Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/105 Wed, 13 Dec 2017 07:44:26 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) 10 Great NYC Debate Moments http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7139:10-great-moments-in-nyc-debates http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7139:10-great-moments-in-nyc-debates quinn liu de blasio albanese

Quinn, Liu, de Blasio, Albanese (from 2013)


Debates have been an invaluable part of political discourse and elections for centuries. The face-to-face interactions between candidates reveal a lot about their character, policies, and ability to perform under pressure.

Debates for citywide races in New York -- for Mayor, Comptroller, and Public Advocate -- have played no small part in helping New Yorkers decide which candidates best represent their interests. Ahead of the 2017 debates, which begin Wednesday with the first Democratic mayoral primary debate between Mayor Bill de Blasio and former City Council Member Sal Albanese, Gotham Gazette presents 10 great moments from New York City debates of the last few decades.

1. Giuliani declines debate, spurs matching funds/must debate law
1993 General Mayoral Debate; 10/17/93
Candidates: David Dinkins (D); Rudy Giuliani (R); George Marlin (Conservative)

A non-debate on a debate list belongs because of the importance of the decision, both during the contentious 1993 rematch between Dinkins and Giuliani, which Giuliani would win, and the long-term implications of the subsequent change in law.

Mayor Dinkins wanted to include the Conservative Party candidate in any debate between himself and Giuliani, but Giuliani would only agree to a one-on-one debate, and so the two major party candidates did not have a single debate before the election that year. In response, the City Council voted on legislation that forced any candidate taking public matching funds (as both Giuliani and Dinkins did) to participate in two debates before both the primary and general elections, given certain criteria.

At the debate that Dinkins and Marlin did have, they both attacked Giuliani for not participating, and on other grounds. In his closing statement, Dinkins, who had bested Giuliani in 1989, said, “It takes a certain kind of temperament and personality to deal with the various legislative bodies in order to achieve [my accomplishments], I suggest to you that Rudolph Giuliani does not have the temperament to get the kind of consensus necessary to achieve the things that we’ve done.”

For his part, Giuliani explained, “I have a letter from April of this year, where I had a firm commitment for a one-on-one debate with Mayor Dinkins, which NBC has now allowed him to sneak out of, because he rolled over for them. He shouldn’t do that, it’s wrong. And I know why David Dinkins won’t face me. On 12 occasions in 1989, he ducked out of one-on-one debates with me. On 7 occasions, he has ducked out of one-on-one debates with me in this election. They shouldn’t allow him to do it, because I’ll ask him the questions that some of you won’t ask him about how he’s cheating.”

Watch the October 17, 1993 debate between Dinkins and Marlin here.

2. Mayor Bloomberg tries to speak Spanish
2009 General Mayoral Debate; 10/13/2009
Candidates: Michael Bloomberg (i); Bill Thompson (D)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempts to speak Spanish are well-known and much-skewered, most famously by the @ElBloombito Twitter account. Bloomberg used to end each news conference by summarizing his statements in Spanish, and he occasionally gave entire interviews in his second tongue. In a 2009 general election mayoral debate, Bloomberg tried responding to a question about diversity in his cabinet from Juan Manuel Benitez, host of Pura Política on NY1 Noticias, in Spanish. Although the mayor received applause, the moderator had to ask him to repeat his answer in English, as many in the room and at home had no idea what he had said.

Watch the moment here and watch the entire October 13, 2009 debate between Bloomberg and Democrat Bill Thompson here.

3. David Yassky sings Beyonce
2009 Comptroller Debate, Democratic Primary; 9/10/2009
Candidates: David Yassky (D); Melinda Katz (D); John Liu (D); David Weprin (D)

A crowded Democratic primary for Comptroller in 2009 included a lightning round of questions during the September 10 debate. When candidates were asked if they had listened to Beyoncé, all candidates said yes, and Melinda Katz even quietly said, “To the left.” But only David Yassky actually sang, to the amusement of the audience, especially the moderators. Yassky sang the chorus to Beyonce’s 2006 mega-hit, “Irreplaceable.”

Yassky’s singing prowess did not carry him to victory, however, as John Liu won the primary and became Comptroller.

Watch the moment here, and watch the entire September 10, 2009 Democratic Primary Comptroller debate here.

4. Giuliani calls out Henry Hewes for not even being his party’s official candidate
1989 General Mayoral Debate; 11/5/89
Candidates: David Dinkins (D); Rudy Giuliani (R); Henry Hewes (Right to Life)

Before he refused to debate with a third-party candidate present in 1993, Republican mayoral candidate Rudy Giuliani showed his distaste for them in this surreal moment from the second of two general election debates that took place the week before the 1989 election, which Giuliani narrowly lost to Dinkins. Eight minutes into the hour-long debate, Giuliani claimed that Right to Life candidate Henry Hewes didn’t deserve to be there. He then explained Hewes was not even the officially registered candidate of the Right to Life Party, as he pulled out a letter from the Board of Elections confirming that, indeed, Henry Hewes was a registered Republican and had not filed any declaration of his candidacy on the Right to Life ticket.

Watch the November 5, 1989 debate here. The moment is at 7:50.

5. Donald Trump’s influence on New York City
2005 General Mayoral Debate; 10/6/05
Candidates: Fernando Ferrer (D); Thomas V. Ognibene (Conservative)

During the lightning round of this 2005 general mayoral debate, the moderator asked Democrat Fernando Ferrer and Conservative Thomas Ognibene (Mayor Michael Bloomberg did not attend as he was addressing a potential threat in the city), “Is Donald Trump a positive influence on the city?”

At the time, this was a throwaway question about an infamous New York celebrity. Before Twitter, before the presidential run, Trump was a local tabloid legend, real estate baron, and TV personality to most New Yorkers. The candidates agreed in their initial response: “I could care less.”

Listen to the lightning round that included the question here, or watch the entire October 6, 2005 debate here.

6. Scott Stringer goes for Spitzer's jugular
2013 Democratic Primary Comptroller Debate; 8/12/13
Candidates: Eliot Spitzer (D); Scott Stringer (D)

The 2013 Democratic primary for Comptroller was defined by consistent antagonism between the two candidates, then-Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and former Governor Eliot Spitzer.

Five years earlier, Spitzer had resigned while under federal investigation, and during a section of the debate in which the candidates could ask each other a question, Stringer seized. “So Eliot, if you were the chairman of a large company, and you hired a CEO, and they engaged in money laundering, illegal wiring of funds to shell corporations, and if the CEO was under federal investigation - criminal investigation - and that CEO was fired, would you hire that CEO again?”

Listen to highlights from the debate, including this moment, here, or watch the entire August 12, 2013 debate here.

7. Democrats try to tie each other to Mayor Bloomberg
2013 Public Advocate Democratic Primary Run-off Debate; 9/24/13
Candidates: Letitia James (D); Daniel Squadron (D)

The end of Mayor Bloomberg’s third term was a time when many New Yorkers were seeking change in city leadership. Candidates capitalized on this desire, and in few places was this more apparent than the 2013 Public Advocate Democratic primary. Candidates Letitia James and Daniel Squadron -- locked in a run-off for the nomination -- traded the usual barbs about each other’s backgrounds, but they often simply used any kind of tie the other candidate had to Bloomberg as an attack.

James stated that Squadron had stayed silent when Bloomberg’s third term was being debated, while Squadron claimed that it was not right that James had “stood with the mayor over 98 percent of the time.”

Listen to highlights from the debate, including this moment, here, or watch the entire September 24, 2013 debate here.

8. Bloomberg pressed by moderator and opponent about book of jokes he allegedly made
2001 Republican Primary for Mayor; 9/9/01
Candidates: Michael Bloomberg (R); Herman Badillo (R)

During his initial run for mayor, Michael Bloomberg was repeatedly questioned at a primary debate about an article in New York Magazine in which columnist Michael Wolff described a gift given to the future mayor at a company party in 1990. The gift was a booklet of quotations supposedly said by Bloomberg, some of which were blatantly misogynistic and homophobic.

During one of the 2001 Republican primary debates, both moderator Gabe Pressman and rival Herman Badillo pressed Bloomberg on whether or not he said what was written in the booklet. Bloomberg repeatedly claimed he did not remember saying any of those things, and in the end, he attempted to move the debate along, claiming, “It was in a book written by somebody else. Let's go on to the issues. Come on…”

Read a transcript of debate highlights, including this moment, here, or watch the entire September 9, 2001 debate here.

9. Candidates debate prevalence of racial profiling in NYPD
2001 Mayoral General Election Debate; 11/1/2001
Candidates: Michael Bloomberg (R); Mark Green (D) 

Michael Bloomberg’s implementation of widespread “stop-and-frisk,” a police tactic criticized for disproportionately targeting African-American and Hispanic men, is perhaps the least popular aspect of his legacy. During a 2001 general election mayoral debate between first-time candidate Bloomberg and Democrat Mark Green, one exchange reveals Bloomberg’s early views on racial profiling in the NYPD. When asked, Bloomberg agreed that racial profiling must be combated because “the perception is widespread.”

Watch the moment here, or watch the entire November 1, 2001 debate here.

10. Bill de Blasio targeted as Democratic frontrunner
2013 Democratic Primary Debates; 8/14/13 & 8/21/2013
Candidates: 8/14/13: Christine Quinn (D); Bill de Blasio (D); John Liu (D); Anthony Weiner (D); Bill Thompson (D)
Candidates 8/21/13: Sal Albanese (D), Christine Quinn (D); Bill de Blasio (D); John Liu (D); Anthony Weiner (D); Bill Thompson (D), Erik Salgado (D)

As the fast-moving 2013 Democratic primary moved to within a month of a vote, Bill de Blasio made a surprise leap into the lead of the polls. Just after a new poll showed de Blasio in the lead for the first time, the leading Democratic candidates showed for a debate, and the other candidates clearly recognized the new order by attacking de Blasio more than they previously had, when it appeared that Christine Quinn, Anthony Weiner and Bill Thompson were all likelier nominees.

Quinn said de Blasio “was in the Council for eight years, he didn’t pass one bill to create a good paying job, not one bill to help our schools, not one bill to keep our city safe. That’s not a record of results,” according to The Daily News.

“The only difference between Speaker Quinn and Bill de Blasio is Speaker Quinn has been more successful. They made the same promises to the same people. She got elected speaker and he’s never gotten over it,” Weiner said.

A week later, for the first of two official, Campaign Finance Board-sanctioned primary debates, those same leading Democrats, along with Sal Albanese and Erik Salgado, took the stage in prime-time. De Blasio was again the focus of many attacks. He would go on to win the primary less three weeks later, even securing the 40 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff.

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by Thomas Duda
with reporting by Ben Weiss
@GothamGazette

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10 Great NYC Debate Moments Sun, 20 Aug 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Campaign Finance Board Fines De Blasio, Others for 2013 Campaign Violations http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6673:campaign-finance-board-fines-de-blasio-others-for-2013-campaign-violations http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6673:campaign-finance-board-fines-de-blasio-others-for-2013-campaign-violations bdb 32bj 1

Mayor de Blasio accepts a union endorsement for re-election (photo: Ben Max)


Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2013 campaign is being fined $47,778 by the Campaign Finance Board for ten separate violations, including improper post-election spending. Additionally, the board determined at its Thursday hearing, of the $3,994,496 in public matching funds de Blasio’s 2013 campaign received, it must repay $485.02.

The single largest fine to de Blasio’s campaign, $21,159, is for making impermissible post-election expenditures. The CFB found that de Blasio’s 2013 campaign improperly spent $160,888.45 after the election to 13 vendors; $116,250 of which was spent on Hilltop Public Solutions, the political strategy firm of de Blasio’s campaign manager.

“We strongly disagree with the CFB’s finding,” said Dan Levitan, de Blasio’s campaign spokesperson, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “The CFB’s own rules would prohibit Hilltop from not charging for this campaign wind-down work.”

CFB ruled that the campaign “failed to provide sufficient explanations and documentation” regarding Hilltop’s role and services as a “general consultant” to the Campaign, and thus failed to demonstrate that the post-election expenditures spent on Hilltop were justified. In August 2015, The New York Post had reported on the eyebrow-raising post-election spending to Hilltop.

At the same time de Blasio’s 2013 campaign continued to pay Hilltop after the November 2013 general election, the newly-created Campaign for One New York, a nonprofit advocacy group started by de Blasio and his allies, began to employ the firm as well. Several of the same strategists who ran de Blasio’s campaign ran the Campaign for One New York, which was shut down amid controversy after taking millions of dollars in donations from entities with city business.

Other violations and fines imposed on the de Blasio 2013 campaign by the CFB include accepting over-the-limit contributions ($12,483); accepting contributions from corporations, LLCs, or partnerships ($6,086); failing to demonstrate compliance with intermediary reporting and documentation requirements ($3,200); failing to file or late filing of daily pre-election disclosure statements ($2,087); accepting contributions from unregistered political committees ($1,000); failing to demonstrate that spending was in furtherance of the campaign ($806); failing to report transactions ($407); failing to document transactions ($300); and commingling campaign funds with funds accepted for a different election ($250).

Levitan said the campaign is “pleased that the 2013 campaign audit is now complete,” though they “strongly disagree with many of the CFB’s findings.” De Blasio’s 2017 re-election campaign, which again employs Levitan’s BerlinRosen firm, is already underway, holding fundraisers and even rolling out several endorsements.

The Campaign Finance Board on Thursday also determined that 13 other campaigns involved in the 2013 citywide election cycle committed violations, including City Comptroller Scott Stringer, former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (who lost to de Blasio in the mayoral primary), chair of the City Council Committee on Finance Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

No one from the de Blasio campaign appeared before the board to contest the violations, nor did anyone from the Quinn or Ferreas-Copeland campaigns. Brewer, Stringer, and Council Member Vanessa Gibson did send representatives to contest the board’s findings.

Of the 14 campaigns determined to have committed violations, the board determined that nine campaigns are required to repay public funds -- which are issued to match small-dollar private donations to candidate campaigns.

”Today’s determinations reflect the Board’s commitment to safeguarding the public matching funds,” CFB said in a statement. “The $38.2 million that the Board distributed in 2013 helped ensure cleaner, fairer elections in New York City. Every campaign receives a nonpartisan, independent review, and the results encompass a range from technical errors to serious violations."

Quinn was fined $13,611 for eight violations made in relation to her 2013 mayoral bid, including $5,425 for accepting over-the-limit contributions and $3,200 for failing to demonstrate compliance with intermediary reporting and documentation requirements.

The board fined Stringer a total of $10,514 for seven violations, including failing to report transactions ($3,689); accepting over-the-limit contributions ($3,500); failing to demonstrate compliance with intermediary reporting and documentation requirements ($1,500) accepting contributions from unregistered political committees ($675); accepting contributions from corporations, limited liability companies, or partnerships ($550); failing to document transactions ($400); and failing to file or late filing of daily pre-election disclosure statements ($200).

Laurence Laufer, an attorney representing Stringer in 2013, and Peter Frank, treasurer of Stringer’s 2013 campaign, appeared before the board to contest three penalties (though they did not contest the board’s findings), asserting that the penalties were too high. Bethany Persky, an attorney for the Campaign Finance Board, dismissed all of Laufer’s arguments, noting that the campaign had “ample opportunity” to respond to the board’s requests accordingly, and that, in regard to intermediary policy, “the campaign is essentially asking the board to rewrite guidelines.”

Four City Council members who won their 2013 elections were fined by the board on Thursday, the same day the Council passed about 20 bills to modify the campaign finance system. Also fined were six candidates who failed to get elected in 2013, many of whom appeared before the board Thursday to give explanations for their violations in an attempt to avoid paying hundreds or thousands of dollars in penalties. The CFB did a significant amount of business Thursday to wrap up much of its final work on the 2013 cycle, just before the 2017 cycle kicks into full gear.

Council Member Ferreras-Copeland was fined $5,718 for eight violations made during her 2013 campaign, most of which stems from failing to demonstrate compliance with reporting requirements for disbursements ($2,000) and failing to file or filing late disclosure statements ($1,850)

Council Member Ruben Wills was fined $810 for four violations, and owes $450 in public funds repayment. Former City Council Member Maria Carmen del Arroyo, who resigned in December, 2015, was fined $5,735 for ten violations, and owes a public funds repayment of $3,607.91, which represents the campaign’s final bank balance.

Out of everyone the board fined on Thursday, the steepest penalties were dealt to Council Member Vanessa Gibson, who, despite the pleas of a representative, Stanley Schlein, that the “application of the three time expenditure limit” is “draconian” and “so severe that it is disproportionate to the conduct,” now owes $68,639 in penalties for nine violations, as well as $2,225.68 in public funds repayment. Almost all of that $68,639 in fines comes from a $65,574 penalty for exceeding the expenditure limit.

Additionally, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer was fined $3,036 for four penalties, $2,600 of which was incurred due to a late response to the draft audit report, and owes $405 in public funds repayment.

Thursday’s meeting marks the final one for CFB Chair Rose Gill Hearn, who had previously announced her intent to leave the board. Mayor de Blasio, in consultation with the Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, will nominate a new CFB chair in the new year.

Gill Hearn both praised and criticized the City Council for pushing through two packages of bills that will reform the city’s campaign finance system. While Gill Hearn was pleased to see the Council is finally set to approve a number of proposals previously put forward by the CFB, including a bill to eliminate public matching funds for contributions bundled by people who do business with the city, she expressed disappointment with the fact that the Council has essentially rushed through one package of bills with little time for public review and, according to the board, in need of additional tweaks.

The manner in which the Council and the Campaign Finance Board worked together over a long period of time to “get the details right” for the first package of bills “contrasts sharply with the approach taken for another set of bills the Council also plans to adopt today. These bills were introduced just last month,” Gill Hearn said.

The Council has been criticized for rushing the bills through, and CFB added to that chorus, stating in a press release sent out after the hearing that “the Board continues to believe the remaining bills could have been improved significantly if they were considered on a schedule that allowed more time for deliberation…We believe that some of these bills will have an effect that runs contrary to their stated purpose.”

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by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Campaign Finance Board Fines De Blasio, Others for 2013 Campaign Violations Thu, 15 Dec 2016 05:00:00 +0000
How We Got Here: City Creates New Office of Civil Justice http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5773:how-we-got-here-city-creates-new-office-of-civil-justice http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5773:how-we-got-here-city-creates-new-office-of-civil-justice BdB Levine Gibson

At Tuesday's bill signing (photo: @NYCHRA)


"The Gideon versus Wainwright case paved the way for the right to legal counsel in criminal cases but, sadly, the right to counsel was not available in civil cases when the stakes were also very, very high for those involved. Civil cases affect some of the most important parts of a person's life, the ability to have and keep a home, to keep a family together, to escape from domestic violence, in fact, to be able to stay in this country. So on these areas there is a deep need and my administration is focused in an unprecedented manner on civil legal services including legal assistance to protect tenants and prevent homelessness. This bill is a step towards fixing the imbalance between those who can afford adequate civil counsel and those forced to face life altering legal issues without help of attorney."  -Mayor Bill de Blasio, June 16, 2015

On Tuesday, June 16 Mayor de Blasio signed Intro. 0736 into law, establishing an Office of Civil Justice and creating a new Civil Justice Coordinator position. This office is modeled after the Office of Criminal Justice, with the Office of Civil Justice set to provide coordination around city resources related to civil court proceedings, especially with regard to legal representation for low-income defendants in places like immigration and housing courts.

While defendants in criminal court do have a right to counsel, defendants in civil court do not. In cases of eviction, deportation, and child custody - among others - not having access to legal aid can be detrimental to a person's case. The bill creating the civil justice office was sponsored by Council Member Mark Levine and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and comes as the city has been increasing funding and efforts to ensure that more low-income New Yorkers have access to attorneys in civil matters. The Office of Civil Justice will coordinate efforts, assess needs, and make recommendations.

The following is an abridged history leading up to the signing of the bill:

December 2005: Study of Self-Represented Litigants in New York City Family Court and New York City Housing Court: The Office of the Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives released survey results covering 3,303 litigants appearing without a lawyer in the city’s family and housing courts in 2003. It was found that 83 percent of self-represented defendants reported a household income of under $30,000. Sixty percent of the people surveyed in housing and family court also reported that they felt they could not afford an attorney.

December 7, 2012: The New York Immigrant Representation (NYIR) Study Report Part II:  The NYIR Study was launched by Judge Robert A. Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals and found that “people facing deportation in New York Immigration courts with a lawyer are 500 percent as likely to win their cases as those without representation.” It was also found that “nondetained immigrants with lawyers have successful outcomes 74 percent of the time, those on the other end, without counsel and who were detained, prevailed a mere 3 percent of the time.”

July 19, 2013: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Immigrants Rights Groups announce The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP): The Council announced a one-year pilot program, NYIFUP, “the nation’s first government-funded system of universal representation for immigrants facing deportation.” Immigrants facing deportation have low rates of success when doing so without legal representation, especially given language barriers which often exist. NYIFUP creates a “network of legal counsel for New Yorkers who are detained and at risk of permanent exile.” No universal right to counsel exists, but more coverage is provided by the program, started with $500,000 in funding.

March 26, 2014: Council Member Mark Levine sponsors Intro. 0214: The legislation would require that legal counsel be provided to tenants and homeowners who are facing “eviction, ejectment or foreclosure proceedings” and create a Civil Justice Coordinator position. Civil courts do not guarantee a “right to counsel” as criminal courts do and this bill is an attempt to provide that counsel, to level the playing field for tenants who are unable to seek it on their own. The bill had 39 sponsors as of mid-June 2015, but has not been given a committee hearing.

June 2014: Right to Counsel NYC Coalition is formed: Created to build a citywide movement that works to establish New York City as first in the nation to establish a right to counsel for tenants in housing court. Coalition members include The Community Development Project at The Urban Justice Center, Bronx Defenders, Legal Services-NYC, and others.

June 11, 2014: Council Members and housing activists rally on City Council steps: “By no definition are tenants getting equal justice in housing court, where only 10 percent of tenants have legal representation and 90 percent of landlords have attorneys,” said Council Member Mark Levine at the rally with Public Advocate Letitia James, Council Member Vanessa Gibson, and others.

June 26, 2014: New York City Council includes $4.9 million funding for NYIFUP: “New York City will become the first jurisdiction in the nation to have a functioning public defender system for immigrants facing deportation. In New York City, no family will have a loved one locked up and deported simply because they cannot afford a lawyer,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, chair of the Council’s Committee on Immigration. NYIFUP is able to provide legal coverage to all eligible immigrants in New York immigration court, with over 1,300 immigrants served.

September 23, 2014: Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the Robin Hood Foundation and New York Community Trust announce the Unaccompanied Minor Children Initiative: A $1.9 million public-private partnership that provides funding for legal organizations who are supporting “free legal representation and access to social, mental health, and medical services for more than a thousand unaccompanied minor children appearing on the Juvenile and Surge Dockets at the New York Immigration Court.” Funding is mostly focused on “increasing access to counsel” for children in the most urgent need.

December 16, 2014: The Times features former Justice Critical of Housing Court: “Emily Jane Goodman, a retired justice of the New York State Supreme Court, said Housing Court was her ‘worst’ experience on the bench. “Housing Court is the most unbalanced, unfair and unjust court in our system, and the biggest problem is lack of legal representation,” Ms. Goodman said. “Tenants do not know their rights, are frightened, intimidated, enter agreements they do not understand and cannot possibly fulfill,” she said. “Typically, they may consent to a judgment of eviction and agree to pay a sum of money they have no ability to raise.”” Goodman said in the Times’ “Push to Provide Lawyers in New York City Housing Court Gains Momentum.”

February 11, 2015: Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito introduces “The people’s law firm” in 2015 State of the City: With more than 1.25 million low-income New York City residents without access to legal services, Mark-Viverito proposes “the people’s law firm” or “El Bufete del Pueblo” in the form of an Office of Civil Justice. The OCJ would prepare an “annual survey” to assess the “unmet civil legal services needs among low-income NYC residents”, develop a five-year plan based off of these surveys, make budget recommendations on the funding of civil legal service programs, explore free and low-cost civil legal service programs, and provide outreach and education about the programs.

April 15, 2015: Council Member Levine and Council Speaker Mark-Viverito submit Intro. 0736: The legislation outlines an office in charge “with assessing the need for civil legal services throughout New York City.” The bill will create an Office of Civil Justice and a Coordinator position which will review the budget of agencies with civil justice programs and make recommendations to the Mayor; prepare an annual report for the Mayor and Council of the civil legal service needs of low-income residents and the availability of that service, what those civil legal matters concern and concentrations of these matters by area or populations; ascertain the effectiveness of civil legal service programs; “serve as liaison between providers of low-cost or free legal services” and those residents in need of civil legal services; and also create a five-year plan.

The bill is aimed at helping prevent unnecessary and unjust evictions and deportations, and at ensuring that low-income New Yorkers have the legal representation they need in crucial life-changing situations. The coordinator will be tasked with making sure that already existing low-cost or free legal representation is available to the low-income residents who need it. The office will have an initial budget of $2 million and will be slotted under Steven Banks, commissioner of the Human Resources Administration (HRA), which runs public benefit programs for low-income New Yorkers.

May 26 & 27, 2015: City Council Committee on Courts and Legal Services, then full City Council pass Intro. 0736: The bill was unanimously passed in committee and then through the full City Council the next day. It is sent to the mayor’s desk for signature on June 16, 2015.

At the bill-signing on Tuesday, June 16, Council Member Levine said, "The truth is what's happening in housing court, immigration court, any civil arena today doesn't meet a reasonable standard of justice. It's a place where if you don't have money, you're on your own, you don't have an attorney," but "today we're taking a step forward by putting in place the infrastructure that we need now that we're growing the funding and hope to continue to grow it. The kind of infrastructure that we've had on the criminal side, which for years has had a criminal justice coordinator, we're now catching up on the civil side."

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by Erika Wang, Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

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How We Got Here: City Creates New Office of Civil Justice Tue, 16 Jun 2015 18:58:36 +0000
Cuomo Seizes on Wage Issue as Legislature Sits Paralyzed by Scandal, Partisanship http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5739:cuomo-seizes-on-wage-issue-as-legislature-sits-paralyzed-by-scandal-partisanship http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5739:cuomo-seizes-on-wage-issue-as-legislature-sits-paralyzed-by-scandal-partisanship Cuomo

Gov. Cuomo at a minimum wage rally (Office of the Governor - Kevin P. Coughlin)


"Do we have any members of labor in the house today? I can't hear you!" Gov. Andrew Cuomo shouted to a crowd of union members holding signs touting the "Fight for $15." Cuomo held a large rally in Manhattan's Union Square earlier this month as he announced he had instructed his labor commissioner to empanel a wage board to consider upping the minimum wage for fast food workers.

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Cuomo Seizes on Wage Issue as Legislature Sits Paralyzed by Scandal, Partisanship Tue, 26 May 2015 02:10:07 +0000