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Max & Murphy Podcast: Analyzing the 2017 Election Results


Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette


November 7, 2017 - Max & Murphy: Analyzing Election Results

bdb voting sign in 277

The day after Election Day, Max & Murphy, with guest Samar Khurshid of Gotham Gazette, discuss the results, including what the mayoral vote says about Bill de Blasio and where the city is heading.

Watch and/or listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @jarrettmurphy. You can watch or listen to the episode with embedded video and audio below, or download the audio wherever you get your podcasts.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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The Right to Know Act and the City Council Speaker Race


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Jumaane Williams at a Right to Know Act rally (Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)


In less than two months, the current class of the New York City Council ends its term, and eight incumbents who won reelection on Tuesday are running to lead the 51-member legislative body as its next speaker. It is an internal race influenced by county party affiliates, labor unions, Mayor Bill de Blasio, himself newly reelected, and others.

As the clock ticks on this term and the speakership of Melissa Mark-Viverito, a de Blasio ally who is term-limited out of office, a particular package of controversial legislation offers an especially delicate situation for Mark-Viverito, de Blasio, and the speaker candidates, most notably the one, Ritchie Torres, who is a prime sponsor of the bills.

Each of the eight speaker candidates -- Council Members Torres, Corey Johnson, Mark Levine, Donovan Richards, Jimmy Van Bramer, Robert Cornegy, Ydanis Rodriguez and Jumaane Williams -- is a co-sponsor on the two police reform bills, collectively called the Right to Know Act, which puts them at odds with the mayor, who has ardently opposed the legislation, and with Mark-Viverito, who has refused to allow it to come to a vote. Instead, Mark-Viverito and the NYPD announced an agreement on administrative changes whereby the police department agreed to implement pieces of the bills, but without the power of law.

As the Council readies for an expected end-of-term legislative blitz, supporters of the bills from inside and outside the Council are pushing for passage, potentially setting up the next speaker, the second-most powerful elected official in the city, to take office having already courted conflict with the mayor and potentially establishing a new dynamic between the heads of the executive and legislative branches of city government. It puts Torres in a particularly awkward position of having to possibly decide whether to buck advocates and co-sponsors or the mayor and the speaker and those members who would rather not have to vote on the measure.

De Blasio has yet to use a veto during his four years as mayor, with virtually every contentious piece of legislation either being negotiated to agreement between the mayor and the Council or scuttled.

The bills in question include Intro. 182, sponsored by Council Member Torres, putting him in unique position among the speaker candidates, which requires police officers to identify themselves during a street stop, and Intro. 541, sponsored by Council Member Antonio Reynoso, mandating that officers inform individuals of their right to refuse consent to a search in cases that it is required and to provide audio or written proof if an individual consents to a search. Unsurprisingly, the legislation was met with strong resistance from the NYPD, whose leadership has often been critical of the City Council’s attempts to legislate its practices and believes the bills would hamper officers’ abilities to do their jobs.

In July last year, Mark-Viverito struck a compromise with the police department to implement certain provisions of the bills, foregoing a vote, despite the fact that the bills had and continue to have support from a majority of the Council. Police reform advocates were incensed by what they saw as a backroom deal and questioned the speaker’s willingness to stand up to de Blasio.

Six of the eight speaker candidates -- Johnson and Cornegy did not respond to requests for comment for this article -- said the speaker’s race would not affect their support for the Right to Know Act and that the legislation would likely not affect the speaker’s race. But they also agreed that any speaker must demonstrate their independence from the mayor, and supporting these police reforms can do just that.

“I can assure you that the speaker’s race has no bearing on how I will conduct myself on the subject of the Right to Know,” said Torres, in a phone interview. “One has nothing to do with the other.” Torres and Reynoso have held off on using a discharge through committee, a procedural tool that would allow them to bypass a committee vote and bring their bills directly to the floor of the Council, despite the urging of police reform advocacy groups such as Communities United for Police Reform (CPR).

“I never shy away from challenging authority but for me it’s more about finding the right solution,” Torres said, insisting that he would rather negotiate with the police department to amend the bills and get them passed. “There’s greater value in passing legislation with the buy-in of an agency than doing so in the face of hysterical opposition. In the end, if one side refuses to negotiate in good faith, then of course I reserve the right to discharge and I have no hesitation about exercising that right. But I will do so only when necessary.”

When asked if, in the context of Right to Know, Speaker Mark-Viverito had been sufficiently independent of the mayor and whether the next speaker should be more independent, Torres bluntly said, “‘No’ to your first question and ‘yes’ to your second question.”

The other speaker candidates, even as they stood for the virtues of the Right to Know Act, did not criticize Mark-Viverito, who has been noncommittal on whether the two bills are moving closer to a vote. She has insisted that the Council is continuing internal conversations with the bill sponsors and the NYPD, and that the body has been assessing the implementation of the administrative changes agreed to last year. “We have been in dialogue, very recent dialogue with advocates, with the police department, with the sponsors of the bill,” she said at a recent news conference. “There’s been a lot of conversation, so we’re still going through our process.”

Asked if she’d encourage Torres and Reynoso to exercise their prerogative to discharge the bills, she simply said, “We’re going through the process with those bills.”

When asked repeatedly at that press conference what specifically she and the Council were doing to monitor the administrative implementation, Mark-Viverito gave vague answers about ongoing conversations.

Politico New York reported last week that supporters of the bills are hoping to bring them to a vote by November 16, since a vote after that would leave insufficient time to override a veto by the mayor. Police reform groups have also called on the bill sponsors, Torres and Reynoso, to ensure passage or discharge the bills through committee by that deadline.

“Our primary concern with the [next] speaker is really making sure that they’re going to be a person who supports these reforms and future reforms and make sure that New Yorkers are having interactions with police that make sense and don’t violate their rights,” said Anthonine Pierre, deputy director of the Brooklyn Movement Center, a nonprofit that is a member of the Communities United for Police Reform coalition. Advocates have been supportive of Torres and Reynoso, but appear to be reaching a point of frustration.

As was the case with police reform advocates, many on the Council were disappointed by the speaker’s decision to strike a bargain with the NYPD in lieu of a legislative solution. But, besides Torres, most other speaker candidates defended Mark-Viverito’s record of being independent, while yet others spoke of how they would handle the speakership themselves.

Council Member Levine believes the bills will hardly play a role in the speaker race as he expects they’ll be resolved before the end of the year. “I believe that there will be a way for the bills to move forward with buy-in from the people that will be implementing it, the [police department], and that that will be settled before we have a new speaker,” he said in a phone interview.  

He defended Mark-Viverito’s leadership over the process involving the Right to Know. “I think she should be given credit for working very very hard on this issue, both on the policy and legislative front,” Levine said.

He emphasized that the Council has been independent of the mayor, pushing him on issues such as funding for 1,300 new police officers and free legal assistance in housing court, which he championed. And he noted that the speaker will be chosen only by the 51 members of the Council. “It’s just so important that the Council emerge as a totally independent body, a co-equal branch of government, and that’s definitely my vision for the speakership,” he said.

Council Member Rodriguez hopes to see movement on the bills but would only comment on “who I would be as speaker,” briefly mentioning that he would expand the oversight role of committee chairs. “The speaker should be a person that defends the independent voice of the Council,” he said.

Council Member Van Bramer said the speaker race “is an opportunity to elevate the conversation” around Right to Know, which he said should pass on its merits regardless of the race. He said he would move the bills to a vote, given he is elected speaker, if they do not pass this year. “I think that it’s really important that the speaker be a counter-balance to the mayor,” he said. “I think the body is looking for an independent and forceful speaker who’s gonna be able to represent the members and represent the interests of the members and I think I’ve demonstrated in the past that while we certainly work together, when I disagree with the mayor, I’m not afraid to disagree with the mayor and disagree strongly.”

Council Member Williams spoke briefly with Gotham Gazette at City Hall and only said that he was following the lead of the Right to Know sponsors. “I continue to support it, I hope it gets passed,” he said.

Council Member Richards said Right to Know is part of a criminal justice reform discussion that would continue over the next four years, no matter who becomes the Council’s leader. “You know even as Melissa leaves, as we continue to move forward over the next four years, this issue does not die,” he said. “The need for reform is gonna be something continuous.”

He also stressed that Right to Know has not languished because of a lack of independence either by the speaker or the Council. “I think it’s a question of trying to shape and get something done. And the Council has the ability to pass legislation whether the mayor supports it or not, but we also want to make sure that we’re doing it in a responsible fashion and we’re trying to reach a medium that is doable,” Richards said, “to make sure that, one, our community is getting the greatest benefit of transparency, but secondly also in a way that ensures that we’re not also going to harm officers’ ability to do their job as well.”

Council Member Rory Lancman, a vocal critic of the de Blasio administration on criminal justice issues, is also a co-sponsor of the Right to Know Act which, he said, “is a good lens through which to evaluate the speaker candidates,” and their ability to stand up to the mayor.

“The issue of are you for or against the Right to Know Act isn’t a factor in the speaker’s race because everybody’s for it,” he said. “What is an issue is whether or not you as a speaker will allow bills that make you or the administration uncomfortable come to the floor for a vote. That is an important test of the speaker candidates and I think it is the main issue that each speaker candidate has to address because philosophically, ideologically, substantively there’s not much of a difference among the eight of them in terms of what they stand for.”

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Bill De Blasio Easily Wins Reelection as Mayor of New York City


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Mayor Bill de Blasio after casting his vote (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)


Mayor Bill de Blasio triumphed over his challengers on Tuesday to become the first Democrat to be reelected mayor of New York City since Ed Koch won a third term in 1985. De Blasio celebrated, promised more progress, and put his win into the context of a larger Democratic wave that took place on Tuesday in other places around the country. De Blasio declared a new goal for a second and final term: making New York City “the fairest big city in America.”

With 99.9 percent of precincts reporting, de Blasio had received 726,361 votes, or 66.5 percent, according to unofficial Board of Elections returns. He handily beat his Republican rival Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, who received 303,742 votes, or 28 percent. Five other candidates were on the mayoral ballot, with Reform Party candidate Sal Albanese coming in third with 2 percent (22,891 votes).

“This is your city,” de Blasio said as he declared victory before 10 p.m., invoking his campaign slogan to hundreds of supporters at the Brooklyn Museum on Tuesday night, as First Lady Chirlane McCray and their son Dante stood by his side.

De Blasio, a progressive who championed policies for low-income and working New Yorkers in his first term, stood emboldened by the result and shot back at the detractors who predicted gloom-and-doom under his administration. “They said things were going in the wrong direction,” he said, “Well, they were wrong.”

After a largely lackluster mayoral race matched by low turnout, and the power of incumbency on his side, de Blasio easily bested his opponents, who struggled to garner name recognition throughout the campaign and overcome the mayor’s significant fundraising advantage. The mayor’s campaign employed an expansive ground game and digital strategy, spending more than $8 million by Election Day, eclipsing all his rivals.

De Blasio comfortably carried every borough but Staten Island, Malliotakis’ home turf and a Republican bastion in a city where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans six to one.

Touting his “historic” win Tuesday, de Blasio reiterated the measures his administration has taken to make the city more equitable, including implementing universal pre-kindergarten, creating affordable housing, and reducing crime. And, he promised more. “We’ve got to have a fairer city, we’ve got to do it soon, we’ve got to do it fast, we’ve got to put everything we’ve got into it,” he said. “You saw some important changes in the last four years but you ain’t seen nothin yet.”

The crowd cheered repeatedly as de Blasio floated his oft-stated ideas to make New York that “fairest big city in America,” including a millionaires tax to fund the subways and subsidized MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers; a mansion tax to help create more affordable housing for seniors; and a reformed voting and election system that encourages, instead of burdens, democratic participation. All three would require cooperation from legislators and the governor in Albany, and de Blasio promised he’d apply the pressure in the first month of his second term.

De Blasio also talked about big goals like instituting universal, free preschool for three-year-olds across the city; expanding his affordable housing plan; creating 100,000 good-paying jobs by through city intervention; and outfitting all patrol officers with police body cameras.

Tuesday also marked one year since the election of Donald Trump, and de Blasio did not miss his opportunity to mock the Republican president, a fellow New Yorker, while also promising to hold fast in his opposition to federal policies. “America got a little fairer tonight, America got a little bluer tonight,” he said, exhorting the audience to cheer for Democrats who emerged victorious in New Jersey and Virginia as well. “Tonight, New York City sends a message to the White House as well. You can’t take on New York values and win, Mr. President.”

De Blasio’s margin of victory Tuesday seemed to fall short of his vote share in the 2013 general election, when he received 72.1 percent over Republican Joe Lhota’s 24 percent. That year de Blasio had not met the challenges of governing a complex and vast city, he had not had to make difficult decisions, solve a homelessness crisis, or figure out how to build new affordable housing.

The relatively sleepy race drew about 1,092,746 voters who cast a ballot for mayor, only about 23 percent of the roughly 4.6 million registered voters in the city, compared to 1,102,400 voters or 24 percent who turned out to vote in the 2013 mayoral race, also a particularly low-turnout election in keeping with a downward trend over decades.

Fellow Democratic elected officials were enthusiastic about the notion of heading into another four years with de Blasio at the city’s helm. Public Advocate Letitia James, who resoundingly won reelection on Tuesday, said she looks forward to working with the mayor on addressing the city’s affordable housing and homelessness crises in his second term, with bolder and bigger ideas. “That should be our primary focus,” she said shortly after casting her vote in Clinton Hill. “For the administration’s second term, they should wake up each and every day focusing on how they are going to build more affordable housing for low-, moderate- and middle-income families.”

Comptroller Scott Stringer, also reelected Tuesday, simply said he was “excited” about the mayor’s second term. Stringer had for some time considered challenging de Blasio this year but chose not to run; he and James are among those expected to run for mayor in 2021 when de Blasio is term-limited.

Earlier in the day, Clinton Hill resident Roslyn Fleming, 63, said she intended to vote for de Blasio and Democrats down the ballot. The mayor, she said, needs another four years to bring his work to fruition. “You know what, he only had four years,” she said. “And sometimes when you implement programs, you need another four years to get it through...and I think in the second four years he’s gonna do a much better job because he’s already kinda laid the groundwork.”

Seventeen-year-old Marcel Martinez was too young to vote Tuesday but was thrilled after meeting de Blasio at an afternoon campaign stop near West 72nd Street and Broadway. “I love how he’s always kind of involved, he’s always around,” Martinez said, shortly after the mayor embraced him in a hug, to which he exclaimed, “Oh! You just made my whole day!”

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.



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