Gotham Gazette 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/component/tags/tag/alan-maisel 2017-12-18T07:05:53+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com City Council Rushes Through Campaign Finance Bills 2016-12-13T05:00:00+00:00 2016-12-13T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6668:city-council-rushes-through-campaign-finance-bills Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27656184936_e65a162f5d_z.jpg" alt="city council chambers balcony" width="600" height="416" /></p> <p>City Council chambers (photo: Sofie Hecht/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council is rushing through a package of bills to reform the city’s campaign finance system. About a dozen bills driven by Council members’ frustrations with the Campaign Finance Board and its rigorous reporting system are being moved through the Council at an almost unseen pace, raising eyebrows.</p> <p>There are actually two packages of bills that will be passed through the Council this week: one that has been sitting idle for months after a hearing, which will go through the governmental operations committee, and the second, which only had a hearing on November 21, and is moving through the standards and ethics committee.</p> <p>The <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=519420&amp;GUID=639321F1-1E59-4F4B-98B6-F8A2E64300F8&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank">first group of bills</a> was the result of the independent Campaign Finance Board’s most recent post-election report; <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=521316&amp;GUID=3D0059E1-EDA2-443F-BCBE-FE945BAFF89D&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank">the second group</a> from Council members.</p> <p>Many of the bills make technical changes to the workings of the city’s public-matching campaign finance system, which is seen as a national model for limiting big money in politics, and the operation of the Campaign Finance Board itself. These include items related to documenting campaign contributions and the Campaign Finance Board’s review of filings by candidates. One bill allows elected officials to use their campaign funds to pay for a wider range of governmental activity, such as supplying food at a public meeting.</p> <p>Another bill driven by members’ frustrations disallows campaign finance board staff from being “present during an executive session of the Board when an adjudication is being discussed.”</p> <p>There are also more attention-grabbing measures, like the elimination of public matching funds for money bundled by individuals with city business. There are currently strict limits, just $400 to a campaign, on those with city business who want to donate to a candidate. Bundling involves collecting donations from others. This bill was part of the initial package, per the Campaign Finance Board’s recommendations, as another way to limit the potential for conflicts of interest and undue influence of money on politicians.</p> <p>On Wednesday, each committee voted through its respective package of bills with little discussion. There will be a full Council vote on all the bills Thursday -- all of them are expected to pass either unanimously or nearly so. Still, there are several outstanding questions about the bills and the process by which they are moving, including the speed and the committee choice for the second package.</p> <p>One of the newer bills, which alters requirements for how donor information is collected and submitted, has been adjusted after it raised significant ire from the Campaign Finance Board, good government groups, and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. The alarm bells rang over a perceived increase in opportunities for fraud in filings and the bill was adjusted, seemingly satisfactorily to the critics.</p> <p>The Campaign Finance Board says the second package, which has been moving on an extraordinarily fast timeline for city legislation, is moving too fast and has elements that still need tweaks.</p> <p>“The Board continues to believe it would be better to defer action on these bills rather than move forward at this time,” said a CFB spokesperson in an emailed statement. “Some of these bills could be improved further, however we recognize and appreciate the Council’s efforts to take our feedback into account.”</p> <p>“Specifically, the revised version of Int. No. 1355 makes substantive changes that reflect our concerns and maintains the CFB’s ability to protect the public funds invested in the Campaign Finance Program,” the statement concluded, referring to the aforementioned bill that was adjusted.</p> <p>It is unusual for the Council’s standards and ethics committee to hear legislation, especially campaign finance bills that typically go through the government operations committee. A spokesperson for the City Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, previously told Gotham Gazette that the package introduced through standards and ethics was placed there because it was grouped with another bill that deals directly with the Conflicts of Interest Board. That bill, sponsored by Mark-Viverito, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6666-de-blasio-fails-to-explain-his-support-for-limits-on-groups-like-campaign-for-one-new-york" target="_blank">will put new limits on nonprofit organizations that are affiliated with elected officials</a> -- such as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Campaign for One New York. The bill was also passed through committee on Wednesday and will be passed through the full Council on Thursday. Mark-Viverito will speak about it on Thursday at City Hall.</p> <p>The governmental operations committee is headed by Council Member Ben Kallos, who is more knowledgeable about the campaign finance system than Council Member Alan Maisel, the chair of the standards and ethics committee -- something Maisel acknowledged in a prior interview with Gotham Gazette. Kallos has expressed concerns about some of the second package of bills, including bill details and process.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Mark-Viverito did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this article about the rushed timeline of the second package of bills.</p> <p>Maisel <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6647-22-campaign-finance-bills-to-move-through-city-council-soon-speaker-says" target="_blank">previously told Gotham Gazette</a> that he is not familiar with campaign finance legislation, but that he is also confident that the CFB is not being weakened by the bills his committee will quickly pass.</p> <p>At his committee's vote on Wednesday, Maisel introduced the package with a few words. He first focused on Mark-Viverito's bill that would limit contributions that can be made to nonprofit groups aligned with elected officials.&nbsp;"This bill directly addresses the concern that organizations affiliated with elected officials can raise unlimited funds even from persons doing business with the city and even when the ultimate use of these funds is for the promotion of that elected official," Maisel said. "The city’s campaign finance laws limit contributions by persons doing business with the city to protect against the potential influence of that money and to prevent the appearance of corruption.&nbsp;But under current law, those limitations could not be applied to the contributions received by the affiliated organization like the Campaign for One New York.&nbsp;That is why today we are voting on the law with the same goal: to protect against potential attempts to influence one’s elected official and to prevent even the appearance of corruption with unlimited donations to an affiliated organization that promotes that elected official."</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated to reflect Wednesday's committee votes and new comment from Maisel.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27656184936_e65a162f5d_z.jpg" alt="city council chambers balcony" width="600" height="416" /></p> <p>City Council chambers (photo: Sofie Hecht/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council is rushing through a package of bills to reform the city’s campaign finance system. About a dozen bills driven by Council members’ frustrations with the Campaign Finance Board and its rigorous reporting system are being moved through the Council at an almost unseen pace, raising eyebrows.</p> <p>There are actually two packages of bills that will be passed through the Council this week: one that has been sitting idle for months after a hearing, which will go through the governmental operations committee, and the second, which only had a hearing on November 21, and is moving through the standards and ethics committee.</p> <p>The <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=519420&amp;GUID=639321F1-1E59-4F4B-98B6-F8A2E64300F8&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank">first group of bills</a> was the result of the independent Campaign Finance Board’s most recent post-election report; <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=521316&amp;GUID=3D0059E1-EDA2-443F-BCBE-FE945BAFF89D&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank">the second group</a> from Council members.</p> <p>Many of the bills make technical changes to the workings of the city’s public-matching campaign finance system, which is seen as a national model for limiting big money in politics, and the operation of the Campaign Finance Board itself. These include items related to documenting campaign contributions and the Campaign Finance Board’s review of filings by candidates. One bill allows elected officials to use their campaign funds to pay for a wider range of governmental activity, such as supplying food at a public meeting.</p> <p>Another bill driven by members’ frustrations disallows campaign finance board staff from being “present during an executive session of the Board when an adjudication is being discussed.”</p> <p>There are also more attention-grabbing measures, like the elimination of public matching funds for money bundled by individuals with city business. There are currently strict limits, just $400 to a campaign, on those with city business who want to donate to a candidate. Bundling involves collecting donations from others. This bill was part of the initial package, per the Campaign Finance Board’s recommendations, as another way to limit the potential for conflicts of interest and undue influence of money on politicians.</p> <p>On Wednesday, each committee voted through its respective package of bills with little discussion. There will be a full Council vote on all the bills Thursday -- all of them are expected to pass either unanimously or nearly so. Still, there are several outstanding questions about the bills and the process by which they are moving, including the speed and the committee choice for the second package.</p> <p>One of the newer bills, which alters requirements for how donor information is collected and submitted, has been adjusted after it raised significant ire from the Campaign Finance Board, good government groups, and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. The alarm bells rang over a perceived increase in opportunities for fraud in filings and the bill was adjusted, seemingly satisfactorily to the critics.</p> <p>The Campaign Finance Board says the second package, which has been moving on an extraordinarily fast timeline for city legislation, is moving too fast and has elements that still need tweaks.</p> <p>“The Board continues to believe it would be better to defer action on these bills rather than move forward at this time,” said a CFB spokesperson in an emailed statement. “Some of these bills could be improved further, however we recognize and appreciate the Council’s efforts to take our feedback into account.”</p> <p>“Specifically, the revised version of Int. No. 1355 makes substantive changes that reflect our concerns and maintains the CFB’s ability to protect the public funds invested in the Campaign Finance Program,” the statement concluded, referring to the aforementioned bill that was adjusted.</p> <p>It is unusual for the Council’s standards and ethics committee to hear legislation, especially campaign finance bills that typically go through the government operations committee. A spokesperson for the City Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, previously told Gotham Gazette that the package introduced through standards and ethics was placed there because it was grouped with another bill that deals directly with the Conflicts of Interest Board. That bill, sponsored by Mark-Viverito, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6666-de-blasio-fails-to-explain-his-support-for-limits-on-groups-like-campaign-for-one-new-york" target="_blank">will put new limits on nonprofit organizations that are affiliated with elected officials</a> -- such as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Campaign for One New York. The bill was also passed through committee on Wednesday and will be passed through the full Council on Thursday. Mark-Viverito will speak about it on Thursday at City Hall.</p> <p>The governmental operations committee is headed by Council Member Ben Kallos, who is more knowledgeable about the campaign finance system than Council Member Alan Maisel, the chair of the standards and ethics committee -- something Maisel acknowledged in a prior interview with Gotham Gazette. Kallos has expressed concerns about some of the second package of bills, including bill details and process.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Mark-Viverito did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this article about the rushed timeline of the second package of bills.</p> <p>Maisel <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6647-22-campaign-finance-bills-to-move-through-city-council-soon-speaker-says" target="_blank">previously told Gotham Gazette</a> that he is not familiar with campaign finance legislation, but that he is also confident that the CFB is not being weakened by the bills his committee will quickly pass.</p> <p>At his committee's vote on Wednesday, Maisel introduced the package with a few words. He first focused on Mark-Viverito's bill that would limit contributions that can be made to nonprofit groups aligned with elected officials.&nbsp;"This bill directly addresses the concern that organizations affiliated with elected officials can raise unlimited funds even from persons doing business with the city and even when the ultimate use of these funds is for the promotion of that elected official," Maisel said. "The city’s campaign finance laws limit contributions by persons doing business with the city to protect against the potential influence of that money and to prevent the appearance of corruption.&nbsp;But under current law, those limitations could not be applied to the contributions received by the affiliated organization like the Campaign for One New York.&nbsp;That is why today we are voting on the law with the same goal: to protect against potential attempts to influence one’s elected official and to prevent even the appearance of corruption with unlimited donations to an affiliated organization that promotes that elected official."</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated to reflect Wednesday's committee votes and new comment from Maisel.</p>
22 Campaign Finance Bills to Move Through City Council 'Soon,' Speaker Says 2016-12-01T05:00:00+00:00 2016-12-01T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6647:22-campaign-finance-bills-to-move-through-city-council-soon-speaker-says Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/mmv_nypl.jpg" alt="mmv nypl" width="600" height="412" /></p> <p>Speaker Mark-Viverito (photo: @NYCCouncil)</p> <hr /> <p>Within the next two months, the City Council is expected to vote on a large legislative package that would alter the city’s campaign finance system in a variety of ways and regulate donations to political nonprofits, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said this week. Some of the proposals and the timing of their likely passage have raised concerns, though, that the Council is weakening the city’s model campaign finance system, pushing some reforms through after too long a wait and rushing other, newer bills through just in time for the next municipal election.</p> <p>The Council has before it 22 bills relating to campaign finance law and elections, 14 of which <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6635-city-council-hears-legislative-package-on-conflicts-of-interest-and-campaign-finance" target="_blank">were heard</a> just last week by the Committee on Standards and Ethics. It was the first hearing on legislation for the committee under this Council, which took office in January 2014, owing to the fact that the main bill in that bundle deals with conflicts of interest. The 13 others relate to the campaign finance system.</p> <p>The other eight bills of the 22 were heard <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6315-hearing-advances-reforms-to-city-campaign-finance-system" target="_blank">in May</a> by the Committee on Governmental Operations, which has oversight of the Campaign Finance Board, and were introduced about one year ago. They have awaited a committee vote since, but have not moved.</p> <p>Mark-Viverito, who largely controls which bills are heard and voted on, has promised that the two bundles of bills will be lumped and voted on together. “We will be moving ahead with an extensive package,” she said at a news conference on Tuesday, in response to Gotham Gazette’s questions about the concerns raised at last week’s hearing. “We’ve been going through a lot of deliberations, a lot of conversations with stakeholders and others, so I’m very confident about what it is that we will be presenting.”</p> <p>When asked when the vote could happen, she said, “It’s gonna be soon. Probably within the next month or so, without a doubt.”</p> <p>Although a common theme unites 21 of the 22 bills, they have taken vastly different trajectories in the Council’s legislative process. The first package was only heard six months after it was introduced and has since languished in committee. Those proposals came straight out of the Campaign Finance Board’s 2013 post-election report, which recommended improvements to the campaign finance law. <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=481585&amp;GUID=83DF4002-3B45-4F8C-92CA-119A05128314&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank">These proposals</a> mainly seek to tighten gaps in the campaign finance law, including the elimination of public matching funds for contributions bundled by people with city business, enhanced disclosure rules for entities that do business with the city, and a prohibition on contributions from non-registered political committees to candidates who don’t participate in the public matching program.</p> <p>The second package has not been as thoroughly vetted, it seems, including the 22nd and most high-profile bill, <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2881384&amp;GUID=5798F1BB-75F8-4710-9026-D6B7C6421418&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank">Intro. 1345</a>, which would limit donations to political nonprofits affiliated with elected officials.</p> <p>That bill is a direct response to the Campaign for One New York, a now-defunct nonprofit affiliated with Mayor Bill de Blasio that accepted large donations from people who have business with the city. Those activities have led to multiple investigations and allegations of a pay-to-play culture at City Hall, with federal authorities investigating whether government action was offered or done in exchange for donations to the Campaign for One New York. De Blasio has denied any wrongdoing and no one has been charged.&nbsp;</p> <p>Intro. 1345 and the accompanying 13 bills were introduced on November 16 and were heard just one week later. Although Intro. 1345 was embraced by the Campaign Finance Board, which is an independent city entity, the de Blasio administration, and government reform groups, the rest of the bills are seen as a bit more problematic. Even representatives of the city Conflicts of Interest Board, which would be tasked with implementing Intro. 1345, expressed doubts about COIB’s ability to do so and questioned whether it is the appropriate agency to be assigned the job. Meanwhile, representatives for the Campaign Finance Board critiqued several of the bills relevant to its operations and the city’s well-regarded public campaign finance system.</p> <p>In contrast with the first legislative package, some of <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=515882&amp;GUID=DDE18241-3CD4-47A9-AEDB-C4FD07DE53E0&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank">the new bills</a> are more friendly to Council members and candidates in general, and would ease certain elements of campaign finance regulation including documentation requirements for contributions and the current restriction on the use of non-public campaign funds for official purposes.</p> <p>Government reform groups have questioned the overall approach the Council has taken with the most recent bills, which they say are being rushed along and are based on Council members’ personal experiences with the system rather than objective analysis that would usually be identified by the Campaign Finance Board.</p> <p>In written testimony submitted to the committee, Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, a good government group, said it was “perplexing” that the 14 bills were heard by the Standards and Ethics committee when only one of them dealt with conflicts of interest.</p> <p>“These bills are, in major part, detailed technical changes that, unlike previous revisions, have not grown out of the Campaign Finance Board’s statutorily required reports and recommendations, which result in revisions of the system which are openly discussed, negotiated and considered far in advance of the City’s next election cycle,” Lerner wrote, stressing that they could inadvertently weaken the CFB’s independence.</p> <p>She also said the bills “appear to be on a fast track,” while the older bills based on recommendations in the Campaign Finance Board’s 2013 post-election report have languished. Taking issue with the timing, right on the eve of a city election year, she said the Council should wait till after the 2017 elections to reconsider most of the campaign finance bills and do so through the appropriate committees.</p> <p>The CFB itself criticized the bills as hampering its ability to enforce the campaign finance law, calling them “poison pill” measures in testimony at the November 21 hearing.</p> <p>At a public meeting on December 1, CFB Chair Rose Gill Hearn reiterated those concerns. “This legislation has been considered on an accelerated schedule,” she said, stressing that the “hastily drafted” proposals would undermine the board’s oversight of the campaign finance system. She specifically called on the Council to reject one of the bills, <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2881981&amp;GUID=D4F1D1EF-7E62-429E-9BBE-761FC8B25EDB&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank">Intro. 1355</a>, sponsored by Council Member David Greenfield, which allows candidates or their committees to complete or correct contribution cards. “The board believes this bill will enable fraud,” she said, “and remove a weapon for the CFB to detect and prevent it.” Council Member Greenfield was not made available for comment for this article.</p> <p>In urging the Council to delay the bills till after the 2017 elections, Hearn did promise to work with the Council on improving the campaign finance program and commended Council members for Intro. 1345, the political nonprofit donation limits bill. This bill is sponsored by Mark-Viverito, who was not present for the hearing on the bill, which was chaired by standards and ethics committee Chair Alan Maisel.&nbsp;</p> <p>Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, a government reform group, stressed that the bills need more time to breathe. “We hope we have at least a month or two to make some needed changes to these bills that represent new ideas and are a marked shift in the management of the campaign finance board,” he told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Dadey said the new package “does feel rushed to us” and that “there’s some question as to whether these will actually strengthen or weaken the program and a much fuller discussion needs to be had before these move forward.” While he acknowledged that Council members should have a significant voice in improving the campaign finance system, he said they should avoid imposing solely their own concerns. “[The campaign finance law] needs to reflect the public’s interest in protecting taxpayer dollars while making it a workable program for the candidates themselves,” Dadey said.</p> <p>Council Member Maisel said the timeline of these newer bills, from drafting to hearing to a possible vote, may be short but is necessary. “There’s an effort to try to get these bills voted on sooner than later because the election is next year,” he said in a phone interview, adding that he was not given a specific timeline to push through the bills. “Whether it’s done before December 31 or the first week of January, I can’t tell you,” he said. Maisel is meeting this week with Council staff to review feedback from the hearing to amend and tweak the bills, he said.</p> <p>Maisel also pushed back against the criticism that the bills might weaken the CFB’s authority, insisting that they’re aimed at making the system more reasonable to encourage participation. “They’re protecting their turf,” he said of the CFB. “If these bills are passed, their powers are intact. I don’t see how [the bills] undermine their authority.”</p> <p>When asked if his committee was the appropriate venue for the campaign finance bills, he said it was the speaker’s office that made the decision. “I have no experience with campaign finance bills, I deal with ethics issues,” he said, in a sense echoing the critique made by others who’ve questioned why campaign finance bills were heard in his committee as opposed to their typical place, government operations, the committee chaired by Council Member Ben Kallos.</p> <p>The proposals have created some degree of internal tension within the Council for multiple reasons, including the committee venue. Additionally, before the bills were introduced, Council Member Kallos was openly skeptical of the effect they might have, telling the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/02/nyregion/behind-closed-doors-measures-to-reform-citys-campaign-laws-raise-concerns.html?action=click&amp;contentCollection=nyregion&amp;region=rank&amp;module=package&amp;version=highlights&amp;contentPlacement=6&amp;pgtype=sectionfront" target="_blank">New York Times</a>, “I am concerned about undermining the best parts of a system that has worked for the people.”</p> <p>Council Member Brad Lander, sponsor of one of the new bills, disagrees. First, Lander told <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2016/11/after-campaign-for-one-new-york-fallout-council-seeks-to-regulate-political-groups-107012" target="_blank">Politico New York</a> that the Times report had mischaracterized the bills under consideration. On Tuesday, shortly after the speaker’s news conference, Lander told Gotham Gazette the concerns over the bills would be addressed through amendments and that criticism of their timing was unfounded. That the bills were heard through the standards and ethics committee rather than the governmental operations committee made little difference, he said, since the same people and advocacy groups would testify even if there were separate hearings. He also noted that Kallos, the governmental operations chair, was present at the hearing as well.</p> <p>Lander also sought to dispel the notion that the bills were being expedited through the Council. “That’s a silly thing to say,” he said, noting that discussions on Intro. 1345 in particular have been in the works since the shutdown of The Campaign for One New York was announced months ago. And while there was not the same urgency with the eight campaign finance bills from last year, he said, “I think if we get a good package that combines a lot of good reform and sensible legislation, that’s a good legislative process.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/mmv_nypl.jpg" alt="mmv nypl" width="600" height="412" /></p> <p>Speaker Mark-Viverito (photo: @NYCCouncil)</p> <hr /> <p>Within the next two months, the City Council is expected to vote on a large legislative package that would alter the city’s campaign finance system in a variety of ways and regulate donations to political nonprofits, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said this week. Some of the proposals and the timing of their likely passage have raised concerns, though, that the Council is weakening the city’s model campaign finance system, pushing some reforms through after too long a wait and rushing other, newer bills through just in time for the next municipal election.</p> <p>The Council has before it 22 bills relating to campaign finance law and elections, 14 of which <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6635-city-council-hears-legislative-package-on-conflicts-of-interest-and-campaign-finance" target="_blank">were heard</a> just last week by the Committee on Standards and Ethics. It was the first hearing on legislation for the committee under this Council, which took office in January 2014, owing to the fact that the main bill in that bundle deals with conflicts of interest. The 13 others relate to the campaign finance system.</p> <p>The other eight bills of the 22 were heard <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6315-hearing-advances-reforms-to-city-campaign-finance-system" target="_blank">in May</a> by the Committee on Governmental Operations, which has oversight of the Campaign Finance Board, and were introduced about one year ago. They have awaited a committee vote since, but have not moved.</p> <p>Mark-Viverito, who largely controls which bills are heard and voted on, has promised that the two bundles of bills will be lumped and voted on together. “We will be moving ahead with an extensive package,” she said at a news conference on Tuesday, in response to Gotham Gazette’s questions about the concerns raised at last week’s hearing. “We’ve been going through a lot of deliberations, a lot of conversations with stakeholders and others, so I’m very confident about what it is that we will be presenting.”</p> <p>When asked when the vote could happen, she said, “It’s gonna be soon. Probably within the next month or so, without a doubt.”</p> <p>Although a common theme unites 21 of the 22 bills, they have taken vastly different trajectories in the Council’s legislative process. The first package was only heard six months after it was introduced and has since languished in committee. Those proposals came straight out of the Campaign Finance Board’s 2013 post-election report, which recommended improvements to the campaign finance law. <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=481585&amp;GUID=83DF4002-3B45-4F8C-92CA-119A05128314&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank">These proposals</a> mainly seek to tighten gaps in the campaign finance law, including the elimination of public matching funds for contributions bundled by people with city business, enhanced disclosure rules for entities that do business with the city, and a prohibition on contributions from non-registered political committees to candidates who don’t participate in the public matching program.</p> <p>The second package has not been as thoroughly vetted, it seems, including the 22nd and most high-profile bill, <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2881384&amp;GUID=5798F1BB-75F8-4710-9026-D6B7C6421418&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank">Intro. 1345</a>, which would limit donations to political nonprofits affiliated with elected officials.</p> <p>That bill is a direct response to the Campaign for One New York, a now-defunct nonprofit affiliated with Mayor Bill de Blasio that accepted large donations from people who have business with the city. Those activities have led to multiple investigations and allegations of a pay-to-play culture at City Hall, with federal authorities investigating whether government action was offered or done in exchange for donations to the Campaign for One New York. De Blasio has denied any wrongdoing and no one has been charged.&nbsp;</p> <p>Intro. 1345 and the accompanying 13 bills were introduced on November 16 and were heard just one week later. Although Intro. 1345 was embraced by the Campaign Finance Board, which is an independent city entity, the de Blasio administration, and government reform groups, the rest of the bills are seen as a bit more problematic. Even representatives of the city Conflicts of Interest Board, which would be tasked with implementing Intro. 1345, expressed doubts about COIB’s ability to do so and questioned whether it is the appropriate agency to be assigned the job. Meanwhile, representatives for the Campaign Finance Board critiqued several of the bills relevant to its operations and the city’s well-regarded public campaign finance system.</p> <p>In contrast with the first legislative package, some of <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=515882&amp;GUID=DDE18241-3CD4-47A9-AEDB-C4FD07DE53E0&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank">the new bills</a> are more friendly to Council members and candidates in general, and would ease certain elements of campaign finance regulation including documentation requirements for contributions and the current restriction on the use of non-public campaign funds for official purposes.</p> <p>Government reform groups have questioned the overall approach the Council has taken with the most recent bills, which they say are being rushed along and are based on Council members’ personal experiences with the system rather than objective analysis that would usually be identified by the Campaign Finance Board.</p> <p>In written testimony submitted to the committee, Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, a good government group, said it was “perplexing” that the 14 bills were heard by the Standards and Ethics committee when only one of them dealt with conflicts of interest.</p> <p>“These bills are, in major part, detailed technical changes that, unlike previous revisions, have not grown out of the Campaign Finance Board’s statutorily required reports and recommendations, which result in revisions of the system which are openly discussed, negotiated and considered far in advance of the City’s next election cycle,” Lerner wrote, stressing that they could inadvertently weaken the CFB’s independence.</p> <p>She also said the bills “appear to be on a fast track,” while the older bills based on recommendations in the Campaign Finance Board’s 2013 post-election report have languished. Taking issue with the timing, right on the eve of a city election year, she said the Council should wait till after the 2017 elections to reconsider most of the campaign finance bills and do so through the appropriate committees.</p> <p>The CFB itself criticized the bills as hampering its ability to enforce the campaign finance law, calling them “poison pill” measures in testimony at the November 21 hearing.</p> <p>At a public meeting on December 1, CFB Chair Rose Gill Hearn reiterated those concerns. “This legislation has been considered on an accelerated schedule,” she said, stressing that the “hastily drafted” proposals would undermine the board’s oversight of the campaign finance system. She specifically called on the Council to reject one of the bills, <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2881981&amp;GUID=D4F1D1EF-7E62-429E-9BBE-761FC8B25EDB&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank">Intro. 1355</a>, sponsored by Council Member David Greenfield, which allows candidates or their committees to complete or correct contribution cards. “The board believes this bill will enable fraud,” she said, “and remove a weapon for the CFB to detect and prevent it.” Council Member Greenfield was not made available for comment for this article.</p> <p>In urging the Council to delay the bills till after the 2017 elections, Hearn did promise to work with the Council on improving the campaign finance program and commended Council members for Intro. 1345, the political nonprofit donation limits bill. This bill is sponsored by Mark-Viverito, who was not present for the hearing on the bill, which was chaired by standards and ethics committee Chair Alan Maisel.&nbsp;</p> <p>Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, a government reform group, stressed that the bills need more time to breathe. “We hope we have at least a month or two to make some needed changes to these bills that represent new ideas and are a marked shift in the management of the campaign finance board,” he told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Dadey said the new package “does feel rushed to us” and that “there’s some question as to whether these will actually strengthen or weaken the program and a much fuller discussion needs to be had before these move forward.” While he acknowledged that Council members should have a significant voice in improving the campaign finance system, he said they should avoid imposing solely their own concerns. “[The campaign finance law] needs to reflect the public’s interest in protecting taxpayer dollars while making it a workable program for the candidates themselves,” Dadey said.</p> <p>Council Member Maisel said the timeline of these newer bills, from drafting to hearing to a possible vote, may be short but is necessary. “There’s an effort to try to get these bills voted on sooner than later because the election is next year,” he said in a phone interview, adding that he was not given a specific timeline to push through the bills. “Whether it’s done before December 31 or the first week of January, I can’t tell you,” he said. Maisel is meeting this week with Council staff to review feedback from the hearing to amend and tweak the bills, he said.</p> <p>Maisel also pushed back against the criticism that the bills might weaken the CFB’s authority, insisting that they’re aimed at making the system more reasonable to encourage participation. “They’re protecting their turf,” he said of the CFB. “If these bills are passed, their powers are intact. I don’t see how [the bills] undermine their authority.”</p> <p>When asked if his committee was the appropriate venue for the campaign finance bills, he said it was the speaker’s office that made the decision. “I have no experience with campaign finance bills, I deal with ethics issues,” he said, in a sense echoing the critique made by others who’ve questioned why campaign finance bills were heard in his committee as opposed to their typical place, government operations, the committee chaired by Council Member Ben Kallos.</p> <p>The proposals have created some degree of internal tension within the Council for multiple reasons, including the committee venue. Additionally, before the bills were introduced, Council Member Kallos was openly skeptical of the effect they might have, telling the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/02/nyregion/behind-closed-doors-measures-to-reform-citys-campaign-laws-raise-concerns.html?action=click&amp;contentCollection=nyregion&amp;region=rank&amp;module=package&amp;version=highlights&amp;contentPlacement=6&amp;pgtype=sectionfront" target="_blank">New York Times</a>, “I am concerned about undermining the best parts of a system that has worked for the people.”</p> <p>Council Member Brad Lander, sponsor of one of the new bills, disagrees. First, Lander told <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2016/11/after-campaign-for-one-new-york-fallout-council-seeks-to-regulate-political-groups-107012" target="_blank">Politico New York</a> that the Times report had mischaracterized the bills under consideration. On Tuesday, shortly after the speaker’s news conference, Lander told Gotham Gazette the concerns over the bills would be addressed through amendments and that criticism of their timing was unfounded. That the bills were heard through the standards and ethics committee rather than the governmental operations committee made little difference, he said, since the same people and advocacy groups would testify even if there were separate hearings. He also noted that Kallos, the governmental operations chair, was present at the hearing as well.</p> <p>Lander also sought to dispel the notion that the bills were being expedited through the Council. “That’s a silly thing to say,” he said, noting that discussions on Intro. 1345 in particular have been in the works since the shutdown of The Campaign for One New York was announced months ago. And while there was not the same urgency with the eight campaign finance bills from last year, he said, “I think if we get a good package that combines a lot of good reform and sensible legislation, that’s a good legislative process.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
City Council Hears Legislative Package on Conflicts of Interest and Campaign Finance 2016-11-21T05:00:00+00:00 2016-11-21T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6635:city-council-hears-legislative-package-on-conflicts-of-interest-and-campaign-finance Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/berger_council.jpg" alt="berger council" width="600" height="410" /></p> <p>Henry Berger testifying (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council heard testimony Monday on a broad package of bills that would prevent conflicts of interest between elected officials and political nonprofits, limit the electoral influence of those who do business with the city, and make it easier for first-time candidates to navigate the city’s campaign finance system.</p> <p>The Council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics heard 14 bills on Monday in what was the current Council’s first hearing of the committee focused on legislation. Of the 14, the headlining bill, <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2881384&amp;GUID=5798F1BB-75F8-4710-9026-D6B7C6421418&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank">Intro. 1345</a>, was the Council’s direct response to Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Campaign for One New York, a nonprofit formed by the mayor’s allies to promote his agenda that has been at the center of controversy, criticism, and law enforcement investigations.</p> <p>The Campaign for One New York, since disbanded, skirted the city’s campaign finance law, in part by raising major sums from entities with city business. Federal investigators have been looking at whether government action was exchanged for donations. The mayor has maintained that he, his administration, and the organization followed the law and sought guidances from the Conflicts of Interest Board throughout. His activities were probed by the city Campaign Finance Board, which let him off with a slap on the wrist but stressed the need to close the loophole in the law that he took advantage of in fundraising for his group.</p> <p>The bill at hand is sponsored by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, a de Blasio ally. It takes aim at that exact loophole and limits donations from those who are lobbyists or have business before the city to nonprofits created or controlled by elected officials or their agents. The limit of $400 currently applies to donations made by such categories of donors directly to candidate committees. Under the bill, if an organization spends more than 10 percent of its annual budget on “public-facing communications that feature the name or picture of the elected official who controls them” contributions to the nonprofit would be limited and it would have to disclose its donors to the Conflicts of Interest Board.</p> <p>Mark-Viverito did not attend the hearing, which was led by Standards and Ethics Committee Chair Alan Maisel. Mark-Viverito’s spokesperson, Robin Levine, said in an email that Council staff was monitoring the hearing and will brief the speaker as she reviews the testimony.</p> <p>While there was broad support for Mark-Viverito’s bill, there were questions about its language and the implementation that it requires. As it currently stands, the bill seeks to prevent actual and perceived conflicts of interest by preventing business interests from donating large sums of money to a nonprofit to ingratiate themselves with an elected official. But concerns were raised that the bill paints with a broad brush and would include nonprofits that are affiliated to an extent with public officials but aren’t involved in public fundraising to benefit those officials. The bill also doesn’t include high-ranking public officials in city agencies, only elected officials. Council Members sought feedback on how they could amend and improve the proposal, and agency heads suggested more clear definitions of the organizations that would be covered.</p> <p>The rest of the bills being heard Monday aim at streamlining campaign finance disclosure requirements and tweak certain aspects of the city’s campaign finance law. These bills would usually be heard by the Committee on Governmental Operations, which has heard another package of campaign finance reform bills that awaits a vote, but were lumped together with the first proposal concerning conflicts of interest, which is under the standards and ethics committee’s jurisdiction.</p> <p>“All these bills are designed to ensure we streamline the process of running for office without sacrificing the safeguards that ensure integrity of our democratic process,” said Council Member David Greenfield, sponsor of five of the bills, in his opening statement.</p> <p>The campaign finance bills cover a lot of ground. One bill shortens the deadline for candidates to choose a hearing before the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings for alleged campaign violations and penalties. Currently, most candidates go through a more informal hearing before the Campaign Finance Board. Another bill requires campaign contributions to be deposited within 20 business days, and cash contributions to be deposited within 10 business days.</p> <p>A bill sponsored by Council Member Brad Lander would allow non-public campaign funds to be used by public officials for their official duties. One of the proposals that the CFB particularly opposed would prohibit CFB staff from being present at an executive session of the board where campaign finance violations are being adjudicated. This bill would prevent the CFB’s own executive director from attending such a session.</p> <p><a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=515882&amp;GUID=DDE18241-3CD4-47A9-AEDB-C4FD07DE53E0&amp;Options=info&amp;Search" target="_blank">The main bill</a>, Intro. 1345,&nbsp;received support, with certain caveats, from the de Blasio administration, the Conflicts of Interest Board, the Campaign Finance Board, and private government reform organizations that favor more transparency in campaign finance.</p> <p>Henry Berger, special counsel to the mayor, testified in support of all the bills but expressed certain doubts about the scope of Intro. 1345 and about one provision in <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2881981&amp;GUID=D4F1D1EF-7E62-429E-9BBE-761FC8B25EDB&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank">Intro. 1355</a>, one of Greenfield’s bills.</p> <p>On Intro. 1345, Berger said the administration was “generally supportive of the intent of this bill,” but said the definition of an organization affiliated with an elected official was “overbroad and may be problematic.” He warned that it could also raise legal concerns over free speech of private entities. “These concerns would need to be addressed in future discussions at a staff level,” he said.</p> <p>Berger cited the precautions that the mayor’s team took for the Campaign for One New York, including the willing disclosure of donors, which the new bill would require, and he agreed that limits should be placed on nonprofits that create a perception of helping a particular candidate. “[Intro. 1345] provides very strong assurances that would avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest,” he said. “And that’s important. Confidence in our government requires that.”</p> <p>But he worried that the bill would also apply to nonprofits that don’t raise funds and are already subject to extensive reporting requirements, such as the Economic Development Corporation, or programmatic organizations that don’t benefit an individual but may raise funds such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. “We’re looking for some tightening but....we think this bill comes very close to drawing the line,” he said.</p> <p>Once a bill is heard in Council committee, behind-the-scenes negotiation usually occurs to tweak bill language, before a bill is voted on in committee and then, if it passes, the the full Council. At times, like the other package of campaign finance reform bills that was heard months ago by the government operations committee, bills do not receive a committee vote soon after a hearing, if at all. Council sources do indicate, though, that they plan to move the bills heard today quickly, while also moving the other campaign finance bills.</p> <p>Changes to the campaign finance system would already be late in the four-year election cycle as the election year of 2017 is fast-approaching and candidates have already been raising money.</p> <p>The political nonprofits bill also expands the definition for those who do business before the city to include family members, which, Berger said, would create logistical and technical issues for the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services, which maintains the city’s doing business database. MOCS would need time to adjust to the bill, he later told Council members.</p> <p>Addressing Intro. 1355, which relaxes certain documentation requirements for campaign contributions, Berger said there was a potential for fraud since the bill removes the obligation for a candidate committee to collect contributor cards if they receive a check or money order with the name and address of a donor on them.</p> <p>Berger’s biggest complaints, however, were that certain necessary proposals were not included in the package of bills. He said the Council should consider legislation that would overhaul the process for post-election campaign audits, to ensure they are concluded faster; proposed that legal fees for responding to campaign finance issues should not be counted against a campaign’s expenditure limits; and suggested that candidates who must raise money for a general election during primary season be allowed to attribute fundraising expenditures to their general election spending cap instead of the primary one.</p> <p>Representatives of the Conflicts of Interest Board commended the Council on Intro. 1345, but said they are unsure about being charged with implementing it. Executive Director Carolyn Lisa Miller said the board “remains uncertain whether we are the right agency to administer the legislation,” but expressed willingness to work with the Council and the administration.</p> <p>Miller listed 20 possible issues arising from the legislation, ranging from the definition of the nonprofits covered to the substantial penalties levied and the timeframe of disclosures required by organizations. She also cited issues with enforcement and investigation. COIB is a small city agency, with 26 full-time employees, and has no investigators of its own, relying instead on the Department of Investigation which is an independent agency. Miller said COIB would likely require additional staff and funding to comply with the legislation.</p> <p>What might complicate things further is that COIB cannot enforce fines on City Council members, if one should choose not to accept a violation found and penalty assessed by the board. In such a situation, which Miller said has never arisen to date, the board could only make recommendations to the Speaker and the Council which would have to decide to refer the case to the standards and ethics committee.</p> <p>Council Member Lander, co-sponsor of Intro. 1345 and a prime sponsor on another one of the bills, pushed back against Miller’s uncertainty. “To me the reason to put this legislation and its enforcement with you is it is an issue of conflicts of interest,” he said. “Even though we are concerned about the public-facing communication, what we’re guarding against here is public corruption. That’s the goal, making sure that people who have business interests with the city don’t have an avenue into giving that influences public officials. That’s not primarily campaign finance. That’s primarily conflicts of interest.”</p> <p>With 13 bills out of the package dealing directly with the Campaign Finance Board, much of the hearing focused on testimony from Amy Loprest, CFB executive director. Loprest, like COIB’s Miller, praised Intro. 1345 but had strong apprehensions nonetheless. “We note the several concerns regarding the bill’s drafting and implementation raised by our colleagues at the Conflicts of Interest Board,” Loprest said in her opening statement. “We urge the Council to take those into account, and we will be available to assist in any way they or the Council deems appropriate.”</p> <p>She also criticized the legislation’s accompanying “poison pill” measures which would “significantly weaken the CFB’s oversight of the matching funds program.”</p> <p>“These measures should not be the cost of implementing a commendable and necessary reform,” she said, taking issue with the timing of many of the proposals, saying they would be disruptive to the board’s preparations for the 2017 city elections.</p> <p>In a cordial back-and-forth with Council Member Greenfield, who argued that the Council’s proposed changes to CFB procedures were warranted, necessary, and justified under its jurisdiction, Loprest attempted to explain her broader concerns.</p> <p>“It is important for us to review how we do operate, how we do our audits, how we do our procedures,” she conceded. “I do however think that this kind of piecemeal, finger in one part of a complicated process will have unintended and unwelcome consequences and will make things more complicated when our goal is to try and make things less complicated.”</p> <p>Greenfield pushed back. “I think that’s where we’re going to come to agree to disagree,” he said. “Just like your job is to audit candidates, our job is to audit the CFB, for lack of a better term.”</p> <p>Good government groups testified in support of the bills, but had reservations about both the timing and the manner in which they were drafted and introduced. Gene Russianoff, senior attorney at the New York Public Interest Research Group, approved of the bills but said it was late in the game to consider changes to the city’s campaign finance system, with the next election so close.</p> <p>Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, applauded the Council, but insisted that the bills should have included more public discussion when they were being drafted. Intro. 1345, in particular, addresses concerns that Citizens Union raised earlier this year in a proposal to regulate nonprofit organizations affiliated with elected officials. “We believe the proposed bill can effectively bring needed oversight to these organizations,” Dadey said at Monday’s hearing.</p> <p>The only testimony that rejected most of the proposals outright came from Dominic Mauro, staff attorney for Reinvent Albany, an advocacy organization. Mauro said his organization supported the intent of Intro. 1345 but questioned how it could be implemented. The entire package of bills, Mauro said, “add up to a huge step backwards.” Admitting that the CFB is “imperfect, he said, however, that his organization thinks “Many of these bills seem like petty retaliation and an expression of irritation by Council members who are annoyed with CFB nitpicking.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/berger_council.jpg" alt="berger council" width="600" height="410" /></p> <p>Henry Berger testifying (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council heard testimony Monday on a broad package of bills that would prevent conflicts of interest between elected officials and political nonprofits, limit the electoral influence of those who do business with the city, and make it easier for first-time candidates to navigate the city’s campaign finance system.</p> <p>The Council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics heard 14 bills on Monday in what was the current Council’s first hearing of the committee focused on legislation. Of the 14, the headlining bill, <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2881384&amp;GUID=5798F1BB-75F8-4710-9026-D6B7C6421418&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank">Intro. 1345</a>, was the Council’s direct response to Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Campaign for One New York, a nonprofit formed by the mayor’s allies to promote his agenda that has been at the center of controversy, criticism, and law enforcement investigations.</p> <p>The Campaign for One New York, since disbanded, skirted the city’s campaign finance law, in part by raising major sums from entities with city business. Federal investigators have been looking at whether government action was exchanged for donations. The mayor has maintained that he, his administration, and the organization followed the law and sought guidances from the Conflicts of Interest Board throughout. His activities were probed by the city Campaign Finance Board, which let him off with a slap on the wrist but stressed the need to close the loophole in the law that he took advantage of in fundraising for his group.</p> <p>The bill at hand is sponsored by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, a de Blasio ally. It takes aim at that exact loophole and limits donations from those who are lobbyists or have business before the city to nonprofits created or controlled by elected officials or their agents. The limit of $400 currently applies to donations made by such categories of donors directly to candidate committees. Under the bill, if an organization spends more than 10 percent of its annual budget on “public-facing communications that feature the name or picture of the elected official who controls them” contributions to the nonprofit would be limited and it would have to disclose its donors to the Conflicts of Interest Board.</p> <p>Mark-Viverito did not attend the hearing, which was led by Standards and Ethics Committee Chair Alan Maisel. Mark-Viverito’s spokesperson, Robin Levine, said in an email that Council staff was monitoring the hearing and will brief the speaker as she reviews the testimony.</p> <p>While there was broad support for Mark-Viverito’s bill, there were questions about its language and the implementation that it requires. As it currently stands, the bill seeks to prevent actual and perceived conflicts of interest by preventing business interests from donating large sums of money to a nonprofit to ingratiate themselves with an elected official. But concerns were raised that the bill paints with a broad brush and would include nonprofits that are affiliated to an extent with public officials but aren’t involved in public fundraising to benefit those officials. The bill also doesn’t include high-ranking public officials in city agencies, only elected officials. Council Members sought feedback on how they could amend and improve the proposal, and agency heads suggested more clear definitions of the organizations that would be covered.</p> <p>The rest of the bills being heard Monday aim at streamlining campaign finance disclosure requirements and tweak certain aspects of the city’s campaign finance law. These bills would usually be heard by the Committee on Governmental Operations, which has heard another package of campaign finance reform bills that awaits a vote, but were lumped together with the first proposal concerning conflicts of interest, which is under the standards and ethics committee’s jurisdiction.</p> <p>“All these bills are designed to ensure we streamline the process of running for office without sacrificing the safeguards that ensure integrity of our democratic process,” said Council Member David Greenfield, sponsor of five of the bills, in his opening statement.</p> <p>The campaign finance bills cover a lot of ground. One bill shortens the deadline for candidates to choose a hearing before the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings for alleged campaign violations and penalties. Currently, most candidates go through a more informal hearing before the Campaign Finance Board. Another bill requires campaign contributions to be deposited within 20 business days, and cash contributions to be deposited within 10 business days.</p> <p>A bill sponsored by Council Member Brad Lander would allow non-public campaign funds to be used by public officials for their official duties. One of the proposals that the CFB particularly opposed would prohibit CFB staff from being present at an executive session of the board where campaign finance violations are being adjudicated. This bill would prevent the CFB’s own executive director from attending such a session.</p> <p><a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=515882&amp;GUID=DDE18241-3CD4-47A9-AEDB-C4FD07DE53E0&amp;Options=info&amp;Search" target="_blank">The main bill</a>, Intro. 1345,&nbsp;received support, with certain caveats, from the de Blasio administration, the Conflicts of Interest Board, the Campaign Finance Board, and private government reform organizations that favor more transparency in campaign finance.</p> <p>Henry Berger, special counsel to the mayor, testified in support of all the bills but expressed certain doubts about the scope of Intro. 1345 and about one provision in <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2881981&amp;GUID=D4F1D1EF-7E62-429E-9BBE-761FC8B25EDB&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank">Intro. 1355</a>, one of Greenfield’s bills.</p> <p>On Intro. 1345, Berger said the administration was “generally supportive of the intent of this bill,” but said the definition of an organization affiliated with an elected official was “overbroad and may be problematic.” He warned that it could also raise legal concerns over free speech of private entities. “These concerns would need to be addressed in future discussions at a staff level,” he said.</p> <p>Berger cited the precautions that the mayor’s team took for the Campaign for One New York, including the willing disclosure of donors, which the new bill would require, and he agreed that limits should be placed on nonprofits that create a perception of helping a particular candidate. “[Intro. 1345] provides very strong assurances that would avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest,” he said. “And that’s important. Confidence in our government requires that.”</p> <p>But he worried that the bill would also apply to nonprofits that don’t raise funds and are already subject to extensive reporting requirements, such as the Economic Development Corporation, or programmatic organizations that don’t benefit an individual but may raise funds such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. “We’re looking for some tightening but....we think this bill comes very close to drawing the line,” he said.</p> <p>Once a bill is heard in Council committee, behind-the-scenes negotiation usually occurs to tweak bill language, before a bill is voted on in committee and then, if it passes, the the full Council. At times, like the other package of campaign finance reform bills that was heard months ago by the government operations committee, bills do not receive a committee vote soon after a hearing, if at all. Council sources do indicate, though, that they plan to move the bills heard today quickly, while also moving the other campaign finance bills.</p> <p>Changes to the campaign finance system would already be late in the four-year election cycle as the election year of 2017 is fast-approaching and candidates have already been raising money.</p> <p>The political nonprofits bill also expands the definition for those who do business before the city to include family members, which, Berger said, would create logistical and technical issues for the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services, which maintains the city’s doing business database. MOCS would need time to adjust to the bill, he later told Council members.</p> <p>Addressing Intro. 1355, which relaxes certain documentation requirements for campaign contributions, Berger said there was a potential for fraud since the bill removes the obligation for a candidate committee to collect contributor cards if they receive a check or money order with the name and address of a donor on them.</p> <p>Berger’s biggest complaints, however, were that certain necessary proposals were not included in the package of bills. He said the Council should consider legislation that would overhaul the process for post-election campaign audits, to ensure they are concluded faster; proposed that legal fees for responding to campaign finance issues should not be counted against a campaign’s expenditure limits; and suggested that candidates who must raise money for a general election during primary season be allowed to attribute fundraising expenditures to their general election spending cap instead of the primary one.</p> <p>Representatives of the Conflicts of Interest Board commended the Council on Intro. 1345, but said they are unsure about being charged with implementing it. Executive Director Carolyn Lisa Miller said the board “remains uncertain whether we are the right agency to administer the legislation,” but expressed willingness to work with the Council and the administration.</p> <p>Miller listed 20 possible issues arising from the legislation, ranging from the definition of the nonprofits covered to the substantial penalties levied and the timeframe of disclosures required by organizations. She also cited issues with enforcement and investigation. COIB is a small city agency, with 26 full-time employees, and has no investigators of its own, relying instead on the Department of Investigation which is an independent agency. Miller said COIB would likely require additional staff and funding to comply with the legislation.</p> <p>What might complicate things further is that COIB cannot enforce fines on City Council members, if one should choose not to accept a violation found and penalty assessed by the board. In such a situation, which Miller said has never arisen to date, the board could only make recommendations to the Speaker and the Council which would have to decide to refer the case to the standards and ethics committee.</p> <p>Council Member Lander, co-sponsor of Intro. 1345 and a prime sponsor on another one of the bills, pushed back against Miller’s uncertainty. “To me the reason to put this legislation and its enforcement with you is it is an issue of conflicts of interest,” he said. “Even though we are concerned about the public-facing communication, what we’re guarding against here is public corruption. That’s the goal, making sure that people who have business interests with the city don’t have an avenue into giving that influences public officials. That’s not primarily campaign finance. That’s primarily conflicts of interest.”</p> <p>With 13 bills out of the package dealing directly with the Campaign Finance Board, much of the hearing focused on testimony from Amy Loprest, CFB executive director. Loprest, like COIB’s Miller, praised Intro. 1345 but had strong apprehensions nonetheless. “We note the several concerns regarding the bill’s drafting and implementation raised by our colleagues at the Conflicts of Interest Board,” Loprest said in her opening statement. “We urge the Council to take those into account, and we will be available to assist in any way they or the Council deems appropriate.”</p> <p>She also criticized the legislation’s accompanying “poison pill” measures which would “significantly weaken the CFB’s oversight of the matching funds program.”</p> <p>“These measures should not be the cost of implementing a commendable and necessary reform,” she said, taking issue with the timing of many of the proposals, saying they would be disruptive to the board’s preparations for the 2017 city elections.</p> <p>In a cordial back-and-forth with Council Member Greenfield, who argued that the Council’s proposed changes to CFB procedures were warranted, necessary, and justified under its jurisdiction, Loprest attempted to explain her broader concerns.</p> <p>“It is important for us to review how we do operate, how we do our audits, how we do our procedures,” she conceded. “I do however think that this kind of piecemeal, finger in one part of a complicated process will have unintended and unwelcome consequences and will make things more complicated when our goal is to try and make things less complicated.”</p> <p>Greenfield pushed back. “I think that’s where we’re going to come to agree to disagree,” he said. “Just like your job is to audit candidates, our job is to audit the CFB, for lack of a better term.”</p> <p>Good government groups testified in support of the bills, but had reservations about both the timing and the manner in which they were drafted and introduced. Gene Russianoff, senior attorney at the New York Public Interest Research Group, approved of the bills but said it was late in the game to consider changes to the city’s campaign finance system, with the next election so close.</p> <p>Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, applauded the Council, but insisted that the bills should have included more public discussion when they were being drafted. Intro. 1345, in particular, addresses concerns that Citizens Union raised earlier this year in a proposal to regulate nonprofit organizations affiliated with elected officials. “We believe the proposed bill can effectively bring needed oversight to these organizations,” Dadey said at Monday’s hearing.</p> <p>The only testimony that rejected most of the proposals outright came from Dominic Mauro, staff attorney for Reinvent Albany, an advocacy organization. Mauro said his organization supported the intent of Intro. 1345 but questioned how it could be implemented. The entire package of bills, Mauro said, “add up to a huge step backwards.” Admitting that the CFB is “imperfect, he said, however, that his organization thinks “Many of these bills seem like petty retaliation and an expression of irritation by Council members who are annoyed with CFB nitpicking.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Next Steps for City Council Member's Alleged Ticket Fix 2016-08-17T04:00:00+00:00 2016-08-17T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6484:next-steps-for-city-council-member-s-alleged-ticket-fix Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/gibson_nypd.jpg" alt="gibson nypd" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Gibson (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">In trying to avoid a traffic ticket more than two years ago, City Council Member Vanessa Gibson might have jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire.</p> <p dir="ltr">The <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nypd-claims-ordered-nix-ticket-city-pol-article-1.2751162" target="_blank">New York Daily News</a> reported on Monday that Gibson, chair of the Council&rsquo;s public safety committee, used her influence to get out of trouble when she was pulled over in March 2014 for talking on her cell phone while driving. The details emerged from an unrelated lawsuit filed last week by an NYPD officer, Michele Hernandez, against the city for $75 million.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to the report, when Gibson was pulled over, she called Hernandez&rsquo;s superiors, who then asked Hernandez to void the ticket. Gibson has not denied that the incident took place although she told the Daily News that she could not recollect it. If she had received the ticket, she could have been subject to a $200 fine or received five points on her license. Instead, she now faces the prospect of an official investigation and possibly greater monetary penalties.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;In trying to avoid a penalty, she&rsquo;s made a minor infraction that much worse, that has now called into question her integrity,&rdquo; said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, a government watchdog group.</p> <p dir="ltr">At a Tuesday news conference, in response to reporters&rsquo; questions, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said that the incident involving Gibson would have to be probed by the relevant authorities. &ldquo;There are agencies and entities that exist to deal with those issues,&rdquo; she said, citing the Conflicts of Interest Board when pressed for examples.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mark-Viverito also stressed that Gibson would not face any immediate action. "Vanessa has been a great public safety chair, and she has the respect of a lot, of all her colleagues in that role she has played in that position,&rdquo; Mark-Viverito said. &ldquo;Overall, she's a respected Council member. So any kind of concerns about having used her position, that has to be taken up by the proper entities in order to look at that. But right now, she's a respected individual and a respected member of this body, and she will continue to serve as public safety chair at the moment."</p> <p dir="ltr">Gibson was not made available to comment for this article. The next steps around the incident are not immediately clear, but it is unlikely to go away without an investigation.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city&rsquo;s Conflicts of Interest Board usually begins a probe based on a complaint but in the absence of one it can initiate an investigation based on other sources such as news reports, and it has done so in the past.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We can&rsquo;t confirm or deny whether we did, are doing or might do anything on this matter because the law requires confidentiality,&rdquo; said Wayne Hawley, COIB deputy executive director and general counsel, in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette. Hawley did not comment at all on the Gibson incident and would not say how the possible violation would be characterized or the potential penalties.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city&rsquo;s Conflicts of Interest Law prohibits a public servant from using his or her position &ldquo;to obtain any financial gain, contract, license, privilege or other private or personal advantage, direct or indirect, for the public servant or any person or firm associated with the public servant.&rdquo; A violation can lead to a civil fine of up to $25,000. Typically, instances which are probed by the COIB lead to negotiated settlements if a violation is found. This holds true for City Council members as well. However, COIB cannot enforce a fine on a City Council member even if it finds a violation. It can inform the Speaker&rsquo;s office and the Council, which would then refer the case to the Council&rsquo;s Committee on Standards and Ethics.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Alan Maisel, chair of Standards and Ethics, said that the committee could &ldquo;conceivably&rdquo; look into the Gibson incident, &ldquo;but it has to be presented to me.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The Speaker&rsquo;s office or the Council would have to refer it,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m assuming that it&rsquo;s being investigated as we speak.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">On a report by the standards and ethics committee, the City Council can impose a number of sanctions against an erring member including removal from the position of chair or membership of a committee, a reprimand, a censure, fine or expulsion. Any sanction would require a majority of the ethics committee and then a two-thirds vote of the full 51-member Council.</p> <p>Maisel said this incident could be &ldquo;the first potential case&rdquo; to come before his committee since he took office in 2014, though the committee did examine a case involving Council Member Ruben Wills, who is under indictment, and decided not to proceed until the criminal case is through. &ldquo;I haven&rsquo;t been very busy with this kind of issue,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/gibson_nypd.jpg" alt="gibson nypd" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Gibson (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">In trying to avoid a traffic ticket more than two years ago, City Council Member Vanessa Gibson might have jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire.</p> <p dir="ltr">The <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nypd-claims-ordered-nix-ticket-city-pol-article-1.2751162" target="_blank">New York Daily News</a> reported on Monday that Gibson, chair of the Council&rsquo;s public safety committee, used her influence to get out of trouble when she was pulled over in March 2014 for talking on her cell phone while driving. The details emerged from an unrelated lawsuit filed last week by an NYPD officer, Michele Hernandez, against the city for $75 million.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to the report, when Gibson was pulled over, she called Hernandez&rsquo;s superiors, who then asked Hernandez to void the ticket. Gibson has not denied that the incident took place although she told the Daily News that she could not recollect it. If she had received the ticket, she could have been subject to a $200 fine or received five points on her license. Instead, she now faces the prospect of an official investigation and possibly greater monetary penalties.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;In trying to avoid a penalty, she&rsquo;s made a minor infraction that much worse, that has now called into question her integrity,&rdquo; said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, a government watchdog group.</p> <p dir="ltr">At a Tuesday news conference, in response to reporters&rsquo; questions, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said that the incident involving Gibson would have to be probed by the relevant authorities. &ldquo;There are agencies and entities that exist to deal with those issues,&rdquo; she said, citing the Conflicts of Interest Board when pressed for examples.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mark-Viverito also stressed that Gibson would not face any immediate action. "Vanessa has been a great public safety chair, and she has the respect of a lot, of all her colleagues in that role she has played in that position,&rdquo; Mark-Viverito said. &ldquo;Overall, she's a respected Council member. So any kind of concerns about having used her position, that has to be taken up by the proper entities in order to look at that. But right now, she's a respected individual and a respected member of this body, and she will continue to serve as public safety chair at the moment."</p> <p dir="ltr">Gibson was not made available to comment for this article. The next steps around the incident are not immediately clear, but it is unlikely to go away without an investigation.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city&rsquo;s Conflicts of Interest Board usually begins a probe based on a complaint but in the absence of one it can initiate an investigation based on other sources such as news reports, and it has done so in the past.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We can&rsquo;t confirm or deny whether we did, are doing or might do anything on this matter because the law requires confidentiality,&rdquo; said Wayne Hawley, COIB deputy executive director and general counsel, in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette. Hawley did not comment at all on the Gibson incident and would not say how the possible violation would be characterized or the potential penalties.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city&rsquo;s Conflicts of Interest Law prohibits a public servant from using his or her position &ldquo;to obtain any financial gain, contract, license, privilege or other private or personal advantage, direct or indirect, for the public servant or any person or firm associated with the public servant.&rdquo; A violation can lead to a civil fine of up to $25,000. Typically, instances which are probed by the COIB lead to negotiated settlements if a violation is found. This holds true for City Council members as well. However, COIB cannot enforce a fine on a City Council member even if it finds a violation. It can inform the Speaker&rsquo;s office and the Council, which would then refer the case to the Council&rsquo;s Committee on Standards and Ethics.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Alan Maisel, chair of Standards and Ethics, said that the committee could &ldquo;conceivably&rdquo; look into the Gibson incident, &ldquo;but it has to be presented to me.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The Speaker&rsquo;s office or the Council would have to refer it,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m assuming that it&rsquo;s being investigated as we speak.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">On a report by the standards and ethics committee, the City Council can impose a number of sanctions against an erring member including removal from the position of chair or membership of a committee, a reprimand, a censure, fine or expulsion. Any sanction would require a majority of the ethics committee and then a two-thirds vote of the full 51-member Council.</p> <p>Maisel said this incident could be &ldquo;the first potential case&rdquo; to come before his committee since he took office in 2014, though the committee did examine a case involving Council Member Ruben Wills, who is under indictment, and decided not to proceed until the criminal case is through. &ldquo;I haven&rsquo;t been very busy with this kind of issue,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union.</p>
City Council Skips Executive Budget Hearings for Several Committees 2016-06-06T04:00:00+00:00 2016-06-06T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6379:city-council-skips-executive-budget-hearings-for-several-committees-2016 Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/26743884850_db8d999c67_z.jpg" width="600" height="400" alt="city council budget hearing" /></p> <p dir="ltr">A City Council hearing (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council appear to be on the verge of a budget agreement, establishing the city’s spending plan for fiscal year 2017, which begins July 1.</p> <p dir="ltr">On May 24, the City Council held its final hearing on de Blasio’s $82.2 billion executive budget for fiscal 2017. The series of executive budget hearings was another step in the lengthy and detailed budget process that includes the mayor’s preliminary budget, a month of preliminary budget hearings, and the Council’s preliminary budget response. After executive budget hearings, final negotiations have been taking place between the de Blasio administration and Council leadership while Council members and advocates make their final public and private pitches for more funding.</p> <p dir="ltr">During the budget process, though, there was one City Council committee with oversight of a city agency that did not hold either an executive budget hearing or a preliminary budget hearing, and six other Council committees held preliminary budget hearings, but did not have executive budget hearings. Declining to hold a hearing signals that there are no related budget issues to address.</p> <p dir="ltr">The decision whether to hold an executive budget hearing is at the discretion of the City Council Speaker’s office and the Council Finance Division, which typically decide not to bring mayoral agencies back for an executive budget hearing if there were no major changes from the preliminary to the executive budget for those agencies. All agencies have preliminary budget hearings, a spokesperson for Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Of the six committees that held a preliminary budget hearing but not an executive budget hearing, a few have oversight of agencies with budget issues. The Committee on Standards and Ethics, for example, has oversight of the Conflicts of Interest Board, which had three 2015&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6343-mayor-pledges-to-re-examine-conflicts-of-interest-board-funding" target="_blank">requests for additional funding denied</a> by the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget (the requests were for about $200,000 in additional funding to hire more ethics trainers and give raises aimed at employee retention).</p> <p dir="ltr">The unfulfilled requests were discussed at the March 8 preliminary budget hearing for COIB. After that hearing held by the Committee on Standards and Ethics, COIB sent a letter on March 10 to the city budget office requesting about $26,000 in additional funds for its most “critical budgetary needs,” which was met. However, COIB made it clear at the preliminary budget hearing that it was struggling to retain staff and to meet its charter-mandated role due to a lack of funding, and that senior management staff had even&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6215-underfunded-conflicts-of-interest-board-struggles-to-meet-mandates" target="_blank">taken pay cuts</a> in order to hire new staff. COIB settled for requesting what it saw as a minimum in additional funding after having several requests denied, something which could have been readdressed at an executive budget hearing.</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked why the Committee on Standards and Ethics did not have an executive budget hearing, chair of the committee, Council Member Alan Maisel, told Gotham Gazette, “I can’t answer that…I have no idea, call the budget office.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The City Council Committee on Contracts also did not hold an executive budget hearing. On May 26, after executive budget hearings had ended, 47 Council members&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6364-push-continues-for-budget-boost-to-city-contracted-nonprofits" target="_blank">signed a letter</a> to the mayor asking the administration to fund a 2.5 percent increase for the administrative costs of nonprofits that contract with the city. Dozens of nonprofit workers and several Council members&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6364-push-continues-for-budget-boost-to-city-contracted-nonprofits" target="_blank">rallied</a> on the steps of City Hall,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6266-city-approach-to-nonprofit-contracting-questioned" target="_blank">raising the same issues</a> that these nonprofits, like the Human Services Council and the New York Immigration Coalition, had brought up during the relevant preliminary budget hearing. The letter from nearly the entire City Council made it clear that the funding needs of nonprofits that contract with the city remained unaddressed.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Helen Rosenthal, chair of the contracts committee, said she believes that no executive budget hearing was held because “It’s not really for the director of the Office of Contracts to respond to this. It’s the OMB who is responsible for allocating these funds to the agencies. But I was asking and other Council members were asking at each of the agency hearings as well, what are we doing to cover these costs?”</p> <p dir="ltr">Rosenthal did indeed raise the issue with OMB during the first executive budget hearing on May 6.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Committee on Consumer Affairs, which oversees the Department of Consumer Affairs, also did not hold an executive budget hearing, despite the agency’s growth under the de Blasio administration. Chair of the committee, Council Member Rafael Espinal, said in a statement to Gotham Gazette that his committee did not have an executive budget hearing “because there was a very minimal change in the agency’s executive budget from the preliminary budget,” as “the agency’s only new need was for $180,000 in personnel services costs and other adjustments totaled less than $500,000.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor’s office did not respond for comment regarding those agencies not asked back to the Council for executive budget hearings.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Committee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Council Member Vincent Gentile with oversight of the Department of Investigation, also did not hold an executive budget hearing, “because the DOI agency requests were unchanged from the Mayor’s preliminary budget and were fully met in the FY’17 executive budget,” said Travis Lamprecht, communications director for Gentile.</p> <p dir="ltr">Neither the Committee on Civil Rights nor the Committee on Courts and Legal Services have direct oversight of specific city agencies, and neither held an executive budget hearing. Chair of the Committee on Courts and Legal Services, Council Member Rory Lancman, told Gotham Gazette, "There were no substantial changes in our area of jurisdiction between the preliminary and executive budget, so the Committee instead held an oversight hearing on court record accuracy."</p> <p dir="ltr">One committee, the Committee on Civil Service and Labor, chaired by Council Member I. Daneek Miller, did not hold a preliminary or executive budget hearing, and has no hearings scheduled before a budget deal is due. A spokesperson for Miller said that his committee “does not have a preliminary budget hearing because it does not oversee a City Department or Agency. The closest one it oversees is the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, but that is only over City employees.”</p> <p dir="ltr">DCAS is the principal administrative support agency for the city of New York and has been allocated $1.1 billion in this year’s executive budget. According to its website, DCAS “supports City agencies' workforce needs in recruiting, hiring and training City employees; provides overall facilities management for 55 public buildings; and purchases, sells and leases real property,” among other functions.</p> <p dir="ltr">Four other committees (of the City Council’s 37) did not hold preliminary or executive budget hearings - those committees do not have direct oversight of any specific city agency.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, chaired by Council Member Mark Treyger, has oversight of the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, the Build it Back Program, and the Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability. All within the Mayor’s Office, none is an official city department.</p> <p dir="ltr">Strangely, the recovery and resiliency committee twice had an executive budget hearing&nbsp;<a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">scheduled</a> in May, but both were deferred, and no preliminary budget hearing took place. Instead, Treyger, told Gotham Gazette, the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency <a href="http://www.bensonhurstbean.com/2016/05/treyger-passes-bill-protect-sandy-victims-sanitation-dob-fines/#.V1XuzJMrKgQ" target="_blank">held an oversight hearing on June 6</a> on “budget items with regard to the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, Build it Back, and all of the Sandy recovery applications, and whether there's equity on resiliency spending.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“I was very insistent in making sure that my committee holds an oversight hearing with regard to budget matters before budget adoption,” Treyger added.</p> <p>Another of those four is the Committee on Rules, Privileges, and Elections, which has oversight of Council structure and organization as well as appointments to city boards. The rules committee <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6216-city-council-deletes-one-committee-but-no-further-reforms-planned" target="_blank">deleted a committee</a> that the Council had deemed unnecessary during a March hearing, in part citing that it did not have oversight of a city agency. The Committee on State and Federal Legislation, which rarely meets and mainly does so to pass resolutions, also did not hold a budget hearing. And, the Committee on Waterfronts has met just once this year.</p> <p>

***
by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/26743884850_db8d999c67_z.jpg" width="600" height="400" alt="city council budget hearing" /></p> <p dir="ltr">A City Council hearing (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council appear to be on the verge of a budget agreement, establishing the city’s spending plan for fiscal year 2017, which begins July 1.</p> <p dir="ltr">On May 24, the City Council held its final hearing on de Blasio’s $82.2 billion executive budget for fiscal 2017. The series of executive budget hearings was another step in the lengthy and detailed budget process that includes the mayor’s preliminary budget, a month of preliminary budget hearings, and the Council’s preliminary budget response. After executive budget hearings, final negotiations have been taking place between the de Blasio administration and Council leadership while Council members and advocates make their final public and private pitches for more funding.</p> <p dir="ltr">During the budget process, though, there was one City Council committee with oversight of a city agency that did not hold either an executive budget hearing or a preliminary budget hearing, and six other Council committees held preliminary budget hearings, but did not have executive budget hearings. Declining to hold a hearing signals that there are no related budget issues to address.</p> <p dir="ltr">The decision whether to hold an executive budget hearing is at the discretion of the City Council Speaker’s office and the Council Finance Division, which typically decide not to bring mayoral agencies back for an executive budget hearing if there were no major changes from the preliminary to the executive budget for those agencies. All agencies have preliminary budget hearings, a spokesperson for Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Of the six committees that held a preliminary budget hearing but not an executive budget hearing, a few have oversight of agencies with budget issues. The Committee on Standards and Ethics, for example, has oversight of the Conflicts of Interest Board, which had three 2015&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6343-mayor-pledges-to-re-examine-conflicts-of-interest-board-funding" target="_blank">requests for additional funding denied</a> by the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget (the requests were for about $200,000 in additional funding to hire more ethics trainers and give raises aimed at employee retention).</p> <p dir="ltr">The unfulfilled requests were discussed at the March 8 preliminary budget hearing for COIB. After that hearing held by the Committee on Standards and Ethics, COIB sent a letter on March 10 to the city budget office requesting about $26,000 in additional funds for its most “critical budgetary needs,” which was met. However, COIB made it clear at the preliminary budget hearing that it was struggling to retain staff and to meet its charter-mandated role due to a lack of funding, and that senior management staff had even&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6215-underfunded-conflicts-of-interest-board-struggles-to-meet-mandates" target="_blank">taken pay cuts</a> in order to hire new staff. COIB settled for requesting what it saw as a minimum in additional funding after having several requests denied, something which could have been readdressed at an executive budget hearing.</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked why the Committee on Standards and Ethics did not have an executive budget hearing, chair of the committee, Council Member Alan Maisel, told Gotham Gazette, “I can’t answer that…I have no idea, call the budget office.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The City Council Committee on Contracts also did not hold an executive budget hearing. On May 26, after executive budget hearings had ended, 47 Council members&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6364-push-continues-for-budget-boost-to-city-contracted-nonprofits" target="_blank">signed a letter</a> to the mayor asking the administration to fund a 2.5 percent increase for the administrative costs of nonprofits that contract with the city. Dozens of nonprofit workers and several Council members&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6364-push-continues-for-budget-boost-to-city-contracted-nonprofits" target="_blank">rallied</a> on the steps of City Hall,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6266-city-approach-to-nonprofit-contracting-questioned" target="_blank">raising the same issues</a> that these nonprofits, like the Human Services Council and the New York Immigration Coalition, had brought up during the relevant preliminary budget hearing. The letter from nearly the entire City Council made it clear that the funding needs of nonprofits that contract with the city remained unaddressed.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Helen Rosenthal, chair of the contracts committee, said she believes that no executive budget hearing was held because “It’s not really for the director of the Office of Contracts to respond to this. It’s the OMB who is responsible for allocating these funds to the agencies. But I was asking and other Council members were asking at each of the agency hearings as well, what are we doing to cover these costs?”</p> <p dir="ltr">Rosenthal did indeed raise the issue with OMB during the first executive budget hearing on May 6.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Committee on Consumer Affairs, which oversees the Department of Consumer Affairs, also did not hold an executive budget hearing, despite the agency’s growth under the de Blasio administration. Chair of the committee, Council Member Rafael Espinal, said in a statement to Gotham Gazette that his committee did not have an executive budget hearing “because there was a very minimal change in the agency’s executive budget from the preliminary budget,” as “the agency’s only new need was for $180,000 in personnel services costs and other adjustments totaled less than $500,000.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor’s office did not respond for comment regarding those agencies not asked back to the Council for executive budget hearings.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Committee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Council Member Vincent Gentile with oversight of the Department of Investigation, also did not hold an executive budget hearing, “because the DOI agency requests were unchanged from the Mayor’s preliminary budget and were fully met in the FY’17 executive budget,” said Travis Lamprecht, communications director for Gentile.</p> <p dir="ltr">Neither the Committee on Civil Rights nor the Committee on Courts and Legal Services have direct oversight of specific city agencies, and neither held an executive budget hearing. Chair of the Committee on Courts and Legal Services, Council Member Rory Lancman, told Gotham Gazette, "There were no substantial changes in our area of jurisdiction between the preliminary and executive budget, so the Committee instead held an oversight hearing on court record accuracy."</p> <p dir="ltr">One committee, the Committee on Civil Service and Labor, chaired by Council Member I. Daneek Miller, did not hold a preliminary or executive budget hearing, and has no hearings scheduled before a budget deal is due. A spokesperson for Miller said that his committee “does not have a preliminary budget hearing because it does not oversee a City Department or Agency. The closest one it oversees is the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, but that is only over City employees.”</p> <p dir="ltr">DCAS is the principal administrative support agency for the city of New York and has been allocated $1.1 billion in this year’s executive budget. According to its website, DCAS “supports City agencies' workforce needs in recruiting, hiring and training City employees; provides overall facilities management for 55 public buildings; and purchases, sells and leases real property,” among other functions.</p> <p dir="ltr">Four other committees (of the City Council’s 37) did not hold preliminary or executive budget hearings - those committees do not have direct oversight of any specific city agency.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, chaired by Council Member Mark Treyger, has oversight of the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, the Build it Back Program, and the Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability. All within the Mayor’s Office, none is an official city department.</p> <p dir="ltr">Strangely, the recovery and resiliency committee twice had an executive budget hearing&nbsp;<a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">scheduled</a> in May, but both were deferred, and no preliminary budget hearing took place. Instead, Treyger, told Gotham Gazette, the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency <a href="http://www.bensonhurstbean.com/2016/05/treyger-passes-bill-protect-sandy-victims-sanitation-dob-fines/#.V1XuzJMrKgQ" target="_blank">held an oversight hearing on June 6</a> on “budget items with regard to the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, Build it Back, and all of the Sandy recovery applications, and whether there's equity on resiliency spending.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“I was very insistent in making sure that my committee holds an oversight hearing with regard to budget matters before budget adoption,” Treyger added.</p> <p>Another of those four is the Committee on Rules, Privileges, and Elections, which has oversight of Council structure and organization as well as appointments to city boards. The rules committee <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6216-city-council-deletes-one-committee-but-no-further-reforms-planned" target="_blank">deleted a committee</a> that the Council had deemed unnecessary during a March hearing, in part citing that it did not have oversight of a city agency. The Committee on State and Federal Legislation, which rarely meets and mainly does so to pass resolutions, also did not hold a budget hearing. And, the Committee on Waterfronts has met just once this year.</p> <p>

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by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Budget Allocations Measure Mayor’s Commitment to Ethics Agencies 2016-05-09T04:00:00+00:00 2016-05-09T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6324:budget-allocations-indicate-mayor-s-commitment-to-ethics-agencies Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/25042274459_082630ac14_z.jpg" width="600" height="400" alt="bdb town hall mic crowd" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio at a town hall (photo:&nbsp;Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Over the last few weeks, facing the spectre of multiple investigations, Mayor Bill de Blasio has repeatedly stressed that he, his administration, and his allies operate ethically. “We hold ourselves to the highest standards of integrity,” the mayor has said repeatedly as reporters have questioned him about allegations of impropriety in his fundraising operations.</p> <p dir="ltr">In support, the mayor has regularly referred to the city’s internal mechanisms for ensuring such behavior.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Our Conflict of Interest Board, our Department of Investigation, all the different tools that we have here in the city that create accountability have gotten stronger and stronger, and we have the most rigorous campaign finance system in the country,” he told reporters at a press conference on April 13. It was not the only time the mayor has referenced the threesome in place to help keep government officials on the straight and narrow and reduce the influence of money in politics.</p> <p dir="ltr">As the mayor has cited the training the Conflict of Interest Board delivers to city employees and the guidance he and his team sought from it while engaging in their fundraising, as well as the work of the Department of Investigations, the city’s annual budget process has been unfolding.</p> <p dir="ltr">The season has shifted from the preliminary to the executive budget iterations, with a final deal between de Blasio and the City Council due by the July 1 start of the next fiscal year. As the mayor has touted both COIB and DOI, he has had an opportunity to put money where his mouth is, so to speak, while his administration has also had the chance to weigh in on <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6315-hearing-advances-reforms-to-city-campaign-finance-system" target="_blank">pending tweaks</a> to the city’s campaign finance system that include reducing the impact of donation bundlers who have business before the city. There are currently limits on how much entities with business before the city can donate to candidates. (A federal investigation is reportedly focused on whether donors to a nonprofit aligned with the mayor received favorable city action. Nonprofits face no donation limits.)</p> <p dir="ltr">During <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6215-underfunded-conflicts-of-interest-board-struggles-to-meet-mandates" target="_blank">a preliminary budget hearing in March</a>, COIB representatives told City Council members that the agency was significantly underfunded and thus unable to retain good staff or complete its mandated trainings.</p> <p dir="ltr">DOI on the other hand, had no complaints as its budget was already ballooning, with Commissioner Mark Peters simply left to explain how he is using the additional millions.</p> <p dir="ltr">When the mayor released his <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6304-de-blasio-releases-new-82b-budget-with-targeted-investments-and-additional-savings" target="_blank">executive budget</a> on April 27, both COIB and DOI saw bumps in funding, though for COIB funding is still not where board officials or City Council members want to see it.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Department of Investigation’s $47.4 million allocation in the executive budget is about $3.2 million more than the preliminary budget of $44.2 million. Over last year’s adopted budget of $30.9 million, that’s a 53.3 percent increase. During his preliminary budget hearing, DOI Commissioner Peters <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/126-city/6212-government-investigator-explains-43-budget-bump" target="_blank">justified</a> the agency’s budget increase, telling the City Council’s Committee on Investigations, chaired by Council Member Vincent Gentile, that the agency has become more proactive and has started to focus on overarching systemic issues that can lead to corruption and ineffectiveness.</p> <p dir="ltr">“As the City's workforce continues to expand,” said mayoral spokesperson Karen Hinton, “the funding provided in both financial plans will directly support the additional staff required for [DOI] to fulfill its Charter-mandated mission to eliminate fraud, corruption and mismanagement of public fund and policies.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Mike Bistreich, legislation and budget director for Gentile, said the additional funding would also help alleviate some of the lag in background checks that DOI is supposed to perform.</p> <p dir="ltr">However, DOI’s budget did not include significant savings, which was a cause for concern for Gentile at the preliminary budget hearing. In response, Peters proposed that 261 investigators at other agencies be moved to DOI’s payroll so their overtime could be paid through federal asset forfeiture funds.</p> <p dir="ltr">“As investigative staff from other agencies come onboard with DOI through the positions approved in the last financial plans, DOI will be able to cover their overtime with this funding stream,” said Hinton. “In effect, saving City Tax Levy that was previously dedicated to the overtime burden. This has not been fully implemented.” Hinton said that DOI will save at least $1.6 million over the next two years, though, by implementing this for current lease payments and employee overtime.</p> <p dir="ltr">Peters, it should be noted, has recused himself from one investigation DOI is undertaking into the de Blasio administration, over a suspect lifting of deed restrictions on a former health care facility that will become luxury housing. Peters was de Blasio’s 2013 campaign finance chair. His potential conflict of interest in leading the agency charged with investigating the mayor’s office and other city agencies was the subject of his 2014 City Council confirmation hearing when de Blasio nominated him for the job. He was voted through by a wide margin.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the Conflicts of Interest Board, which is largely focused on preventing corruption through education and guidance, the funding picture is a bit more grim. Although it receives a $2.32 million allocation in the new executive budget, about $90,000 more than last year’s adopted budget, it is not enough for an agency where the workload in recent years has skyrocketed and staffing has remained relatively flat.</p> <p dir="ltr">COIB representatives <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/126-city/6215-underfunded-conflicts-of-interest-board-struggles-to-meet-mandates" target="_blank">complained</a> at their preliminary budget hearing that the agency struggles to retain staff because of low salaries. Three proposals they made in 2015 for increased funding were rejected by the Office of Management and Budget, they said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Raising salaries across the board would’ve required less than $200,000, according to COIB officials who testified at the preliminary budget hearing. Instead, the executive budget outlines fiscal 2017 salary increases totaling $22,000, along with an additional $4,000 for training equipment, according to Hinton. Part of the total increase since last year’s adopted budget was due to collective bargaining agreements that have been settled. Hinton pointed out that during Mayor de Blasio’s tenure, COIB has received about $292,000 in additional funding over various budgets.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I wish it was more,” said Alan Maisel, chair of the Council’s Standards and Ethics Committee, which has oversight of COIB. “With more money, they could always do more -- more trainings in ethics rules, they could send teams out to site locations.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Since 2010, COIB has been mandated with training city employees in ethics rules every two years. The city has nearly 320,000 employees and COIB has only four full-time staffers, out of a total of 22, who conduct these trainings.</p> <p dir="ltr">Maisel agreed with the mayor’s assertion that the COIB is a strong accountability agency but insisted that it could do a better job with more staffing and resources. When Gotham Gazette asked if he’d push for more funding in the executive budget negotiations, Maisel said, “I’ve already done my pushing. I don’t know where it’s going to go...Hopefully we can get them to add more money. We’re not asking for a fortune here.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Brad Lander, a member of the ethics committee, agrees. “I think it’ll be great to give them a modest amount of additional resources,” he said, noting that COIB budget demands were relatively low, so the $90,000 increase already made this year was significant. But, he added, “I think it’ll be good to give them a little more.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Executive budget hearings began on Friday with the Committee on Finance, an opportunity for Council members to air any budget concerns with de Blasio’s budget director. The hearing included no mention of the Conflict of Interest Board. There is no specific executive budget hearing for the Committee on Standards and Ethics scheduled. This often happens when Council members decide there is little to discuss around agency allocations.</p> <p>There is also no executive budget hearing scheduled for the Committee on Oversight and Investigations.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/25042274459_082630ac14_z.jpg" width="600" height="400" alt="bdb town hall mic crowd" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio at a town hall (photo:&nbsp;Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Over the last few weeks, facing the spectre of multiple investigations, Mayor Bill de Blasio has repeatedly stressed that he, his administration, and his allies operate ethically. “We hold ourselves to the highest standards of integrity,” the mayor has said repeatedly as reporters have questioned him about allegations of impropriety in his fundraising operations.</p> <p dir="ltr">In support, the mayor has regularly referred to the city’s internal mechanisms for ensuring such behavior.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Our Conflict of Interest Board, our Department of Investigation, all the different tools that we have here in the city that create accountability have gotten stronger and stronger, and we have the most rigorous campaign finance system in the country,” he told reporters at a press conference on April 13. It was not the only time the mayor has referenced the threesome in place to help keep government officials on the straight and narrow and reduce the influence of money in politics.</p> <p dir="ltr">As the mayor has cited the training the Conflict of Interest Board delivers to city employees and the guidance he and his team sought from it while engaging in their fundraising, as well as the work of the Department of Investigations, the city’s annual budget process has been unfolding.</p> <p dir="ltr">The season has shifted from the preliminary to the executive budget iterations, with a final deal between de Blasio and the City Council due by the July 1 start of the next fiscal year. As the mayor has touted both COIB and DOI, he has had an opportunity to put money where his mouth is, so to speak, while his administration has also had the chance to weigh in on <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6315-hearing-advances-reforms-to-city-campaign-finance-system" target="_blank">pending tweaks</a> to the city’s campaign finance system that include reducing the impact of donation bundlers who have business before the city. There are currently limits on how much entities with business before the city can donate to candidates. (A federal investigation is reportedly focused on whether donors to a nonprofit aligned with the mayor received favorable city action. Nonprofits face no donation limits.)</p> <p dir="ltr">During <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6215-underfunded-conflicts-of-interest-board-struggles-to-meet-mandates" target="_blank">a preliminary budget hearing in March</a>, COIB representatives told City Council members that the agency was significantly underfunded and thus unable to retain good staff or complete its mandated trainings.</p> <p dir="ltr">DOI on the other hand, had no complaints as its budget was already ballooning, with Commissioner Mark Peters simply left to explain how he is using the additional millions.</p> <p dir="ltr">When the mayor released his <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6304-de-blasio-releases-new-82b-budget-with-targeted-investments-and-additional-savings" target="_blank">executive budget</a> on April 27, both COIB and DOI saw bumps in funding, though for COIB funding is still not where board officials or City Council members want to see it.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Department of Investigation’s $47.4 million allocation in the executive budget is about $3.2 million more than the preliminary budget of $44.2 million. Over last year’s adopted budget of $30.9 million, that’s a 53.3 percent increase. During his preliminary budget hearing, DOI Commissioner Peters <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/126-city/6212-government-investigator-explains-43-budget-bump" target="_blank">justified</a> the agency’s budget increase, telling the City Council’s Committee on Investigations, chaired by Council Member Vincent Gentile, that the agency has become more proactive and has started to focus on overarching systemic issues that can lead to corruption and ineffectiveness.</p> <p dir="ltr">“As the City's workforce continues to expand,” said mayoral spokesperson Karen Hinton, “the funding provided in both financial plans will directly support the additional staff required for [DOI] to fulfill its Charter-mandated mission to eliminate fraud, corruption and mismanagement of public fund and policies.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Mike Bistreich, legislation and budget director for Gentile, said the additional funding would also help alleviate some of the lag in background checks that DOI is supposed to perform.</p> <p dir="ltr">However, DOI’s budget did not include significant savings, which was a cause for concern for Gentile at the preliminary budget hearing. In response, Peters proposed that 261 investigators at other agencies be moved to DOI’s payroll so their overtime could be paid through federal asset forfeiture funds.</p> <p dir="ltr">“As investigative staff from other agencies come onboard with DOI through the positions approved in the last financial plans, DOI will be able to cover their overtime with this funding stream,” said Hinton. “In effect, saving City Tax Levy that was previously dedicated to the overtime burden. This has not been fully implemented.” Hinton said that DOI will save at least $1.6 million over the next two years, though, by implementing this for current lease payments and employee overtime.</p> <p dir="ltr">Peters, it should be noted, has recused himself from one investigation DOI is undertaking into the de Blasio administration, over a suspect lifting of deed restrictions on a former health care facility that will become luxury housing. Peters was de Blasio’s 2013 campaign finance chair. His potential conflict of interest in leading the agency charged with investigating the mayor’s office and other city agencies was the subject of his 2014 City Council confirmation hearing when de Blasio nominated him for the job. He was voted through by a wide margin.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the Conflicts of Interest Board, which is largely focused on preventing corruption through education and guidance, the funding picture is a bit more grim. Although it receives a $2.32 million allocation in the new executive budget, about $90,000 more than last year’s adopted budget, it is not enough for an agency where the workload in recent years has skyrocketed and staffing has remained relatively flat.</p> <p dir="ltr">COIB representatives <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/126-city/6215-underfunded-conflicts-of-interest-board-struggles-to-meet-mandates" target="_blank">complained</a> at their preliminary budget hearing that the agency struggles to retain staff because of low salaries. Three proposals they made in 2015 for increased funding were rejected by the Office of Management and Budget, they said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Raising salaries across the board would’ve required less than $200,000, according to COIB officials who testified at the preliminary budget hearing. Instead, the executive budget outlines fiscal 2017 salary increases totaling $22,000, along with an additional $4,000 for training equipment, according to Hinton. Part of the total increase since last year’s adopted budget was due to collective bargaining agreements that have been settled. Hinton pointed out that during Mayor de Blasio’s tenure, COIB has received about $292,000 in additional funding over various budgets.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I wish it was more,” said Alan Maisel, chair of the Council’s Standards and Ethics Committee, which has oversight of COIB. “With more money, they could always do more -- more trainings in ethics rules, they could send teams out to site locations.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Since 2010, COIB has been mandated with training city employees in ethics rules every two years. The city has nearly 320,000 employees and COIB has only four full-time staffers, out of a total of 22, who conduct these trainings.</p> <p dir="ltr">Maisel agreed with the mayor’s assertion that the COIB is a strong accountability agency but insisted that it could do a better job with more staffing and resources. When Gotham Gazette asked if he’d push for more funding in the executive budget negotiations, Maisel said, “I’ve already done my pushing. I don’t know where it’s going to go...Hopefully we can get them to add more money. We’re not asking for a fortune here.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Brad Lander, a member of the ethics committee, agrees. “I think it’ll be great to give them a modest amount of additional resources,” he said, noting that COIB budget demands were relatively low, so the $90,000 increase already made this year was significant. But, he added, “I think it’ll be good to give them a little more.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Executive budget hearings began on Friday with the Committee on Finance, an opportunity for Council members to air any budget concerns with de Blasio’s budget director. The hearing included no mention of the Conflict of Interest Board. There is no specific executive budget hearing for the Committee on Standards and Ethics scheduled. This often happens when Council members decide there is little to discuss around agency allocations.</p> <p>There is also no executive budget hearing scheduled for the Committee on Oversight and Investigations.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Standards and Ethics Committee to Again Examine Conflicts of Interest Board 2015-03-11T17:31:42+00:00 2015-03-11T17:31:42+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5625:standards-and-ethics-committee-to-again-examine-conflicts-of-interest-board Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/city_hall_pic.jpg" alt="chambers" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">City Council Chambers (photo: William Alatriste)</span></p> <hr /> <p>"If you have a question about whether your conduct is allowed under the City's ethics law, press two," says one part of the automated response a caller hears after dialing the Conflicts of Interest Board.</p> <p>As preliminary budget hearings continue this week at the City Council, the Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) will be examined to ensure that it is fulfilling its role in preventing corruption and properly funded to do so. The Council's Standards and Ethics Committee, chaired by Council Member Alan Maisel and with oversight of the COIB and ethical protocols among city officials, is holding its preliminary budget hearing on Thursday.</p> <p>The hearing comes at a time when corruption and ethics have been all over the news as state-level lawmakers continue to wind up in handcuffs, accused of both legal and illegal wrongdoing, and engage in negotiations over reforms. Officials at the city level have not been without scandal, of course, and there has been increased scrutiny <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/02/8562942/council-critical-plan-pursue-overhaul-citys-911-system" target="_blank">of late</a> on the City's Department of Investigations (DOI).</p> <p>The Council's Standards and Ethics Committee does not oversee the DOI, but with oversight over the COIB, similar issues come up - namely that of independence.</p> <p>The Standards and Ethics Committee has punitive powers, but has rarely needed to exercise them in the past few years save for two recent cases, those pertaining to Council Member Ruben Wills, a Democrat, and former Council Member Dan Halloran, a Republican, both of Queens.</p> <p>Wills was recently arrested for the second time in as many years. He has been indicted this time around for filing false documents with the COIB. Dan Halloran was <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/03/8563403/halloran-sentenced-10-years-bribery-case" target="_blank">sentenced</a> last week for corruption and bribery in trying to aid former State Senator Malcolm Smith, a Democrat, in bribing his way onto the 2013 ballot for Mayor as a Republican. Halloran was sentenced to ten years in prison.</p> <p>Last month, the Standards and Ethics Committee held an oversight hearing to discuss the two cases. Requests for comment made to Maisel's office were referred to the committee's general counsel, who did not respond to calls or messages.</p> <p>Thursday's budget hearing of the committee will be, for the most part, an opportunity for the COIB to present its annual report. The COIB implements and enforces New York City conflict of interest laws. It also educates city employees on ethical requirements, acts in an advisory capacity to current and former employees, and oversees financial disclosure for elected officials.</p> <p>A spokesperson for the COIB declined to comment ahead of the hearing.</p> <p>In recent years, the COIB's workload has increased but staff numbers and budget have barely changed. According to the COIB's <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/conflicts/downloads/pdf2/annual_reports/final_report_2014.pdf" target="_blank">annual report</a>, the board conducted 599 training sessions last year, up 11 percent from 506 in 2013. In 2001, only 190 sessions were conducted. COIB received 488 new complaints in 2014, marginally lower than the 506 in 2013, but almost four times the number from 2001 (124 complaints). There were 4,950 total requests for legal advice from current or former city officials, compared to 4,088 the previous year and 2,189 in 2001.</p> <p>Despite this increased burden, the budget for the COIB has increased from $1.69 million in 2002 to a proposed $2.11 million for this year as outlined in Mayor Bill de Blasio's fiscal year 2016 preliminary budget. (It was $2.03 million in fiscal 2014). The staff strength stands at 22, actually one less than in 2001.</p> <p>At last year's executive budget hearing, COIB Executive Director Mark Davies said in his testimony that the Board was "just about at where we should be" in terms of manpower and resources. But, he ceded that maintaining the quality of the staff depended on ensuring a steady budget and possible future budget cuts would be draconian and dangerous.</p> <p>Herein lies the most COIB's most important concern. Although it is a non-mayoral agency in function, it has an almost contradictory structure. The board has five members, approved by the City Council and appointed by the Mayor, who serve staggered six-year terms and can be reappointed for a second term. With the Mayor's involvement and the Council's consent key to these appointments, the contradiction in the board's mandate is apparent. COIB members are not only charged with enforcing rules on the very people, mayoral staff and council members, who make their appointments, but who decide the board's budget. Therefore, each year, the COIB advocates for a charter amendment to provide it with independent budgeting.</p> <p>"Our mission is to guide honest officials thereby promoting both the reality and the perception of integrity in government by preventing conflicts of interest violations from ever occurring," said Davies in his 2014 testimony. "In other words we are in the prevention business, not in the punishment business, thus perhaps most importantly the board reiterates a concern that it has expressed for many, many years: the lack of an independent budget."</p> <p>Such a charter amendment would need widespread support since it can only be passed by referendum or through state legislation.</p> <p>Good government groups are on board with COIB's proposal. "Independent budgeting is an important fail safe for agencies that conduct oversight, like the COIB," said Rachael Fauss, director of public policy for Citizens Union. "Codifying this in law will ensure that it continues to receive sufficient resources, regardless of the administration that is in office."</p> <p>Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, said COIB has a strong reputation for objectivity. "Could it be strengthened by being more independent? Possibly," she said. But a significant measure, she said, would be "a full outside evaluation of how things are being handled by the board. From an anecdotal point of view, not from any systematic review, there seems to be a bias towards the executive."</p> <p>Considering the focus on ethics reforms over the last year, at both city and state levels, and the Council's recent critique of the Department of Investigation's apparent performance decline, the COIB may do well to take this opportunity to ask for a larger budget and push for complete independence. Not only would that help protect against future uncertainty but also ensure it is not beholden to the whims of political forces. As its <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/conflicts/downloads/pdf2/annual_reports/final_report_2014.pdf" target="_blank">annual report</a> states, "Ethics lights the way to good government."</p> <p>***<br />by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/samarkhurshid" target="_blank">@samarkhurshid</a></p> <p>Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/city_hall_pic.jpg" alt="chambers" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">City Council Chambers (photo: William Alatriste)</span></p> <hr /> <p>"If you have a question about whether your conduct is allowed under the City's ethics law, press two," says one part of the automated response a caller hears after dialing the Conflicts of Interest Board.</p> <p>As preliminary budget hearings continue this week at the City Council, the Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) will be examined to ensure that it is fulfilling its role in preventing corruption and properly funded to do so. The Council's Standards and Ethics Committee, chaired by Council Member Alan Maisel and with oversight of the COIB and ethical protocols among city officials, is holding its preliminary budget hearing on Thursday.</p> <p>The hearing comes at a time when corruption and ethics have been all over the news as state-level lawmakers continue to wind up in handcuffs, accused of both legal and illegal wrongdoing, and engage in negotiations over reforms. Officials at the city level have not been without scandal, of course, and there has been increased scrutiny <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/02/8562942/council-critical-plan-pursue-overhaul-citys-911-system" target="_blank">of late</a> on the City's Department of Investigations (DOI).</p> <p>The Council's Standards and Ethics Committee does not oversee the DOI, but with oversight over the COIB, similar issues come up - namely that of independence.</p> <p>The Standards and Ethics Committee has punitive powers, but has rarely needed to exercise them in the past few years save for two recent cases, those pertaining to Council Member Ruben Wills, a Democrat, and former Council Member Dan Halloran, a Republican, both of Queens.</p> <p>Wills was recently arrested for the second time in as many years. He has been indicted this time around for filing false documents with the COIB. Dan Halloran was <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/03/8563403/halloran-sentenced-10-years-bribery-case" target="_blank">sentenced</a> last week for corruption and bribery in trying to aid former State Senator Malcolm Smith, a Democrat, in bribing his way onto the 2013 ballot for Mayor as a Republican. Halloran was sentenced to ten years in prison.</p> <p>Last month, the Standards and Ethics Committee held an oversight hearing to discuss the two cases. Requests for comment made to Maisel's office were referred to the committee's general counsel, who did not respond to calls or messages.</p> <p>Thursday's budget hearing of the committee will be, for the most part, an opportunity for the COIB to present its annual report. The COIB implements and enforces New York City conflict of interest laws. It also educates city employees on ethical requirements, acts in an advisory capacity to current and former employees, and oversees financial disclosure for elected officials.</p> <p>A spokesperson for the COIB declined to comment ahead of the hearing.</p> <p>In recent years, the COIB's workload has increased but staff numbers and budget have barely changed. According to the COIB's <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/conflicts/downloads/pdf2/annual_reports/final_report_2014.pdf" target="_blank">annual report</a>, the board conducted 599 training sessions last year, up 11 percent from 506 in 2013. In 2001, only 190 sessions were conducted. COIB received 488 new complaints in 2014, marginally lower than the 506 in 2013, but almost four times the number from 2001 (124 complaints). There were 4,950 total requests for legal advice from current or former city officials, compared to 4,088 the previous year and 2,189 in 2001.</p> <p>Despite this increased burden, the budget for the COIB has increased from $1.69 million in 2002 to a proposed $2.11 million for this year as outlined in Mayor Bill de Blasio's fiscal year 2016 preliminary budget. (It was $2.03 million in fiscal 2014). The staff strength stands at 22, actually one less than in 2001.</p> <p>At last year's executive budget hearing, COIB Executive Director Mark Davies said in his testimony that the Board was "just about at where we should be" in terms of manpower and resources. But, he ceded that maintaining the quality of the staff depended on ensuring a steady budget and possible future budget cuts would be draconian and dangerous.</p> <p>Herein lies the most COIB's most important concern. Although it is a non-mayoral agency in function, it has an almost contradictory structure. The board has five members, approved by the City Council and appointed by the Mayor, who serve staggered six-year terms and can be reappointed for a second term. With the Mayor's involvement and the Council's consent key to these appointments, the contradiction in the board's mandate is apparent. COIB members are not only charged with enforcing rules on the very people, mayoral staff and council members, who make their appointments, but who decide the board's budget. Therefore, each year, the COIB advocates for a charter amendment to provide it with independent budgeting.</p> <p>"Our mission is to guide honest officials thereby promoting both the reality and the perception of integrity in government by preventing conflicts of interest violations from ever occurring," said Davies in his 2014 testimony. "In other words we are in the prevention business, not in the punishment business, thus perhaps most importantly the board reiterates a concern that it has expressed for many, many years: the lack of an independent budget."</p> <p>Such a charter amendment would need widespread support since it can only be passed by referendum or through state legislation.</p> <p>Good government groups are on board with COIB's proposal. "Independent budgeting is an important fail safe for agencies that conduct oversight, like the COIB," said Rachael Fauss, director of public policy for Citizens Union. "Codifying this in law will ensure that it continues to receive sufficient resources, regardless of the administration that is in office."</p> <p>Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, said COIB has a strong reputation for objectivity. "Could it be strengthened by being more independent? Possibly," she said. But a significant measure, she said, would be "a full outside evaluation of how things are being handled by the board. From an anecdotal point of view, not from any systematic review, there seems to be a bias towards the executive."</p> <p>Considering the focus on ethics reforms over the last year, at both city and state levels, and the Council's recent critique of the Department of Investigation's apparent performance decline, the COIB may do well to take this opportunity to ask for a larger budget and push for complete independence. Not only would that help protect against future uncertainty but also ensure it is not beholden to the whims of political forces. As its <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/conflicts/downloads/pdf2/annual_reports/final_report_2014.pdf" target="_blank">annual report</a> states, "Ethics lights the way to good government."</p> <p>***<br />by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/samarkhurshid" target="_blank">@samarkhurshid</a></p> <p>Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union</p> The New Yorker's Guide To The New City Government 2013-12-31T16:55:08+00:00 2013-12-31T16:55:08+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=4792:the-guide-to-new-york-citys-new-government Super User <p><img class="caption" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/CityHall2.jpg" alt="CityHall2" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span class="caption">Photo by Bill Alatriste/City Council</span></p> <p>NEW YORK —&nbsp;The historic overhaul of New York City government this year goes well beyond the mayor's office.</p> <p class="c2">There are 21 new members of the City Council, four new borough presidents, and fresh, yet familiar, faces in the offices of Brooklyn district attorney, comptroller, and public advocate. With the city’s politics taking an increasingly liberal turn, there are few outright conservatives left in city government.</p> <p class="c2">“Reapportionment and term limits combined to make the City Council younger, a little bit further to the left, perhaps less a product of traditional political organizations or machines, and demographically, a little more like the population of the city,” said Kenneth Sherrill, Chair of the Political Science Department at Hunter College.</p> <p class="c2">New city officials include the first Mexican-American on City Council; old friends of incoming Police Commissioner Bill Bratton from his tenure during the 1990s; yet another member of the Queens Vallone clan; and a progressive new Brooklyn D.A., who has said he wants to re-train the borough's police officers. We've rounded up the full list here.</p> <h1 class="c2">Citywide</h1> <h3 class="c2"><strong><span class="c3">Mayor</span></strong></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Bill de Blasio - De Blasio has been involved in New York City politics since he helped the last progressive mayor, David Dinkins, get elected in 1989.<span class="c3">&nbsp;Between that first campaign and his mayoral victory, De Blasio served as the regional director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, helped Hillary Clinton get elected to the U.S. Senate, spent eight years representing some of Brooklyn’s wealthier neighborhoods on the City Council, and, most recently, served as the city’s public advocate. In an attempt to deliver on a key campaign promise early on, De Blasio has spent the last few weeks drumming up support in Albany for a small tax on the wealthy to fund universal pre-K. Dinkins, somewhat ironically and <span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/26/nyregion/praised-by-de-blasio-dinkins-responds-with-an-arrow.html">extremely publicly</a>, recently told him to reconsider, saying “we might have more success” with a commuter tax.</span></span></span></p> <h3 class="c2"><strong><span class="c3">Comptroller</span></strong></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Scott Stringer - Stringer left his post as Manhattan Borough President and took on former Gov. Elliot Spitzer in order to ascend to this quietly powerful office overseeing city finances. He brings with him experience as a&nbsp;trustee of the massive<a class="c4" href="https://www.nycers.org/%28S%28ooq2yk45ynp3ouugmutx3q2u%29%29/Index.aspx"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="https://www.nycers.org/%28S%28ooq2yk45ynp3ouugmutx3q2u%29%29/Index.aspx">NYCERS pension fund</a>&nbsp;and a track record of spearheading<a class="c4" href="http://mbpo.org/free_details.asp?id=511"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://mbpo.org/free_details.asp?id=511">populist economic initiatives</a>, including the New York City Taxpayer Receipt, a website that allows constituents to<a class="c4" href="http://mbpo.org/taxreceipt/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://mbpo.org/taxreceipt/">track their tax dollars</a>.</span></span></span></span></p> <h3 class="c2"><strong><span class="c3">Public Advocate</span></strong></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Letitia "Tish" James - James has served Central Brooklyn on the City Council since 2003 and has opposed several major development and rezoning projects, including Atlantic Yards, which, for years, riled up residents around what is now the Barclays Center. Most recently, James joined progressive groups in calling for higher wages and a change in the city’s economic development policies, including more stringent requirements for banks and corporations that receive city subsidies.</span></p> <h1 class="c2">Borough-wide offices</h1> <h3 class="c2"><strong><span class="c3">Brooklyn District Attorney</span></strong></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Kenneth P. Thompson -&nbsp;Thompson had to<a class="c4" href="http://gothamist.com/2013/11/06/new_brooklyn_da_ken_thompson.php"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://gothamist.com/2013/11/06/new_brooklyn_da_ken_thompson.php">beat incumbent Charles Hynes twice</a>&nbsp;- first, in the primary, when Hynes was a Democrat, and again when Hynes became a Republican for the general election. In an<a class="c4" href="http://www.ny1.com/content/politics/decision_2013_video/196299/ny1-online--thompson-addresses-supporters-after-winning-brooklyn-da-race"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.ny1.com/content/politics/decision_2013_video/196299/ny1-online--thompson-addresses-supporters-after-winning-brooklyn-da-race">acceptance speech</a>, the first black Brooklyn DA said voters had chosen him as an alternative to "false accusation, fear-mongering, and race-baiting." As a federal attorney, Thompson prosecuted<a class="c4" href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/26/abner-louima-ken-thompson-brooklyn-election"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/26/abner-louima-ken-thompson-brooklyn-election">police brutality</a>&nbsp;in Brooklyn and now aims to reduce false arrests by<a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/da-charles-hynes-soon-to-be-successor-ken-thompson-outlines-big-plans-article-1.1452972"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/da-charles-hynes-soon-to-be-successor-ken-thompson-outlines-big-plans-article-1.1452972">assigning prosecutors to police precincts</a>&nbsp;in East New York and Brownsville. “It is not right to have someone subjected to stop-and-frisk, snake through the system and spend two days in jail just to get out," he<a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/da-charles-hynes-soon-to-be-successor-ken-thompson-outlines-big-plans-article-1.1452972"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/da-charles-hynes-soon-to-be-successor-ken-thompson-outlines-big-plans-article-1.1452972">told the Daily News</a>.</span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <h3 class="c2"><span class="c3"><strong>Brooklyn Borough President</strong><br /></span></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Eric Adams (D, WF)&nbsp;- Counted as an<a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/hamill-returning-top-bill-bratton-stop-frisk-differently-article-1.1540414"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/hamill-returning-top-bill-bratton-stop-frisk-differently-article-1.1540414">old friend</a>&nbsp;by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, Adams served 22 years in the NYPD before moving on to the State Senate, where he has represented Crown Heights, Flatbush, Sunset Park and Park Slope for the last eight years. A vocal critic of former Commissioner Ray Kelly when stop-and-frisk was on trial, Adams advocates for a "symbiotic relationship" between the police and the community.</span></span></p> <h3 class="c2"><span class="c3"><strong>Manhattan <span class="c3">Borough President</span></strong><br /></span></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Gale Brewer (D)&nbsp;- Brewer has been a Council member for the Upper West Side and North Clinton since 2002. Her most recent political efforts include a push to<a class="c4" href="http://smallbusiness.foxbusiness.com/entrepreneurs/2013/11/27/food-trucks-get-greener-with-startups-plug-in-technology/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://smallbusiness.foxbusiness.com/entrepreneurs/2013/11/27/food-trucks-get-greener-with-startups-plug-in-technology/">make food trucks greener</a>&nbsp;and to get the city to<a class="c4" href="http://www.westsiderag.com/2013/12/04/with-citibike-expansion-stalled-brewer-wants-federal-funding"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.westsiderag.com/2013/12/04/with-citibike-expansion-stalled-brewer-wants-federal-funding">seek federal funding</a>&nbsp;to expand CitiBike.</span></span></span></p> <h3 class="c2"><span class="c3"><strong>Queens</strong> <span class="c3"><strong>Borough President</strong></span><br /></span></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Melinda Katz (D)&nbsp;- Katz represented Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens and other pockets of Queens during her seven-year tenure on the City Council between 2002 and 2009. While on the Council, she was chair of the land use committee, and played a key role in moving forward the massive rezoning the city underwent during the Bloomberg administration.</span></p> <h3 class="c2"><span class="c3"><strong>Staten Island Borough President</strong><br /></span></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">James Oddo (R) - After 15 years on the City Council, Oddo is passing his title of Republican minority leader on to fellow Staten Island politician Vincent Ignizio. When it comes to Sandy relief, Oddo<a class="c4" href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2013/10/gentlemanly_staten_island_bp_d.html"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2013/10/gentlemanly_staten_island_bp_d.html">supports an "acquisition for redevelopment" plan</a>&nbsp;that would buy out homeowners, open Midland Beach up to developers, and give former residents the option of moving back in.</span></span></p> <h1 class="c2">City Council</h1> <h3 class="c2"><strong><span class="c3">Manhattan</span></strong></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Corey Johnson (D) - D3 - Hell's Kitchen, Chelsea, West Village- Johnson, a prominent activist in the LGBT community, will take outgoing Speaker Christine Quinn's seat. Johnson most recently served as Chair of Community Board 4, which also made him a<a class="c4" href="http://www.hydc.org/html/board/board.shtml"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.hydc.org/html/board/board.shtml">board member</a>&nbsp;of the Hudson Yards Development Corp. Johnson built much of his campaign around affordable housing, but has been the<a class="c4" href="http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2013/06/the_strange_can.php"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2013/06/the_strange_can.php">subject</a>&nbsp;of controversy as a former employee of GFI Development Co., which has erected its fair share of Brooklyn condos.</span></span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Ben Kallos (D) - D5 - Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island - Kallos, a lawyer and lifelong Upper East Sider, advocated for state constitutional reform as the Executive Director of the group<a class="c4" href="http://www.effectiveny.org/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.effectiveny.org/">EffectiveNY</a>&nbsp;and has put the issues of government accountability and transparency at the forefront of his campaign.<span class="c3">&nbsp;He has also pledged to try to<a class="c4" href="https://kallosforcouncil.com/solutions/second-avenue-subway-construction"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="https://kallosforcouncil.com/solutions/second-avenue-subway-construction">aid local businesses</a>&nbsp;affected by the interminable Second Avenue subway construction.</span></span></span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Hellen Rosenthal (D) - D6 - Upper West Side and North Clinton - Rosenthal, who is coming from a post in the City Hall Budget Office, has been a<a class="c4" href="http://www.helenrosenthal.com/press_release_from_helen_rosenthal_for_city_council_on_the_success_of_participatory_budgeting_april_4_2012"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.helenrosenthal.com/press_release_from_helen_rosenthal_for_city_council_on_the_success_of_participatory_budgeting_april_4_2012">major supporter</a>&nbsp;of participatory budgeting and has advocated bringing it to her district, where, in the past, she served as Chair of Community Board 7.</span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Mark Levine (D, WF) - D7 - parts of Morningside Heights, Hamilton Heights/West Harlem, Manhattan Valley, Washington Heights, and part of UWS - Over the course of his uptown political career, Levine founded the Barack Obama Democratic Club of Upper Manhattan and a credit union called the Neighborhood Trust. He also briefly ran the New York chapter of the controversial Teach for America program, of which he was an early participant. Levine's proposals for city schools include<a class="c4" href="http://www.votelevine.com/education"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.votelevine.com/education">expanding the curriculum</a>&nbsp;to teach about LGBT history, animal welfare, and environmental issues.</span></span></p> <h3 class="c2"><strong><span class="c3">Brooklyn</span></strong></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Laurie Cumbo (D) - D35 - Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights, and part of Bedford Stuyvesant - Cumbo is best known in Brooklyn for her leadership and expansion of<a class="c4" href="http://mocada.org/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://mocada.org/">MoCADA</a>, the Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts, and other cultural programs she has jump-started. But Cumbo has had a rough start as a Council member. She already had to<a class="c4" href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131210/fort-greene/city-councilwoman-elect-laurie-cumbo-apologizes-for-knockout-comments"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131210/fort-greene/city-councilwoman-elect-laurie-cumbo-apologizes-for-knockout-comments">apologize</a>&nbsp;to her new constituents for racially charged<a class="c4" href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/05/laurie-cumbo-knockout-attack-brooklyn-blacks-jews_n_4390605.html"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/05/laurie-cumbo-knockout-attack-brooklyn-blacks-jews_n_4390605.html">comments she made</a>&nbsp;about the 'knockout attacks' in Crown Heights last month.</span></span></span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Robert Cornegy, Jr. (D) -D36- Bedford Stuvesant and parts of Crown Heights - Cornegy is transitioning from a position as Legislative Analyst for the Council's Aging and Veterans Committee. The former district leader and president of VIDA, Central Brooklyn's Vanguard Independent Democratic Association,<a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/cornegy-top-recount-central-brooklyn-city-council-race-article-1.1470137"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/cornegy-top-recount-central-brooklyn-city-council-race-article-1.1470137">eked out a primary win</a>&nbsp;in a race that ended with a highly contested recount.</span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Rafael Espinal, Jr. (D) - D37- Cypress Hills, Bushwick, East New York, City Line, Ocean Hill, Brownsville - Two years ago, Espinal, then 27, became the youngest member of the State Assembly, representing District 54. Most recently, he<a class="c4" href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Rafael-L-Espinal-Jr/sponsor/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Rafael-L-Espinal-Jr/sponsor/">sponsored legislation</a>&nbsp;related to domestic abuse and, in the past, has sponsored bills that would require insurance companies to expand women's health coverage. Espinal has said he is determined to repair the infrastructure in neighborhoods that have been <a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/new-assemblyman-rafael-espinal-fights-cypress-hills-machine-made-politician-article-1.961148"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/new-assemblyman-rafael-espinal-fights-cypress-hills-machine-made-politician-article-1.961148">"completely ignored"</a>&nbsp;by the city, like Cypress Hills, where he grew up.</span></span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Carlos Menchaca (D) - D38 - Bayridge Towers, Greenwood Heights, Red Hook, Sunset Park, Windsor Terrace - Menchaca's<a class="c4" href="http://www.decidenyc.com/carlos-menchaca-from-sandy-to-city-hall/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.decidenyc.com/carlos-menchaca-from-sandy-to-city-hall/">relief efforts in Red Hook</a>&nbsp;following Hurricane Sandy helped him get the support he needed to beat his district's incumbent. Now, he and incoming Council Member Mark Treyger want to<a class="c4" href="http://politicker.com/2013/12/new-councilmen-call-for-new-committee-to-oversee-sandy-recovery/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://politicker.com/2013/12/new-councilmen-call-for-new-committee-to-oversee-sandy-recovery/">start a Sandy relief committee</a>&nbsp;on the City Council. Proudly claiming the dual titles of "first Mexican-American on the City Council" and "first openly gay legislator in Brooklyn,"<span class="c3">&nbsp;Menchaca cut his teeth in the offices of outgoing Borough President Marty Markowitz and outgoing Speaker Christine Quinn.</span></span></span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Inez Barron (D) - D42 - NEIGHBORHOODS - In her five years representing State Assembly District 60, Barron has<a class="c4" href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Inez-D-Barron/sponsor/"></a>taken a progressive stance on issues from gun regulation to sex education. She also<a class="c4" href="http://gothamschools.org/2009/05/04/meet-inez-barron-wife-of-charles-and-a-new-assembly-member/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://gothamschools.org/2009/05/04/meet-inez-barron-wife-of-charles-and-a-new-assembly-member/">fought to end mayoral control</a>&nbsp;of city schools after a decades-long career as a public school teacher and administrator. Barron's more incendiary husband, Charles, is passing her the torch in their Council district.</span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Alan Maisel (D) - D46 - Canarsie, Mill Basin, Marine Park, Bergen Beach, Gerritsen Beach, part of Sheepshead Bay - Environmental issues and public safety, including 'fracking' regulation, have been prominent among the legislation Maisel has<a class="c4" href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Alan-Maisel/sponsor/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Alan-Maisel/sponsor/">sponsored</a>&nbsp;in his tenure serving State Assembly District 59. Much of Maisel's civic work in Brooklyn has been done through the international Jewish organization B'nai B'rith, although he has also served on his local school and community boards.</span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Mark Treyger (D) - D47 - Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Coney Island, and Sea Gate - After Superstorm Sandy hit, Treyger founded STRONG, the Sandy Task Force Recovery Organized by Neighborhood Groups, and is now joining forces with fellow incoming Council Member Carlos Menchaca to call for<a class="c4" href="http://politicker.com/2013/12/new-councilmen-call-for-new-committee-to-oversee-sandy-recovery/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://politicker.com/2013/12/new-councilmen-call-for-new-committee-to-oversee-sandy-recovery/">a Sandy relief committee</a>&nbsp;on the City Council. Treyger, long active in local politics, has been a high school teacher since 2005, with strong involvement in the United Federation of Teachers.</span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Chaim Deutsch (D) - D48 - Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, and Brighton Beach - Over the past 20 years, Deutsch, who has a strong foothold in Brooklyn's Jewish community, has taken community safety into his own hands as president of the Flatbush Shomrim Safety Patrol.<span class="c6">&nbsp;He founded the Patrol in the early 1990s in response to rising crime and has worked closely with both Commissioner Bill Bratton and outgoing police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Deutsch even held an appreciation ceremony for Kelly, during which he<a class="c4" href="http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/felder-calls-kelly-city%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98best-police-commissioner-ever%E2%80%99-2013-12-12-153000"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/felder-calls-kelly-city%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98best-police-commissioner-ever%E2%80%99-2013-12-12-153000">presented the city</a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.brooklyneagle.com%2Farticles%2Ffelder-calls-kelly-city%25E2%2580%2599s-%25E2%2580%2598best-police-commissioner-ever%25E2%2580%2599-2013-12-12-153000&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGgvmwSpDHoPV0Ir4YaCJHvP26aHw">’s top cop </a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/felder-calls-kelly-city%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98best-police-commissioner-ever%E2%80%99-2013-12-12-153000">with a </a><span class="c0 c8"><a class="c4" href="http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/felder-calls-kelly-city%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98best-police-commissioner-ever%E2%80%99-2013-12-12-153000">mezuzah</a>, which Jews hang in their doorways for protection. He also<a class="c4" href="http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/headlines-breaking-stories/204641/nyc-councilmember-elect-chaim-deutsch-praises-deblasio-on-bratton-appointment.html"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/headlines-breaking-stories/204641/nyc-councilmember-elect-chaim-deutsch-praises-deblasio-on-bratton-appointment.html">praised Bratton</a>&nbsp;for having "excelled at police-community relations and law enforcement strategies" during his previous tenure on the NYPD.</span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3"><span class="c6"><span class="c0"><span class="c0"><span class="c0"><span class="c0 c8"><span class="c0">Antonio Reynoso - D34 - Williamsburg and Bushwick in Brooklyn; Ridgewood in Queens - Reynoso is taking the seat of his former boss, Councilwoman Diana Reyna, who he has been working for since 2007, most recently as her Chief of Staff. A Williamsburg native, Reynoso has made affordable housing his top issue, <a href="http://www.brooklynrail.org/2013/09/local/antonio-reynosos-fight-for-williamsburg">speaking out</a> frequently about the neighborhood's luxury makeover. He beat out a seasoned politician, former Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who was forced out of the Assembly earlier this year following <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/11/nyregion/disgraced-assemblyman-loses-bid-for-council-seat.html?_r=0">a sexual harassment case.</a></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <h3 class="c2"><strong><span class="c3">Queens</span></strong></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Paul Vallone, Jr. (D) - D19 - College Point, Auburndale-Flushing, Bayside, Whitestone, Bay Terrace, Douglaston, and Little Neck - Leaving his practice at Queens law firm Vallone and Vallone to take a seat on the City Council, Vallone seems to be leaving one<a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/queens/history-vallones-article-1.1458651"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/queens/history-vallones-article-1.1458651">family business</a>&nbsp;for another. His father, former Speaker Peter Vallone, Sr., served on the City Council for 25 years, leaving in 2001, when his brother, Peter, Jr., was elected to represent the 22nd District (his term is up this year).<span class="c3">&nbsp;Beyond his family ties, Vallone has established thousands of dollars in scholarship funds for Queens high school students and based his campaign platform on a mix of progressive issues — such as women's access to birth control — and local issues like noise pollution from overhead flights.</span></span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Costa Constantinides (D) - D22 - Astoria, Long Island City, part of Jackson Heights, Rikers Island, Randalls Island, and Wards Island - In the district that includes the city's largest jail, Constantinides earned valuable campaign support from the Correctional Officers Benevolent Association. Constantinides aims to reduce both crime and unemployment by hiring more police officers. He has also been active in the fight for voter rights throughout the state as a member of the New York Democratic Lawyers Council, and says it's time to dump the<a class="c4" href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20120920/new-york-city/thousands-of-city-students-have-trailers-for-classrooms"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20120920/new-york-city/thousands-of-city-students-have-trailers-for-classrooms">hundreds of outdoor </a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dnainfo.com%2Fnew-york%2F20120920%2Fnew-york-city%2Fthousands-of-city-students-have-trailers-for-classrooms&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEtNcxYAHlbBnO1zKkeROqyeW9H9A">“</a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20120920/new-york-city/thousands-of-city-students-have-trailers-for-classrooms">trailer classrooms</a>”&nbsp;that are disproportionately found in Queens schools.</span></span></span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Rory Lancman (D) - D24 -&nbsp;<span class="c3">Briarwood, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest Estates, Hillcrest, Jamaica Estates, Jamaica Hills, Kew Gardens Hills, Utopia Estates, and parts of Forest Hills, Flushing, Jamaica and Rego Park&nbsp;- When Lancman attempted to run for Anthony Weiner's old seat in Congress last year,<a class="c4" href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/212295-rory-lancman-wants-be-next-queens-liberal-lion-congress/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/212295-rory-lancman-wants-be-next-queens-liberal-lion-congress/">WNYC reported</a>&nbsp;that he had made some enemies and that one source had even called him the "most hated member of the state Assembly." Lancman, a lawyer who served Assembly District 25 for six years, has also passed a significant volume of legislation, including the<a class="c4" href="http://acdemocracy.org/the-libel-terrorism-protection-act/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://acdemocracy.org/the-libel-terrorism-protection-act/">Libel Terrorism Protection Act</a>, which aims to protect journalists writing about terrorism abroad from being hit with defamation lawsuits, and a host of bills related to equality and<a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/dominique-strauss-kahn-case-assemblyman-rory-lancman-calls-legislation-protect-hotel-maids-article-1.146262"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/dominique-strauss-kahn-case-assemblyman-rory-lancman-calls-legislation-protect-hotel-maids-article-1.146262">safety in the workplace</a>.</span></span></span></span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Daneek Miller (D) - D27 - St. Albans, Hollis, Cambria Heights, Jamaica, Baisley Park, Addisleigh Park, and parts of Queens Village, Rosedale, and Springfield Gardens - In December, Miller<a class="c4" href="http://laborpress.org/sectors/political-action/3108-laborpress-honors-james-stringer-and-miller-as-champions-of-labor"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://laborpress.org/sectors/political-action/3108-laborpress-honors-james-stringer-and-miller-as-champions-of-labor">received a "Champion of Labor" Award</a>, along with Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James. In Southeast Queens, where subway service is spotty, Miller has championed bus drivers and riders as president of the local chapter of the Amalgamated Transportation Union. He also co-founded a mentor program called Brothers Unlimited.</span></span></p> <h3 class="c2"><strong><span class="c3">Bronx</span></strong></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Andrew Cohen (D) - D11 - Kingsbridge, Riverdale, Woodlawn, Norwood, and parts of Bedford Park, Wakefield, and Bronx Park East - Cohen, a Riverdale attorney, has had a long career in law, including several years as a court attorney to a Bronx Supreme Court Justice, legal counsel to State Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz, and a stint as an assistant adjunct at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He has called for raising the minimum wage and has gained the support of the United Federation of Teachers.</span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Ritchie Torres (D) - D15 - Bathgate, Belmont, Crotona, Fordham, East Tremont, Van Nest and West Farms - Torres, only 24, is one of many young Latino Democrats making their way into city politics.<span class="c3">&nbsp;He has worked with Councilman James Vacca since his 2005 campaign and was named his housing director in 2011. Torres, who grew up in NYCHA housing, has worked to create tenants' associations and to advocate for basic rights of NYCHA residents in the Bronx, like building improvements and<a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bronx/bronx-residents-cold-article-1.1544981"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bronx/bronx-residents-cold-article-1.1544981">heating</a>.</span></span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Vanessa Gibson (D) - D16 - West Bronx, Morrisania, Highbridge, and Melrose - A Bronx transplant from Brooklyn, Gibson was elected to State Assembly District 77 in 2009, where she has focused on housing and social services.<span class="c3">&nbsp;She began her political career as the Bronx district office manager for Assemblywoman Aurelia Greene.</span></span></p> <h3 class="c2"><strong><span class="c3">Staten Island</span></strong></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Steven Matteo (R) - D50 - in Brooklyn, parts of Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, and Bath Beach; in Staten Island, Arrochar, Bulls Head, Concord, Dongan Hill, Emerson Hill, Fort Wadsworth, Grant City, Graniteville, Grasmere, Island of Meadows, Midland Beach, New Dorp, Prall's Island, Richmondtown, South Beach, Todt Hill, Travis, Westerleigh, Willowbrook - Sandy relief is still the number one priority in Staten Island, but Matteo has identified other issues affecting residents, including rampant<a class="c4" href="http://www.thirteen.org/metrofocus/2011/08/what-should-be-done-about-staten-islands-oxycodone-problem/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.thirteen.org/metrofocus/2011/08/what-should-be-done-about-staten-islands-oxycodone-problem/">prescription drug use</a>. Matteo also said he<a class="c4" href="http://www.nyccfb.info/public/voter-guide/general_2013/cd_profile/CD50_Matteo_1152.aspx"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.nyccfb.info/public/voter-guide/general_2013/cd_profile/CD50_Matteo_1152.aspx">hopes to work with the mayor</a>&nbsp; "to wrestle toll setting authority” from the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority. </span></span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3"><span class="c0"><span class="c0"><em>This is an updated version which corrects the number of incoming City Council members to 21 and adds information on Councilman Antonio Reynoso. </em><br /></span></span></span></p> <p><img class="caption" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/CityHall2.jpg" alt="CityHall2" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span class="caption">Photo by Bill Alatriste/City Council</span></p> <p>NEW YORK —&nbsp;The historic overhaul of New York City government this year goes well beyond the mayor's office.</p> <p class="c2">There are 21 new members of the City Council, four new borough presidents, and fresh, yet familiar, faces in the offices of Brooklyn district attorney, comptroller, and public advocate. With the city’s politics taking an increasingly liberal turn, there are few outright conservatives left in city government.</p> <p class="c2">“Reapportionment and term limits combined to make the City Council younger, a little bit further to the left, perhaps less a product of traditional political organizations or machines, and demographically, a little more like the population of the city,” said Kenneth Sherrill, Chair of the Political Science Department at Hunter College.</p> <p class="c2">New city officials include the first Mexican-American on City Council; old friends of incoming Police Commissioner Bill Bratton from his tenure during the 1990s; yet another member of the Queens Vallone clan; and a progressive new Brooklyn D.A., who has said he wants to re-train the borough's police officers. We've rounded up the full list here.</p> <h1 class="c2">Citywide</h1> <h3 class="c2"><strong><span class="c3">Mayor</span></strong></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Bill de Blasio - De Blasio has been involved in New York City politics since he helped the last progressive mayor, David Dinkins, get elected in 1989.<span class="c3">&nbsp;Between that first campaign and his mayoral victory, De Blasio served as the regional director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, helped Hillary Clinton get elected to the U.S. Senate, spent eight years representing some of Brooklyn’s wealthier neighborhoods on the City Council, and, most recently, served as the city’s public advocate. In an attempt to deliver on a key campaign promise early on, De Blasio has spent the last few weeks drumming up support in Albany for a small tax on the wealthy to fund universal pre-K. Dinkins, somewhat ironically and <span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/26/nyregion/praised-by-de-blasio-dinkins-responds-with-an-arrow.html">extremely publicly</a>, recently told him to reconsider, saying “we might have more success” with a commuter tax.</span></span></span></p> <h3 class="c2"><strong><span class="c3">Comptroller</span></strong></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Scott Stringer - Stringer left his post as Manhattan Borough President and took on former Gov. Elliot Spitzer in order to ascend to this quietly powerful office overseeing city finances. He brings with him experience as a&nbsp;trustee of the massive<a class="c4" href="https://www.nycers.org/%28S%28ooq2yk45ynp3ouugmutx3q2u%29%29/Index.aspx"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="https://www.nycers.org/%28S%28ooq2yk45ynp3ouugmutx3q2u%29%29/Index.aspx">NYCERS pension fund</a>&nbsp;and a track record of spearheading<a class="c4" href="http://mbpo.org/free_details.asp?id=511"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://mbpo.org/free_details.asp?id=511">populist economic initiatives</a>, including the New York City Taxpayer Receipt, a website that allows constituents to<a class="c4" href="http://mbpo.org/taxreceipt/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://mbpo.org/taxreceipt/">track their tax dollars</a>.</span></span></span></span></p> <h3 class="c2"><strong><span class="c3">Public Advocate</span></strong></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Letitia "Tish" James - James has served Central Brooklyn on the City Council since 2003 and has opposed several major development and rezoning projects, including Atlantic Yards, which, for years, riled up residents around what is now the Barclays Center. Most recently, James joined progressive groups in calling for higher wages and a change in the city’s economic development policies, including more stringent requirements for banks and corporations that receive city subsidies.</span></p> <h1 class="c2">Borough-wide offices</h1> <h3 class="c2"><strong><span class="c3">Brooklyn District Attorney</span></strong></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Kenneth P. Thompson -&nbsp;Thompson had to<a class="c4" href="http://gothamist.com/2013/11/06/new_brooklyn_da_ken_thompson.php"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://gothamist.com/2013/11/06/new_brooklyn_da_ken_thompson.php">beat incumbent Charles Hynes twice</a>&nbsp;- first, in the primary, when Hynes was a Democrat, and again when Hynes became a Republican for the general election. In an<a class="c4" href="http://www.ny1.com/content/politics/decision_2013_video/196299/ny1-online--thompson-addresses-supporters-after-winning-brooklyn-da-race"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.ny1.com/content/politics/decision_2013_video/196299/ny1-online--thompson-addresses-supporters-after-winning-brooklyn-da-race">acceptance speech</a>, the first black Brooklyn DA said voters had chosen him as an alternative to "false accusation, fear-mongering, and race-baiting." As a federal attorney, Thompson prosecuted<a class="c4" href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/26/abner-louima-ken-thompson-brooklyn-election"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/26/abner-louima-ken-thompson-brooklyn-election">police brutality</a>&nbsp;in Brooklyn and now aims to reduce false arrests by<a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/da-charles-hynes-soon-to-be-successor-ken-thompson-outlines-big-plans-article-1.1452972"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/da-charles-hynes-soon-to-be-successor-ken-thompson-outlines-big-plans-article-1.1452972">assigning prosecutors to police precincts</a>&nbsp;in East New York and Brownsville. “It is not right to have someone subjected to stop-and-frisk, snake through the system and spend two days in jail just to get out," he<a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/da-charles-hynes-soon-to-be-successor-ken-thompson-outlines-big-plans-article-1.1452972"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/da-charles-hynes-soon-to-be-successor-ken-thompson-outlines-big-plans-article-1.1452972">told the Daily News</a>.</span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <h3 class="c2"><span class="c3"><strong>Brooklyn Borough President</strong><br /></span></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Eric Adams (D, WF)&nbsp;- Counted as an<a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/hamill-returning-top-bill-bratton-stop-frisk-differently-article-1.1540414"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/hamill-returning-top-bill-bratton-stop-frisk-differently-article-1.1540414">old friend</a>&nbsp;by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, Adams served 22 years in the NYPD before moving on to the State Senate, where he has represented Crown Heights, Flatbush, Sunset Park and Park Slope for the last eight years. A vocal critic of former Commissioner Ray Kelly when stop-and-frisk was on trial, Adams advocates for a "symbiotic relationship" between the police and the community.</span></span></p> <h3 class="c2"><span class="c3"><strong>Manhattan <span class="c3">Borough President</span></strong><br /></span></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Gale Brewer (D)&nbsp;- Brewer has been a Council member for the Upper West Side and North Clinton since 2002. Her most recent political efforts include a push to<a class="c4" href="http://smallbusiness.foxbusiness.com/entrepreneurs/2013/11/27/food-trucks-get-greener-with-startups-plug-in-technology/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://smallbusiness.foxbusiness.com/entrepreneurs/2013/11/27/food-trucks-get-greener-with-startups-plug-in-technology/">make food trucks greener</a>&nbsp;and to get the city to<a class="c4" href="http://www.westsiderag.com/2013/12/04/with-citibike-expansion-stalled-brewer-wants-federal-funding"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.westsiderag.com/2013/12/04/with-citibike-expansion-stalled-brewer-wants-federal-funding">seek federal funding</a>&nbsp;to expand CitiBike.</span></span></span></p> <h3 class="c2"><span class="c3"><strong>Queens</strong> <span class="c3"><strong>Borough President</strong></span><br /></span></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Melinda Katz (D)&nbsp;- Katz represented Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens and other pockets of Queens during her seven-year tenure on the City Council between 2002 and 2009. While on the Council, she was chair of the land use committee, and played a key role in moving forward the massive rezoning the city underwent during the Bloomberg administration.</span></p> <h3 class="c2"><span class="c3"><strong>Staten Island Borough President</strong><br /></span></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">James Oddo (R) - After 15 years on the City Council, Oddo is passing his title of Republican minority leader on to fellow Staten Island politician Vincent Ignizio. When it comes to Sandy relief, Oddo<a class="c4" href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2013/10/gentlemanly_staten_island_bp_d.html"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2013/10/gentlemanly_staten_island_bp_d.html">supports an "acquisition for redevelopment" plan</a>&nbsp;that would buy out homeowners, open Midland Beach up to developers, and give former residents the option of moving back in.</span></span></p> <h1 class="c2">City Council</h1> <h3 class="c2"><strong><span class="c3">Manhattan</span></strong></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Corey Johnson (D) - D3 - Hell's Kitchen, Chelsea, West Village- Johnson, a prominent activist in the LGBT community, will take outgoing Speaker Christine Quinn's seat. Johnson most recently served as Chair of Community Board 4, which also made him a<a class="c4" href="http://www.hydc.org/html/board/board.shtml"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.hydc.org/html/board/board.shtml">board member</a>&nbsp;of the Hudson Yards Development Corp. Johnson built much of his campaign around affordable housing, but has been the<a class="c4" href="http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2013/06/the_strange_can.php"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2013/06/the_strange_can.php">subject</a>&nbsp;of controversy as a former employee of GFI Development Co., which has erected its fair share of Brooklyn condos.</span></span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Ben Kallos (D) - D5 - Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island - Kallos, a lawyer and lifelong Upper East Sider, advocated for state constitutional reform as the Executive Director of the group<a class="c4" href="http://www.effectiveny.org/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.effectiveny.org/">EffectiveNY</a>&nbsp;and has put the issues of government accountability and transparency at the forefront of his campaign.<span class="c3">&nbsp;He has also pledged to try to<a class="c4" href="https://kallosforcouncil.com/solutions/second-avenue-subway-construction"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="https://kallosforcouncil.com/solutions/second-avenue-subway-construction">aid local businesses</a>&nbsp;affected by the interminable Second Avenue subway construction.</span></span></span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Hellen Rosenthal (D) - D6 - Upper West Side and North Clinton - Rosenthal, who is coming from a post in the City Hall Budget Office, has been a<a class="c4" href="http://www.helenrosenthal.com/press_release_from_helen_rosenthal_for_city_council_on_the_success_of_participatory_budgeting_april_4_2012"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.helenrosenthal.com/press_release_from_helen_rosenthal_for_city_council_on_the_success_of_participatory_budgeting_april_4_2012">major supporter</a>&nbsp;of participatory budgeting and has advocated bringing it to her district, where, in the past, she served as Chair of Community Board 7.</span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Mark Levine (D, WF) - D7 - parts of Morningside Heights, Hamilton Heights/West Harlem, Manhattan Valley, Washington Heights, and part of UWS - Over the course of his uptown political career, Levine founded the Barack Obama Democratic Club of Upper Manhattan and a credit union called the Neighborhood Trust. He also briefly ran the New York chapter of the controversial Teach for America program, of which he was an early participant. Levine's proposals for city schools include<a class="c4" href="http://www.votelevine.com/education"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.votelevine.com/education">expanding the curriculum</a>&nbsp;to teach about LGBT history, animal welfare, and environmental issues.</span></span></p> <h3 class="c2"><strong><span class="c3">Brooklyn</span></strong></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Laurie Cumbo (D) - D35 - Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights, and part of Bedford Stuyvesant - Cumbo is best known in Brooklyn for her leadership and expansion of<a class="c4" href="http://mocada.org/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://mocada.org/">MoCADA</a>, the Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts, and other cultural programs she has jump-started. But Cumbo has had a rough start as a Council member. She already had to<a class="c4" href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131210/fort-greene/city-councilwoman-elect-laurie-cumbo-apologizes-for-knockout-comments"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131210/fort-greene/city-councilwoman-elect-laurie-cumbo-apologizes-for-knockout-comments">apologize</a>&nbsp;to her new constituents for racially charged<a class="c4" href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/05/laurie-cumbo-knockout-attack-brooklyn-blacks-jews_n_4390605.html"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/05/laurie-cumbo-knockout-attack-brooklyn-blacks-jews_n_4390605.html">comments she made</a>&nbsp;about the 'knockout attacks' in Crown Heights last month.</span></span></span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Robert Cornegy, Jr. (D) -D36- Bedford Stuvesant and parts of Crown Heights - Cornegy is transitioning from a position as Legislative Analyst for the Council's Aging and Veterans Committee. The former district leader and president of VIDA, Central Brooklyn's Vanguard Independent Democratic Association,<a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/cornegy-top-recount-central-brooklyn-city-council-race-article-1.1470137"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/cornegy-top-recount-central-brooklyn-city-council-race-article-1.1470137">eked out a primary win</a>&nbsp;in a race that ended with a highly contested recount.</span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Rafael Espinal, Jr. (D) - D37- Cypress Hills, Bushwick, East New York, City Line, Ocean Hill, Brownsville - Two years ago, Espinal, then 27, became the youngest member of the State Assembly, representing District 54. Most recently, he<a class="c4" href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Rafael-L-Espinal-Jr/sponsor/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Rafael-L-Espinal-Jr/sponsor/">sponsored legislation</a>&nbsp;related to domestic abuse and, in the past, has sponsored bills that would require insurance companies to expand women's health coverage. Espinal has said he is determined to repair the infrastructure in neighborhoods that have been <a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/new-assemblyman-rafael-espinal-fights-cypress-hills-machine-made-politician-article-1.961148"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/new-assemblyman-rafael-espinal-fights-cypress-hills-machine-made-politician-article-1.961148">"completely ignored"</a>&nbsp;by the city, like Cypress Hills, where he grew up.</span></span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Carlos Menchaca (D) - D38 - Bayridge Towers, Greenwood Heights, Red Hook, Sunset Park, Windsor Terrace - Menchaca's<a class="c4" href="http://www.decidenyc.com/carlos-menchaca-from-sandy-to-city-hall/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.decidenyc.com/carlos-menchaca-from-sandy-to-city-hall/">relief efforts in Red Hook</a>&nbsp;following Hurricane Sandy helped him get the support he needed to beat his district's incumbent. Now, he and incoming Council Member Mark Treyger want to<a class="c4" href="http://politicker.com/2013/12/new-councilmen-call-for-new-committee-to-oversee-sandy-recovery/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://politicker.com/2013/12/new-councilmen-call-for-new-committee-to-oversee-sandy-recovery/">start a Sandy relief committee</a>&nbsp;on the City Council. Proudly claiming the dual titles of "first Mexican-American on the City Council" and "first openly gay legislator in Brooklyn,"<span class="c3">&nbsp;Menchaca cut his teeth in the offices of outgoing Borough President Marty Markowitz and outgoing Speaker Christine Quinn.</span></span></span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Inez Barron (D) - D42 - NEIGHBORHOODS - In her five years representing State Assembly District 60, Barron has<a class="c4" href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Inez-D-Barron/sponsor/"></a>taken a progressive stance on issues from gun regulation to sex education. She also<a class="c4" href="http://gothamschools.org/2009/05/04/meet-inez-barron-wife-of-charles-and-a-new-assembly-member/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://gothamschools.org/2009/05/04/meet-inez-barron-wife-of-charles-and-a-new-assembly-member/">fought to end mayoral control</a>&nbsp;of city schools after a decades-long career as a public school teacher and administrator. Barron's more incendiary husband, Charles, is passing her the torch in their Council district.</span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Alan Maisel (D) - D46 - Canarsie, Mill Basin, Marine Park, Bergen Beach, Gerritsen Beach, part of Sheepshead Bay - Environmental issues and public safety, including 'fracking' regulation, have been prominent among the legislation Maisel has<a class="c4" href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Alan-Maisel/sponsor/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Alan-Maisel/sponsor/">sponsored</a>&nbsp;in his tenure serving State Assembly District 59. Much of Maisel's civic work in Brooklyn has been done through the international Jewish organization B'nai B'rith, although he has also served on his local school and community boards.</span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Mark Treyger (D) - D47 - Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Coney Island, and Sea Gate - After Superstorm Sandy hit, Treyger founded STRONG, the Sandy Task Force Recovery Organized by Neighborhood Groups, and is now joining forces with fellow incoming Council Member Carlos Menchaca to call for<a class="c4" href="http://politicker.com/2013/12/new-councilmen-call-for-new-committee-to-oversee-sandy-recovery/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://politicker.com/2013/12/new-councilmen-call-for-new-committee-to-oversee-sandy-recovery/">a Sandy relief committee</a>&nbsp;on the City Council. Treyger, long active in local politics, has been a high school teacher since 2005, with strong involvement in the United Federation of Teachers.</span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Chaim Deutsch (D) - D48 - Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, and Brighton Beach - Over the past 20 years, Deutsch, who has a strong foothold in Brooklyn's Jewish community, has taken community safety into his own hands as president of the Flatbush Shomrim Safety Patrol.<span class="c6">&nbsp;He founded the Patrol in the early 1990s in response to rising crime and has worked closely with both Commissioner Bill Bratton and outgoing police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Deutsch even held an appreciation ceremony for Kelly, during which he<a class="c4" href="http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/felder-calls-kelly-city%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98best-police-commissioner-ever%E2%80%99-2013-12-12-153000"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/felder-calls-kelly-city%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98best-police-commissioner-ever%E2%80%99-2013-12-12-153000">presented the city</a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.brooklyneagle.com%2Farticles%2Ffelder-calls-kelly-city%25E2%2580%2599s-%25E2%2580%2598best-police-commissioner-ever%25E2%2580%2599-2013-12-12-153000&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGgvmwSpDHoPV0Ir4YaCJHvP26aHw">’s top cop </a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/felder-calls-kelly-city%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98best-police-commissioner-ever%E2%80%99-2013-12-12-153000">with a </a><span class="c0 c8"><a class="c4" href="http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/felder-calls-kelly-city%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98best-police-commissioner-ever%E2%80%99-2013-12-12-153000">mezuzah</a>, which Jews hang in their doorways for protection. He also<a class="c4" href="http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/headlines-breaking-stories/204641/nyc-councilmember-elect-chaim-deutsch-praises-deblasio-on-bratton-appointment.html"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/headlines-breaking-stories/204641/nyc-councilmember-elect-chaim-deutsch-praises-deblasio-on-bratton-appointment.html">praised Bratton</a>&nbsp;for having "excelled at police-community relations and law enforcement strategies" during his previous tenure on the NYPD.</span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3"><span class="c6"><span class="c0"><span class="c0"><span class="c0"><span class="c0 c8"><span class="c0">Antonio Reynoso - D34 - Williamsburg and Bushwick in Brooklyn; Ridgewood in Queens - Reynoso is taking the seat of his former boss, Councilwoman Diana Reyna, who he has been working for since 2007, most recently as her Chief of Staff. A Williamsburg native, Reynoso has made affordable housing his top issue, <a href="http://www.brooklynrail.org/2013/09/local/antonio-reynosos-fight-for-williamsburg">speaking out</a> frequently about the neighborhood's luxury makeover. He beat out a seasoned politician, former Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who was forced out of the Assembly earlier this year following <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/11/nyregion/disgraced-assemblyman-loses-bid-for-council-seat.html?_r=0">a sexual harassment case.</a></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <h3 class="c2"><strong><span class="c3">Queens</span></strong></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Paul Vallone, Jr. (D) - D19 - College Point, Auburndale-Flushing, Bayside, Whitestone, Bay Terrace, Douglaston, and Little Neck - Leaving his practice at Queens law firm Vallone and Vallone to take a seat on the City Council, Vallone seems to be leaving one<a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/queens/history-vallones-article-1.1458651"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/queens/history-vallones-article-1.1458651">family business</a>&nbsp;for another. His father, former Speaker Peter Vallone, Sr., served on the City Council for 25 years, leaving in 2001, when his brother, Peter, Jr., was elected to represent the 22nd District (his term is up this year).<span class="c3">&nbsp;Beyond his family ties, Vallone has established thousands of dollars in scholarship funds for Queens high school students and based his campaign platform on a mix of progressive issues — such as women's access to birth control — and local issues like noise pollution from overhead flights.</span></span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Costa Constantinides (D) - D22 - Astoria, Long Island City, part of Jackson Heights, Rikers Island, Randalls Island, and Wards Island - In the district that includes the city's largest jail, Constantinides earned valuable campaign support from the Correctional Officers Benevolent Association. Constantinides aims to reduce both crime and unemployment by hiring more police officers. He has also been active in the fight for voter rights throughout the state as a member of the New York Democratic Lawyers Council, and says it's time to dump the<a class="c4" href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20120920/new-york-city/thousands-of-city-students-have-trailers-for-classrooms"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20120920/new-york-city/thousands-of-city-students-have-trailers-for-classrooms">hundreds of outdoor </a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dnainfo.com%2Fnew-york%2F20120920%2Fnew-york-city%2Fthousands-of-city-students-have-trailers-for-classrooms&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEtNcxYAHlbBnO1zKkeROqyeW9H9A">“</a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20120920/new-york-city/thousands-of-city-students-have-trailers-for-classrooms">trailer classrooms</a>”&nbsp;that are disproportionately found in Queens schools.</span></span></span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Rory Lancman (D) - D24 -&nbsp;<span class="c3">Briarwood, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest Estates, Hillcrest, Jamaica Estates, Jamaica Hills, Kew Gardens Hills, Utopia Estates, and parts of Forest Hills, Flushing, Jamaica and Rego Park&nbsp;- When Lancman attempted to run for Anthony Weiner's old seat in Congress last year,<a class="c4" href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/212295-rory-lancman-wants-be-next-queens-liberal-lion-congress/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/212295-rory-lancman-wants-be-next-queens-liberal-lion-congress/">WNYC reported</a>&nbsp;that he had made some enemies and that one source had even called him the "most hated member of the state Assembly." Lancman, a lawyer who served Assembly District 25 for six years, has also passed a significant volume of legislation, including the<a class="c4" href="http://acdemocracy.org/the-libel-terrorism-protection-act/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://acdemocracy.org/the-libel-terrorism-protection-act/">Libel Terrorism Protection Act</a>, which aims to protect journalists writing about terrorism abroad from being hit with defamation lawsuits, and a host of bills related to equality and<a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/dominique-strauss-kahn-case-assemblyman-rory-lancman-calls-legislation-protect-hotel-maids-article-1.146262"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/dominique-strauss-kahn-case-assemblyman-rory-lancman-calls-legislation-protect-hotel-maids-article-1.146262">safety in the workplace</a>.</span></span></span></span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Daneek Miller (D) - D27 - St. Albans, Hollis, Cambria Heights, Jamaica, Baisley Park, Addisleigh Park, and parts of Queens Village, Rosedale, and Springfield Gardens - In December, Miller<a class="c4" href="http://laborpress.org/sectors/political-action/3108-laborpress-honors-james-stringer-and-miller-as-champions-of-labor"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://laborpress.org/sectors/political-action/3108-laborpress-honors-james-stringer-and-miller-as-champions-of-labor">received a "Champion of Labor" Award</a>, along with Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James. In Southeast Queens, where subway service is spotty, Miller has championed bus drivers and riders as president of the local chapter of the Amalgamated Transportation Union. He also co-founded a mentor program called Brothers Unlimited.</span></span></p> <h3 class="c2"><strong><span class="c3">Bronx</span></strong></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Andrew Cohen (D) - D11 - Kingsbridge, Riverdale, Woodlawn, Norwood, and parts of Bedford Park, Wakefield, and Bronx Park East - Cohen, a Riverdale attorney, has had a long career in law, including several years as a court attorney to a Bronx Supreme Court Justice, legal counsel to State Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz, and a stint as an assistant adjunct at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He has called for raising the minimum wage and has gained the support of the United Federation of Teachers.</span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Ritchie Torres (D) - D15 - Bathgate, Belmont, Crotona, Fordham, East Tremont, Van Nest and West Farms - Torres, only 24, is one of many young Latino Democrats making their way into city politics.<span class="c3">&nbsp;He has worked with Councilman James Vacca since his 2005 campaign and was named his housing director in 2011. Torres, who grew up in NYCHA housing, has worked to create tenants' associations and to advocate for basic rights of NYCHA residents in the Bronx, like building improvements and<a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bronx/bronx-residents-cold-article-1.1544981"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bronx/bronx-residents-cold-article-1.1544981">heating</a>.</span></span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Vanessa Gibson (D) - D16 - West Bronx, Morrisania, Highbridge, and Melrose - A Bronx transplant from Brooklyn, Gibson was elected to State Assembly District 77 in 2009, where she has focused on housing and social services.<span class="c3">&nbsp;She began her political career as the Bronx district office manager for Assemblywoman Aurelia Greene.</span></span></p> <h3 class="c2"><strong><span class="c3">Staten Island</span></strong></h3> <p class="c2"><span class="c3">Steven Matteo (R) - D50 - in Brooklyn, parts of Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, and Bath Beach; in Staten Island, Arrochar, Bulls Head, Concord, Dongan Hill, Emerson Hill, Fort Wadsworth, Grant City, Graniteville, Grasmere, Island of Meadows, Midland Beach, New Dorp, Prall's Island, Richmondtown, South Beach, Todt Hill, Travis, Westerleigh, Willowbrook - Sandy relief is still the number one priority in Staten Island, but Matteo has identified other issues affecting residents, including rampant<a class="c4" href="http://www.thirteen.org/metrofocus/2011/08/what-should-be-done-about-staten-islands-oxycodone-problem/"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.thirteen.org/metrofocus/2011/08/what-should-be-done-about-staten-islands-oxycodone-problem/">prescription drug use</a>. Matteo also said he<a class="c4" href="http://www.nyccfb.info/public/voter-guide/general_2013/cd_profile/CD50_Matteo_1152.aspx"></a><span class="c0"><a class="c4" href="http://www.nyccfb.info/public/voter-guide/general_2013/cd_profile/CD50_Matteo_1152.aspx">hopes to work with the mayor</a>&nbsp; "to wrestle toll setting authority” from the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority. </span></span></span></p> <p class="c2"><span class="c3"><span class="c0"><span class="c0"><em>This is an updated version which corrects the number of incoming City Council members to 21 and adds information on Councilman Antonio Reynoso. </em><br /></span></span></span></p>