines,” when the advisory opinion was brought up during testimony provided by representatives of the Conflict of Interest Board.</p> <p>At a press conference on January 8, de Blasio reiterated his assertion that a new legal framework was necessary. “I believe there is a need in a democratic society for this kind of mechanism, a legal defense fund is a very well established idea,” he said. He added the caveat that the bill had not gone through the legislative process, so he didn’t know the final wording. When asked if he would disclose his donors if the bill passed, he replied “absolutely” (it may be required).</p> <p>While de Blasio has been earning the salaries afforded to elected officials for many years, he also owns two houses in Park Slope, Brooklyn, making him fairly wealthy. He has indicated he does not have the means to pay his legal bills, not acknowledging the possibility of leveraging his property, or at least its value. He has pointed to the larger case for legal defense funds that goes beyond his situation, something it appears City Council members and others are in agreement about. De Blasio has claimed that law enforcement investigations are part of being in political office.</p> <p>At the hearing, the bill appeared to have the support of the Council members who spoke, although some had suggestions for improving it. The Conflict of Interest Board, represented at the hearing by its executive director, Carolyn Lisa Miller, and general counsel, Ethan Carrier, also expressed general support. However, Miller said there are some reservations about a section of the proposed bill that would ban the use of a defense fund from paying legal fines, but allows a fund to pay civil and administrative fines, such as Campaign Finance Board fines. Council Member Keith Powers, a Manhattan Democrat who expressed support for the concept of the bill but is undecided about its current form, asked about this section, but it was unclear if the provision would be changed.</p> <p>Miller stated the COIB already does not have enough resources to do its mandated work and would require additional funds to fulfill the requirements of the bill. She estimated that an online reporting portal would cost $40,000 to set up and a few thousand each year afterwards for licensing. The bill requires quarterly reporting for defense funds and each audit would cost between $5,000 and $10,000, according to Miller’s estimate based on information from other city agencies. When asked about the number of defense funds that would be registered, she said she did not know. If the section allowing defense funds to pay campaign finance violation fines were to be included in a final bill, she estimated that as many as 50 defense funds could be established. Without that provision, she said there were only be a few, if any, per year. Many candidates for office wind up incurring some amount of fines from the Campaign Finance Board, often ranging from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.</p> <p>Council Member Kalman Yeger, a Brooklyn Democrat, said he supports the concept behind the bill, but thinks that the specifics could be improved. He questioned why the Campaign Finance Board would not allow COIB to use its reporting portal or certified auditors, which he said would save taxpayers money. According to Miller, the CFB’s portal is proprietary to that agency and cannot be used by COIB. Near the end of the hearing, Cabrera proposed that the CFB could administer the bill’s requirements instead of the COIB. Both Levin and Treyger were against this proposal, but Yeger reaffirmed that he would like a mandate included in the bill for the CFB and COIB to share resources.</p> <p>While not at the hearing, watchdog group Common Cause supports the bill. In <a href="https://www.commoncause.org/new-york/press-release/recommends-legislation-create-legal-defense-funds/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a July 2017 statement</a> in support of legal defense trusts, Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause/NY, &nbsp;said that “there must and should be a process for public officials to raise funds to pay for legal bills” and “we need a policy in place to give public officials a workable solution and avoid ad hoc improvisation.” Common Cause commissioned a study of legal defense fund laws across the country and made recommendations to cover New York City’s perceived “policy gap.” Levin’s bill includes many of Common Cause’s recommendations.</p> <p>The Council committee hearing on the bill only included a statement from Council Member Levin, its lead sponsor, and the representatives from COIB. The Council now has to decide whether to amend Levin’s bill and if more hearings are required to address the issues raised at the January 14 hearing. The Council will also have to decide to vote on the bill or put it on indefinite hold. If it passes committee, it will go to the full 51-member Council. Meanwhile, it is unclear when exactly Mayor de Blasio’s legal bills are due, the debt has been outstanding for quite some time now.</p> <p>In response to a tweet about the bill from Politico reporter Sally Goldenberg, former City Council Member Sal Albanese, a 2013 and 2017 Democratic primary opponent of de Blasio, said that Levin and the bill’s other sponsors “should be held accountable for introducing this self serving corruption hazard” and called them “Bill de Blasio sycophants.” Levin replied to Albanese, stating that “I never spoke to [the Mayor’s Office] before introing this bill” and that “the bill itself is specifically designed to eliminate a corruption hazard.”</p> <p>

***
by Andrew Millman, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this article.</p> <p>Note: after initially mistaking Council Member Yeger for Treyger, this article has been corrected. It has also been updated to clarify Council Member Powers' stance on the bill.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/nycczerohearingsl.jpg" alt="nycczerohearingsl" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>City Council Member Stephen Levin (photo via New York City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio owes hundreds of thousands of dollars to lawyers who helped him during legal investigations that ultimately resulted in no criminal charges against the mayor, but left him with bills to pay even after he reversed course and decided to use public funds to cover the portion of his legal expenses related to his government work. The remaining balance, for work related to campaign activity de Blasio was involved with that was the subject of part of the inquiries, has left de Blasio looking for a new way to pay off his debts: a legal defense fund whereby he raises money from donors willing to help him.</p> <p>But, there’s been a key catch: the city does not have a legal framework for allowing public officials to create such accounts, and the advice the mayor got from the city’s Conflict of Interest Board limited him to receiving very small gifts from prospective benefactors.</p> <p>Spotlighting this perceived gap in the city’s legal and campaign finance framework, de Blasio’s situation, as well as others before him, has spurred action, and the City Council has begun to consider a new law to create “legal defense trusts.”</p> <p>On Monday, January 14, the Council’s Committee on Government Operations held a hearing on <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3823152&amp;GUID=665DDDF9-0F16-445F-857A-70A6A5BD5068&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a bill</a> proposed by Council Member Stephen Levin, a Brooklyn Democrat, that would allow city officials to establish such trusts for fees incurred during an investigation or trial. The bill sets a donation limit at $5,000 per donor, which is more than double the $2,000 limit for campaign contributions, with no limit on how much an official can raise in such a fund. As written, the bill bans lobbyists, persons doing business with the city, corporations, and LLCs from contributing to legal defense trusts. Additionally, any legal defense trusts would be required to make quarterly reports to the Conflict of Interest Board on their donations, which would then be made public and posted online, in a manner similar to the Campaign Finance Board’s reporting of political donations. No campaign funds could be used for a legal defense trust or vice versa and each trust will be overseen by an independent trustee.</p> <p>Levin said that his bill “would bring transparency and regulation to a system that is in need of improvement.” Under the current law, city officials in civil and some criminal cases are entitled to a legal defense paid for by the city, as long as the cases relate to their public duties. However, offenses unrelated to an official’s public duties (such as political campaigns, issue advocacy, and certain administrative issues) are not paid for by the city.</p> <p>Council Member Fernando Cabrera, a Bronx Democrat and the chair of the Government Operations Committee, explained it as a problem because “public officials are not highly paid and rarely independently wealthy,” and “defending against allegations and investigations for alleged wrongdoing can be financially devastating for someone of average means.”</p> <p>While there have been past instances to raise the issue, the bill and committee hearing were spurred by a March 2017 advisory opinion from the city’s Conflict of Interest Board, which stated that because there was no law specifically addressing the issue, donations to a public official’s legal defense fund are considered gifts under current law and therefore limited to $50 per person. The advisory opinion came after Mayor de Blasio planned to create a legal defense fund to cover fees from state and federal investigations into his fundraising activities.</p> <p>De Blasio, a second-term Democrat, was never mentioned by name during the hearing, but was frequently referred to as a “public official in the headlines,” when the advisory opinion was brought up during testimony provided by representatives of the Conflict of Interest Board.</p> <p>At a press conference on January 8, de Blasio reiterated his assertion that a new legal framework was necessary. “I believe there is a need in a democratic society for this kind of mechanism, a legal defense fund is a very well established idea,” he said. He added the caveat that the bill had not gone through the legislative process, so he didn’t know the final wording. When asked if he would disclose his donors if the bill passed, he replied “absolutely” (it may be required).</p> <p>While de Blasio has been earning the salaries afforded to elected officials for many years, he also owns two houses in Park Slope, Brooklyn, making him fairly wealthy. He has indicated he does not have the means to pay his legal bills, not acknowledging the possibility of leveraging his property, or at least its value. He has pointed to the larger case for legal defense funds that goes beyond his situation, something it appears City Council members and others are in agreement about. De Blasio has claimed that law enforcement investigations are part of being in political office.</p> <p>At the hearing, the bill appeared to have the support of the Council members who spoke, although some had suggestions for improving it. The Conflict of Interest Board, represented at the hearing by its executive director, Carolyn Lisa Miller, and general counsel, Ethan Carrier, also expressed general support. However, Miller said there are some reservations about a section of the proposed bill that would ban the use of a defense fund from paying legal fines, but allows a fund to pay civil and administrative fines, such as Campaign Finance Board fines. Council Member Keith Powers, a Manhattan Democrat who expressed support for the concept of the bill but is undecided about its current form, asked about this section, but it was unclear if the provision would be changed.</p> <p>Miller stated the COIB already does not have enough resources to do its mandated work and would require additional funds to fulfill the requirements of the bill. She estimated that an online reporting portal would cost $40,000 to set up and a few thousand each year afterwards for licensing. The bill requires quarterly reporting for defense funds and each audit would cost between $5,000 and $10,000, according to Miller’s estimate based on information from other city agencies. When asked about the number of defense funds that would be registered, she said she did not know. If the section allowing defense funds to pay campaign finance violation fines were to be included in a final bill, she estimated that as many as 50 defense funds could be established. Without that provision, she said there were only be a few, if any, per year. Many candidates for office wind up incurring some amount of fines from the Campaign Finance Board, often ranging from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.</p> <p>Council Member Kalman Yeger, a Brooklyn Democrat, said he supports the concept behind the bill, but thinks that the specifics could be improved. He questioned why the Campaign Finance Board would not allow COIB to use its reporting portal or certified auditors, which he said would save taxpayers money. According to Miller, the CFB’s portal is proprietary to that agency and cannot be used by COIB. Near the end of the hearing, Cabrera proposed that the CFB could administer the bill’s requirements instead of the COIB. Both Levin and Treyger were against this proposal, but Yeger reaffirmed that he would like a mandate included in the bill for the CFB and COIB to share resources.</p> <p>While not at the hearing, watchdog group Common Cause supports the bill. In <a href="https://www.commoncause.org/new-york/press-release/recommends-legislation-create-legal-defense-funds/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a July 2017 statement</a> in support of legal defense trusts, Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause/NY, &nbsp;said that “there must and should be a process for public officials to raise funds to pay for legal bills” and “we need a policy in place to give public officials a workable solution and avoid ad hoc improvisation.” Common Cause commissioned a study of legal defense fund laws across the country and made recommendations to cover New York City’s perceived “policy gap.” Levin’s bill includes many of Common Cause’s recommendations.</p> <p>The Council committee hearing on the bill only included a statement from Council Member Levin, its lead sponsor, and the representatives from COIB. The Council now has to decide whether to amend Levin’s bill and if more hearings are required to address the issues raised at the January 14 hearing. The Council will also have to decide to vote on the bill or put it on indefinite hold. If it passes committee, it will go to the full 51-member Council. Meanwhile, it is unclear when exactly Mayor de Blasio’s legal bills are due, the debt has been outstanding for quite some time now.</p> <p>In response to a tweet about the bill from Politico reporter Sally Goldenberg, former City Council Member Sal Albanese, a 2013 and 2017 Democratic primary opponent of de Blasio, said that Levin and the bill’s other sponsors “should be held accountable for introducing this self serving corruption hazard” and called them “Bill de Blasio sycophants.” Levin replied to Albanese, stating that “I never spoke to [the Mayor’s Office] before introing this bill” and that “the bill itself is specifically designed to eliminate a corruption hazard.”</p> <p>

***
by Andrew Millman, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this article.</p> <p>Note: after initially mistaking Council Member Yeger for Treyger, this article has been corrected. It has also been updated to clarify Council Member Powers' stance on the bill.</p>
Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Michael Blake 2019-01-17T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-17T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8204-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-michael-blake Ben Max bmax@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 16, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Michael Blake<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/michael-blake-277px.jpg" alt="michael blake 277px" width="145" height="167" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Michael Blake is a member of the state Assembly from the Bronx and a candidate in the special election to become the next New York City Public Advocate, which will take place February 26. Blake, who worked in the Obama administration, joined the show to discuss his platform of "jobs and justice" and the approach he would take the role of Public Advocate, as well as his path to victory and more.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/560142411&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 16, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Michael Blake<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/michael-blake-277px.jpg" alt="michael blake 277px" width="145" height="167" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Michael Blake is a member of the state Assembly from the Bronx and a candidate in the special election to become the next New York City Public Advocate, which will take place February 26. Blake, who worked in the Obama administration, joined the show to discuss his platform of "jobs and justice" and the approach he would take the role of Public Advocate, as well as his path to victory and more.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/560142411&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Danny O'Donnell 2019-01-17T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-17T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8205-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-danny-o-donnell Ben Max bmax@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 16, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Danny O'Donnell<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/danny-odonnell-277b.jpg" alt="danny odonnell 277b" width="130" height="150" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Danny O'Donnell is a member of the state Assembly from Manhattan and a candidate for New York City Public Advocate in the special election set to take place February 26. O'Donnell joined the show to discuss his career in the Assembly and his campaign for Public Advocate, what sets him apart from the competition and his path to victory.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/560143533&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 16, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Danny O'Donnell<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/danny-odonnell-277b.jpg" alt="danny odonnell 277b" width="130" height="150" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Danny O'Donnell is a member of the state Assembly from Manhattan and a candidate for New York City Public Advocate in the special election set to take place February 26. O'Donnell joined the show to discuss his career in the Assembly and his campaign for Public Advocate, what sets him apart from the competition and his path to victory.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/560143533&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Dawn Smalls 2019-01-17T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-17T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8206-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-dawn-smalls Ben Max bmax@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 16, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Dawn Smalls<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/dawn-smalls-org.jpg" alt="dawn smalls org" width="150" height="150" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Dawn Smalls is an attorney who worked in the Clinton and Obama presidential administrations and, running in the special election to become New York City Public Advocate, a first-time candidate. She joined the show to discuss her resume, why she decided to run for office for the first time, her campaign for Public Advocate, the importance of having at least one woman in citywide office, and how she would run the office if elected.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/560145258&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 16, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Dawn Smalls<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/dawn-smalls-org.jpg" alt="dawn smalls org" width="150" height="150" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Dawn Smalls is an attorney who worked in the Clinton and Obama presidential administrations and, running in the special election to become New York City Public Advocate, a first-time candidate. She joined the show to discuss her resume, why she decided to run for office for the first time, her campaign for Public Advocate, the importance of having at least one woman in citywide office, and how she would run the office if elected.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/560145258&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
In First Mailer of Public Advocate Race, Kim Targets Amazon, and Prominent Opponents 2019-01-17T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-17T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8208-in-first-mailer-of-public-advocate-race-kim-targets-amazon-and-prominent-opponents Truman Stephens tstephens@gg.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/box-kim-mail1600.jpg" alt="box kim mail1600" width="600" height="548" /></p> <p>(portion of Ron Kim mailer)</p> <hr /> <p>Assemblymember Ron Kim, a candidate for New York City Public Advocate, sent out the first mailed advertisement of his campaign this week, touting his early opposition to the deal between Amazon and New York, and contrasting it with other leading candidates in the race.</p> <p>The advertisement appears to be the first mailer of the race, a sprint to the February 26 special election to fill now-Attorney General Letitia James’ former seat. Notably, it jabs at four perceived frontrunners, highlighting their signatures on an October 2017 letter signed by most elected officials in New York City to Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, urging him to bring the second Amazon headquarters to New York. Over a year later, the corporate giant and New York City and State officials announced the controversial deal that is now a flashpoint in the public advocate race. Kim, who did not sign the letter, is running on a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/8149-my-vision-for-the-role-of-public-advocate-ron-kim" target="_blank" rel="noopener">platform</a> of “people over corporations” and a promise to reinvent the public advocate’s office.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/pages-from-kim-mai32.jpg" alt="Ron Kim mailer" width="250" height="530" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />Specifically, the signatures of fellow public advocate candidates blown up on the mailer are former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, State Assembly Member Michael Blake, and City Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez and Jumaane Williams -- all Democrats like Kim, who represents parts of Queens. Since signing the letter, which was a broad overture, Mark-Viverito, Blake, and Williams have rejected the specific deal that was reached for an Amazon campus in Queens, which includes roughly $3 billion in tax incentives and grants from the city and state. Rodriguez's position on the Amazon deal is less clear, and his office did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>The mailer reads: “Assembly Member Ron Kim is running for to put Public Advocate for one simple reason: people over corporations. That means an end to corporate giveaways, reforming student debt and busting the mega-monopolies that govern our lives. He knows that the only way to truly help New Yorkers is to once and for all put people over corporations.”</p> <p>The letter to Bezos is essentially a sales pitch for New York City and cites many resources, like the high number of startups in New York as well as the large population Amazon would have at its disposal.</p> <p>“After they saw the backlash, [Mark-Viverito, Blake, Rodriguez, Williams] all of a sudden changed their position against Amazon for political expediency,” Kim said by email.</p> <p>Other prominent elected officials not to sign the letter <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7266-top-city-electeds-skip-letter-wooing-amazon" target="_blank" rel="noopener">were</a> Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, city Comptroller Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and Queens City Council Member Donovan Richards, as well as two other current public advocate candidates: Rafael Espinal, a City Council member from Brooklyn, and Danny O'Donnell, an Assembly member from Manhattan.</p> <p>Kim has spoken out against the Amazon deal since before it was announced. In<a href="http://www.qchron.com/editions/queenswide/kim-amazon-should-not-come-to-queens/article_b42ed3f6-7213-5066-b74e-02fc0782a2ac.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> comments</a> to Queens Chronicle about two weeks before Amazon and New York announced the deal, he rejected a possible agreement to bring the online giant to the city. He co-wrote two op-eds heavily critical of Amazon and the deal, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/09/opinion/amazon-new-york-business.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">first</a> in the New York Times with 2018 New York Attorney General candidate Zephyr Teachout, and <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-the-alternative-to-throwing-money-at-mega-corporations-20181120-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">another</a> two weeks later in the New York Daily News with then-State Senator-elect Jessica Ramos.</p> <p>Shortly after details of the deal were released, Assemblymember Kim announced legislation to block the incentives offered to Amazon and use the money to buy and cancel student debt. As public advocate, he would introduce similar legislation in the City Council.</p> <p>Opposition to the Amazon deal fits Kim’s thematic messaging for his campaign, he’ll even be on the self-created “People Over Corporations” ballot line on Feb. 26, which includes that push to cancel student debt and promoting local small businesses. The mailer describes the deal as a corporate giveaway and calls for investment in the MTA, schools, and affordable housing instead of the billions of incentives in the Amazon deal.</p> <p>The role of public advocate is intentionally flexible in the New York City Charter, but the three duties most often assumed by public advocates are introducing legislation in the City Council, bringing issues to the front of public discourse, and serving as a watchdog of city agencies. It appears there is little the next public advocate can do about the Amazon deal, but the most likely influence would be through applying public pressure on Mayor Bill de Blasio to cancel or make significant changes to the deal.</p> <p>“As the ombudsman for the people of New York City, the Public Advocate has a strong bully pulpit which I will use to convince (both publicly and privately) my colleagues in government to reject the Amazon HQ2 deal,” said Kim.</p> <p>The public advocate election to be held next month will have a large field of candidates. Twenty-three hopefuls <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8201-23-candidates-submit-petitions-to-get-on-february-26-public-advocate-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener">submitted</a> the required 3,750 signatures to the New York City Board of Elections by the Monday deadline. Also running are Queens City Council Member Eric Ulrich, Assemblymembers Daniel O’Donnell of Manhattan and Latrice Walker of Brooklyn, former Obama and Clinton administration attorney Dawn Smalls, and journalist and activist Nomiki Konst, among many others.</p> <p>With competitors trying to set themselves apart, Kim clearly sees Amazon opposition as a winning part of the strategy. Asked about how many mailers his campaign sent, where they were sent, and how much was spent on them, he only said, “I sent the mailer to a broad universe of likely voters across New York City.”</p> <p>Two names noticeably did not appear on the mailer: Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, the leaders of negotiations with Amazon executives who held a joint celebratory November press conference to announce the deal. De Blasio and Cuomo were immediately and loudly criticized for the deal by a number of elected officials and activists, though they also got some praise and the only public poll on it shows a mixed bag, but with more support than not. The criticism stemmed from the lack of transparency and oversight involved in the process, the incentives involved, Amazon’s business practices, and the potential impact on local housing prices and infrastructure.</p> <p>“Both were wrong to offer $3 billion in taxpayer handouts to Amazon instead of funding MTA reconstruction, affordable housing development, programs to fight climate change or a whole host of other priorities,” said Kim, when asked about omitting de Blasio and Cuomo from the mailer. “But neither the Governor nor the Mayor are running for Public Advocate.”</p> <p>

***
by Truman Stephens, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/box-kim-mail1600.jpg" alt="box kim mail1600" width="600" height="548" /></p> <p>(portion of Ron Kim mailer)</p> <hr /> <p>Assemblymember Ron Kim, a candidate for New York City Public Advocate, sent out the first mailed advertisement of his campaign this week, touting his early opposition to the deal between Amazon and New York, and contrasting it with other leading candidates in the race.</p> <p>The advertisement appears to be the first mailer of the race, a sprint to the February 26 special election to fill now-Attorney General Letitia James’ former seat. Notably, it jabs at four perceived frontrunners, highlighting their signatures on an October 2017 letter signed by most elected officials in New York City to Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, urging him to bring the second Amazon headquarters to New York. Over a year later, the corporate giant and New York City and State officials announced the controversial deal that is now a flashpoint in the public advocate race. Kim, who did not sign the letter, is running on a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/8149-my-vision-for-the-role-of-public-advocate-ron-kim" target="_blank" rel="noopener">platform</a> of “people over corporations” and a promise to reinvent the public advocate’s office.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/pages-from-kim-mai32.jpg" alt="Ron Kim mailer" width="250" height="530" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />Specifically, the signatures of fellow public advocate candidates blown up on the mailer are former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, State Assembly Member Michael Blake, and City Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez and Jumaane Williams -- all Democrats like Kim, who represents parts of Queens. Since signing the letter, which was a broad overture, Mark-Viverito, Blake, and Williams have rejected the specific deal that was reached for an Amazon campus in Queens, which includes roughly $3 billion in tax incentives and grants from the city and state. Rodriguez's position on the Amazon deal is less clear, and his office did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>The mailer reads: “Assembly Member Ron Kim is running for to put Public Advocate for one simple reason: people over corporations. That means an end to corporate giveaways, reforming student debt and busting the mega-monopolies that govern our lives. He knows that the only way to truly help New Yorkers is to once and for all put people over corporations.”</p> <p>The letter to Bezos is essentially a sales pitch for New York City and cites many resources, like the high number of startups in New York as well as the large population Amazon would have at its disposal.</p> <p>“After they saw the backlash, [Mark-Viverito, Blake, Rodriguez, Williams] all of a sudden changed their position against Amazon for political expediency,” Kim said by email.</p> <p>Other prominent elected officials not to sign the letter <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7266-top-city-electeds-skip-letter-wooing-amazon" target="_blank" rel="noopener">were</a> Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, city Comptroller Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and Queens City Council Member Donovan Richards, as well as two other current public advocate candidates: Rafael Espinal, a City Council member from Brooklyn, and Danny O'Donnell, an Assembly member from Manhattan.</p> <p>Kim has spoken out against the Amazon deal since before it was announced. In<a href="http://www.qchron.com/editions/queenswide/kim-amazon-should-not-come-to-queens/article_b42ed3f6-7213-5066-b74e-02fc0782a2ac.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> comments</a> to Queens Chronicle about two weeks before Amazon and New York announced the deal, he rejected a possible agreement to bring the online giant to the city. He co-wrote two op-eds heavily critical of Amazon and the deal, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/09/opinion/amazon-new-york-business.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">first</a> in the New York Times with 2018 New York Attorney General candidate Zephyr Teachout, and <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-the-alternative-to-throwing-money-at-mega-corporations-20181120-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">another</a> two weeks later in the New York Daily News with then-State Senator-elect Jessica Ramos.</p> <p>Shortly after details of the deal were released, Assemblymember Kim announced legislation to block the incentives offered to Amazon and use the money to buy and cancel student debt. As public advocate, he would introduce similar legislation in the City Council.</p> <p>Opposition to the Amazon deal fits Kim’s thematic messaging for his campaign, he’ll even be on the self-created “People Over Corporations” ballot line on Feb. 26, which includes that push to cancel student debt and promoting local small businesses. The mailer describes the deal as a corporate giveaway and calls for investment in the MTA, schools, and affordable housing instead of the billions of incentives in the Amazon deal.</p> <p>The role of public advocate is intentionally flexible in the New York City Charter, but the three duties most often assumed by public advocates are introducing legislation in the City Council, bringing issues to the front of public discourse, and serving as a watchdog of city agencies. It appears there is little the next public advocate can do about the Amazon deal, but the most likely influence would be through applying public pressure on Mayor Bill de Blasio to cancel or make significant changes to the deal.</p> <p>“As the ombudsman for the people of New York City, the Public Advocate has a strong bully pulpit which I will use to convince (both publicly and privately) my colleagues in government to reject the Amazon HQ2 deal,” said Kim.</p> <p>The public advocate election to be held next month will have a large field of candidates. Twenty-three hopefuls <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8201-23-candidates-submit-petitions-to-get-on-february-26-public-advocate-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener">submitted</a> the required 3,750 signatures to the New York City Board of Elections by the Monday deadline. Also running are Queens City Council Member Eric Ulrich, Assemblymembers Daniel O’Donnell of Manhattan and Latrice Walker of Brooklyn, former Obama and Clinton administration attorney Dawn Smalls, and journalist and activist Nomiki Konst, among many others.</p> <p>With competitors trying to set themselves apart, Kim clearly sees Amazon opposition as a winning part of the strategy. Asked about how many mailers his campaign sent, where they were sent, and how much was spent on them, he only said, “I sent the mailer to a broad universe of likely voters across New York City.”</p> <p>Two names noticeably did not appear on the mailer: Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, the leaders of negotiations with Amazon executives who held a joint celebratory November press conference to announce the deal. De Blasio and Cuomo were immediately and loudly criticized for the deal by a number of elected officials and activists, though they also got some praise and the only public poll on it shows a mixed bag, but with more support than not. The criticism stemmed from the lack of transparency and oversight involved in the process, the incentives involved, Amazon’s business practices, and the potential impact on local housing prices and infrastructure.</p> <p>“Both were wrong to offer $3 billion in taxpayer handouts to Amazon instead of funding MTA reconstruction, affordable housing development, programs to fight climate change or a whole host of other priorities,” said Kim, when asked about omitting de Blasio and Cuomo from the mailer. “But neither the Governor nor the Mayor are running for Public Advocate.”</p> <p>

***
by Truman Stephens, Gotham Gazette

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23 Candidates Submit Petitions to Get on February 26 Public Advocate Ballot 2019-01-15T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-15T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8201-23-candidates-submit-petitions-to-get-on-february-26-public-advocate-ballot Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/first-ave-marathon.jpg" alt="first ave marathon" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The field of candidates running for public advocate in the special election scheduled for February 26 remains massive after 23 candidates submitted ballot petition signatures to the New York City Board of Elections by a Monday deadline to get on the ballot.</p> <p>Candidates were required to submit a minimum of 3,750 signatures though many of them went far beyond the requirement with some submitting more than 10,000. What remains to be seen is how many challenges are filed against certain candidates’ petitions in an effort to disqualify those hopefuls from the race and the results of those challenges. Four candidates are already facing objections to their petitions -- Melissa Mark-Viverito, Rafael Espinal, Ron Kim, and Danniel Maio -- though the details of those objections are not available. Candidates have <a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/downloads/pdf/documents/boe/PublicNotices/Adopted_Preliminary_Calendar_for_Ind_Nom_Pets_for_NYC_Public_Adocate_for_the_Feb_26_2019_Sp_Elec_01-04-2019.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">till Thursday</a> to file objections. And candidates who have not been challenged may also not make the ballot if their campaigns do not file requisite paperwork or something problematic enough is found in what they have submitted. This happened with Ify Ike, who had submitted signatures but then announced that she will not be on the ballot due to other paperwork not having been filed by her campaign lawyer.</p> <p>The special election is nonpartisan, with each candidate creating their own party line that cannot resemble an existing political party. Here are the 23 candidates who submitted ballot petition signatures, with their party lines, in order of appearance on the Board of Elections’ ledger:</p> <p>1) Melissa Mark-Viverito (Fix the MTA), former speaker of the New York City Council<br /> 2) Michael Blake (For The People), state Assembly member from the Bronx<br /> 3) Dawn Smalls (No More Delays), attorney who formerly served in Clinton and Obama presidential administrations<br /> 4) Eric Ulrich (Common Sense), New York City Council member from Queens<br /> 5) Daniel O'Donnell (Equality For All), state Assembly member from Manhattan<br /> 6) Latrice Walker (People For Walker), state Assembly member from Brooklyn<br /> 7) Rafael Espinal (Livable City), New York City Council member from Brooklyn<br /> 8) Jumaane Williams (The People's Voice), New York City Council member from Brooklyn<br /> 9) Ron Kim (People Over Corporations), state Assembly member from Queens<br /> 10) Ydanis Rodriguez (UNITED FOR IMMIGRANTS), New York City Council member from Manhattan<br /> 11) Danniel S. Maio (I Like Maio), mapmaker and former congressional candidate<br /> 12) Gary Popkin (Liberal), libertarian and retired professor <br /> 13) Benjamin Yee (COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT), entrepreneur and activist<br /> 14) Ifeoma Ike (People Over Profit), community activist (*note: Ike will not appear on the ballot, per her campaign)<br /> 15) Manny Alicandro (Better Leadership), attorney<br /> 16) Michael Zumbluskas (FIX MTA &amp; NYCHA NOW), Reform Party leader<br /> 17) David Eisenbach (Stop REBNY), history professor at Columbia University and 2017 candidate for public advocate<br /> 18) Nomiki Konst (Pay People More), journalist and activist<br /> 19) Jared Rich (Jared Rich For NYC), attorney<br /> 20) Anthony Herbert (Housing Residents First), community activist<br /> 21) Walter Iwachiw (I4panyc), perennial candidate for elected office<br /> 22) Theo Chino (Courage To Change), Bitcoin entrepreneur<br /> 23) Helal Sheikh (Friends Of Helal), former City Council candidate</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8175-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-public-advocate-special-election" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Everything You Need to Know About the Special Election for Public Advocate</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/first-ave-marathon.jpg" alt="first ave marathon" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The field of candidates running for public advocate in the special election scheduled for February 26 remains massive after 23 candidates submitted ballot petition signatures to the New York City Board of Elections by a Monday deadline to get on the ballot.</p> <p>Candidates were required to submit a minimum of 3,750 signatures though many of them went far beyond the requirement with some submitting more than 10,000. What remains to be seen is how many challenges are filed against certain candidates’ petitions in an effort to disqualify those hopefuls from the race and the results of those challenges. Four candidates are already facing objections to their petitions -- Melissa Mark-Viverito, Rafael Espinal, Ron Kim, and Danniel Maio -- though the details of those objections are not available. Candidates have <a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/downloads/pdf/documents/boe/PublicNotices/Adopted_Preliminary_Calendar_for_Ind_Nom_Pets_for_NYC_Public_Adocate_for_the_Feb_26_2019_Sp_Elec_01-04-2019.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">till Thursday</a> to file objections. And candidates who have not been challenged may also not make the ballot if their campaigns do not file requisite paperwork or something problematic enough is found in what they have submitted. This happened with Ify Ike, who had submitted signatures but then announced that she will not be on the ballot due to other paperwork not having been filed by her campaign lawyer.</p> <p>The special election is nonpartisan, with each candidate creating their own party line that cannot resemble an existing political party. Here are the 23 candidates who submitted ballot petition signatures, with their party lines, in order of appearance on the Board of Elections’ ledger:</p> <p>1) Melissa Mark-Viverito (Fix the MTA), former speaker of the New York City Council<br /> 2) Michael Blake (For The People), state Assembly member from the Bronx<br /> 3) Dawn Smalls (No More Delays), attorney who formerly served in Clinton and Obama presidential administrations<br /> 4) Eric Ulrich (Common Sense), New York City Council member from Queens<br /> 5) Daniel O'Donnell (Equality For All), state Assembly member from Manhattan<br /> 6) Latrice Walker (People For Walker), state Assembly member from Brooklyn<br /> 7) Rafael Espinal (Livable City), New York City Council member from Brooklyn<br /> 8) Jumaane Williams (The People's Voice), New York City Council member from Brooklyn<br /> 9) Ron Kim (People Over Corporations), state Assembly member from Queens<br /> 10) Ydanis Rodriguez (UNITED FOR IMMIGRANTS), New York City Council member from Manhattan<br /> 11) Danniel S. Maio (I Like Maio), mapmaker and former congressional candidate<br /> 12) Gary Popkin (Liberal), libertarian and retired professor <br /> 13) Benjamin Yee (COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT), entrepreneur and activist<br /> 14) Ifeoma Ike (People Over Profit), community activist (*note: Ike will not appear on the ballot, per her campaign)<br /> 15) Manny Alicandro (Better Leadership), attorney<br /> 16) Michael Zumbluskas (FIX MTA &amp; NYCHA NOW), Reform Party leader<br /> 17) David Eisenbach (Stop REBNY), history professor at Columbia University and 2017 candidate for public advocate<br /> 18) Nomiki Konst (Pay People More), journalist and activist<br /> 19) Jared Rich (Jared Rich For NYC), attorney<br /> 20) Anthony Herbert (Housing Residents First), community activist<br /> 21) Walter Iwachiw (I4panyc), perennial candidate for elected office<br /> 22) Theo Chino (Courage To Change), Bitcoin entrepreneur<br /> 23) Helal Sheikh (Friends Of Helal), former City Council candidate</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8175-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-public-advocate-special-election" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Everything You Need to Know About the Special Election for Public Advocate</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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As Acting Public Advocate, Johnson Eyes Information Commission Revived by James But Killed by De Blasio 2019-01-15T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-15T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8200-as-acting-public-advocate-johnson-eyes-information-commission-revived-by-james-but-killed-by-de-blasio Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/46672397441_d47ec97d1e_z.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson Tish James" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Corey Johnson, Laurie Cumbo, Tish James (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>A charter-mandated city commission meant to help New Yorkers access information about their government sputtered to a stop in 2016 owing to a lack of funding, barely three years after being revived by former Public Advocate Letitia James. Now, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is also acting public advocate for the next several weeks, is taking up James’ unfinished business and attempting to raise the commission from its grave.</p> <p>The Commission on Public Information and Communication (COPIC) was created in the City Charter in 1989 with a mandate of informing the public about data created and maintained by the city and helping New Yorkers access it. Chaired by the public advocate, the commission is meant to regularly examine the city’s information policies as well as monitor agency efforts to comply with them.</p> <p>The charter requires the commission to hold at least one hearing each year and issue an annual report. COPIC must also annually publish a directory of “computerized information produced or maintained by city agencies which is required by law to be publicly accessible,” though it has not done so since perhaps the 1990s. The commission does not have a website, despite being in existence for 20 years, and records of past meetings and reports are not easily accessible (the public advocate’s website hosted some of this information but was archived once James vacated her seat).</p> <p>The commission was also tasked with evaluating the implementation of the city’s webcasting law, passed in 2013 and requiring agencies to broadcast meetings online and archive them. In 2015, James’ second year as public advocate, the commission was exploring ways to assist agencies with their webcasting requirements and setting up a central repository of all webcasts.</p> <p>The body’s membership, all unpaid, is meant to comprise the heads of several city agencies or their delegates including the city Law Department, the Department of Records and Information Services, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications; one City Council member; two other members appointed by the mayor; one member appointed by the public advocate; and one appointed by the borough presidents as a group.</p> <p>But COPIC hasn’t held a hearing since March 2016 when James was in the midst of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/government/6025-little-known-commission-expands-access-to-city-government" target="_blank" rel="noopener">her attempt to rescue the commission</a> from bureaucratic apathy only to be denied resources by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration. As James’ predecessor in the public advocate’s office, de Blasio himself had only convened one hearing of the commission. The public advocate’s office receives little funding for its own duties, let alone to hire staff for COPIC.</p> <p>It’s unclear why James did not continue her advocacy for the commission after having revived it with some fanfare early in her tenure (her office even created <a href="https://twitter.com/COPICNYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a new Twitter account</a> just for COPIC). A spokesperson for James did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>When James was sworn in as New York’s attorney general, the public advocate office fell to Speaker Johnson’s stewardship until a new public advocate is chosen by voters in a special election scheduled for February 26. In the limited time available to him, Johnson is eyeing several avenues of his expanded responsibilities. “I absolutely want an active COPIC, and I want to build on the work Tish James did as Public Advocate in this area,” Johnson said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “This is something she fought for and it’s something I want to keep working on in my time as acting Public Advocate.”</p> <p>One reason that COPIC has been unable to publish the requisite public data directory is because the Law Department argued in 2014 that the city’s Open Data portal already accomplishes this goal. But Johnson’s office disagrees. A spokesperson said that though the two databases have significant overlap, COPIC’s public data directory could and would go further, identifying new datasets that members of the public can then request under the city’s Freedom of Information law. The Open Data portal, on the other hand, relies on agencies self-identifying datasets that they believe should be subject to the open data law. Earlier this month, Johnson sent a letter to the mayor requesting that information with a February 15 deadline for a response.</p> <p>“We’ll look into it,” said mayoral spokesperson Eric Phillips, in an email, when asked about the speaker’s letter and the lack of funding for COPIC.</p> <p>Manhattan City Council Member Ben Kallos, who was the Council’s pick to be on the commission, said the fault for COPIC’s inactivity lies solely with the mayor’s office as he praised James for trying to resuscitate the commission. “COPIC is yet another board that is completely controlled by mayoral appointments, which has a responsibility to be a check on the mayor, which is why it has probably never been funded properly in my recent memory,” Kallos said in a phone interview, noting that the mayor chooses seven of the 11 COPIC commissioners. “COPIC is a powerful agency in the charter which has been written out of the charter by a chronic defunding of the agency as a whole.”</p> <p>Kallos requested funding for the agency in three successive budgets. In 2015, several civic technology groups and good government advocacy organizations also joined that push, including Common Cause New York, Citizens Union, the New York Public Interest Research Group, BetaNYC, Civic Hall, Reinvent Albany, the League of Women Voters of the City of New York, and the Women’s City Club of New York. “Given the promise of COPIC to increase public accessibility of city government meetings, data and information, we request the modest budget of $250,000 for staffing of COPIC to ensure it is able to fulfill the duties outlined in the City Charter,” the groups wrote in a 2015 letter. That funding is estimated to be sufficient to hire a full-time executive director and general counsel, which the charter mandates.</p> <p>Kallos was disappointed that those calls went unheeded. “The mayor never included it in the budget. I pushed for it. Tish pushed for it. The good government community pushed for it,” he said. The most impactful role that COPIC could play, Kallos said, is providing advisory opinions to members of the public, elected officials, and city agencies about laws requiring public access to meetings, transcripts and records.</p> <p>“COPIC has the potential to be the equivalent of the Committee on Open Government at the state level,” he said, referring to the state agency that gives the public, press, and state government advice on the state Freedom of Information Law, the Open Meetings Law, and the Personal Privacy Protection Law. Kallos said he would advocate for the 2019 Charter Revision Commission to strengthen COPIC’s powers.</p> <p>“You can only expect people to work for so long without being compensated for their work, and with the federal government shut down, we’re seeing those limits tested,” Kallos said. “In this case we have COPIC being operated and moved forward for three years without any funding and I hope that people will finally fund this important agency that very few have ever heard of but would have the power to really force the executive to really open up.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/46672397441_d47ec97d1e_z.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson Tish James" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Corey Johnson, Laurie Cumbo, Tish James (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>A charter-mandated city commission meant to help New Yorkers access information about their government sputtered to a stop in 2016 owing to a lack of funding, barely three years after being revived by former Public Advocate Letitia James. Now, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is also acting public advocate for the next several weeks, is taking up James’ unfinished business and attempting to raise the commission from its grave.</p> <p>The Commission on Public Information and Communication (COPIC) was created in the City Charter in 1989 with a mandate of informing the public about data created and maintained by the city and helping New Yorkers access it. Chaired by the public advocate, the commission is meant to regularly examine the city’s information policies as well as monitor agency efforts to comply with them.</p> <p>The charter requires the commission to hold at least one hearing each year and issue an annual report. COPIC must also annually publish a directory of “computerized information produced or maintained by city agencies which is required by law to be publicly accessible,” though it has not done so since perhaps the 1990s. The commission does not have a website, despite being in existence for 20 years, and records of past meetings and reports are not easily accessible (the public advocate’s website hosted some of this information but was archived once James vacated her seat).</p> <p>The commission was also tasked with evaluating the implementation of the city’s webcasting law, passed in 2013 and requiring agencies to broadcast meetings online and archive them. In 2015, James’ second year as public advocate, the commission was exploring ways to assist agencies with their webcasting requirements and setting up a central repository of all webcasts.</p> <p>The body’s membership, all unpaid, is meant to comprise the heads of several city agencies or their delegates including the city Law Department, the Department of Records and Information Services, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications; one City Council member; two other members appointed by the mayor; one member appointed by the public advocate; and one appointed by the borough presidents as a group.</p> <p>But COPIC hasn’t held a hearing since March 2016 when James was in the midst of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/government/6025-little-known-commission-expands-access-to-city-government" target="_blank" rel="noopener">her attempt to rescue the commission</a> from bureaucratic apathy only to be denied resources by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration. As James’ predecessor in the public advocate’s office, de Blasio himself had only convened one hearing of the commission. The public advocate’s office receives little funding for its own duties, let alone to hire staff for COPIC.</p> <p>It’s unclear why James did not continue her advocacy for the commission after having revived it with some fanfare early in her tenure (her office even created <a href="https://twitter.com/COPICNYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a new Twitter account</a> just for COPIC). A spokesperson for James did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>When James was sworn in as New York’s attorney general, the public advocate office fell to Speaker Johnson’s stewardship until a new public advocate is chosen by voters in a special election scheduled for February 26. In the limited time available to him, Johnson is eyeing several avenues of his expanded responsibilities. “I absolutely want an active COPIC, and I want to build on the work Tish James did as Public Advocate in this area,” Johnson said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “This is something she fought for and it’s something I want to keep working on in my time as acting Public Advocate.”</p> <p>One reason that COPIC has been unable to publish the requisite public data directory is because the Law Department argued in 2014 that the city’s Open Data portal already accomplishes this goal. But Johnson’s office disagrees. A spokesperson said that though the two databases have significant overlap, COPIC’s public data directory could and would go further, identifying new datasets that members of the public can then request under the city’s Freedom of Information law. The Open Data portal, on the other hand, relies on agencies self-identifying datasets that they believe should be subject to the open data law. Earlier this month, Johnson sent a letter to the mayor requesting that information with a February 15 deadline for a response.</p> <p>“We’ll look into it,” said mayoral spokesperson Eric Phillips, in an email, when asked about the speaker’s letter and the lack of funding for COPIC.</p> <p>Manhattan City Council Member Ben Kallos, who was the Council’s pick to be on the commission, said the fault for COPIC’s inactivity lies solely with the mayor’s office as he praised James for trying to resuscitate the commission. “COPIC is yet another board that is completely controlled by mayoral appointments, which has a responsibility to be a check on the mayor, which is why it has probably never been funded properly in my recent memory,” Kallos said in a phone interview, noting that the mayor chooses seven of the 11 COPIC commissioners. “COPIC is a powerful agency in the charter which has been written out of the charter by a chronic defunding of the agency as a whole.”</p> <p>Kallos requested funding for the agency in three successive budgets. In 2015, several civic technology groups and good government advocacy organizations also joined that push, including Common Cause New York, Citizens Union, the New York Public Interest Research Group, BetaNYC, Civic Hall, Reinvent Albany, the League of Women Voters of the City of New York, and the Women’s City Club of New York. “Given the promise of COPIC to increase public accessibility of city government meetings, data and information, we request the modest budget of $250,000 for staffing of COPIC to ensure it is able to fulfill the duties outlined in the City Charter,” the groups wrote in a 2015 letter. That funding is estimated to be sufficient to hire a full-time executive director and general counsel, which the charter mandates.</p> <p>Kallos was disappointed that those calls went unheeded. “The mayor never included it in the budget. I pushed for it. Tish pushed for it. The good government community pushed for it,” he said. The most impactful role that COPIC could play, Kallos said, is providing advisory opinions to members of the public, elected officials, and city agencies about laws requiring public access to meetings, transcripts and records.</p> <p>“COPIC has the potential to be the equivalent of the Committee on Open Government at the state level,” he said, referring to the state agency that gives the public, press, and state government advice on the state Freedom of Information Law, the Open Meetings Law, and the Personal Privacy Protection Law. Kallos said he would advocate for the 2019 Charter Revision Commission to strengthen COPIC’s powers.</p> <p>“You can only expect people to work for so long without being compensated for their work, and with the federal government shut down, we’re seeing those limits tested,” Kallos said. “In this case we have COPIC being operated and moved forward for three years without any funding and I hope that people will finally fund this important agency that very few have ever heard of but would have the power to really force the executive to really open up.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>