Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/2000 Sat, 21 Jul 2018 07:48:12 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Pointing to Deficiencies, Victims Call for Changes to State’s New Sexual Harassment Policies http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7764:pointing-to-deficiencies-victims-call-for-changes-to-state-s-new-sexual-harassment-policies http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7764:pointing-to-deficiencies-victims-call-for-changes-to-state-s-new-sexual-harassment-policies gov cuomo bill clinton electoral

(photo via the Governor's Office)


The problem of sexual harassment in New York state politics is systemic and plaguing young women beginning their careers, according to a group fighting to change the culture and the laws around the issue. And, they argue that recently adopted state measures to fight the scourge are insufficient, despite being touted by Governor Andrew Cuomo as “the best in the nation.”

The seven women of The Sexual Harassment Working Group -- all of whom have been personally affected by sexual harassment while working for lawmakers in the New York State Legislature -- have consulted a handful of advocacy and legal groups, and called upon their own experiences and expertise, to put together a detailed report with recommendations for ways to better protect women working in government.

“We wonder why there aren’t women in higher office, we wonder why women are so underrepesented in our legislature and in all levels of our government. And this is a big part of why: It does not feel safe to work in government if you’re a woman,” co-author Eliyanna Kaiser, a one-time chief of staff to former Assemblymember Micah Kellner, said during an event in Manhattan on June 19. Kaiser was not herself directly a victim of sexual harassment, but instead reported to Bill Collins in the Assembly Counsel's office, under former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, that Kellner had been sending inappropriate messages to one of his staffers, which led to initial inaction, attacks against Kaiser, and, eventually, Kellner’s ouster from the state Legislature.

Also on the panel were working group members and co-authors Danielle Bennett, former administrative assistant to Kellner who reported his harassment to Kaiser; Leah Hebert, former chief of staff to the late, disgraced Assemblymember Vito Lopez; Tori Burhans Kelly, former legislative aide to Lopez; Rita Pasarell, former legislative counsel and deputy chief of staff to Lopez; Erica Vladimer, former education policy analyst and counsel for the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC); and Elizabeth Crothers, former legislative aide in the New York State Assembly who publicly accused Assembly lawyer Michael Boxley of rape in 2003, two years after the alleged incident and when another victim of Boxley’s came forward. The discussion was moderated by political consultant and columnist Alexis Grenell, who has helped bring to light victims’ experiences as well as the insufficient responses from government officials.

The stories of these women run together in a horror plot that involves countless obstacles to reporting, near-dismissal, and a reluctance to investigate from those in charge, as well as forcibly implemented nondisclosure agreements that hinder the complainant's chances of reemployment and their ability to warn others.

“I agreed not to file a civil suit in exchange for [him to get] a HIV test,” Crothers said, adding the “loss of anonymity” after going public “follows you.”

“I really didn’t think there was another way out aside from suicide,” said Hebert, who was one of the first women to complain about Lopez groping and harassing female staffers, of her experience.

“These things that are happening are not the product of an individual harasser, they’re not mistakes,” Pasarell, another complainant against Lopez, added. “It’s massive, it’s systemic, and whenever I hear a new person coming out I say, ‘hey remember us, remember this happened to us in 2012?’”

It’s a cycle that exploits women and protects men who behave abhorrently and, as Grenell pointed out, it’s a reality yet unchanged by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s claims that New York has the “strongest and most comprehensive anti-sexual harassment protections in the nation” following the recent budget, wherein the anti-harassment legislation was passed. Grenell compared the governor’s statement to the “mission accomplished sign” former President George W. Bush stood in front of during 2003 remarks about the war in Iraq, only two months after the U.S. first invaded.

The Working Group is calling for Cuomo to hold public hearings to listen to victims of sexual harassment -- as its members demanded before the policies were decided by all-male leadership with little apparent regard for the opinions of victims. The group’s Harassment-Free Albany website states: “New York State has not held a state hearing on sexual harassment since Governor Mario Cuomo [Andrew Cuomo’s father] created a Sexual Harassment Task Force in 1992.”

The reporting system has no transparency for complainants, limited uniformity, and an obvious lack of objectivity, the panel urges. For example, when Vladimer, who this January publicly accused now-Deputy Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein of kissing her forcibly and against her will outside a bar in 2015, was asked where her case is at now, she said she has no idea.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Vladimer told event attendees on Tuesday. “[It’s with] the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics [JCOPE], which under some very vague executive law somehow has the authority to investigate sexual harassment claims. There are no experts on this commission and the commissioners who vote to decide whether or not there is wrongdoing are all appointed by elected officials.” They are also almost all men, with one woman in 14 commissioners.

“I don’t know where my investigation is and I think that’s one of the biggest things we’ve talked about is that there is no transparency and I know, and have been told, I don’t have a right to know where my investigation’s going,” Vladimer added.

When Vladimer went public, Klein immediately denied the allegations, and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said the Senate would not investigate given no formal complaint had been lodged with its internal staff. Klein himself asked JCOPE to investigate, but other than Klein indicating an investigation had commenced, there is little information to go by.

In the lead-up to the new state budget, Cuomo had called for sweeping anti-sexual harassment policies, including greater resources for and transparency in JCOPE investigations. While Cuomo pushed through some measures, those JCOPE recommendations were not among what was passed into law.

The same Klein accused of sexually harassing Vladimer was one of the three other elected men, and no elected women, who assisted Cuomo in deciding the sexual harassment legislation this March, ahead of the annual budget. According to the budget, there are five measures designed to address sexual harassment in state politics -- as the governor’s office puts it, to “further build upon his 2018 Women’s Agenda for New York.”

In a press release announcing highlights of the new budget in March, Cuomo said, "We put into place the strongest and most comprehensive anti-sexual harassment protections in the nation, ending once and for all the secrecy and coercive practices that have enabled this unacceptable behavior for far too long.”

Under the new legislation, all employers working with the state, including vendors and contractors, must implement a written policy addressing sexual harassment prevention and provide prevention training to all employees. This is an extension of a previously-existing law to include contracted workers, and means that employers may now be held liable for the sexual harassment of non-employees if the employer knew, or should have known, of the harassment and failed to take action. It does not, however, address the ambiguity around employees of elected officials.

The Sexual Harassment Working Group is recommending the definition of “employee” be changed to clearly include employees of elected and appointed officials, and that the New York State Human Rights Law should stipulate elected officials are also considered “employers.”

“Our recommendation is to specify employees as everybody -- essentially someone for hire -- this is how the labor law defines it and we just want every worker to have the same protection, including staff of elected officials,” Pasarell told Tuesday night’s event.

In the new legislation, New York employers are prohibited from requiring mandatory arbitration of claims of workplace sexual harassment, except where inconsistent with federal law, and this will come into effect in July.

Any officers and employees of the state or any public entity who is subject to a final judgement of personal liability in cases of sexual harassment will have to reimburse the state for the award given to the complainant, however the Sexual Harassment Working Group points out this is only applicable for cases determined by a judge, not necessarily to those settled out of court.

Cuomo’s legislation also states no employer has the authority to include or agree to include in any settlement a nondisclosure agreement, unless the condition of confidentiality is the complainant’s preference. And, notably, a model sexual harassment guidance document and a sexual harassment prevention policy is to be created with the Division of Human Right by October -- meaning a key portion of the new policy is not yet written.

“This year, Governor Cuomo signed the strongest anti-sexual harassment policy in the country,” Dani Lever, press secretary for Cuomo, told Gotham Gazette in a statement. “It closed gaping loopholes that entrapped women in toxic workplaces, extended protections to contracted workers, and strengthened rules that prevent companies from shirking their responsibility to root out bad actors—instead of sweeping problems under-the-rug.”

On the surface, all measures included in the enacted budget appear to go a long way towards exactly what the governor is promising but, according to the panel of women who’ve experienced sexual harassment in state politics first-hand, there are some areas of ambiguity that impede the path to reporting and justice for potential victims.

First, the budget hasn’t defined “sexual harassment” and the way the issue is currently treated under state law leaves much room for interpretation. The Sexual Harassment Working Group recommends adding “sex and gender” to the list of classes protected from discrimination in the New York State Constitution, to offer another level of protection for all New Yorkers, including victims. And the authors suggest the current standard for behavior to qualify as sexual harassment in state law -- that it must be “severe or pervasive” -- be changed to mirror the recent changes to New York City law, where the standard for discrimination and harassment reads simply that the person is treated “less well.”

“When you’re talking about standards in law, the ‘litigative itch,’ as they call it, is all in these terms,” Kaiser said. “People are always going to bicker about the actual event that happened. We’d prefer that bickering to be asking, ‘didn’t he treat her less well?’ Rather than, ‘was it severe and pervasive?’”

The working group is also calling for an independent body to oversee all discrimination harassment policy enforcement. At the moment, JCOPE members are appointed by state elected officials. Of the 14 members, three are appointed by the Temporary President of the Senate, three are appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly, one is appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate, one is appointed by the Minority Leader of the Assembly, and six are appointed by the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor.

Many of the stories from the women in The Sexual Harassment Working Group involve some level of disbelief from those charged with investigating their reports of sexual harassment. In Crothers’ case, it wasn’t only disbelief, it was outright protection of her alleged attacker.

“Before it came out in the press and when I met with the speaker [Sheldon Silver], I didn’t feel he didn’t believe me, he just said ‘well I won’t let him go out to bars anymore and my first priority is protecting the institution,’” Crothers said at the panel event. Silver resigned as speaker in 2015 after being arrested on federal corruption charges, and long after being accused of facilitating former Assemblymember Lopez’s harassment of eight women who were on his staff. The panelists believe this culture of cover-up and protection will continue unless there is an independent body appointed to investigate, and determine, reports of sexual misconduct in Albany.

It’s the Lopez example that best shows the need for further restrictions around the use of nondisclosure agreements, beyond what is outlined in the new legislation. Two of the women in the working group, who were on the panel, ultimately signed nondisclosure agreements after accusing the former Assembly member of sexual harassment and groping. They said they didn’t want a nondisclosure agreement -- it wasn’t implemented to protect their privacy -- but it was offered to them as a ‘take it or leave it’ measure.

“We wanted an investigation, we asked multiple times for an investigation,” Hebert said. Hebert’s name went public, despite her having signed a nondisclosure agreement, when reports from other victims were published by the media ahead of Lopez’s resignation in 2013. Instead of an investigation, Hebert said she, along with Pasarell, were made to sign nondisclosure agreements and were told Lopez would go through sexual harassment prevention training.

“The NDA, it wasn’t just that...we couldn’t speak to anyone,” Hebert said. “It was, at first, $10,000 in liquidated damages if we broke it for every occurence, and it would happen with a mediator behind closed doors so no one would know they were enforcing the agreement. And it also contained a provision that we could never apply to the Assembly again.” This last measure effectively limiting their opportunities to work in state government, and the fine making it impossible for the complainants to explain their circumstances to future employers, file for unemployment benefits, or warn others or the Human Rights Division of Lopez’s behavior.  

They pushed back on their exclusion from the Assembly and the response was, “we could never apply to Lopez’s office again, which was fine, but they increased our liquidated damages cost to $20,000,” Hebert said.

Pasarell, another of Lopez’s victims, said the anti-sexual harassment legislation in the budget regarding nondisclosure agreements -- that they can only be used in cases where the complainant consents -- can too easily be twisted to benefit the harasser.

“The way they phrased the new law is for the complainant to have a nondisclosure agreement, it’s got to be the complainant’s preference. In our case we saw repeatedly how the Assembly portrayed it as if it was our preference when it absolutely was not,” she said. “The nondisclosure agreement came to us very late in the game and it was ‘take it or leave it.’”

Women reporting sexual harassment will be better assisted, The Sexual Harassment Working Group argues, if the Legislature provides greater protection against victim coercion into signing nondisclosure agreements. The group also recommends the law allow for individual liability, so harassers can be targeted without taking the Legislature or State to arbitration or court. And, in cases where complainants do want a nondisclosure agreement for confidentiality reasons, there should be a “Sunshine in Litigation” law to prevent serial harassers (who’ve offended at least once prior) from re-offending. “Limited information would be shared but a pattern of harassment would be outed,” Pasarell said.

The way to change the culture of sexual harassment and exploitation is through changing the law, The Sexual Harassment Working Group maintains, and the way to do that is through consulting with victims, advocacy groups, and others, including lawmakers -- a process much more extensive than how Cuomo and legislative leaders, all men, went about it.

In response to The Sexual Harassment Working Group’s report, Cuomo’s team said it will review the recommendations but gave no indication of whether or not they will consider holding or pushing for a public hearing on the issue.

“No woman should ever be violated, let alone in the workplace—period. And that’s why Governor Cuomo has championed measures that hold employers accountable for ensuring a hospitable workplace,” Lever, Cuomo’s press secretary, told Gotham Gazette. “The ‘Me Too’ movement has caused an awakening in our society, and while we’ve taken positive concrete steps in New York, we need to continue to see progress in our state and across the country. We look forward to reviewing these recommendations and continuing this important work.”

***
by Caitlin Bishop, Gotham Gazette
@caitybishop  @GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

Note: this article has been corrected to reflect that Lopez allegedly harassed eight women on 33 counts, not 33 women; that two, not three, of the women mentioned signed NDAs; and that Kaiser reported Kellner's behavior to the Assembly counsel's office, not Speaker Silver directly.

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Pointing to Deficiencies, Victims Call for Changes to State’s New Sexual Harassment Policies Sun, 24 Jun 2018 04:00:00 +0000
State Senate’s New Sexual Harassment Policy Draws Criticism http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7463:state-senate-s-new-sexual-harassment-policy-draws-criticism http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7463:state-senate-s-new-sexual-harassment-policy-draws-criticism John Flanagan Senate

Senate Leader John Flanagan (photo: State Senate)


The New York State Senate leadership’s attempt to revamp its sexual harassment policy is drawing criticism from advocates and lawmakers.

Ordered by Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Republican from Long Island, the rewrite enhances protections but also adds a seemingly gratuitous line warning that falsely accusing someone is a “serious act.” It comes amid a national reckoning about workplace harassment, including in government, but also follows a claim made against one of the leading members of the state Legislature, Senator Jeff Klein. Klein, whose Independent Democratic Conference forms a ruling coalition with the Senate majority Republican conference, has vehemently denied forcibly kissing a staff member outside a bar in 2015.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the only female leader of a state legislative conference, expressed dismay at the changes in a statement, saying that the warning to false accusers is evidence that the Senate leadership is not serious about combating sexual harassment.

“To emphasize the punishment for filing a false report while not emphasizing the seriousness of sexual harassment is exactly the type of intimidation that has silenced so many through the years and encourages perpetrators to attack accusers,” said Stewart-Cousins.

Other criticisms of the document center around its use of the word "may" rather than "shall" in places, weak anti-retaliation language, and its failure to designate an independent person to report misconduct to.

These seeming gaps are drawing questions about the motivation for the policy rewrite and who was involved in drafting it. Spokespersons for the Republican conference and the IDC did not respond to a requests for comment on the matter, but Senate Democrats, three of whom serve on the Senate ethics committee, said they were not consulted.

“It just showed up in my staff email two nights ago... I don’t think I even got a direct copy,” said Senator Liz Krueger, who is known for her outspokenness on sexual harassment, during a recent appearance on The Capitol Pressroom radio show. “We could have told them everything that was wrong with it, but no one sought [our advice] in advance.”

An attorney who is frequently contracted to investigate discrimination and harassment claims involving the Senate, said she also had not been consulted, having not seen the documents until Gotham Gazette sent them to her.

“I learned about the new policy when I read about it in the newspaper,” said Pearl Zuchlewski, founding partner of Kraus & Zuchlewski LLP, which has been paid $198,485 by the Senate to investigate personnel claims in 2016 and 2017, according to New York State Comptroller records.

Senate Republicans stand behind the policy change, with a spokesperson saying that “the Senate has taken a strong policy and made it even stronger” and noting that the new version adds more examples of what constitutes sexual harassment, giving employees the ability to report an incident directly to the Senate's personnel officer and making clear that retaliation will not be tolerated.

“The false complaint provision that is being referenced by Senator Stewart-Cousins existed previously and has not been changed in any meaningful way. It is and always has been wrong to make a false complaint,” said Maureen Wren, a spokesperson for Senate Republicans.

While Wren would not provide details of who was involved in drafting, editing, and approving the new harassment policy, Flanagan has repeatedly said recently that he hired an outside firm to work on it, but much remains mysterious about the process.

"I asked for an independent review, we hired outside counsel, we strengthened what we do already in the Senate. I was proud of the work that we did before, we took what we did and just made it better," Flanagan said during a question-and-answer session of a Crain’s New York Business appearance January 25. “Everyone should feel comfortable in their work environment,” he added.

One of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State proposals, which reflects similar legislation proposed by Assembly Member Sandra Galef, aims to create a uniform sexual harassment policy for all government employees, including all three branches of state government.

Currently, the Senate policy covers complaints made against employees of the Senate and the Assembly’s policy covers complaints made against Assembly members and staff, with specific protocol depending on whether a complaint is made against someone working at the Legislature or in district offices. The state’s Joint Committee on Public Ethics, which is made up of Cuomo and legislative appointees, can also investigate a misconduct complaint on its own or with a formal referral from a government entity. Cuomo has proposed adding resources to JCOPE so that it can more quickly and ably conduct misconduct investigations.

Klein asked JCOPE to investigate the claim against him and has indicated such an investigation is underway. Flanagan said the Senate would not investigate because the accuser, Erica Vladimer, had not made a formal complaint within the body.

There are parts of the Senate policy that now more closely resemble the Assembly’s sexual harassment policy, last updated in 2014 after a major scandal, which is a 13-page document widely seen as a gold standard for sexual harassment policies in government.

For example, the section that recommends complainants first communicate their discomfort to the offending party and ask that the behavior stop, now mirrors an italicized line in the Assembly policy emphasizes that while “self help” is recommended it is not required. Another amendment that reflects the Assembly policy, specifies that the claim that alleged misconduct “meant no harm” or was “just a joke” is not an excuse.

However, if the impetus for the policy change was to create more parity between the two legislative houses, a side-by-side reading of the Senate and Assembly sexual harassment policies suggests there is still a long way to go, according to Alexis Grenell, a frequent commentator on government reform and gender issues, and a Democratic political consultant.

"The Senate policy is a weak imitation of the Assembly version, which is much closer to model language and includes no such warning against false reporting,” said Grenell. “No one wants to be sexually harassed or put themselves through the added stress of an investigation, which is why false reporting is so unusual. It's a red herring problem intended to discourage reporting."

The Senate’s new policy also adds a number of protected categories like creed, color, military status, familial status, predisposed genetic characteristics, and domestic violence victim status, but omits gender identity and expression, as noted by Senator Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat.

“I would call it a glaring omission -- a real statement as to the values and priorities of the Senate majority,” said Hoylman, noting that statistically transgender people of all groups are most likely to be targeted in hate crimes.

Hoylman is the prime sponsor of GENDA, or the Gender Expression Nondiscrimination Act -- which seeks to extend sex discrimination protections to people discriminated against on the basis of gender identity, expression, or transgender status -- but the Senate majority has prevented the bill from reaching the floor.

Many of the gaps cited in the old policy remain in the new version. For example, while the Assembly policy instructs complainants to report incidents to an independent counsel that has been retained, the Senate policy does not provide this avenue for individuals to report misconduct.

Senate complainants are still instructed to report incidents to an immediate supervisor or the immediate supervisor of the offender, the appropriate department head, or to his or her appointing authority.

If the complaint concerns any of those officials, or the complainant is uncomfortable making a report to any of these individuals, he or she may go to the Senate Personnel Officer, or the Secretary of the Senate.

“The concept that you should somehow first report it up the line internal to your office, when the line always goes to a senator, and/or then go to the staff of the majority leader -- also a senator, who frankly has even more reason to want to protect members and the ‘institution’ -- is just wrong,” said Krueger on Capitol Pressroom.

“I actually think this new policy is worse than the old policy and I don’t understand how in 2018 people don’t understand what the problem is and how we can address it,” said Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat.

When describing who will conduct the investigation should one unfold, the language in the Senate policy leaves up to the discretion of Senate leadership whether to hire an independent investigator, by using the word “may” rather than “shall.”

Despite that language, Republicans say that sexual harassment complaints within the Senate are handled independently and that it has been the practice for years.

By contrast, the Assembly policy indicates that the investigation “shall” be conducted by outside lawyers retained by the Assembly, and offers more detail for protecting the confidentiality of all parties involved as well as witnesses interviewed.

“Once you get into the question of what’s going to happen if there is a problem, this policy is not nearly as strong and clear as it needs to be,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of reform group Common Cause, on The Capitol Pressroom last week, speaking with Senator Krueger with host Susan Arbetter.

Other changes to the Senate policy include the addition of a 30-day time limit for both the accused and the accuser to appeal a decision.

The Assembly policy, which also includes a 30 day appeal time limit, has also been praised for taking steps to protect the privacy of accusers when they come forward and ensuring that they do not face retaliation by specifying harsh penalties for such behavior. The Senate’s two-paragraph anti-retaliation section is less specific.

The Assembly approach is not without question. In late 2017, Republican Assemblymember Steve McLaughlin was sanctioned by the Assembly ethics committee for allegedly asking a female Assembly aide for nude photos, lying about it, and then leaking her name to colleagues in the Legislature. At the time, questions were raised about the length of time it took for the investigation to unfold, as by the time McLaughlin faced disciplinary action, he was already on his way out of the Assembly, having been elected Rensselaer County Executive earlier that month.

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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State Senate’s New Sexual Harassment Policy Draws Criticism Tue, 06 Feb 2018 05:00:00 +0000
At the City Council, Better Gender Balance Among Chiefs of Staff http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7205:at-the-city-council-better-gender-balance-among-chiefs-of-staff http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7205:at-the-city-council-better-gender-balance-among-chiefs-of-staff aya keefe and cm mark levine crop

Council Member Mark Levine & his Chief of Staff, Aya Keefe (photo: Levine's office)


The New York City Council, a 51-member body, currently includes only 13 women, down from 18 in 2009, and that number is likely to soon fall to 12 when the next Council is seated in January, if this year’s elections continue as expected. There has been widespread recent attention given to the City Council gender imbalance, in part because the Council’s Women’s Caucus released a report on the subject, and there are efforts underway to improve female representation in the Council through future elections.

But, at one level at least, the Council is faring much better in gender balance. Of the 50 sitting Council members, 24 have women serving as their chiefs of staff, the highest ranking aide, buoying hopes among members, aides, and advocates that these positions can serve to further the political careers of numerous qualified and experienced women in city government. For men and women alike, being a top aide to a City Council member is often a path to elected office, as evidence by the victory in last Tuesday’s primary election by Diana Ayala, the former deputy chief of staff to outgoing City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is term-limited.

Ayala, seen as an underdog against sitting Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez, secured a narrow victory in the primary, with Mark-Viverito’s help, and is expected to easily win the general election in November.

Chiefs of staff play vital roles in Council members’ offices, overseeing their legislative headquarters near City Hall and their local district offices where staffers provide constituent services. It’a role that involves liaising with other Council members’ staff, advocates, and others, and can require a working knowledge of priorities and policy proposals of nearly the entire Council. Most significantly, it can serve as a foundation for political careers. Many Council staffers, particularly chiefs of staff, go on to run for elected office, often to fill seats left vacant when their bosses are either term-limited or leave office for other reasons.

“As the saying goes, ‘If you wanna get something done, ask a woman to do it,’” said Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who is co-chair of the Council’s Women’s Caucus and whose chief of staff is a woman, in a phone interview from a restaurant. “Women are awesome, dynamic multitaskers,” Cumbo said, chuckling that she was talking to a reporter, ordering food and breastfeeding at the same time. Cumbo was pregnant on the campaign trail as she ran for reelection, and recently gave birth to her son. She won a tough primary battle on September 12 and is expected to easily beat two opponents on November 7.

Cumbo stressed that the role of a chief of staff involves “really wearing multiple hats at the same time,” being able to understand the issues a Council member is focused on and being able to troubleshoot problems before they arise. And, as much as she said she hates stereotypes, “Women are able to do that well,” Cumbo said.

In a city government so heavily dominated by men -- the mayor, the comptroller and most of the City Council are men, while the public advocate is Letitia James, the first woman of color to hold citywide office -- having women serve in top positions helps inform policy and the legislative process, Cumbo said. And chiefs of staff bring that valuable perspective to the table. “I think it’s something that happens by nature, because of staffers eating, breathing, and sleeping this work,” she said.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the second woman and first Latina to hold that powerful seat, has made it a future priority to increase the number of women elected to the City Council. She is spearheading the “21 in ’21” movement, which aims to elect 21 women in 2021, when more than 30 Council seats will be up for grabs along with incumbents seeking reelection. The speaker also launched the Young Women’s Initiative to provide enhanced services to girls and women, particularly those of color, between the ages of 12 and 24.

Monica Abend, Cumbo’s chief of staff, said her position gives her the opportunity to “participate in contributing ideas to legislation, to policy and contributing to progressive legislation for a progressive city that is a frontrunner in many of those policy areas.”

“To be able to wear that chief of staff role positions you in a wonderful arena to understand local government,” she said. It’s on-the-job training in the legislative process and in understanding how the city changes at the local level, she said. “While our communities change on a constant basis, a lot of the work stays the same,” she added.

Abend doesn’t envision running for office any time soon but she did agree that working for a Council member provides the skills to do so. “Maybe one day in the future,” she said.

Under the de Blasio administration and the largely progressive City Council, led by Mark-Viverito, the city has increased its focus on issues of gender equity. The mayor established the Commission on Gender Equity in 2015 through an executive order, and also banned city agencies from inquiring about salary history, a step towards ensuring pay equity for women.

The Council has passed and the mayor has signed numerous bills related to empowering and aiding women across all walks of life. These include legislation to enhance support for caregivers, who are largely immigrant women of color; establishing public lactation stations; increasing access to feminine hygiene products in shelters, jails and schools; improving contracting opportunities for women- and minority-owned businesses; enhancing protections for victims of domestic violence; among other measures. A bill from Public Advocate James to ban inquiries about salary history in the private sector was passed and signed earlier this year.

The Women’s Caucus also released its report last month that examines the cultural and institutional barriers to women’s representation in New York politics.

“I think that the City Council is really a great place for women to work and take on leadership positions and express themselves, and advocate for policies that benefit all New Yorkers,” said Aya Keefe, chief of staff to Council Member Mark Levine. She noted that Levine’s director of constituent services and budget and legislative director are also women. “It’s a powerful statement for our office,” she said. “We’re very much a partnership-driven office. There’s a strong female style of management, not necessarily being hierarchical but collaborative. And that works really well on legislation. Ultimately, you have to bring a lot of interests to the table and women are uniquely positioned to do that.”

Keefe personally has no intention of running for office, she said. “But I definitely think that chief of staff gives you great insight into the ins and outs of working in government,” she said. She also noted, as did others, that there should be a push to translate the gender balance at the staff level into elected positions.

Alexis Grenell, a Democratic political consultant and writer on gender issues, cautioned against being overly celebratory about the number of women chiefs of staff, saying it meets the “baseline expectation” since women represent half the population. “Women make up more than 50 percent of many graduate degree programs, making them arguably more qualified than their male counterparts,” she said.

She argued that it’s more important for women to receive support in their aspirations for elected office, pointing to the “crisis in women’s leadership” in the City Council, where the next speaker is likely to be a man for the first time in 12 years. “Empirical data shows that gender balance directly results in better outcomes,” she said. “This is true for corporate boards, and for legislation. That is undeniably the case.”

She did agree that chief of staff is a pipeline to the Council, with outgoing Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland being a prominent example. She also pointed to two Council staffers -- Ayala and Carlina Rivera -- who ran for City Council this year to replace the term-limited Council members who they worked for. Ayala was deputy chief of staff to Mark-Viverito before leaving to run for the speaker’s seat in District 8. Rivera, who served as legislative director to outgoing Council Member Rosie Mendez, handily won the primary for Mendez’s District 2 seat on the Lower East Side. “These are women who served in the Council for two terms and backed their staffers to replace them,” Grenell said, in the hope that other Council members do the same for their own staff.

While Ferreras-Copeland, who decided not to seek another term due to family considerations and a move to another state, is being replaced by a man, term-limited Council Member Darlene Mealy will be replaced by a woman, Alicka Samuel, who won a crowded primary in District 41. And while term-limited Annabel Palma is being replaced by a man, Adrienne Adams won the competitive primary to replace Ruben Wills, who had recently vacated the seat due to a corruption charge.

Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women of New York, also hoped that the Council’s “abysmal” record of women’s representation would improve. “The good news is that while there are less than 25 percent of women in the City Council, a 50 percent rate of women chiefs of staff says to me that there’s a lot of potential,” she said. “They know the community well, they know the job.”

She agreed that women add a diversity of opinion that is necessary for good policy. “But we need a representation of leaders that reflects our community,” she said.

Council Member Helen Rosenthal, co-chair of the Women’s Caucus, whose chief of staff is also a woman, said the numbers were “heartening” but was cautious of drawing any conclusions. “I think that sounds normal to me,” she said of the nearly 50 percent representation. “It doesn’t necessarily reflect in what people are submitting legislation about or doing in their districts.”

“To the extent that there aren’t barriers to having chiefs of staff, it is an equalizer,” she acknowledged. But she wondered about the larger questions it raises about the entire city government. She also recognized that the Council as a body should perhaps do more to support women. “Should we have a daycare?” she said, for instance. “I think that’s something we should talk about.”

Council staffers also don’t have set pay ranges with titles, so it’s hard to gauge whether there is pay parity across the Council. “It’s not something I’ve explored,” Rosenthal said. “It’s a great question. Every Council member has their own fiefdom. Council members can choose to pay staff whatever they want. We’re not given a range and perhaps we should.”

“I’m lucky to have strong women leadership in the office and I benefit from it every day,” said Council Member Levine. “I think we certainly strive to be accommodating to women,” he said of the City Council, adding that he would support extending maternity leave. “We can do more,” he said, “there’s no doubt about it.”

Keefe, Levine’s chief of staff, also said the Council should do more to accommodate women. “I think we should have a better maternity leave policy, that sets the example for businesses and nonprofits across the city,” she said. She did note that when she gave birth last year, she received three months leave, but that that isn’t the standard policy across the Council.

Abend, from Cumbo’s office, said, “There’s always room for improvement,” but insisted that “this has been an incredible time to be a woman in local city government.”

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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At the City Council, Better Gender Balance Among Chiefs of Staff Tue, 19 Sep 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Representative vs. Substantive Representation http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7129:max-murphy-podcast-christina-greer-and-alexis-grenell http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7129:max-murphy-podcast-christina-greer-and-alexis-grenell mxm logo

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


August 15, 2017: Representative vs. Substantive Representation, with Dr. Christina Greer and Alexis Grenell

grenell max greerOn this episode of the Max & Murphy podcast we're without City Limits' Jarrett Murphy, who is on a much-deserved vacation, but joined by political analysts Dr. Christina Greer, a political science professor at Fordham University, and Alexis Grenell, a Democratic strategist, founder of Pythia Public, and columnist on gender and politics.

With our Ben Max, Greer and Grenell discussed issues commonly referred to as "identity politics" dealing with gender, race, elections, and government. The three talked about the mayoral race between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Nicole Malliotakis, the Republican nominee seeking to become the city's first female mayor; de Blasio's record on gender equity; the low number of women in the City Council and what's at stake in this year's elections; barriers to entry into politics for women; and more.

Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax @Dr_CMGreer @agrenell. You can hear the conversation through the embedded audio below or download it wherever you get your podcasts.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Representative vs. Substantive Representation Tue, 15 Aug 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Nicole Malliotakis on Trying to Become New York’s First Female Mayor http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7050:nicole-malliotakis-on-trying-to-become-new-york-s-first-female-mayor http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7050:nicole-malliotakis-on-trying-to-become-new-york-s-first-female-mayor malliotakis fearless girl nmalliotakis

Assemblymember Malliotakis with Fearless Girl (via @NMalliotakis)


In 2013, one storyline of the raucous and unpredictable Democratic mayoral primary was Christine Quinn’s bid to become the first woman elected Mayor of New York City. Then the City Council Speaker and the early frontrunner in the race, Quinn largely avoided talking about that history-making potential. Running as the continuity-with-change candidate based on her close working relationship with outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Quinn finished third in a crowded primary field behind the eventual winner of the election, Bill de Blasio.

As de Blasio seeks reelection this year, he appears set to face Republican Nicole Malliotakis in the general election -- de Blasio is a heavy favorite in his Democratic primary and Malliotakis became the presumptive GOP nominee after her toughest competition, real estate executive Paul Massey, dropped from the race last week.

Malliotakis, a 36-year-old state Assembly member from Staten Island, is the only woman in the 2017 mayoral race and is looking to become the first woman to lead a major party ticket since Ruth Messinger, a Democrat, in 1997, and Diane McGrath-McKechnie, who was the Republican nominee in 1985.

In an interview, Malliotakis said that while she is excited to inspire younger women and girls, she does not plan to make her gender or history-making potential a campaign focus, nor has she thought much about a policy agenda related to so-called women’s issues. She did say, though, that she is honored to be in the position she’s in and hopes women rally to support her; and she promised, “I'll be coming out with my sort-of a women's platform in the future.” Its contents are still “to be determined,” she said, though she did cite Latina suicide and domestic violence as key concerns that fit the general category.

If she does face de Blasio in the general election, as is expected, Malliotakis will be competing against a mayor who has received a lot of praise for his work on gender equity and empowering women at the highest levels of city government. For example, de Blasio recently signed legislation put forward by Public Advocate Letitia James that bans city employers from asking job candidates for their salary history, a practice that disadvantages women. But, de Blasio also recently came under fire after a New York Times article pointed to a disproportionate percentage of female departures from his administration, something Malliotakis referenced in the interview with Gotham Gazette.

Asked if she’s thinking about making history as the first woman to become the city’s mayor, Malliotakis said, “of course you think about it...especially in a city that claims to be so progressive, we've never had a female mayor.”

“I'm very proud to carry this banner, and it's really an honor. But I don't think people should vote for me because I'm a woman,” Malliotakis said. “I think it's great. I would love to see more women coalesce around me, as the female candidate in the race, but certainly I believe that I should be judged on my policies, and what I put forward. I think I have some really good ideas for this city, and I think that I've presented many ideas over my time in the New York State Assembly.”

Pieces of her Assembly record and stances on key issues may make it challenging for her to appeal to many New York women, and are already fodder for the de Blasio campaign.

Malliotakis, who will also appear on the Conservative Party ballot line in November, and possibly others, is a Republican in a heavily Democratic city. But, she is hoping to woo not only Republicans, but Giuliani Democrats, the city’s sizeable population of voters unaffiliated with a political party, and disaffected Democrats who are disappointed with de Blasio for whatever reason.

She’s already shown some movement leftward as she eyes the general election: she announced her support for marriage equality after having voted against it in 2011, when it passed through Albany. (She was subsequently criticized by the head of the Conservative Party, as reported by Politico New York, showcasing the balancing act she may be attempting as she attempts to hold the Republican base and appeal to moderates.)

Asked where she stands on some of the typical, higher profile topics often referred to as “women’s issues,” like gender pay equity, reproductive choice, and family leave, Malliotakis said she voted in favor of the bills in the “women’s equality agenda” that came through the Assembly, which included measures like pay equity and protecting domestic violence victims. However, she voted against the bill that would write the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision into New York law.

“The one bill that I did not support is the abortion expansion bill,” she said, “which would allow abortion to the third trimester. And I think most New Yorkers, if you look at some of the polls, are opposed to that, in the third trimester.” As for her abortion policy, Malliotakis said, “I don't like that question, because I feel it's not just pro life and pro choice, it's not black or white, I think there's a lot of things that go into a decision of that magnitude.”

She continued: “Personally, it's not something that I could do, but it's not to say that my views should be imposed on other women who may have different experiences. So I don't like being pigeonholed into one category. I never found that to be appropriate. But what I will say is I am opposed to that third trimester legislation that has come up again and again.”

“I'm not looking to change the law,” she said, “I'm not looking to repeal Roe v. Wade. I have my personal beliefs, but I'm not looking to impose my views on other women.”

De Blasio and his campaign aren’t sitting back and letting Malliotakis define her candidacy without their criticism, quickly playing offense and seeking to tie Malliotakis to Republican President Donald Trump, who is deeply unpopular in New York City.

"No one who made the decision to support Donald Trump after his unconscionable and illegal behavior towards women should be lecturing anyone on women's issues,” said Monica Klein, a spokesperson for de Blasio’s campaign, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “Whether she's opposing access to reproductive healthcare, voting to deny LGBTQ couples the right to marry, or supporting the sexist President, the Assembly Member has shown time and again she's dangerously out of touch with New York City's women.”

Klein was referencing Malliotakis’ votes against marriage equality and against a bill that would prohibit the state from denying access to abortion services. Malliotakis has said she voted for Trump in November after having supported Senator Marco Rubio in the Republican presidential primary.

“Under Mayor de Blasio, employers are banned from asking about salary history, we have a new Commission on Gender Equity, tampons are free in city schools, and lactation rooms are open in social service agencies,” Klein also said. “That's what a real champion for women's issues looks like."

“I'm sure we'll be talking about women's issues” on the campaign trail, Malliotakis told Gotham Gazette, standing outside City Hall after a press conference where she released her homelessness-fighting plan. Homelessness, it seems clear, is much more of a political vulnerability for de Blasio than issues related to gender equity or women’s rights. (Malliotakis' campaign followed up with Gotham Gazette to note that the Assembly member recently voted in favor of state bills to prohibit employers from asking salary history of applicants and to remove sales tax from feminine hygiene products.)

While Malliotakis can speak to issues that will resonate with women, it’s not clear how much she will. Thus far, her campaign has focused on attacking de Blasio’s ethics and management, and on “quality of life” issues like homelessness, public transit, and traffic.

“I know how difficult it is to be in a male-dominated field,” Malliotakis said of politics and government, “and so I think it's having a woman be mayor, I mean that's the greatest thing we could do for women's equality.” It “would do more for women's equality than any other types of bills...or proclamations or anything like that. And so, if I can deliver that for the women of New York City, that would be wonderful.”

Whether or not Malliotakis chooses to put her gender and history-making potential at the front and center of her campaign, she can’t escape being viewed as a woman running for office, says Alexis Grenell, an expert on gender norms and research and co-founder of Pythia Public, a political consultancy.

“Women don’t have a choice whether to run on their gender or not on their gender,” Grenell said in an interview. “You have to deal with gender no matter what because the electorate sees gender. Is she going to ‘run as a woman’? She has no choice.”

But, Grenell stressed there are still many relevant choices to make. “There’s a difference between having a platform that affirmatively puts forward gender as a qualification or putting forward a platform that deals with gender issues.”

Malliotakis’ policies may not match what the majority of New York City women believe in, but, Grenell explained, “Speaking to issues that women tend to care about is a mainstream strategy that will help win elections.”

No matter her political beliefs, Malliotakis faces a normative disadvantage, Grenell said, because “Women have a higher barrier for entry in terms of qualifications....She will really have to lead with her qualifications.” The electorate judges women more harshly than men.

Malliotakis may be just 36 years old, but she’s a veteran politician who has been in office since 2011, after she defeated an incumbent, and possesses quick wit and political instincts. Still, as state Republican Party chair Ed Cox recently told Gotham Gazette, she is a legislator, and needs to show voters that she can be an executive. As Grenell points out, this bar may be higher for many voters because she is a woman.

De Blasio must be careful campaigning against Malliotakis, Grenell said, especially when they face off in debates, if it gets to that point. The mayor must “fight some of his inclination to be patronizing,” she said, “which would take on a whole new dimension when facing a strong, young woman on a debate stage.” Grenell referenced Joe Biden’s roundly-praised performance against Sarah Palin in their 2008 debate, which some saw as a potential minefield for the soon-to-be Vice President.

Malliotakis is not making gender the focus of her candidacy, but she does see it resonating on the trail. “I do see particular excitement coming from women when I interact with them,” Malliotakis told Gotham Gazette, “when I go to parades, for instance, or events, that women are very excited that I'm running...a lot of people want me to take photos with their little girls.”

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Note: this article has been corrected to more clearly reflect Malliotakis' "no" vote on the Roe v. Wade measure.

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Nicole Malliotakis on Trying to Become New York’s First Female Mayor Wed, 05 Jul 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Bill De Blasio's Resurrection Challenge http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6481:bill-de-blasio-s-resurrection-challenge http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6481:bill-de-blasio-s-resurrection-challenge de blasio gracie mansion celebration

Mayor de Blasio at Gracie Mansion (photo: Demetrius Freeman, Mayor's Office)


After several months of what the mayor himself called “relentless negative headlines” around investigations into his administration and campaign fundraising, Bill de Blasio is facing low public approval ratings, strong doubts about whether he deserves to be re-elected in 2017, and a resurrection mission ahead of him.

For the Democrat more than halfway through his third year in office, the upcoming task comes down to solidifying his base and convincing more New Yorkers that he is a good Mayor - good enough that he deserves a second term. Out of his hands is the necessity that the various state and federal investigations end without charges against him or any of his top associates.

The extent to which de Blasio must improve his standing is not completely clear at this point, though in general New Yorkers do not appear to have great confidence in the mayor. Of New York City voters polled by Quinnipiac at the end of July, 51 percent said that they disapprove of the way de Blasio is handling his job; 42 percent approve. Fifty percent said they do not believe he deserves to be re-elected; 42 percent said he does. In this very Democratic city, however, those numbers are significantly better among only Democrats.

Additionally, how New Yorkers view their sitting Mayor in the middle of his term is not necessarily indicative of how they’ll treat him at the ballot box come election day and against actual opponents. How vulnerable de Blasio is and the best path to unseat him are both matters of widely varying opinion. There’s little doubt, though, that the mayor is not where he wants to be in terms of public perception.

“We fully expect the atmosphere next year to be different than the current one,” said Phil Walzak, senior advisor to de Blasio, by email. “And when the people compare this mayor’s record of achievement for millions of everyday New Yorkers to those of others who want this office, it won’t be much of a contest.”

Walzak, de Blasio, and others close to the mayor tout successes on pre-kindergarten, crime, and affordable housing. They point to the fact that the most recent poll shows similar numbers to the prior one, which was released in May, and say that after the hits the mayor took from all those negative headlines and news associated with the investigations, things seem to have stabilized. There is work to do, they know, especially around communicating the mayor’s accomplishments to his constituents.

It is evident that many New Yorkers don’t see de Blasio as the tough, expert chief executive that they want in a Mayor. This mayor has struggled with projecting the image of a municipal leader focused on city problems, in control and on top of things, despite the fact that many indicators show the city doing well.

“The good news is that he still has a lot of time to turn around the narrative about his administration and his time as mayor,” said Evan Thies, a Democratic political consultant who runs Brooklyn Strategies. “The Fall will be a critical time.”

One issue, Thies notes, is that “It was never clear New Yorkers thought de Blasio was going to be the manager that New York needs, there was always just the potential for that.”

Developments throughout de Blasio’s tenure, basic political rules, and conversations with experts make clear the mayor’s work ahead. De Blasio must ensure that his accomplishments are clear to New Yorkers, connect directly with as many constituents as possible, shore up and showcase allies, and project a stronger sense of executive command. He must also avoid repeating some of the missteps that have hurt him to date, like taking on political fights he can’t win, such as those with charter school supporters and Uber.

A big new policy announcement, either late this year or early next year, could also garner de Blasio the type of positive attention that could help right the ship in terms of public perception and approval.

If news comes that de Blasio and his associates are cleared of wrongdoing in the multiple investigations involving pay-to-play allegations and possibly illegal campaign money maneuvers, potential opponents could be dissuaded from running against the mayor.

The first thing de Blasio must do, Thies believes, is solidify his base, namely black and Hispanic New Yorkers who continue to support the mayor by healthy margins. “I would suggest that he immerse himself in public events and forums, largely in that base, talking about issues important to that base,” Thies said.

For de Blasio to regain momentum, dominate the media with positive stories, and convince New Yorkers that he’s the leader they want, Thies argues, the mayor should get out more. “He should be doing a half a dozen public events a day. He should be everywhere all the time, always looking like he’s in charge,” Thies said. “He should be visiting a construction site making sure it’s safe, he’s cutting a ribbon on a park, he’s at a community board hearing on local schools, he’s hosting a forum on senior issues - constantly out there.”

De Blasio appeared to dabble recently in this type of approach, though it doesn’t seem to be one he embraces. Two weeks ago, the mayor seemed to make a spontaneous decision to endeavor a five-borough tour on National Night Out Against Crime, the annual evening of community events put on by the police department. A few days later, the mayor walked a parade in Queens and a beach boardwalk in the Bronx with his next police commissioner, Jimmy O’Neill. Last week, he held another community town hall, this one in the Bronx. He’s not doing six daily events as Thies suggests, but it’s also not yet the Fall - and the Democratic mayoral primary, for which de Blasio may not have a serious opponent, is 13 months away.

“Our mission is not to get lost in the noise or the day-to-day churn,” said Walzak, de Blasio’s advisor. Extolling the mayor’s “compelling record and vision,” Walzak said that “Mayor de Blasio is at his best when he is out across New York City talking directly with the people.”

People close to de Blasio expect more appearances at community events, where there are naturally occurring crowds and de Blasio can make a positive showing. There will also be a variety of milestones to celebrate as certain de Blasio programs hit benchmarks or anniversaries. One example is likely to be the two-year anniversary of the city’s popular municipal identification card, IDNYC, which will occur in January.

“Along with regular neighborhood town halls, visits to houses of worship and radio appearances,” Walzak said, “community hits” like the appearances with O’Neill “will continue, and so will [the mayor’s] direct interaction and communication with the people of New York.”

Unsurprisingly, Democratic and Republican analysts have different assessments of the path ahead for the mayor and his re-election chances. On a recent segment of NY1’s Inside City Hall, Republican consultant Kevin Fullington said that de Blasio is “in a very difficult position” with the administration “trying to change the narrative, but they can’t as long as all these investigations are going on.”

“Until these investigations are wrapped up, he can’t advance his policy agenda and create a compelling reason for him to be reelected,” Fullington said, citing a “General growing sense of incompetence and dysfunction in his administration.”

Alexis Grenell, a Democratic strategist who partners with Thies, indicated on NY1 that short of indictments, the corruption stories are not really that influential with voters. “Voters typically judge mayors on the economy and well-being of the city, as well as their sense of safety. By those empirical measures,” she said, “the mayor has done actually a very good job,” but “a very poor job of communicating to those constituencies his record of success there.”

Indeed, crime is at all time lows, but 49 percent of those polled by Quinnipiac said they dissaprove of how de Blasio is handling crime, with 42 percent saying they approve. 

Perhaps two data sets in the most recent poll indicate de Blasio’s struggle most clearly. Among only Democrats, de Blasio received high marks for whether he “understands the problems of people like you or not” with 64 percent saying “yes” and 31 percent saying “no.” Yet, also among only Democrats, on “Would you say that Bill de Blasio has strong leadership qualities or not?” the numbers dropped to 49 percent “yes” and 44 percent “no.”

“I am very, very proud of what we have done,” de Blasio said in April on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show after listing some of his top accomplishments on pre-K, crime, policing reform, and affordable housing. “The bottom-line is keep doing it. And, of course it is important to get out to the people, spread the message in every neighborhood. I have been doing town hall meetings and I will be doing a lot more.”

The question will be how New Yorkers feel the impact of de Blasio’s city government in their daily lives and what they credit, or blame, the mayor for. The Quinnipiac poll shows that 46 percent of voters were either very or somewhat satisfied “with the way things are going in New York City today,” while 53 percent were either somewhat or very dissatisfied.

“It’s not too late to adjust New Yorkers’ opinions,” said Thies, “[de Blasio]’s done the most important thing, which is he’s achieved some real broad positive changes in New York at a time when New York is arguably in the best shape it’s ever been. So now he’s just gotta convince folks that it was really him that got us to where we are and project that image that he can run the city and run it well and that we should trust him to keep doing it.”

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Bill De Blasio's Resurrection Challenge Tue, 16 Aug 2016 04:00:00 +0000