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/cbc 2017-12-14T20:59:11+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com What's The [DATA] Point? $85.2 Billion 2017-06-08T04:00:00+00:00 2017-06-08T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6983:what-s-the-data-point-85-2-billion Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="whats the data point" width="600" height="600" /></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The Data Point? Episode 1 -- $85.2 Billion. [You can download What's The Data Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]</strong></p> <p>In the first episode of What's The Data Point? from Gotham Gazette and Citizens Budget Commission, we discuss the city's recently-adopted $85.2 billion budget for fiscal year 2018, which begins July 1, 2017.</p> <p>Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>) and Maria Doulis (<a href="https://twitter.com/MariaDoulis" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@MariaDoulis</a>) of CBC discuss the largest pieces of the budget pie, risks to city finances, contentious items that were resolved, and more. Listen:</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/327186076&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="whats the data point" width="600" height="600" /></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The Data Point? Episode 1 -- $85.2 Billion. [You can download What's The Data Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]</strong></p> <p>In the first episode of What's The Data Point? from Gotham Gazette and Citizens Budget Commission, we discuss the city's recently-adopted $85.2 billion budget for fiscal year 2018, which begins July 1, 2017.</p> <p>Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>) and Maria Doulis (<a href="https://twitter.com/MariaDoulis" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@MariaDoulis</a>) of CBC discuss the largest pieces of the budget pie, risks to city finances, contentious items that were resolved, and more. Listen:</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/327186076&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Reducing Organic Waste Without Increasing Costs 2016-02-03T22:13:51+00:00 2016-02-03T22:13:51+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6141:reducing-organic-waste-without-increasing-costs Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/composting_sanitation.jpg" alt="composting sanitation" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>photo via NYC Sanitation</p> <hr /> <p>Today, the New York City Council will hold an oversight hearing on the Department of Sanitation's organic waste program started in 2013. The focus on organic waste is merited by the size of the waste stream (more than 1 million tons annually) and environmental benefits of reducing greenhouse gases through use of alternative disposal strategies, such as composting, rather than transport to distant landfills. The City plans to expand the pilot program citywide; however, <a href="http://www.cbcny.org/sites/default/files/REPORT_ORGANICWASTE_02022016.pdf" target="_blank">a report</a> published this week by the Citizens Budget Commission indicates the cost of doing so would be prohibitively expensive. Instead, City leaders should pursue a different strategy.</p> <p>The Department of Sanitation (DSNY) currently collects organic waste from more than 186,600 households in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, as well as 200 large apartment buildings and 750 schools. The share of organic waste diverted ranges from 12 to 26 percent – lower than the citywide recycling rate (43 percent) – at a cost of $19 million over two years.</p> <p>If the curbside program were expanded citywide, costs would balloon.</p> <p>Most districts do not have sufficient unused truck capacity to substitute an organic waste collection for one weekly refuse collection or to use dual-bin trucks. CBC estimates at least 88,000 new truck-shifts would be needed for collections each year, resulting in citywide costs in the range of $177 million to $250 million per year – an increase of 10 to 15 percent on the $1.7 billion cost of residential waste collection and disposal.</p> <p>Given these costs, DSNY should alter its strategy in three ways:</p> <p>1. Expand curbside collections only where and when additional collection routes are not required. This could be achieved by either replacing a weekly refuse pickup with an organics pickup or collecting refuse and organics simultaneously with special trucks with two separate compartments. Achieving such efficiencies would require City Council approval and a significant boost to participation rates. Currently only one of the 59 sanitation districts would qualify, but at higher diversion rates as many as ten could.</p> <p>2. Collaborate with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to expand the use of in-sink disposers. DEP and DSNY should identify neighborhoods where in-sink disposers could be used without burdening wastewater treatment infrastructure. This strategy eliminates the need for curbside collections, bringing food waste from people's homes to digestion plants via water pipes and sewers, not trucks on roads.</p> <p>3. Bring down the cost of all collections in the long-term. If wider diversion of organic waste is a high priority, collection costs must be reduced. Ideas for changes to collection routes and practices range from negotiating changes to the contract for sanitation workers to opening all or some residential waste collection to a competition among private carters.</p> <p>As New York City seeks to achieve environmental benefits through wider diversion of organic waste, municipal leaders should understand that unless residential trash collection costs are reduced, new program costs will greatly overwhelm any potential savings from landfill reduction. A targeted strategy could be a way to preserve municipal resources and ensure organics programs are sustainable for the long term.</p> <p>***<br />Carol Kellermann is President of the Citizens Budget Commission. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/cbcny" target="_blank">@cbcny</a>.</p> <p>

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/composting_sanitation.jpg" alt="composting sanitation" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>photo via NYC Sanitation</p> <hr /> <p>Today, the New York City Council will hold an oversight hearing on the Department of Sanitation's organic waste program started in 2013. The focus on organic waste is merited by the size of the waste stream (more than 1 million tons annually) and environmental benefits of reducing greenhouse gases through use of alternative disposal strategies, such as composting, rather than transport to distant landfills. The City plans to expand the pilot program citywide; however, <a href="http://www.cbcny.org/sites/default/files/REPORT_ORGANICWASTE_02022016.pdf" target="_blank">a report</a> published this week by the Citizens Budget Commission indicates the cost of doing so would be prohibitively expensive. Instead, City leaders should pursue a different strategy.</p> <p>The Department of Sanitation (DSNY) currently collects organic waste from more than 186,600 households in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, as well as 200 large apartment buildings and 750 schools. The share of organic waste diverted ranges from 12 to 26 percent – lower than the citywide recycling rate (43 percent) – at a cost of $19 million over two years.</p> <p>If the curbside program were expanded citywide, costs would balloon.</p> <p>Most districts do not have sufficient unused truck capacity to substitute an organic waste collection for one weekly refuse collection or to use dual-bin trucks. CBC estimates at least 88,000 new truck-shifts would be needed for collections each year, resulting in citywide costs in the range of $177 million to $250 million per year – an increase of 10 to 15 percent on the $1.7 billion cost of residential waste collection and disposal.</p> <p>Given these costs, DSNY should alter its strategy in three ways:</p> <p>1. Expand curbside collections only where and when additional collection routes are not required. This could be achieved by either replacing a weekly refuse pickup with an organics pickup or collecting refuse and organics simultaneously with special trucks with two separate compartments. Achieving such efficiencies would require City Council approval and a significant boost to participation rates. Currently only one of the 59 sanitation districts would qualify, but at higher diversion rates as many as ten could.</p> <p>2. Collaborate with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to expand the use of in-sink disposers. DEP and DSNY should identify neighborhoods where in-sink disposers could be used without burdening wastewater treatment infrastructure. This strategy eliminates the need for curbside collections, bringing food waste from people's homes to digestion plants via water pipes and sewers, not trucks on roads.</p> <p>3. Bring down the cost of all collections in the long-term. If wider diversion of organic waste is a high priority, collection costs must be reduced. Ideas for changes to collection routes and practices range from negotiating changes to the contract for sanitation workers to opening all or some residential waste collection to a competition among private carters.</p> <p>As New York City seeks to achieve environmental benefits through wider diversion of organic waste, municipal leaders should understand that unless residential trash collection costs are reduced, new program costs will greatly overwhelm any potential savings from landfill reduction. A targeted strategy could be a way to preserve municipal resources and ensure organics programs are sustainable for the long term.</p> <p>***<br />Carol Kellermann is President of the Citizens Budget Commission. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/cbcny" target="_blank">@cbcny</a>.</p> <p>

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Once Rife with Problems, City Budget Process Now a Model for State System in Need of Reform 2016-01-18T05:28:20+00:00 2016-01-18T05:28:20+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6097:once-rife-with-problems-city-budget-process-now-a-model-for-state-system-in-need-of-reform kfan <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/14201878985_7561049369_z.jpg" alt="cuomo exec budget pres 2014" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p>Governor Cuomo <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/14201878985/in/dateposted/" target="_blank">presents</a> his 2014-2015 Executive Budget</p> <hr /> <p>In 1975 New York City was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, having balanced its budget for years with massive borrowing and shady accounting tricks. Banks were at the point where they would lend no more. Mayor Abe Beame had written the announcement of the city's default. City lawyers were in State Supreme Court filing a petition for bankruptcy and police were prepared to serve the banks.</p> <p>At the last minute bankruptcy was averted as the federal government provided the city with loans. Those loans combined with the state-created Financial Control Board, which required the city to use generally accepted accounting practices and provide four-year financial plans, are credited with turning things around.</p> <p>Gone were the days when operating expenses were reclassified as capital investments, when labor costs were paid for with new loans, when raids on existing funds were acceptable ways to pay for new expenses. The city underwent such a turnaround in the following decades that its budget process is now thought to be a shining beacon across the country. The Financial Control Board that used to strike fear into the hearts of mayors is now a sleepy, almost forgotten entity.</p> <p>The state government, however, is facing a crisis of its own--not a fiscal one, but a crisis of trust, brought on by a series of convictions of sitting legislators that was capped late last year by the convictions of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. For years, the Silver and Skelos served as two of the 'three men in a room' deciding the budget with the Governor. It's a process that has been decried by good government advocates, reform-minded legislators, and the U.S Attorney, Preet Bharara, who brought Silver and Skelos to justice for abusing their positions.</p> <p>"I think people should start to talk about budget transparency as a matter of ethics," said Sen. Liz Krueger, the Democrats' ranking member on the state Senate finance committee. "People really should care about the lack of transparency in the state budget process for a whole lot of reasons. One of them is that if you don't know what's going on, pay-to-play wins the day. If someone wants something in the budget they get it there with a whole lot of lobbying money that no one knows about. That's the harm, that's the danger and I'll tell you that happens constantly."</p> <p>A number of major corruption cases, including Silver's, have centered on the opaqueness of the budget process that allows legislators and the governor to put aside secret slush funds. For example, Silver was able to direct discretionary funding to a cancer doctor who in turn sent Silver and his law firm lucrative clients suffering from a rare form of cancer.</p> <p>Former Sen. Malcolm Smith was convicted in a scheme whereby he would provide a developer a $500,000 lump sum from the budget. <a href="http://www.citizensunion.org/site_res_view_template.aspx?id=44c00241-f127-49c8-b019-f2d3d8cd1c41" target="_blank">A report</a> from good government group Citizens Union found that the 2014 and 2015 fiscal year budgets had over $3 billion in lump funds, while Cuomo's proposed 2016 budget had around $2.6 billion. Citizens Union, Common Cause NY, and NYPIRG have this year <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6069-good-government-groups-want-legislators-to-pledge-to-fight-for-reform" target="_blank">called on legislators</a> to support reforms making budget spending more transparent.</p> <p>"Preet Bharara, the federal prosecutor who convicted both Silver and Skelos, basically said the strongest tool these guys had to game the system was unbridled power and an unbelievable lack of transparency in policing 'three men in a room,'" said Assemblymember Jim Tedisco, a Republican from the Capital Region who has proposed a bill that would force any pot of cash negotiated in the budget to be line-itemed and mandate that it is publicly documented how the cash is eventually spent.</p> <p>"The other thing Bharara told us is 'if you see something, say something,'" Tedisco said. "I didn't know about these pots of money and I'm sure my Democratic colleagues in the chamber didn't know either. So if you don't know who got the money, you can't stop what's going on. We just don't have that transparency holistically."</p> <p>Slush funds aren't the only part of the state budget that thwart transparency. Today the bad practices New York City was forced to abandon are commonplace in the state budget process. The state budgets without generally accepted accounting practices, routinely raids other programs, has lump-sum appropriations where spending is at times decided by memorandum of understanding between the governor and legislators, and routinely pushes expenses down the road.</p> <p>This year Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed a slew of major infrastructure projects including the revamp of Penn Station and a third track for the Long Island Rail Road, but his budget proposal does not lay out how to fund them. Meanwhile, his budget continues funneling cash to economic development projects that are managed by entities with little transparency. Cuomo's Buffalo Billion project is currently <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/28/nyregion/us-investigating-contract-awards-in-buffalo-turnaround-project.html?_r=0" target="_blank">under investigation</a> by Bharara's office.</p> <p>Frank Mauro, executive director emeritus of the Fiscal Policy Institute, who also served as the director of research for the city's last major charter revision and as secretary of the Assembly's ways and means committee, said that the differences between the city and state budget processes are striking. "I don't think many people know just how different the city process is from the state's," said Mauro.</p> <p>The city budget process begins when the Mayor submits his Preliminary Budget to the City Council before January 21 each year (this was just moved from Jan. 16). Then the City Council holds public hearings over a period of several weeks, bringing in agency commissioners and budget directors to examine spending, considers budget priorities from community boards and borough presidents, and takes testimony from groups and citizens.</p> <p>The Council must issue its findings and recommendations by March 25. The Mayor then has until April 26 to propose an Executive Budget, with explanations of programs as well as a fiscal outlook for the city. The Council then holds another series of public hearings which are followed by negotiations between the mayor's budget office and the Council finance division. These negotiations must result in a balanced budget by the end of June, with the new fiscal year beginning July 1.</p> <p>The Council <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/about/budget.shtml" target="_blank">is allowed</a> to increase, decrease, add or omit any appropriation for personal services, or omit or change conditions related to any appropriation. The Council then votes on the budget. The mayor can veto any additions or increases the Council adds but may not interfere with any decreases.</p> <p>The city process also includes a significant role for the Comptroller, who oversees city contracts and audits city agencies. The Comptroller is the city's chief financial watchdog and analyzes the Mayor's budget proposals, performing independent forecasting, raising red flags, and making recommendations.</p> <p>"In the state budget you have to investigate where the money has gone, where certain programs are accounted for, and even then, good luck," said Sen. Krueger. "Even the [state] comptroller's office does not know until years later what was actually spent."</p> <p>The state process begins when the Governor devises an Executive Budget based on the needs of agencies and any programs he or she supports and delivers the budget to the Legislature. Both houses of the the Legislature put out their own budgets, mainly to signal their major priorities for the year. The Governor delivers his executive budget along with appropriation, revenue and budget bills by February 1. The Legislature typically holds a series of budget hearings on particular topics, like transportation and local governments.</p> <p>Under reform legislation passed in 2007, the Legislature is supposed to convene conference committees between both houses to reach agreements on aspects of the budget and set priorities. These committees have been ignored in the past despite the reform legislation.</p> <p>The Governor and Legislature are also required agree on a revenue forecast on or before March 1. They are generally very good at doing this, failure to do so results in the state Comptroller setting the forecast. The Legislature can only reduce or entirely remove spending proposed by the Governor and it has no control over the Governor's proposals for spending. The Legislature can add spending, but the Governor has the ability to line-item veto. The Legislature must vote on a budget by April 1, which is the start of the state's fiscal year.</p> <p>It isn't until the budget is voted on that a new financial plan is created showing how all the changes impact spending. So while a budget may start as balanced under the Governor's proposed plan, it rarely ends that way.</p> <p>The state budget is usually full of non-budget policies because the budget process gives the Governor the upper hand - the Legislature can either negotiate the Governor's priorities, stall, or fail to vote on a budget on time, in which case the Governor can simply issue emergency extenders that put his budget into place.</p> <p>Budgets are normally negotiated exclusively between the two majority leaders of the Legislature and the Governor, and time and again budget bills are not given the three-day waiting period for review mandated by law. Instead, the Governor issues messages of necessity that allow the budget bills to be voted on immediately. The result is legislators voting on voluminous budget bills late at night, having little or no time to actually read them. "To say there is any level of public review is just insulting," Krueger said.</p> <p>"I think the biggest difference between the state and city budget processes is that the state budget is a political negotiation and you don't see a financial plan until a month later," said Tammy Gamerman, a senior research associate with the Citizens Budget Commission (CBC). "With the city they tell you how they are going to balance the budget."</p> <p>Adding further mystery to the state budget, Governor Cuomo has taken to combining his State of the State address and Executive Budget presentation, doing so this year and last. This leads to less public explanation of the budget and more focus on big policy initiatives the governor is backing. In his speech last week, the governor laid out a number of government ethics proposals, including public financing of campaigns. He did not discuss changing the budget process.</p> <p>The city budget process is not perfect, of course. The City Council continues to push the Mayor to more specifically account for agency spending, providing more units of appropriation instead of lump sums. There is also a good deal of discretionary spending available to the City Council Speaker that watchdogs want more accounting for.</p> <p>Sen. Krueger, who is one of the most outspoken legislators during late night state budget votes, picking at and tracking spending threads while most legislators are waiting to simply cast a "yes" vote and get back to their districts, said that 'three men in a room' has led to an absolute lack of budget transparency and alienated the public.</p> <p>Krueger says she has seen a decrease in attendance at budget hearings, even from groups that have a lot at stake in the budget. "At the end of the budget process each year, after I'm done beating my head against the wall over one thing that made it through the budget process or the other, I come to find out there are 16 other things I missed," Krueger told Gotham Gazette. "I don't catch a huge number of things and I do care about this. So imagine what it is like for someone who isn't a legislator, who doesn't have experience with this. I want people to know they should be involved in the process. They should come to hearings just to point out 'Hey, you know New York has state parks that need to be funded and that isn't in here.'"</p> <p>Most rank-and-file legislators and advocates acknowledge that budget reform is not a hot topic at the moment. The last time there was major attention on the subject was in 2009 when Senate Democrats briefly controlled the chamber. They issued <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/sites/default/files/articles/attachments/krueger_budget_ar09_v1r2-final.pdf" target="_blank">a report</a> that recommended conference committees be given control over larger sums of budget funds, that the state adopt generally accepted accounting principles, a two-year budget cycle, and the creation of a legislative budget office.</p> <p>Krueger has since introduced bills that would create a state agency in the model of the city's <a href="http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/" target="_blank">Independent Budget Office</a> - a nonpartisan, publically funded agency that provides information to elected officials and the public about the budget, reviews budget proposals, and provides policy analysis. The bill has gone nowhere in the Senate.</p> <p>Krueger and other reformers also want to see the state require bills to have truthful financial impact statements. Currently, bills introduced from rank-and-file legislators, committee chairs, legislative leaders, or the Governor are supposed to have impact statements, but some simply lack them while others are presented in a dishonest way. Rather than presenting a program's cost for a year, some bills only represent a month's cost, or less.</p> <p>Gamerman said she feels that some progress has been made toward budget transparency over the last few years.</p> <p>"Accountability issues born of the financial crisis of the '70s forced the city to use generally accepted accounting principles," said Gamerman. "There isn't any similar oversight of the state. The state has increased transparency through the <a href="https://www.budget.ny.gov/" target="_blank">Open Budget website</a>. There is more info on agency spending. One of the big differences between the city and state is the city does a much better job tracking performance with the Mayor's Management Report. The state has been talking about doing something similar."</p> <p>Mauro said that he finds it unlikely there will be a major push for reform unless the Legislature feels the Governor is abusing his current powers because the status quo still works for the leadership. "It's an unlikely scenario where the Governor isn't running roughshod over the Legislature with budget powers that we'll see a push for change," said Mauro.</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</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/2014/03/14201878985_7561049369_z.jpg" alt="cuomo exec budget pres 2014" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p>Governor Cuomo <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/14201878985/in/dateposted/" target="_blank">presents</a> his 2014-2015 Executive Budget</p> <hr /> <p>In 1975 New York City was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, having balanced its budget for years with massive borrowing and shady accounting tricks. Banks were at the point where they would lend no more. Mayor Abe Beame had written the announcement of the city's default. City lawyers were in State Supreme Court filing a petition for bankruptcy and police were prepared to serve the banks.</p> <p>At the last minute bankruptcy was averted as the federal government provided the city with loans. Those loans combined with the state-created Financial Control Board, which required the city to use generally accepted accounting practices and provide four-year financial plans, are credited with turning things around.</p> <p>Gone were the days when operating expenses were reclassified as capital investments, when labor costs were paid for with new loans, when raids on existing funds were acceptable ways to pay for new expenses. The city underwent such a turnaround in the following decades that its budget process is now thought to be a shining beacon across the country. The Financial Control Board that used to strike fear into the hearts of mayors is now a sleepy, almost forgotten entity.</p> <p>The state government, however, is facing a crisis of its own--not a fiscal one, but a crisis of trust, brought on by a series of convictions of sitting legislators that was capped late last year by the convictions of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. For years, the Silver and Skelos served as two of the 'three men in a room' deciding the budget with the Governor. It's a process that has been decried by good government advocates, reform-minded legislators, and the U.S Attorney, Preet Bharara, who brought Silver and Skelos to justice for abusing their positions.</p> <p>"I think people should start to talk about budget transparency as a matter of ethics," said Sen. Liz Krueger, the Democrats' ranking member on the state Senate finance committee. "People really should care about the lack of transparency in the state budget process for a whole lot of reasons. One of them is that if you don't know what's going on, pay-to-play wins the day. If someone wants something in the budget they get it there with a whole lot of lobbying money that no one knows about. That's the harm, that's the danger and I'll tell you that happens constantly."</p> <p>A number of major corruption cases, including Silver's, have centered on the opaqueness of the budget process that allows legislators and the governor to put aside secret slush funds. For example, Silver was able to direct discretionary funding to a cancer doctor who in turn sent Silver and his law firm lucrative clients suffering from a rare form of cancer.</p> <p>Former Sen. Malcolm Smith was convicted in a scheme whereby he would provide a developer a $500,000 lump sum from the budget. <a href="http://www.citizensunion.org/site_res_view_template.aspx?id=44c00241-f127-49c8-b019-f2d3d8cd1c41" target="_blank">A report</a> from good government group Citizens Union found that the 2014 and 2015 fiscal year budgets had over $3 billion in lump funds, while Cuomo's proposed 2016 budget had around $2.6 billion. Citizens Union, Common Cause NY, and NYPIRG have this year <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6069-good-government-groups-want-legislators-to-pledge-to-fight-for-reform" target="_blank">called on legislators</a> to support reforms making budget spending more transparent.</p> <p>"Preet Bharara, the federal prosecutor who convicted both Silver and Skelos, basically said the strongest tool these guys had to game the system was unbridled power and an unbelievable lack of transparency in policing 'three men in a room,'" said Assemblymember Jim Tedisco, a Republican from the Capital Region who has proposed a bill that would force any pot of cash negotiated in the budget to be line-itemed and mandate that it is publicly documented how the cash is eventually spent.</p> <p>"The other thing Bharara told us is 'if you see something, say something,'" Tedisco said. "I didn't know about these pots of money and I'm sure my Democratic colleagues in the chamber didn't know either. So if you don't know who got the money, you can't stop what's going on. We just don't have that transparency holistically."</p> <p>Slush funds aren't the only part of the state budget that thwart transparency. Today the bad practices New York City was forced to abandon are commonplace in the state budget process. The state budgets without generally accepted accounting practices, routinely raids other programs, has lump-sum appropriations where spending is at times decided by memorandum of understanding between the governor and legislators, and routinely pushes expenses down the road.</p> <p>This year Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed a slew of major infrastructure projects including the revamp of Penn Station and a third track for the Long Island Rail Road, but his budget proposal does not lay out how to fund them. Meanwhile, his budget continues funneling cash to economic development projects that are managed by entities with little transparency. Cuomo's Buffalo Billion project is currently <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/28/nyregion/us-investigating-contract-awards-in-buffalo-turnaround-project.html?_r=0" target="_blank">under investigation</a> by Bharara's office.</p> <p>Frank Mauro, executive director emeritus of the Fiscal Policy Institute, who also served as the director of research for the city's last major charter revision and as secretary of the Assembly's ways and means committee, said that the differences between the city and state budget processes are striking. "I don't think many people know just how different the city process is from the state's," said Mauro.</p> <p>The city budget process begins when the Mayor submits his Preliminary Budget to the City Council before January 21 each year (this was just moved from Jan. 16). Then the City Council holds public hearings over a period of several weeks, bringing in agency commissioners and budget directors to examine spending, considers budget priorities from community boards and borough presidents, and takes testimony from groups and citizens.</p> <p>The Council must issue its findings and recommendations by March 25. The Mayor then has until April 26 to propose an Executive Budget, with explanations of programs as well as a fiscal outlook for the city. The Council then holds another series of public hearings which are followed by negotiations between the mayor's budget office and the Council finance division. These negotiations must result in a balanced budget by the end of June, with the new fiscal year beginning July 1.</p> <p>The Council <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/about/budget.shtml" target="_blank">is allowed</a> to increase, decrease, add or omit any appropriation for personal services, or omit or change conditions related to any appropriation. The Council then votes on the budget. The mayor can veto any additions or increases the Council adds but may not interfere with any decreases.</p> <p>The city process also includes a significant role for the Comptroller, who oversees city contracts and audits city agencies. The Comptroller is the city's chief financial watchdog and analyzes the Mayor's budget proposals, performing independent forecasting, raising red flags, and making recommendations.</p> <p>"In the state budget you have to investigate where the money has gone, where certain programs are accounted for, and even then, good luck," said Sen. Krueger. "Even the [state] comptroller's office does not know until years later what was actually spent."</p> <p>The state process begins when the Governor devises an Executive Budget based on the needs of agencies and any programs he or she supports and delivers the budget to the Legislature. Both houses of the the Legislature put out their own budgets, mainly to signal their major priorities for the year. The Governor delivers his executive budget along with appropriation, revenue and budget bills by February 1. The Legislature typically holds a series of budget hearings on particular topics, like transportation and local governments.</p> <p>Under reform legislation passed in 2007, the Legislature is supposed to convene conference committees between both houses to reach agreements on aspects of the budget and set priorities. These committees have been ignored in the past despite the reform legislation.</p> <p>The Governor and Legislature are also required agree on a revenue forecast on or before March 1. They are generally very good at doing this, failure to do so results in the state Comptroller setting the forecast. The Legislature can only reduce or entirely remove spending proposed by the Governor and it has no control over the Governor's proposals for spending. The Legislature can add spending, but the Governor has the ability to line-item veto. The Legislature must vote on a budget by April 1, which is the start of the state's fiscal year.</p> <p>It isn't until the budget is voted on that a new financial plan is created showing how all the changes impact spending. So while a budget may start as balanced under the Governor's proposed plan, it rarely ends that way.</p> <p>The state budget is usually full of non-budget policies because the budget process gives the Governor the upper hand - the Legislature can either negotiate the Governor's priorities, stall, or fail to vote on a budget on time, in which case the Governor can simply issue emergency extenders that put his budget into place.</p> <p>Budgets are normally negotiated exclusively between the two majority leaders of the Legislature and the Governor, and time and again budget bills are not given the three-day waiting period for review mandated by law. Instead, the Governor issues messages of necessity that allow the budget bills to be voted on immediately. The result is legislators voting on voluminous budget bills late at night, having little or no time to actually read them. "To say there is any level of public review is just insulting," Krueger said.</p> <p>"I think the biggest difference between the state and city budget processes is that the state budget is a political negotiation and you don't see a financial plan until a month later," said Tammy Gamerman, a senior research associate with the Citizens Budget Commission (CBC). "With the city they tell you how they are going to balance the budget."</p> <p>Adding further mystery to the state budget, Governor Cuomo has taken to combining his State of the State address and Executive Budget presentation, doing so this year and last. This leads to less public explanation of the budget and more focus on big policy initiatives the governor is backing. In his speech last week, the governor laid out a number of government ethics proposals, including public financing of campaigns. He did not discuss changing the budget process.</p> <p>The city budget process is not perfect, of course. The City Council continues to push the Mayor to more specifically account for agency spending, providing more units of appropriation instead of lump sums. There is also a good deal of discretionary spending available to the City Council Speaker that watchdogs want more accounting for.</p> <p>Sen. Krueger, who is one of the most outspoken legislators during late night state budget votes, picking at and tracking spending threads while most legislators are waiting to simply cast a "yes" vote and get back to their districts, said that 'three men in a room' has led to an absolute lack of budget transparency and alienated the public.</p> <p>Krueger says she has seen a decrease in attendance at budget hearings, even from groups that have a lot at stake in the budget. "At the end of the budget process each year, after I'm done beating my head against the wall over one thing that made it through the budget process or the other, I come to find out there are 16 other things I missed," Krueger told Gotham Gazette. "I don't catch a huge number of things and I do care about this. So imagine what it is like for someone who isn't a legislator, who doesn't have experience with this. I want people to know they should be involved in the process. They should come to hearings just to point out 'Hey, you know New York has state parks that need to be funded and that isn't in here.'"</p> <p>Most rank-and-file legislators and advocates acknowledge that budget reform is not a hot topic at the moment. The last time there was major attention on the subject was in 2009 when Senate Democrats briefly controlled the chamber. They issued <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/sites/default/files/articles/attachments/krueger_budget_ar09_v1r2-final.pdf" target="_blank">a report</a> that recommended conference committees be given control over larger sums of budget funds, that the state adopt generally accepted accounting principles, a two-year budget cycle, and the creation of a legislative budget office.</p> <p>Krueger has since introduced bills that would create a state agency in the model of the city's <a href="http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/" target="_blank">Independent Budget Office</a> - a nonpartisan, publically funded agency that provides information to elected officials and the public about the budget, reviews budget proposals, and provides policy analysis. The bill has gone nowhere in the Senate.</p> <p>Krueger and other reformers also want to see the state require bills to have truthful financial impact statements. Currently, bills introduced from rank-and-file legislators, committee chairs, legislative leaders, or the Governor are supposed to have impact statements, but some simply lack them while others are presented in a dishonest way. Rather than presenting a program's cost for a year, some bills only represent a month's cost, or less.</p> <p>Gamerman said she feels that some progress has been made toward budget transparency over the last few years.</p> <p>"Accountability issues born of the financial crisis of the '70s forced the city to use generally accepted accounting principles," said Gamerman. "There isn't any similar oversight of the state. The state has increased transparency through the <a href="https://www.budget.ny.gov/" target="_blank">Open Budget website</a>. There is more info on agency spending. One of the big differences between the city and state is the city does a much better job tracking performance with the Mayor's Management Report. The state has been talking about doing something similar."</p> <p>Mauro said that he finds it unlikely there will be a major push for reform unless the Legislature feels the Governor is abusing his current powers because the status quo still works for the leadership. "It's an unlikely scenario where the Governor isn't running roughshod over the Legislature with budget powers that we'll see a push for change," said Mauro.</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p> <p>Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union.</p> Cuomo Heads Into State of the State After Big Announcements, With More to Say 2016-01-13T02:08:46+00:00 2016-01-13T02:08:46+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6083:cuomo-heads-into-state-of-the-state-after-big-announcements-with-more-to-say kfan <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/23931922099_1fd2b397ca_z.jpg" alt="cuomo church sots" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin, Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Cuomo is going big. Decrying a state that has lost its ambition for transformative projects like the Erie Canal, the governor has spent the past week traveling the state and announcing major infrastructure, transportation, and economic development plans. Cuomo has also revealed new pieces of his $15 minimum wage campaign and criminal justice reform policies, among others, as he sets his agenda for 2016 and frames budget negotiations in Albany.</p> <p>So far, Cuomo has outlined 14 planks of his 2016 platform, providing an extensive preview of his State of the State and budget address, which he will give on Wednesday in the capital. Still, there are key pieces of his speech that the governor has kept under wraps, including what he has said are top priorities: government ethics, homelessness, and education.</p> <p>It is also unclear what priority, if any, Cuomo will give to policies like the DREAM Act, which he has assured proponents will be in his budget again, but has not given indication of its place in his speech. Advocates are also hopeful that the governor includes a significant paid family leave proposal on Wednesday, and many are watching to see if he unveils a plan for a statewide policy on car-hailing apps, like Uber.</p> <p>While the governor is clearly going big on infrastructure - with plans that could total $100 billion in costs, <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/01/8587523/cuomo-aide-infrastructure-plan-will-cost-100-billion" target="_blank">according to his office</a> - he has promised to lead with ethics as lawmakers continue to fall to corruption convictions, trust in Albany is low, and New Yorkers say Cuomo has not done enough to clean up state government.</p> <p>"Top of my agenda is going to be ethics reform," Cuomo, a Democrat, said Jan. 3 <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2016/01/3/cuomo-to-tackle-economic-issues-in-state-of-state-address.html" target="_blank">on NY1</a>. "We have done a lot in Albany, but we haven't done enough. And I'm going to push the legislature very hard to adopt more aggressive ethics legislation, more disclosure, more enforcement, etcetera."</p> <p>What exactly this will include is unclear, but good government groups, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and many others have put forth recommendations. Chief among these are limiting legislators' outside income and closing the infamous LLC loophole, which allows virtually unlimited campaign donations. Whether Cuomo broaches a public campaign finance system will help gauge how bold he's going on reform.</p> <p>Wherever ethics does fall, that portion of Cuomo's address is likely to be dwarfed by the volume of discussion of the infrastructure plans the governor has outlined and his discussion of economic justice, including his minimum wage crusade.</p> <p>The infrastructure plans, which include a new track on the Long Island Rail Road, a revamped Penn Station, road and bridge upgrades, and more, will be attached to the governor's previously announced projects led by a new Tappan Zee Bridge and LaGuardia Airport.</p> <p>During a Jan. 5 appearance on Long Island, Cuomo said of New Yorkers, "we don't think big anymore. And we don't believe we're capable of doing big anymore. And we don't believe government is a vehicle to do big anymore." But, he promised to resurrect New York's "big" thinking as he announced new plans and referenced ongoing building - all under the banner of this year's tagline: New York State, Built to Lead.</p> <p>"This year in the State of the State we are going to propose the largest construction project program in modern political history in the state of New York," Cuomo promised. "Roads and bridges upstate, airports upstate and downstate, new mass transit, new attractions, new rail transit and new mass transit downstate which is desperately needed. And we are going to do it region by region."</p> <p>While Cuomo has outlined the meat of his building plans, he has not gone into detail on how it will all be funded, though he has promised to do so on Wednesday in his executive budget.</p> <p>Cuomo has called the budget "the most complex piece of legislation we pass," which is true in part because it is a way of doing business in Albany that a good deal of policy is unnecessarily included in budget negotiations. For the governor, whomever it may be, forcing additional policy into the budget is a way of using executive leverage that doesn't exist in post-budget legislative session. For the second straight year, Cuomo is combining his State of the State, which is usually a more policy-focused speech, with the announcement of his budget.</p> <p>A budget deal is due by April 1, whereas the legislative session continues into June.</p> <p>Budget watchdogs are eagerly awaiting the details of Cuomo's spending plans. Nicole Gelinas, of the Manhattan Institute, recently <a href="http://nyslant.com/article/editorial/when-it-comes-to-infrastructure,-cuomo-has-tunnel-vision.html#.VpBP42SDGkp" target="_blank">wrote in City and State</a> that "Cuomo evidently did not make an important resolution: stop announcing huge infrastructure projects without a way to pay for them."</p> <p>"The risk in starting lots of new projects without having a way to pay for them," Gelinas wrote, "is that the governor will force the MTA and the rest of the state to scrimp on old stuff that people don't see, like replacing subway tracks and signals."</p> <p>After all the drama that accompanied Cuomo's negotiations with Mayor Bill de Blasio over an MTA capital spending plan, Cuomo may try to steer clear of criticism for his spending plans. As the Citizens Budget Commission points out, Cuomo continues to have billions of dollars to spend from bank settlements with the state. In outlining <a href="http://www.cbcny.org/cbc-blogs/blogs/dozen-things-look-governor%E2%80%99s-proposed-fiscal-year-2016-2017-budget" target="_blank">12 things to watch</a> for in Cuomo's budget, CBC asks, "How much will the Governor propose to spend for transportation infrastructure? How much will be borrowing versus pay-as-you-go capital, and will a new revenue source be proposed?"</p> <p>Throughout his time as governor, Cuomo has prided himself on reigning in state operational spending, and even while outlining his new plans so far this month, Cuomo has touted his brand of fiscal responsibility. It is unlikely Cuomo will outline an increase in state spending above the two percent cap he has followed.</p> <p>Meanwhile, many, especially from New York City, are watching closely to see what the governor outlines around homelessness, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/13/nyregion/as-cuomo-acts-on-homelessness-problem-city-and-state-are-often-at-odds.html" target="_blank">the latest issue</a> on which Cuomo has decided to undermine and supercede de Blasio. Cuomo issued an executive order just after the new year and has promised a robust policy plan in his State of the State.</p> <p>The plan is likely to include more oversight of homeless shelters, which the state is already responsible for, and of operations aimed at reducing homelessness. How much money Cuomo will dedicate to supportive housing, rental subsidies, and other relevant measures is to-be-seen. De Blasio recently announced a major supportive housing plan and, along with advocates and legislators, called on Cuomo to match it (and create a fourth New York/New York supportive housing deal).</p> <p>The governor has not yet made clear his education platform for this year, though he has indicated he will follow recommendations made by the common core task force that he empaneled in September and received a report from in December.</p> <p>Becoming "The Education Governor" has been full of fits and starts for Cuomo. While he has protected and promoted the growth of charter schools, other aspects of his education policy have not gone as planned - these include the rollout of the common core learning standards and tougher teacher evaluations by tying them more closely to the results of student standardized test scores.</p> <p>The task force recommended a revamp of the common core system, more stakeholder input, a reduction in standardized testing, and increased local control over standards and curriculum. The governor's office said that "no new legislation is required to implement the recommendations of the report," so there could be few specific proposals in Cuomo's State of the State.</p> <p>The governor did recently announce he will be investing in the community school model, something de Blasio has expanded vastly in New York City, especially with regard to so-called "failing schools" as he tries to turn them around under the threat of state takeover. Cuomo may take aim at hastening school improvement.</p> <p><a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2016/01/3/cuomo-to-tackle-economic-issues-in-state-of-state-address.html" target="_blank">On NY1</a>, Cuomo said "many of these failing schools have been failing for over 10 years, believe it or not. And the system, the bureaucracy, has been too tolerant, in my opinion. And we are – we're going to be focusing on the closing schools, we're going to be investing in the school system to make sure we're doing everything we can on the state side."</p> <p>As he has done before, Cuomo also distanced himself from education-related problems: "Education in this state is run by a department called the state education department," Cuomo said. "It is not under the governor. I wish it were, many governors in the past wished it was...It's run by the Board of Regents, which is selected by the legislature, primarily the Assembly."</p> <p>Discussing the common core he said, "We started a new curriculum as part of a national movement called the common core curriculum. And that was rolled out over the past few years; that brought with it a testing regimen on the new curriculum. It was not implemented well. It was rushed. It was confused."</p> <p>Adding that "It created a backlash among parents that frankly shocked everyone," Cuomo mentioned "the opt-out movement, where the parents didn't have the kids take the tests because they didn't like the way it was addressed, they didn't like that the kids were getting lower grades, whatever region."</p> <p>Cuomo said the state education department has to make significant changes "and bring the parents along. Because if the parents don't have trust in the education system, then you have nothing and that's where we are now," Cuomo concluded, setting the stage for next steps by his administration and the state education department, which is doing its own common core review (new SED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia was named to Cuomo's task force, so there appears to be some, if not significant, overlap).</p> <p>While there will almost certainly be sections of Cuomo's speech on education, homelessness, and ethics, the bulk will likely be on infrastructure, economic development and opportunity. He'll showcase these efforts through his push for an eventual $15 per hour minimum wage, a downtown revitalization initiative, tax breaks for small businesses, and the major projects he's outlined.</p> <p>On NY1, Cuomo explained how he sees economic development, saying that "in Upstate New York [it] means basically restoring the economy, and in downstate New York it means growing the future economy – the high tech economy, having the transportation infrastructure to do that – and making sure the economy is working for everyone."</p> <p>He promised to address "very high unemployment among young minority males, black and brown," which he called "just unacceptable," adding, "We have to make special economic initiatives there."</p> <p>To follow that up, Cuomo announced new regulations related to spending on minority- and women-owned businesses. Prior to that, Cuomo also announced "the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative," a $25 million program to "bring together state and local government, non-profit and business groups to design and implement coordinated solutions to increase social mobility in ten cities with the highest poverty rates in the state."</p> <p>The governor has promised to continue to fight to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York from 16 to 18 - New York is one of just two states that automatically treat 16-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system. Like on several other issues, Cuomo has taken executive action on the issue in the absence of legislation, with a plan to move 16- and 17-year-olds into a separate prison facility from older inmates.</p> <p>Where other social justice issues that, similarly, the governor has backed before but not been able to pass, like the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and the DREAM Act, are featured in Cuomo's remarks is also being watched closely by supporters of those policies.</p> <p>The governor published <a href="http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2016/1/12/dont-leave-behind-equality-transgender-americans?utm_medium=twitter&amp;utm_source=twitterfeed" target="_blank">an op-ed</a> this week detailing the measures he's taken to protect transgender New Yorkers in the absence of GENDA passing the legislature, where it has been blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate. Cuomo did not indicate that he would be pushing GENDA forward in his State of the State.</p> <p>There are also questions around whether Cuomo will include a proposal and dedicated funding for paid family leave, something that de Blasio recently moved on for some city employees and called on the state to pass for all workers.</p> <p>One other policy area the governor has been quiet on leading up to his address, but he could make waves with an announcement on is app-based car services. When de Blasio was battling with Uber last year, Cuomo jumped into the fray to defend the company, where one of his former top aides now works, and say that a statewide policy is needed. Since then, Uber has waged a campaign across the state, getting many public officials on board. Cuomo may surprise people by outlining state policy around Uber and other e-hailing services like Lyft.</p> <p><em>Tune in at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday for Cuomo's speech - stream online <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/" target="_blank">at the governor's website</a> - and see below for the full outline of proposals Cuomo has outlined thus far in 2016.</em></p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank">@tweetBenMax</a></p> <p><em>For an outline of all 14 proposals Cuomo has announced thus far, the following was released by Cuomo's office on Tuesday:</em></p> <p>The signature proposals announced so far include:</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 1: Restore economic justice by making New York the first state in the nation to enact a $15 minimum wage for all workers. While highlighting this proposal, the Governor announced that the State University of New York will raise the minimum wage for more than 28,000 employees.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-state-university-system-raise-minimum-wage-its-employees-15-hour">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-audio-rush-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-15-minimum-wage-state-university-employees">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 2: Launch a comprehensive plan to transform and expand vital infrastructure downstate and make critical investments in the region. Most notably, the proposal includes a major expansion and improvement project for the Long Island Rail Road between Floral Park and Hicksville.</p> <p dir="ltr">The project will allow the LIRR to increase service, reduce congestion and train delays caused whenever there is an incident along this busy stretch of tracks and will enable the LIRR to run "reverse-peak" trains to allow people to take the LIRR to jobs on Long Island during traditional business hours. By allowing the LIRR to increase service between Floral Park and Hicksville, it will provide a more attractive alternative to driving and thereby reduce traffic on Long Island's major east-west highways, like the L.I.E., Northern State and Southern State, and more trains will make it easier for Long Islanders to reach LaGuardia and Kennedy airports by train.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/2nd-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-transform-and-expand-vital-infrastructure-downstate">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-photos-audio-governor-cuomo-announces-proposals-transform-downstate-infrastructure-and">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 3: Bolster New York's legacy of environmental protection. The Governor has proposed allocating $300 million for the State’s Environmental Protection Fund – the highest amount ever for the fund and more than double the fund’s level when the Governor first took office. The Governor also announced two major investments in water infrastructure in Suffolk and Nassau Counties.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/3rd-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-bolster-new-yorks-legacy-environmental-protection">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 4: Make a series of investments and new initiatives to continue growing the economy and building stronger, more vibrant communities across New York State. These proposals include significant tax relief for small businesses, increased funding to support municipal water infrastructure improvement projects, a new effort to revitalize and transform downtown areas in each region of the state, and a sixth round of the successful Regional Economic Development Council initiative.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/4th-proposal-governors-2016-agenda-grow-economy-and-strengthen-infrastructure-communities">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-photos-audio-governor-cuomo-announces-4th-proposal-2016-agenda-grow-economy-and">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 5: Invest in Upstate transportation infrastructure. This includes a plan to offer a tax credit that cuts tolls in half for the New York residents and businesses who utilize the Thruway most often – benefitting nearly one million passenger, business and farm vehicles using E-Z Passes; eliminating tolls for agricultural vehicles; and keeping tolls flat until at least 2020 for all other drivers.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/5th-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-thruway-toll-reduction-and-highest-transportation">here</a>; video available <a href="https://youtu.be/W5dGH7YvRr0">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 6: Transform Penn Station and the historic James A. Farley Post Office into a world-class transportation hub. The project, known as the Empire Station Complex, will feature significant passenger improvements, including first-class amenities, natural light, increased train capacity and decreased congestion, and improved signage to dramatically enhance the travel experience. The project – which is anticipated to cost $3 billion – will be expedited by a public-private partnership in order to break ground this year and complete substantial construction within the next three years.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/6th-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-transform-penn-station-and-farley-post-office-building">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-photos-governor-cuomo-announces-6th-proposal-2016-agenda-transform-penn-station-and">here</a>; conceptual renderings are available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/photos-governor-cuomos-proposal-transform-penn-station-and-farley-post-office-building-world">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 7: Dramatically expand and improve the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center to stimulate the regional economy. The proposal will expand the Javits Center by 1.2 million square feet, resulting in a fivefold increase in meeting and ballroom space, including the largest ballroom in the Northeast. A four-level, 480,000 square foot truck garage capable of housing hundreds of tractor-trailers at one time will also be constructed to improve pedestrian safety and local traffic flow.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/7th-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-dramatic-expansion-jacob-k-javits-center-attract-more">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-7th-proposal-2016-agenda-dramatic-expansion-jacob-k">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 8: Modernize and fundamentally transform the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, dramatically improving the travel experience for millions of New Yorkers and visitors to the metropolitan region. This proposal includes a new approach to rapidly redesign and renew 30 existing subway stations across the system. It also includes a number of technology initiatives to bring the system into the 21st century, including expanding Wi-Fi hotspots, accelerating mobile payments and ticketing to replace the MetroCard, and providing USB ports on subway trains, buses and in stations to allow customers to charge their mobile devices.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/8th-proposal-governor-cuomo-s-2016-agenda-bring-mta-21st-century-dramatically-improve-travel">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-photos-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-8th-proposal-2016-agenda-bring-mta-21st">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 9: Launch a Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition designed to reward local governments that take real steps to make living and working in New York State more affordable. The competition will challenge counties, cities, towns and villages to develop innovative consolidation action plans yielding significant and permanent property tax reductions. The consolidation partnership that proposes and can implement the greatest permanent reduction in property taxes will receive a $20 million award.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/9th-proposal-governor-cuomo-s-2016-agenda-municipal-consolidation-competition-continue-making">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 10: Dramatically expand and improve access to high-speed Internet in communities statewide. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul detailed this proposal shortly after the New York State Public Service Commission voted to approve the merger of Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications, which will dramatically improve broadband availability for millions of New Yorkers and lead to more than $1 billion in direct investments and consumer benefits.</p> <p dir="ltr">Additionally, the state issued a $500 million solicitation for private sector partners to join the New NY Broadband Program, which will greatly expand Internet access in all regions of the state, with a focus on unserved and underserved areas.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/10th-proposal-governor-cuomo-s-2016-agenda-dramatically-expand-and-improve-access-high-speed">here</a>; video available <a href="https://youtu.be/BvAqBRCMu_0">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 11: Launch a $200 million competition to revitalize Upstate airports. The proposal is designed to enhance airports throughout Upstate New York, and promote new opportunities for regional economic development and partnership between the public and private sectors.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Governor made this announcement as he also kicked off the start of renovations that will transform the New York State Fairgrounds site into a premier, multi-use facility. The Governor marked the official start of the historic renovation project with the implosion of the grandstand today.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/11th-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-revitalize-upstate-infrastructure-stimulate-economy">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 12: Combat poverty and reduce rampant inequality through the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative. The $25 million program will bring together state and local government, non-profit and business groups to design and implement coordinated solutions to increase social mobility in ten cities with the highest poverty rates in the state.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/12th-proposal-governor-cuomo-s-2016-agenda-combatting-poverty-reducing-rampant-inequality">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 13: Launch a "Right Priorities" initiative to further New York’s status as a national leader in criminal justice and re-entry reforms. The Governor's proposal will help at-risk youth find positive opportunities in their communities, while also providing citizens who enter the criminal justice system the opportunity to rehabilitate, return home, and contribute to their communities.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/13th-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-launch-right-priorities-initiative-leads-nation">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-photos-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-13th-proposal-2016-agenda-launch-right">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 14: Increase opportunity for minority- and women-owned business enterprises across New York State.</p> <p dir="ltr">In 2014, Governor Cuomo established a goal of 30 percent for New York’s MWBE state contract utilization – the highest goal of any state in the nation. However, under state law, that goal only applies to contracts issued by state agencies and authorities; it does not apply to state funding given to localities such as cities, counties, towns, villages and school districts, which amounts to approximately $65 billion annually. This year, the Governor will advance legislation addressing this disconnect by expanding the MWBE goal setting to localities and entities that subcontract with those localities. Doing so will leverage the largest pool of state funding in history to combat systemic discrimination and create new opportunities for MWBE participation.</p> <p>More information available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/14th-proposal-governor-cuomo-s-2016-agenda-increase-opportunity-minority-and-women-owned">here</a>.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/23931922099_1fd2b397ca_z.jpg" alt="cuomo church sots" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin, Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Cuomo is going big. Decrying a state that has lost its ambition for transformative projects like the Erie Canal, the governor has spent the past week traveling the state and announcing major infrastructure, transportation, and economic development plans. Cuomo has also revealed new pieces of his $15 minimum wage campaign and criminal justice reform policies, among others, as he sets his agenda for 2016 and frames budget negotiations in Albany.</p> <p>So far, Cuomo has outlined 14 planks of his 2016 platform, providing an extensive preview of his State of the State and budget address, which he will give on Wednesday in the capital. Still, there are key pieces of his speech that the governor has kept under wraps, including what he has said are top priorities: government ethics, homelessness, and education.</p> <p>It is also unclear what priority, if any, Cuomo will give to policies like the DREAM Act, which he has assured proponents will be in his budget again, but has not given indication of its place in his speech. Advocates are also hopeful that the governor includes a significant paid family leave proposal on Wednesday, and many are watching to see if he unveils a plan for a statewide policy on car-hailing apps, like Uber.</p> <p>While the governor is clearly going big on infrastructure - with plans that could total $100 billion in costs, <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/01/8587523/cuomo-aide-infrastructure-plan-will-cost-100-billion" target="_blank">according to his office</a> - he has promised to lead with ethics as lawmakers continue to fall to corruption convictions, trust in Albany is low, and New Yorkers say Cuomo has not done enough to clean up state government.</p> <p>"Top of my agenda is going to be ethics reform," Cuomo, a Democrat, said Jan. 3 <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2016/01/3/cuomo-to-tackle-economic-issues-in-state-of-state-address.html" target="_blank">on NY1</a>. "We have done a lot in Albany, but we haven't done enough. And I'm going to push the legislature very hard to adopt more aggressive ethics legislation, more disclosure, more enforcement, etcetera."</p> <p>What exactly this will include is unclear, but good government groups, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and many others have put forth recommendations. Chief among these are limiting legislators' outside income and closing the infamous LLC loophole, which allows virtually unlimited campaign donations. Whether Cuomo broaches a public campaign finance system will help gauge how bold he's going on reform.</p> <p>Wherever ethics does fall, that portion of Cuomo's address is likely to be dwarfed by the volume of discussion of the infrastructure plans the governor has outlined and his discussion of economic justice, including his minimum wage crusade.</p> <p>The infrastructure plans, which include a new track on the Long Island Rail Road, a revamped Penn Station, road and bridge upgrades, and more, will be attached to the governor's previously announced projects led by a new Tappan Zee Bridge and LaGuardia Airport.</p> <p>During a Jan. 5 appearance on Long Island, Cuomo said of New Yorkers, "we don't think big anymore. And we don't believe we're capable of doing big anymore. And we don't believe government is a vehicle to do big anymore." But, he promised to resurrect New York's "big" thinking as he announced new plans and referenced ongoing building - all under the banner of this year's tagline: New York State, Built to Lead.</p> <p>"This year in the State of the State we are going to propose the largest construction project program in modern political history in the state of New York," Cuomo promised. "Roads and bridges upstate, airports upstate and downstate, new mass transit, new attractions, new rail transit and new mass transit downstate which is desperately needed. And we are going to do it region by region."</p> <p>While Cuomo has outlined the meat of his building plans, he has not gone into detail on how it will all be funded, though he has promised to do so on Wednesday in his executive budget.</p> <p>Cuomo has called the budget "the most complex piece of legislation we pass," which is true in part because it is a way of doing business in Albany that a good deal of policy is unnecessarily included in budget negotiations. For the governor, whomever it may be, forcing additional policy into the budget is a way of using executive leverage that doesn't exist in post-budget legislative session. For the second straight year, Cuomo is combining his State of the State, which is usually a more policy-focused speech, with the announcement of his budget.</p> <p>A budget deal is due by April 1, whereas the legislative session continues into June.</p> <p>Budget watchdogs are eagerly awaiting the details of Cuomo's spending plans. Nicole Gelinas, of the Manhattan Institute, recently <a href="http://nyslant.com/article/editorial/when-it-comes-to-infrastructure,-cuomo-has-tunnel-vision.html#.VpBP42SDGkp" target="_blank">wrote in City and State</a> that "Cuomo evidently did not make an important resolution: stop announcing huge infrastructure projects without a way to pay for them."</p> <p>"The risk in starting lots of new projects without having a way to pay for them," Gelinas wrote, "is that the governor will force the MTA and the rest of the state to scrimp on old stuff that people don't see, like replacing subway tracks and signals."</p> <p>After all the drama that accompanied Cuomo's negotiations with Mayor Bill de Blasio over an MTA capital spending plan, Cuomo may try to steer clear of criticism for his spending plans. As the Citizens Budget Commission points out, Cuomo continues to have billions of dollars to spend from bank settlements with the state. In outlining <a href="http://www.cbcny.org/cbc-blogs/blogs/dozen-things-look-governor%E2%80%99s-proposed-fiscal-year-2016-2017-budget" target="_blank">12 things to watch</a> for in Cuomo's budget, CBC asks, "How much will the Governor propose to spend for transportation infrastructure? How much will be borrowing versus pay-as-you-go capital, and will a new revenue source be proposed?"</p> <p>Throughout his time as governor, Cuomo has prided himself on reigning in state operational spending, and even while outlining his new plans so far this month, Cuomo has touted his brand of fiscal responsibility. It is unlikely Cuomo will outline an increase in state spending above the two percent cap he has followed.</p> <p>Meanwhile, many, especially from New York City, are watching closely to see what the governor outlines around homelessness, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/13/nyregion/as-cuomo-acts-on-homelessness-problem-city-and-state-are-often-at-odds.html" target="_blank">the latest issue</a> on which Cuomo has decided to undermine and supercede de Blasio. Cuomo issued an executive order just after the new year and has promised a robust policy plan in his State of the State.</p> <p>The plan is likely to include more oversight of homeless shelters, which the state is already responsible for, and of operations aimed at reducing homelessness. How much money Cuomo will dedicate to supportive housing, rental subsidies, and other relevant measures is to-be-seen. De Blasio recently announced a major supportive housing plan and, along with advocates and legislators, called on Cuomo to match it (and create a fourth New York/New York supportive housing deal).</p> <p>The governor has not yet made clear his education platform for this year, though he has indicated he will follow recommendations made by the common core task force that he empaneled in September and received a report from in December.</p> <p>Becoming "The Education Governor" has been full of fits and starts for Cuomo. While he has protected and promoted the growth of charter schools, other aspects of his education policy have not gone as planned - these include the rollout of the common core learning standards and tougher teacher evaluations by tying them more closely to the results of student standardized test scores.</p> <p>The task force recommended a revamp of the common core system, more stakeholder input, a reduction in standardized testing, and increased local control over standards and curriculum. The governor's office said that "no new legislation is required to implement the recommendations of the report," so there could be few specific proposals in Cuomo's State of the State.</p> <p>The governor did recently announce he will be investing in the community school model, something de Blasio has expanded vastly in New York City, especially with regard to so-called "failing schools" as he tries to turn them around under the threat of state takeover. Cuomo may take aim at hastening school improvement.</p> <p><a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2016/01/3/cuomo-to-tackle-economic-issues-in-state-of-state-address.html" target="_blank">On NY1</a>, Cuomo said "many of these failing schools have been failing for over 10 years, believe it or not. And the system, the bureaucracy, has been too tolerant, in my opinion. And we are – we're going to be focusing on the closing schools, we're going to be investing in the school system to make sure we're doing everything we can on the state side."</p> <p>As he has done before, Cuomo also distanced himself from education-related problems: "Education in this state is run by a department called the state education department," Cuomo said. "It is not under the governor. I wish it were, many governors in the past wished it was...It's run by the Board of Regents, which is selected by the legislature, primarily the Assembly."</p> <p>Discussing the common core he said, "We started a new curriculum as part of a national movement called the common core curriculum. And that was rolled out over the past few years; that brought with it a testing regimen on the new curriculum. It was not implemented well. It was rushed. It was confused."</p> <p>Adding that "It created a backlash among parents that frankly shocked everyone," Cuomo mentioned "the opt-out movement, where the parents didn't have the kids take the tests because they didn't like the way it was addressed, they didn't like that the kids were getting lower grades, whatever region."</p> <p>Cuomo said the state education department has to make significant changes "and bring the parents along. Because if the parents don't have trust in the education system, then you have nothing and that's where we are now," Cuomo concluded, setting the stage for next steps by his administration and the state education department, which is doing its own common core review (new SED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia was named to Cuomo's task force, so there appears to be some, if not significant, overlap).</p> <p>While there will almost certainly be sections of Cuomo's speech on education, homelessness, and ethics, the bulk will likely be on infrastructure, economic development and opportunity. He'll showcase these efforts through his push for an eventual $15 per hour minimum wage, a downtown revitalization initiative, tax breaks for small businesses, and the major projects he's outlined.</p> <p>On NY1, Cuomo explained how he sees economic development, saying that "in Upstate New York [it] means basically restoring the economy, and in downstate New York it means growing the future economy – the high tech economy, having the transportation infrastructure to do that – and making sure the economy is working for everyone."</p> <p>He promised to address "very high unemployment among young minority males, black and brown," which he called "just unacceptable," adding, "We have to make special economic initiatives there."</p> <p>To follow that up, Cuomo announced new regulations related to spending on minority- and women-owned businesses. Prior to that, Cuomo also announced "the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative," a $25 million program to "bring together state and local government, non-profit and business groups to design and implement coordinated solutions to increase social mobility in ten cities with the highest poverty rates in the state."</p> <p>The governor has promised to continue to fight to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York from 16 to 18 - New York is one of just two states that automatically treat 16-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system. Like on several other issues, Cuomo has taken executive action on the issue in the absence of legislation, with a plan to move 16- and 17-year-olds into a separate prison facility from older inmates.</p> <p>Where other social justice issues that, similarly, the governor has backed before but not been able to pass, like the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and the DREAM Act, are featured in Cuomo's remarks is also being watched closely by supporters of those policies.</p> <p>The governor published <a href="http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2016/1/12/dont-leave-behind-equality-transgender-americans?utm_medium=twitter&amp;utm_source=twitterfeed" target="_blank">an op-ed</a> this week detailing the measures he's taken to protect transgender New Yorkers in the absence of GENDA passing the legislature, where it has been blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate. Cuomo did not indicate that he would be pushing GENDA forward in his State of the State.</p> <p>There are also questions around whether Cuomo will include a proposal and dedicated funding for paid family leave, something that de Blasio recently moved on for some city employees and called on the state to pass for all workers.</p> <p>One other policy area the governor has been quiet on leading up to his address, but he could make waves with an announcement on is app-based car services. When de Blasio was battling with Uber last year, Cuomo jumped into the fray to defend the company, where one of his former top aides now works, and say that a statewide policy is needed. Since then, Uber has waged a campaign across the state, getting many public officials on board. Cuomo may surprise people by outlining state policy around Uber and other e-hailing services like Lyft.</p> <p><em>Tune in at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday for Cuomo's speech - stream online <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/" target="_blank">at the governor's website</a> - and see below for the full outline of proposals Cuomo has outlined thus far in 2016.</em></p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank">@tweetBenMax</a></p> <p><em>For an outline of all 14 proposals Cuomo has announced thus far, the following was released by Cuomo's office on Tuesday:</em></p> <p>The signature proposals announced so far include:</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 1: Restore economic justice by making New York the first state in the nation to enact a $15 minimum wage for all workers. While highlighting this proposal, the Governor announced that the State University of New York will raise the minimum wage for more than 28,000 employees.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-state-university-system-raise-minimum-wage-its-employees-15-hour">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-audio-rush-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-15-minimum-wage-state-university-employees">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 2: Launch a comprehensive plan to transform and expand vital infrastructure downstate and make critical investments in the region. Most notably, the proposal includes a major expansion and improvement project for the Long Island Rail Road between Floral Park and Hicksville.</p> <p dir="ltr">The project will allow the LIRR to increase service, reduce congestion and train delays caused whenever there is an incident along this busy stretch of tracks and will enable the LIRR to run "reverse-peak" trains to allow people to take the LIRR to jobs on Long Island during traditional business hours. By allowing the LIRR to increase service between Floral Park and Hicksville, it will provide a more attractive alternative to driving and thereby reduce traffic on Long Island's major east-west highways, like the L.I.E., Northern State and Southern State, and more trains will make it easier for Long Islanders to reach LaGuardia and Kennedy airports by train.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/2nd-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-transform-and-expand-vital-infrastructure-downstate">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-photos-audio-governor-cuomo-announces-proposals-transform-downstate-infrastructure-and">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 3: Bolster New York's legacy of environmental protection. The Governor has proposed allocating $300 million for the State’s Environmental Protection Fund – the highest amount ever for the fund and more than double the fund’s level when the Governor first took office. The Governor also announced two major investments in water infrastructure in Suffolk and Nassau Counties.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/3rd-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-bolster-new-yorks-legacy-environmental-protection">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 4: Make a series of investments and new initiatives to continue growing the economy and building stronger, more vibrant communities across New York State. These proposals include significant tax relief for small businesses, increased funding to support municipal water infrastructure improvement projects, a new effort to revitalize and transform downtown areas in each region of the state, and a sixth round of the successful Regional Economic Development Council initiative.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/4th-proposal-governors-2016-agenda-grow-economy-and-strengthen-infrastructure-communities">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-photos-audio-governor-cuomo-announces-4th-proposal-2016-agenda-grow-economy-and">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 5: Invest in Upstate transportation infrastructure. This includes a plan to offer a tax credit that cuts tolls in half for the New York residents and businesses who utilize the Thruway most often – benefitting nearly one million passenger, business and farm vehicles using E-Z Passes; eliminating tolls for agricultural vehicles; and keeping tolls flat until at least 2020 for all other drivers.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/5th-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-thruway-toll-reduction-and-highest-transportation">here</a>; video available <a href="https://youtu.be/W5dGH7YvRr0">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 6: Transform Penn Station and the historic James A. Farley Post Office into a world-class transportation hub. The project, known as the Empire Station Complex, will feature significant passenger improvements, including first-class amenities, natural light, increased train capacity and decreased congestion, and improved signage to dramatically enhance the travel experience. The project – which is anticipated to cost $3 billion – will be expedited by a public-private partnership in order to break ground this year and complete substantial construction within the next three years.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/6th-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-transform-penn-station-and-farley-post-office-building">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-photos-governor-cuomo-announces-6th-proposal-2016-agenda-transform-penn-station-and">here</a>; conceptual renderings are available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/photos-governor-cuomos-proposal-transform-penn-station-and-farley-post-office-building-world">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 7: Dramatically expand and improve the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center to stimulate the regional economy. The proposal will expand the Javits Center by 1.2 million square feet, resulting in a fivefold increase in meeting and ballroom space, including the largest ballroom in the Northeast. A four-level, 480,000 square foot truck garage capable of housing hundreds of tractor-trailers at one time will also be constructed to improve pedestrian safety and local traffic flow.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/7th-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-dramatic-expansion-jacob-k-javits-center-attract-more">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-7th-proposal-2016-agenda-dramatic-expansion-jacob-k">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 8: Modernize and fundamentally transform the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, dramatically improving the travel experience for millions of New Yorkers and visitors to the metropolitan region. This proposal includes a new approach to rapidly redesign and renew 30 existing subway stations across the system. It also includes a number of technology initiatives to bring the system into the 21st century, including expanding Wi-Fi hotspots, accelerating mobile payments and ticketing to replace the MetroCard, and providing USB ports on subway trains, buses and in stations to allow customers to charge their mobile devices.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/8th-proposal-governor-cuomo-s-2016-agenda-bring-mta-21st-century-dramatically-improve-travel">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-photos-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-8th-proposal-2016-agenda-bring-mta-21st">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 9: Launch a Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition designed to reward local governments that take real steps to make living and working in New York State more affordable. The competition will challenge counties, cities, towns and villages to develop innovative consolidation action plans yielding significant and permanent property tax reductions. The consolidation partnership that proposes and can implement the greatest permanent reduction in property taxes will receive a $20 million award.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/9th-proposal-governor-cuomo-s-2016-agenda-municipal-consolidation-competition-continue-making">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 10: Dramatically expand and improve access to high-speed Internet in communities statewide. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul detailed this proposal shortly after the New York State Public Service Commission voted to approve the merger of Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications, which will dramatically improve broadband availability for millions of New Yorkers and lead to more than $1 billion in direct investments and consumer benefits.</p> <p dir="ltr">Additionally, the state issued a $500 million solicitation for private sector partners to join the New NY Broadband Program, which will greatly expand Internet access in all regions of the state, with a focus on unserved and underserved areas.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/10th-proposal-governor-cuomo-s-2016-agenda-dramatically-expand-and-improve-access-high-speed">here</a>; video available <a href="https://youtu.be/BvAqBRCMu_0">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 11: Launch a $200 million competition to revitalize Upstate airports. The proposal is designed to enhance airports throughout Upstate New York, and promote new opportunities for regional economic development and partnership between the public and private sectors.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Governor made this announcement as he also kicked off the start of renovations that will transform the New York State Fairgrounds site into a premier, multi-use facility. The Governor marked the official start of the historic renovation project with the implosion of the grandstand today.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/11th-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-revitalize-upstate-infrastructure-stimulate-economy">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 12: Combat poverty and reduce rampant inequality through the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative. The $25 million program will bring together state and local government, non-profit and business groups to design and implement coordinated solutions to increase social mobility in ten cities with the highest poverty rates in the state.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/12th-proposal-governor-cuomo-s-2016-agenda-combatting-poverty-reducing-rampant-inequality">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 13: Launch a "Right Priorities" initiative to further New York’s status as a national leader in criminal justice and re-entry reforms. The Governor's proposal will help at-risk youth find positive opportunities in their communities, while also providing citizens who enter the criminal justice system the opportunity to rehabilitate, return home, and contribute to their communities.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/13th-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-launch-right-priorities-initiative-leads-nation">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-photos-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-13th-proposal-2016-agenda-launch-right">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 14: Increase opportunity for minority- and women-owned business enterprises across New York State.</p> <p dir="ltr">In 2014, Governor Cuomo established a goal of 30 percent for New York’s MWBE state contract utilization – the highest goal of any state in the nation. However, under state law, that goal only applies to contracts issued by state agencies and authorities; it does not apply to state funding given to localities such as cities, counties, towns, villages and school districts, which amounts to approximately $65 billion annually. This year, the Governor will advance legislation addressing this disconnect by expanding the MWBE goal setting to localities and entities that subcontract with those localities. Doing so will leverage the largest pool of state funding in history to combat systemic discrimination and create new opportunities for MWBE participation.</p> <p>More information available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/14th-proposal-governor-cuomo-s-2016-agenda-increase-opportunity-minority-and-women-owned">here</a>.</p> The Week Ahead in New York Politics, November 9 2015-11-08T05:00:00+00:00 2015-11-08T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5975:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-november-9 Super User <p><img alt="New York City Hall" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/640px-New_York_City_Hall.jpg" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">New York City Hall</span></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What to watch for this week in New York politics:</strong></p> <p>Wednesday is Veterans Day, with parades, resource fairs, and events to honor and aid veterans taking place before, on, and after the day itself. Mayor Bill de Blasio will hold a breakfast reception to honor the military veterans Wednesday morning. On Thursday, the City Council will hold a hearing on veteran homelessness, which the mayor vowed to end by the end of this year as part of a national pledge.</p> <p>The mayor and the City Council agreed last week to create a new Department of Veterans Services, removing the agency from the Mayor's Office and making veterans affairs its own city department, which will give it more resources and Council oversight. There will be a celebratory rally outside of City Hall on Tuesday at 11 a.m., then the veterans affairs committee of the Council will vote through the department bill, followed by the full Council.</p> <p>Could this be the week that First Lady Chirlane McCray unveils her much-anticipated "Mental Health Roadmap"? The week of Veterans Day would make sense considering the mental health challenges many veterans face. There's been no indication this is the week, but the 'roadmap' has been slated for release this fall. [Read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5877-mccray-set-to-unveil-mental-health-roadmap-signature-de-blasio-plan" target="_blank">our extensive preview of McCray's mental health roadmap</a>]</p> <p>According to Citizens Budget Commission (CBC), the City will release its first quarter modification to the FY2016 budget this week. "In advance of that release, CBC <a href="http://www.cbcny.org/sites/default/files/PRESENTATION_11062015.pdf" target="_blank">compares</a> the Mayor's budget savings agenda, called the Citywide Savings Program, or CSP, with the Program to Eliminate the Gap (PEG) in fiscal years 2010 to 2015."</p> <p>After a marathon Friday press conference at which de Blasio answered dozens of questions from assembled reporters on a wide variety of subjects, the mayor had a quiet weekend. De Blasio continues to be scrutinized for his approach to the media, his administration's transparency, and several policy areas in which he is having the most challenges, such as homelessness, policing, and education. We'll see what this week holds other than a focus on veterans and the budget. On Monday morning the mayor is set to meet with members of the city's congressional delegation and then hold a media availability - at which he'll take both on- and off-topic questions.</p> <p>As always, there's a great deal happening&nbsp;all over the city, with many events to be aware of - read our day-by-day rundown below.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?</em><br /><em>E-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>***</em></p> <p><strong>The run of the week in detail:</strong></p> <p><strong>MONDAY<br /></strong>At the <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">City Council</a> on Monday:</p> <ul> <li>At 10:30 a.m. the Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions will convene to discuss several Land Use Applications in Brooklyn.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 11 a.m. the Committee on Land Use will meet.</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">On Monday at 10 a.m.,&nbsp;Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams "will honor Brooklyn's military heroes at his "Start Strong, Finish Strong" resource fair for veterans...Additional speakers will include Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Loree K. Sutton, a retired Army brigadier general, and USAG Fort Hamilton Command Sergeant Kevin Fauntleroy. Borough President Adams will speak about Brooklyn's commitment to its veterans, including his efforts to restore the Brooklyn War Memorial and to address mental health challenges facing the community."</p> <p dir="ltr">On Monday at 11 a.m., New York City Council Member Carlos Menchaca, along with Hetrick-Martin Institute CEO Thomas Krever and the LGBTQ Caucus of the City Council will unveil “HMI Goes Citywide For LGBTQ Youth,” a new initiative to address the challenges LGBTQ youth face in New York.</p> <p dir="ltr">"On Monday, Mayor de Blasio will meet with members of the New York Congressional Delegation at City Hall to discuss a number‎ of issues impacting New York City. This meeting is closed press.&nbsp;After, [at 11:30 a.m.] the Mayor and members of the Congressional Delegation will hold a media availability on the Zadroga Act on the steps of City Hall," according to his public schedule.</p> <p dir="ltr">At noon Monday, Crain’s New York Business will host its “<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#utm_medium=email&amp;utm_source=cnyb-events&amp;utm_campaign=cnyb-events-20151015" target="_blank">Crain’s Business Hall of Fame Luncheon</a>” to celebrate businesspeople who have transformed the city through their philanthropic and professional lives. The list of honorees include Ms. Pamela Brier, President and Chief Executive Officer, Maimonides Medical Center; Mr.Laurence Fink, Chairman and CEO, BlackRock; Ms. Shelly Lazarus, Chairman Emeritus, Ogilvy &amp; Mather; Mr. Alan Patricof, Managing Director Greycroft; The Honorable Richard Ravitch, Former Lieutenant Governor, New York; Ms. Emily Rafferty, President Emeritus, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Mr. Steven Roth, Chairman and CEO, Vornado Realty Trust. EisnerAmper will sponsor the event.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 12:30 p.m. on Monday, Public Advocate Letitia James will “announce measures to expand affordability of NYC child care.” Joined by parents, advocates and other stakeholders, James will hold a press conference about the costs and accessibility of child care in New York City, releasing a report and outlining five policies to help increase accessibility, capacity, and affordability.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 1 p.m. Monday at City Hal, the correction officers union will hold a press conference&nbsp;"following the vicious attack on a correction officer by two Rikers inmates."</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6 p.m. Monday, schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña will deliver remarks at a pre-K family forum at the Children's Museum of Manhattan.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 7 p.m. Monday, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal will co-host a town hall meeting at the Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center on West 65th Street.</p> <p dir="ltr">Also at 7 p.m. Monday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will speak at New York Historical Society’s “Debt of Honor” program.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>TUESDAY</strong><br />Tuesday is a “Fight for $15” day of action, with many events planned to bring attention to wage issues and push for a $15 per hour minimum wage. Unions, advocacy groups, elected officials, and others will participate. Worker strikes, rallies, and marches will take place throughout the day all over the city and the country.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6:30 a.m., Mayor de Blasio&nbsp;"will deliver remarks at a Fight for $15 rally to raise the minimum wage...Immediately following his remarks, the Mayor will appear in several one-on-one interviews with local television networks to discuss the need to raise the minimum wage." At 2:15 p.m., the Mayor will appear live on WBLS 107.5 and at 2:30 p.m., on NY1. "In the evening, the Mayor will attend the 70th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner."</p> <p dir="ltr">State Senate Republicans will convene in Albany on Tuesday to discuss their 2016 agenda. (A week later Assembly Democrats will meet in the capital,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/11/8581887/assembly-democrats-plan-nov-17-return-albany" target="_blank">according to Politico New York</a>.)</p> <p dir="ltr">On Tuesday at 8 a.m., Chancellor of the State University of of New York Nancy Zimpher will speak at the Citizens Budget Commission breakfast at the Harvard Club. Zimpher will discuss SUNY projects and priorities.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 9 a.m. Tuesday the Board of Corrections will hold a meeting.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 11 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall, Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, Council Member Eric Ulrich, who chairs the Council’s veterans affairs committee, military veterans, and advocates will celebrate the imminent creation of a new City Department of Veterans Services.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">City Council</a> on Tuesday, the City Council will convene for a full-body Stated Meeting, which, as always, will be prefaced by a press conference hosted by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito at 12:30 p.m.</p> <p dir="ltr">Gov. Cuomo will make an announcement Tuesday at 4:15 p.m. in Manhattan at Foley Square, likely at a Fight for $15 event.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6:30 p.m. the Committee on Drugs and Law of the New York City Bar Association will host a <a href="https://services.nycbar.org/iMIS/Events/Event_Display.aspx?EventKey=DRU111015&amp;WebsiteKey=f71e12f3-524e-4f8c-a5f7-0d16ce7b3314" target="_blank">discussion</a> on marijuana policy in New York. Panelists will include City Council Member Rafael Espinal, state Senator Jeff Klein, Vocal New York’s Alyssa Aguilera, and others.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 7 p.m. Tuesday, “Trans-Pacific Partnership: Who Wins and Who Loses in This Secret Deal?”, a panel event presented by the Big Apple Coffee Party and moderated by Zephyr Teachout, Fordham law professor and CEO of Mayday PAC.</p> <p dir="ltr">The only City Council Participatory Budgeting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/events.shtml" target="_blank">event</a> of the week is on Tuesday: Council Member David Greenfield (District 44, Brooklyn), 6:30 p.m.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>WEDNESDAY</strong><br />Wednesday is Veterans Day. At 8 a.m. Mayor de Blasio will hold a breakfast reception to honor and remember military veterans.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Wednesday evening, many New York politicos, policy wonks, and others will gather to celebrate the 25th anniversary of City Journal, the Manhattan Institute policy publication.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>THURSDAY</strong><br />On Thursday at 8 a.m. Association for Better New York will host a <a href="https://www.abny.org/Content/Events/EventTickets.aspx?EventID=182&amp;utm_source=ABNY+Event+Invitations+-+Non-members&amp;utm_campaign=ebc8e0c451-ABNY_Nonmembers_Breakfast_Carolyn_Maloney_Round3&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_e4e1abe544-ebc8e0c451-381180997" target="_blank">breakfast</a> with Congressional Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who will speak about the &nbsp;projects, as well as her other priorities.</p> <p dir="ltr">The next public meeting of the New York City Campaign Finance Board will be Thursday at 10 a.m.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will hold a <a href="http://queensbp.org/event/queens-borough-presidents-land-use-hearing-2-2-2-2-3-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2/?instance_id=1352" target="_blank">Public Land Use Hearing</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Politico New York hosts <a href="http://www.politico.com/events/2015/11/new-york-playbook-215348" target="_blank">New York Playbook</a> Lunch, a discussion with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, hosted by playbook writers Azi Paybarah, Jimmy Vielkind, and Mike Allen.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">City Council</a> on Thursday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m. the Committee on Transportation will meet for an oversight hearing on transportation deserts. The Committee will hear two bills: one to mandate a DOT study looking at the feasibility of a light rail system; another to mandate a study on transportation deserts. It will also look at resolutions calling on the MTA to allow commuters to pay the metrocard fare on commuter rails and to conduct a study on unused railroad rights.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m. the Committee on Parks and Recreation will meet to hear CM Mark Levine’s bill that would create a taskforce to study the effects of building shadows on parks.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m. the Committee on Aging will meet for oversight on DFTA’s home care program.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m. the Committee on Housing and Buildings will meet to discuss a bill that would require residential buildings to have photoelectric smoke detectors.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m. the Committee on Environmental Protection will meet to discuss two bills aimed at reducing noise by sightseeing helicopters.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m. the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management will convene for oversight of DSNY’s 2016 snow plan, and the introduction of two bills that would identify pedestrian bridges and create plans for de-snowing and de-icing them and make exemptions for senior citizens and persons with disabilities from being penalized for failing to remove snow from on sidewalks.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1:30 p.m. the Committee on Veterans, jointly with the Committee on General Welfare will meet for oversight of the City’s efforts to end homelessness among military veterans.</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at New York Law School: <a href="https://nyls.wufoo.com/forms/impact-thursday-2/" target="_blank">Law and the Lives of Young Black Men,</a>&nbsp;"featuring&nbsp;Richard Buery, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives; Alphonso B. David, Counsel to the Governor; and Nicholas Turner, President and Director, Vera Institute of Justice. Moderated by Professor Mercer Givhan, New York Law School."</p> <p dir="ltr">Thursday evening, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries is holding a campaign fundraiser, a <a href="https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/hjcuomo" target="_blank">reception</a> with Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the honorary guest.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6 p.m. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and the Bronx Borough Board will host a public hearing regarding the Zoning for Quality and Affordability and the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing proposals of Mayor de Blasio through the City Planning department and toward his housing plan.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio will host a town hall meeting focused on education in Jackson Heights, Queens, Thursday evening. Council Member Daniel Dromm, who chairs the City Council education committee, will welcome de Blasio and his team to the district.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, the New York City Department of Records and Information Services and WomensActivism.NYC will host the <a href="https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pe.c/10039568" target="_blank">celebration</a> of the 200th o birthday of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Women's Suffrage Centennial. Sponsored by the City of New York, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC, The Cooper Union, and Lebenthal Asset Management, the event is expected to be attended by elected officials including Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.</p> <p><strong>FRIDAY</strong><br />On Friday at 8:15 a.m. Vicki Been, the Commissioner for Housing Preservation and Development, will <a href="https://nyls.wufoo.com/forms/vicki-been-citylaw-breakfast/" target="_blank">speak </a>at the latest New York City Law School CityLaw breakfast event.</p> <p>On Saturday: "Newly appointed New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia will give her first public address in New York City on Nov. 14 at the Council of School Supervisors &amp; Administrators' (CSA) 48th Educational Leadership Conference...Elia will deliver the keynote at CSA's Professional Development Plenary."</p> <p>***<br />Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>&nbsp;(please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).</p> <p>***<br />by Colin O'Connor, Konstantine Beridze, and Ben Max<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p><img alt="New York City Hall" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/640px-New_York_City_Hall.jpg" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">New York City Hall</span></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What to watch for this week in New York politics:</strong></p> <p>Wednesday is Veterans Day, with parades, resource fairs, and events to honor and aid veterans taking place before, on, and after the day itself. Mayor Bill de Blasio will hold a breakfast reception to honor the military veterans Wednesday morning. On Thursday, the City Council will hold a hearing on veteran homelessness, which the mayor vowed to end by the end of this year as part of a national pledge.</p> <p>The mayor and the City Council agreed last week to create a new Department of Veterans Services, removing the agency from the Mayor's Office and making veterans affairs its own city department, which will give it more resources and Council oversight. There will be a celebratory rally outside of City Hall on Tuesday at 11 a.m., then the veterans affairs committee of the Council will vote through the department bill, followed by the full Council.</p> <p>Could this be the week that First Lady Chirlane McCray unveils her much-anticipated "Mental Health Roadmap"? The week of Veterans Day would make sense considering the mental health challenges many veterans face. There's been no indication this is the week, but the 'roadmap' has been slated for release this fall. [Read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5877-mccray-set-to-unveil-mental-health-roadmap-signature-de-blasio-plan" target="_blank">our extensive preview of McCray's mental health roadmap</a>]</p> <p>According to Citizens Budget Commission (CBC), the City will release its first quarter modification to the FY2016 budget this week. "In advance of that release, CBC <a href="http://www.cbcny.org/sites/default/files/PRESENTATION_11062015.pdf" target="_blank">compares</a> the Mayor's budget savings agenda, called the Citywide Savings Program, or CSP, with the Program to Eliminate the Gap (PEG) in fiscal years 2010 to 2015."</p> <p>After a marathon Friday press conference at which de Blasio answered dozens of questions from assembled reporters on a wide variety of subjects, the mayor had a quiet weekend. De Blasio continues to be scrutinized for his approach to the media, his administration's transparency, and several policy areas in which he is having the most challenges, such as homelessness, policing, and education. We'll see what this week holds other than a focus on veterans and the budget. On Monday morning the mayor is set to meet with members of the city's congressional delegation and then hold a media availability - at which he'll take both on- and off-topic questions.</p> <p>As always, there's a great deal happening&nbsp;all over the city, with many events to be aware of - read our day-by-day rundown below.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?</em><br /><em>E-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>***</em></p> <p><strong>The run of the week in detail:</strong></p> <p><strong>MONDAY<br /></strong>At the <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">City Council</a> on Monday:</p> <ul> <li>At 10:30 a.m. the Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions will convene to discuss several Land Use Applications in Brooklyn.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 11 a.m. the Committee on Land Use will meet.</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">On Monday at 10 a.m.,&nbsp;Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams "will honor Brooklyn's military heroes at his "Start Strong, Finish Strong" resource fair for veterans...Additional speakers will include Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Loree K. Sutton, a retired Army brigadier general, and USAG Fort Hamilton Command Sergeant Kevin Fauntleroy. Borough President Adams will speak about Brooklyn's commitment to its veterans, including his efforts to restore the Brooklyn War Memorial and to address mental health challenges facing the community."</p> <p dir="ltr">On Monday at 11 a.m., New York City Council Member Carlos Menchaca, along with Hetrick-Martin Institute CEO Thomas Krever and the LGBTQ Caucus of the City Council will unveil “HMI Goes Citywide For LGBTQ Youth,” a new initiative to address the challenges LGBTQ youth face in New York.</p> <p dir="ltr">"On Monday, Mayor de Blasio will meet with members of the New York Congressional Delegation at City Hall to discuss a number‎ of issues impacting New York City. This meeting is closed press.&nbsp;After, [at 11:30 a.m.] the Mayor and members of the Congressional Delegation will hold a media availability on the Zadroga Act on the steps of City Hall," according to his public schedule.</p> <p dir="ltr">At noon Monday, Crain’s New York Business will host its “<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#utm_medium=email&amp;utm_source=cnyb-events&amp;utm_campaign=cnyb-events-20151015" target="_blank">Crain’s Business Hall of Fame Luncheon</a>” to celebrate businesspeople who have transformed the city through their philanthropic and professional lives. The list of honorees include Ms. Pamela Brier, President and Chief Executive Officer, Maimonides Medical Center; Mr.Laurence Fink, Chairman and CEO, BlackRock; Ms. Shelly Lazarus, Chairman Emeritus, Ogilvy &amp; Mather; Mr. Alan Patricof, Managing Director Greycroft; The Honorable Richard Ravitch, Former Lieutenant Governor, New York; Ms. Emily Rafferty, President Emeritus, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Mr. Steven Roth, Chairman and CEO, Vornado Realty Trust. EisnerAmper will sponsor the event.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 12:30 p.m. on Monday, Public Advocate Letitia James will “announce measures to expand affordability of NYC child care.” Joined by parents, advocates and other stakeholders, James will hold a press conference about the costs and accessibility of child care in New York City, releasing a report and outlining five policies to help increase accessibility, capacity, and affordability.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 1 p.m. Monday at City Hal, the correction officers union will hold a press conference&nbsp;"following the vicious attack on a correction officer by two Rikers inmates."</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6 p.m. Monday, schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña will deliver remarks at a pre-K family forum at the Children's Museum of Manhattan.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 7 p.m. Monday, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal will co-host a town hall meeting at the Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center on West 65th Street.</p> <p dir="ltr">Also at 7 p.m. Monday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will speak at New York Historical Society’s “Debt of Honor” program.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>TUESDAY</strong><br />Tuesday is a “Fight for $15” day of action, with many events planned to bring attention to wage issues and push for a $15 per hour minimum wage. Unions, advocacy groups, elected officials, and others will participate. Worker strikes, rallies, and marches will take place throughout the day all over the city and the country.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6:30 a.m., Mayor de Blasio&nbsp;"will deliver remarks at a Fight for $15 rally to raise the minimum wage...Immediately following his remarks, the Mayor will appear in several one-on-one interviews with local television networks to discuss the need to raise the minimum wage." At 2:15 p.m., the Mayor will appear live on WBLS 107.5 and at 2:30 p.m., on NY1. "In the evening, the Mayor will attend the 70th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner."</p> <p dir="ltr">State Senate Republicans will convene in Albany on Tuesday to discuss their 2016 agenda. (A week later Assembly Democrats will meet in the capital,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/11/8581887/assembly-democrats-plan-nov-17-return-albany" target="_blank">according to Politico New York</a>.)</p> <p dir="ltr">On Tuesday at 8 a.m., Chancellor of the State University of of New York Nancy Zimpher will speak at the Citizens Budget Commission breakfast at the Harvard Club. Zimpher will discuss SUNY projects and priorities.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 9 a.m. Tuesday the Board of Corrections will hold a meeting.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 11 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall, Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, Council Member Eric Ulrich, who chairs the Council’s veterans affairs committee, military veterans, and advocates will celebrate the imminent creation of a new City Department of Veterans Services.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">City Council</a> on Tuesday, the City Council will convene for a full-body Stated Meeting, which, as always, will be prefaced by a press conference hosted by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito at 12:30 p.m.</p> <p dir="ltr">Gov. Cuomo will make an announcement Tuesday at 4:15 p.m. in Manhattan at Foley Square, likely at a Fight for $15 event.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6:30 p.m. the Committee on Drugs and Law of the New York City Bar Association will host a <a href="https://services.nycbar.org/iMIS/Events/Event_Display.aspx?EventKey=DRU111015&amp;WebsiteKey=f71e12f3-524e-4f8c-a5f7-0d16ce7b3314" target="_blank">discussion</a> on marijuana policy in New York. Panelists will include City Council Member Rafael Espinal, state Senator Jeff Klein, Vocal New York’s Alyssa Aguilera, and others.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 7 p.m. Tuesday, “Trans-Pacific Partnership: Who Wins and Who Loses in This Secret Deal?”, a panel event presented by the Big Apple Coffee Party and moderated by Zephyr Teachout, Fordham law professor and CEO of Mayday PAC.</p> <p dir="ltr">The only City Council Participatory Budgeting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/events.shtml" target="_blank">event</a> of the week is on Tuesday: Council Member David Greenfield (District 44, Brooklyn), 6:30 p.m.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>WEDNESDAY</strong><br />Wednesday is Veterans Day. At 8 a.m. Mayor de Blasio will hold a breakfast reception to honor and remember military veterans.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Wednesday evening, many New York politicos, policy wonks, and others will gather to celebrate the 25th anniversary of City Journal, the Manhattan Institute policy publication.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>THURSDAY</strong><br />On Thursday at 8 a.m. Association for Better New York will host a <a href="https://www.abny.org/Content/Events/EventTickets.aspx?EventID=182&amp;utm_source=ABNY+Event+Invitations+-+Non-members&amp;utm_campaign=ebc8e0c451-ABNY_Nonmembers_Breakfast_Carolyn_Maloney_Round3&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_e4e1abe544-ebc8e0c451-381180997" target="_blank">breakfast</a> with Congressional Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who will speak about the &nbsp;projects, as well as her other priorities.</p> <p dir="ltr">The next public meeting of the New York City Campaign Finance Board will be Thursday at 10 a.m.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will hold a <a href="http://queensbp.org/event/queens-borough-presidents-land-use-hearing-2-2-2-2-3-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2/?instance_id=1352" target="_blank">Public Land Use Hearing</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Politico New York hosts <a href="http://www.politico.com/events/2015/11/new-york-playbook-215348" target="_blank">New York Playbook</a> Lunch, a discussion with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, hosted by playbook writers Azi Paybarah, Jimmy Vielkind, and Mike Allen.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">City Council</a> on Thursday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m. the Committee on Transportation will meet for an oversight hearing on transportation deserts. The Committee will hear two bills: one to mandate a DOT study looking at the feasibility of a light rail system; another to mandate a study on transportation deserts. It will also look at resolutions calling on the MTA to allow commuters to pay the metrocard fare on commuter rails and to conduct a study on unused railroad rights.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m. the Committee on Parks and Recreation will meet to hear CM Mark Levine’s bill that would create a taskforce to study the effects of building shadows on parks.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m. the Committee on Aging will meet for oversight on DFTA’s home care program.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m. the Committee on Housing and Buildings will meet to discuss a bill that would require residential buildings to have photoelectric smoke detectors.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m. the Committee on Environmental Protection will meet to discuss two bills aimed at reducing noise by sightseeing helicopters.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m. the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management will convene for oversight of DSNY’s 2016 snow plan, and the introduction of two bills that would identify pedestrian bridges and create plans for de-snowing and de-icing them and make exemptions for senior citizens and persons with disabilities from being penalized for failing to remove snow from on sidewalks.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1:30 p.m. the Committee on Veterans, jointly with the Committee on General Welfare will meet for oversight of the City’s efforts to end homelessness among military veterans.</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at New York Law School: <a href="https://nyls.wufoo.com/forms/impact-thursday-2/" target="_blank">Law and the Lives of Young Black Men,</a>&nbsp;"featuring&nbsp;Richard Buery, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives; Alphonso B. David, Counsel to the Governor; and Nicholas Turner, President and Director, Vera Institute of Justice. Moderated by Professor Mercer Givhan, New York Law School."</p> <p dir="ltr">Thursday evening, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries is holding a campaign fundraiser, a <a href="https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/hjcuomo" target="_blank">reception</a> with Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the honorary guest.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6 p.m. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and the Bronx Borough Board will host a public hearing regarding the Zoning for Quality and Affordability and the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing proposals of Mayor de Blasio through the City Planning department and toward his housing plan.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio will host a town hall meeting focused on education in Jackson Heights, Queens, Thursday evening. Council Member Daniel Dromm, who chairs the City Council education committee, will welcome de Blasio and his team to the district.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, the New York City Department of Records and Information Services and WomensActivism.NYC will host the <a href="https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pe.c/10039568" target="_blank">celebration</a> of the 200th o birthday of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Women's Suffrage Centennial. Sponsored by the City of New York, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC, The Cooper Union, and Lebenthal Asset Management, the event is expected to be attended by elected officials including Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.</p> <p><strong>FRIDAY</strong><br />On Friday at 8:15 a.m. Vicki Been, the Commissioner for Housing Preservation and Development, will <a href="https://nyls.wufoo.com/forms/vicki-been-citylaw-breakfast/" target="_blank">speak </a>at the latest New York City Law School CityLaw breakfast event.</p> <p>On Saturday: "Newly appointed New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia will give her first public address in New York City on Nov. 14 at the Council of School Supervisors &amp; Administrators' (CSA) 48th Educational Leadership Conference...Elia will deliver the keynote at CSA's Professional Development Plenary."</p> <p>***<br />Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>&nbsp;(please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).</p> <p>***<br />by Colin O'Connor, Konstantine Beridze, and Ben Max<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> With Risks, P3s and Design-Build Seen as Beneficial to Infrastructure Planning 2015-11-03T22:49:57+00:00 2015-11-03T22:49:57+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5967:with-risks-p3s-and-design-build-seen-as-beneficial-to-infrastructure-planning Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/22591061626_f2b6ab93a4_z.jpg" alt="MTA MetroNorth garage" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p>A new MTA MetroNorth facility (<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/mtaphotos/22591061626/in/dateposted/" target="_blank">photo</a>:&nbsp;MTA/Patrick Cashin)</p> <hr /> <p>At an Urban Land Institute conference last week, two panels of transportation experts – one from the public sector, the other from the private sector – discussed the issues plaguing tri-state transportation systems and the potential of public-private partnerships to address them.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Transportation agencies are great at delivering state-of-good-repair projects, delivering normal replacement projects,” former New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald said during the first panel. “I’m not so sure that transportation agencies are the entities best-suited to do some of these mega projects that are not just about transportation.”</p> <p dir="ltr">With transportation infrastructure, a public-private partnership, or P3 agreement, is used most often in a design-build contract - design-build is a method of project-delivery in which a private contractor wins a bid to design and construct a project. Ongoing regional public-private infrastructure projects include the construction of a new Port Authority Bus Terminal and an MTA project to build a Long Island Rail Road station beneath Grand Central Terminal (known as East Side Access).</p> <p dir="ltr">Organized by the Urban Land Institute’s New York, New Jersey and Westchester/Fairfield chapters, the forum was hosted at Shearman &amp; Sterling’s East Midtown headquarters, drawing a crowd of around one hundred.</p> <p dir="ltr">During the panel of current and former public officials, moderated by CityLab New York bureau chief Eric Jaffe, the speakers disagreed on the role of public-private partnerships in terms of their potential for improving transportation infrastructure.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The bigger you get, when you have many more stakeholders, many more local zoning laws, then it becomes more difficult,” Steve Santoro, New Jersey Transit's assistant executive director of capital planning, said of expansive P3 projects.</p> <p dir="ltr">All agreed, however, that area transportation infrastructure is in a state of crisis.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The term 'transportation Armageddon' has been used,” Jaffe said, referring to Senator Chuck Schumer's remarks about the potential results of the damaged Hudson River tunnels. If the existing New York-to-New Jersey tunnels close - a plausible scenario given their age, deterioration and the fact that they have reached current capacity - it would be disastrous for commuters and the regional economy.</p> <p dir="ltr">In remarks after the panel, Drew Galloway, Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor chief of planning and performance expressed openness to working with a private sector contractor on the Gateway Project, a proposed high-speed rail corridor planned to help solve a potential crisis with the tunnels, which are used by NJTransit and Amtrak and bring many commuters into New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We absolutely intend to consider [public-private partnerships] and will welcome the proposals as it goes forward,” Galloway told <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/10/8581252/unfunded-mega-projects-experts-suggest-turning-private-sector" target="_blank">Politico New York</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">After the conference’s 15-minute networking break, the private sector panel convened to discuss the best P3 business practices globally, as well as the potential hazards and benefits of P3s.</p> <p dir="ltr">“You have competition among entities of the private sector to come up with the best and most cost-effective design,” Karen Hedlund, national P3 advisor for Parsons Brinckerhoff, said at the panel, which was moderated by Urban Land Institute's senior vice president, Rachel MacCleery.</p> <p dir="ltr">For underfunded tri-state transportation agencies, design-build can be an attractive method of cutting project costs. As Mike Parker, of Ernst &amp; Young Infrastructure Advisors, LLC, pointed out, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey estimated that it saved ten percent by using a P3 for the Goethals Bridge reconstruction versus a public plan.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the case of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, Hedlund explained, its dire need for infrastructure repair may repel potential private partners.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Would they be willing to accept the cost of bringing the Northeast Corridor up to a state-of-good-repair?” Hedlund asked. “It's a much more complicated question than sometimes some politicians would like you to believe.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Last year, P3s, especially as design-build, were <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#page=23" target="_blank">recommended</a> by the MTA Transportation Reinvention Commission, a team of 24 local, regional, and international transportation experts. In July, New York State Budget Director Mary Beth Labate again endorsed their use in a <a href="http://cdn-sas.secondavenuesagas.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Labate-to-Prendergast.pdf" target="_blank">letter</a> to MTA Chair Thomas Prendergast, calling design-build and other P3 tools a means of reducing the agency’s capital program costs and achieving “faster project delivery."</p> <p dir="ltr">Certainly, the MTA needs faster project delivery - a recent <a href="http://www.cbcny.org/sites/default/files/REPORT_STATIONS_09022015_1.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> by the Citizens Budget Commission (CBC), a nonpartisan watchdog group, estimated that MTA repair and upgrade projects will be finished by 2067 at their current rate. The Second Avenue Subway extension is notoriously behind schedule and beyond budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">But though public-private partnerships are recommended for MTA repair projects, the CBC report warns that a “P3 can leave public agencies at risk when private parties fail to perform adequately,” as they did in the early 2000s with a London Underground repair project.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The London experience showed that there’s some problems with P3s that dealt with a lot of maintaining existing assets and bringing existing infrastructure up to a state-of-good-repair,” Jamison Dague, the report’s author, told Gotham Gazette. “And that’s not to say that you can’t have a P3 that does those things successfully, but that was one challenge that they saw there.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, design-build contracts for New York infrastructure, Dague added, have proven successful in the past. The newly approved (and controversial) <a href="http://web.mta.info/capital/pdf/CapitalProgram2015-19_WEB%20v4%20FINAL_small.pdf" target="_blank">MTA five-year capital plan</a> was reduced by billions of dollars after the agency accounted for increased use of design-build and other cost-saving strategies.</p> <p dir="ltr">From a policy standpoint, measures can be taken to prevent private sector malfeasance when engaging companies in major infrastructure projects. In his remarks, Galloway emphasized the need for transportation officials to independently estimate a project’s cost before private sector involvement.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Otherwise, they will price their own investment in such a way to cover that risk,” Galloway said. “And you very quickly lose some of the advantages that you would otherwise see in a public-private partnership.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Transportation officials and others have suggested oversight mechanisms as a means of preventing similar problems before. Independent evaluation of projects before private-sector involvement was recommended by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in a 2013 <a href="http://www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/infrastructure/p3_report_2013.pdf" target="_blank">report</a>, which also calls for the creation of an oversight entity for public-partnership agreements and other changes to the state's P3 policies.</p> <p dir="ltr">Jaffe mentioned the ongoing concern: “The fear is always that in the long run, the public will end up paying more than they said they would pay up front.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Ryan Brady, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a>&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/22591061626_f2b6ab93a4_z.jpg" alt="MTA MetroNorth garage" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p>A new MTA MetroNorth facility (<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/mtaphotos/22591061626/in/dateposted/" target="_blank">photo</a>:&nbsp;MTA/Patrick Cashin)</p> <hr /> <p>At an Urban Land Institute conference last week, two panels of transportation experts – one from the public sector, the other from the private sector – discussed the issues plaguing tri-state transportation systems and the potential of public-private partnerships to address them.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Transportation agencies are great at delivering state-of-good-repair projects, delivering normal replacement projects,” former New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald said during the first panel. “I’m not so sure that transportation agencies are the entities best-suited to do some of these mega projects that are not just about transportation.”</p> <p dir="ltr">With transportation infrastructure, a public-private partnership, or P3 agreement, is used most often in a design-build contract - design-build is a method of project-delivery in which a private contractor wins a bid to design and construct a project. Ongoing regional public-private infrastructure projects include the construction of a new Port Authority Bus Terminal and an MTA project to build a Long Island Rail Road station beneath Grand Central Terminal (known as East Side Access).</p> <p dir="ltr">Organized by the Urban Land Institute’s New York, New Jersey and Westchester/Fairfield chapters, the forum was hosted at Shearman &amp; Sterling’s East Midtown headquarters, drawing a crowd of around one hundred.</p> <p dir="ltr">During the panel of current and former public officials, moderated by CityLab New York bureau chief Eric Jaffe, the speakers disagreed on the role of public-private partnerships in terms of their potential for improving transportation infrastructure.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The bigger you get, when you have many more stakeholders, many more local zoning laws, then it becomes more difficult,” Steve Santoro, New Jersey Transit's assistant executive director of capital planning, said of expansive P3 projects.</p> <p dir="ltr">All agreed, however, that area transportation infrastructure is in a state of crisis.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The term 'transportation Armageddon' has been used,” Jaffe said, referring to Senator Chuck Schumer's remarks about the potential results of the damaged Hudson River tunnels. If the existing New York-to-New Jersey tunnels close - a plausible scenario given their age, deterioration and the fact that they have reached current capacity - it would be disastrous for commuters and the regional economy.</p> <p dir="ltr">In remarks after the panel, Drew Galloway, Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor chief of planning and performance expressed openness to working with a private sector contractor on the Gateway Project, a proposed high-speed rail corridor planned to help solve a potential crisis with the tunnels, which are used by NJTransit and Amtrak and bring many commuters into New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We absolutely intend to consider [public-private partnerships] and will welcome the proposals as it goes forward,” Galloway told <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/10/8581252/unfunded-mega-projects-experts-suggest-turning-private-sector" target="_blank">Politico New York</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">After the conference’s 15-minute networking break, the private sector panel convened to discuss the best P3 business practices globally, as well as the potential hazards and benefits of P3s.</p> <p dir="ltr">“You have competition among entities of the private sector to come up with the best and most cost-effective design,” Karen Hedlund, national P3 advisor for Parsons Brinckerhoff, said at the panel, which was moderated by Urban Land Institute's senior vice president, Rachel MacCleery.</p> <p dir="ltr">For underfunded tri-state transportation agencies, design-build can be an attractive method of cutting project costs. As Mike Parker, of Ernst &amp; Young Infrastructure Advisors, LLC, pointed out, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey estimated that it saved ten percent by using a P3 for the Goethals Bridge reconstruction versus a public plan.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the case of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, Hedlund explained, its dire need for infrastructure repair may repel potential private partners.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Would they be willing to accept the cost of bringing the Northeast Corridor up to a state-of-good-repair?” Hedlund asked. “It's a much more complicated question than sometimes some politicians would like you to believe.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Last year, P3s, especially as design-build, were <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#page=23" target="_blank">recommended</a> by the MTA Transportation Reinvention Commission, a team of 24 local, regional, and international transportation experts. In July, New York State Budget Director Mary Beth Labate again endorsed their use in a <a href="http://cdn-sas.secondavenuesagas.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Labate-to-Prendergast.pdf" target="_blank">letter</a> to MTA Chair Thomas Prendergast, calling design-build and other P3 tools a means of reducing the agency’s capital program costs and achieving “faster project delivery."</p> <p dir="ltr">Certainly, the MTA needs faster project delivery - a recent <a href="http://www.cbcny.org/sites/default/files/REPORT_STATIONS_09022015_1.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> by the Citizens Budget Commission (CBC), a nonpartisan watchdog group, estimated that MTA repair and upgrade projects will be finished by 2067 at their current rate. The Second Avenue Subway extension is notoriously behind schedule and beyond budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">But though public-private partnerships are recommended for MTA repair projects, the CBC report warns that a “P3 can leave public agencies at risk when private parties fail to perform adequately,” as they did in the early 2000s with a London Underground repair project.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The London experience showed that there’s some problems with P3s that dealt with a lot of maintaining existing assets and bringing existing infrastructure up to a state-of-good-repair,” Jamison Dague, the report’s author, told Gotham Gazette. “And that’s not to say that you can’t have a P3 that does those things successfully, but that was one challenge that they saw there.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, design-build contracts for New York infrastructure, Dague added, have proven successful in the past. The newly approved (and controversial) <a href="http://web.mta.info/capital/pdf/CapitalProgram2015-19_WEB%20v4%20FINAL_small.pdf" target="_blank">MTA five-year capital plan</a> was reduced by billions of dollars after the agency accounted for increased use of design-build and other cost-saving strategies.</p> <p dir="ltr">From a policy standpoint, measures can be taken to prevent private sector malfeasance when engaging companies in major infrastructure projects. In his remarks, Galloway emphasized the need for transportation officials to independently estimate a project’s cost before private sector involvement.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Otherwise, they will price their own investment in such a way to cover that risk,” Galloway said. “And you very quickly lose some of the advantages that you would otherwise see in a public-private partnership.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Transportation officials and others have suggested oversight mechanisms as a means of preventing similar problems before. Independent evaluation of projects before private-sector involvement was recommended by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in a 2013 <a href="http://www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/infrastructure/p3_report_2013.pdf" target="_blank">report</a>, which also calls for the creation of an oversight entity for public-partnership agreements and other changes to the state's P3 policies.</p> <p dir="ltr">Jaffe mentioned the ongoing concern: “The fear is always that in the long run, the public will end up paying more than they said they would pay up front.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Ryan Brady, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a>&nbsp;</p>