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/city-council-speaker 2018-11-19T07:27:55+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Brooklyn City Council Member Setting Early Foundation for Speaker Run 2018-04-12T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-12T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7610-brooklyn-city-council-member-setting-early-foundation-for-speaker-run Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/justin_brannan_nyccouncil.jpg" alt="justin brannan city council" width="600" height="390" /></p> <p>Council Member Justin Brannan (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>City Council Member Justin Brannan is everywhere.</p> <p>He’s at the governor’s mansion <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan/status/965376267775303682" target="_blank" rel="noopener">discussing</a> the state’s efforts to empower women- and minority-owned businesses. He’s meeting with the president of the Building and Construction Trades Council about the city’s construction industry. He’s at the Chinese-American Planning Council’s 53rd anniversary celebration, <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan/status/966828470633484288" target="_blank" rel="noopener">posing</a> for <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan/status/966826842966708224" target="_blank" rel="noopener">photos</a> with Congressional Rep. Grace Meng, state Assembly members Peter Abbate Jr. and Yuh-line Niou, and fellow Council members. He’s talking police-community relations with NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill. He’s <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan/status/958028916710674432" target="_blank" rel="noopener">speaking with</a> the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. He’s at union rallies, nonprofit galas, senior centers, PTA meetings and parades.</p> <p>He’s being interviewed on television and photographed at City Hall, and he’s developing more and more of a social media presence, showcasing both his travels around the city but also his focus on constituent services in his district, praising his colleagues, chronicling his subway struggles, and sharing song lyrics. And, he’s <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan/status/977662531715108864" target="_blank" rel="noopener">campaigning</a> for Congressional Rep. Joe Crowley, the Queens Democratic Party leader with outsized influence in other parts of government.</p> <p>All that in the last two months, part of a frenetic start for a Council Member who has only been on the job since January, though he has been involved in city politics for much longer. And those activities haven’t gone unnoticed as Brannan, a Brooklyn Democrat, is emerging very early on as a potential contender to be the next Speaker of the City Council.</p> <p>The Council Speaker, arguably the second-most powerful elected official in the city, is chosen internally by members every four years, in a process that is less-public facing and more backroom-dealing. In 2021, the next city election year, 36 Council members will be term-limited, portending a sea change in the 51-member legislative body and giving incumbents, who usually sail to reelection, a leg up in the speaker race. Brannan seems to be following the playbook of current Speaker Corey Johnson, who started making moves for the speakership early in his first four-year term.</p> <p>It is, of course, far too early to tell what the field of candidates will look like, which is why Council sources are reluctant to speak openly. But the buzz around the Council threw up the same names over and over. Besides Brannan, other potential contenders -- all of them Democrats -- include Bronx Council Member Rafael Salamanca, Queens Council Members Francisco Moya and Adrienne Adams, Manhattan Council Member Carlina Rivera, and Brooklyn Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel. The list, save for Brannan, who seems to be the most active, is the same as that <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/new-york-city/5-city-council-members-eyeing-2021-speakership.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reported by City &amp; State</a> earlier this year. Some seem to have better odds, given their prominence on the Council and their relationships with the powerful Queens and Bronx Democratic county committees.</p> <p>Brannan represents District 43 in Brooklyn, covering Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Bath Beach. He has a deep well of experience, as a former chief of staff to his predecessor, Council Member Vincent Gentile, and as intergovernmental affairs director at the Department of Education. He founded the Bay Ridge Democrats and served as its president. He’s also been a professional musician.</p> <p>“You can see that he’s been out there, in other Council members’ districts and all over the city, so he might be taking a cue card from Corey Johnson’s playbook,” said a Council source who wished to remain unnamed. The source noted that though it will be an “open field” of candidates in 2021, the names that are popping up early are because of their relationships with county committees. “I think people are trying to get a sense of how to play the game...so it’s early to put money on a particular candidate.”</p> <p>Another source with knowledge of Brannan’s moves noted that he has the advantage of being one of the few members who will be returning to the Council. “The fact that there’s only a handful of members coming back in four years sort of narrows the pool because...unless people would be OK with another two-term speaker, the next speaker is going to be one of the people that’s coming back,” the source said. Brannan, if reelected, would be serving his second and final term, as would the other contenders previously mentioned.</p> <p>The source also noted that Brannan has made relationships over the last few years that will be beneficial down the line. “I think Justin’s always had, whether it was through the Bay Ridge Democrats or whether through campaign work he did, he’s always had those relationships,” the source said. “When he goes to the boroughs, it’s not like he’s introducing himself for the first time.”</p> <p>Those relationships, including with Crowley and labor union leaders, will largely determine how the speaker race shakes out. The other members on the list of contenders have their own strengths and connections as well, and the speaker race often comes down to powerful stakeholders compromising in support of one candidate, taking into account a wide variety of factors.</p> <p>Council Member Salamanca chairs the powerful land use committee and is a product of the Bronx Democratic County Committee. Salamanca’s office did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>Council Members Moya and Adams are closely aligned with the Queens Democratic County Committee and its powerful boss, Rep. Crowley, who played kingmaker in the election of Johnson as speaker, in partnership with others, especially state Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, who heads the Bronx Democrats. Moya has the added bonus of having worked in the Assembly with Crespo.</p> <p>“I’m sure this makes for great debate among all the political junkies out there, but the speakership is more than three years away,” Moya said in a statement. He insisted his focus is on his community, particularly on affordable housing, reduced-price MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers, and protections for workers in the building industry. “There will be a time and place to talk about the speakership but that’s a long ways away,” he said, not denying interest.</p> <p>Stacey Yearwood, a spokesperson for Adams said the Council Member would not comment on being a speaker contender “as it is premature.”</p> <p>None of the six potential candidates denied an interest in being the next speaker of the Council.</p> <p>Council Members Rivera and Ampry-Samuel are viewed as rising stars in the Council and have have both been given prominent committees to lead -- hospitals and public housing, respectively. Rivera also received considerable support from Johnson in her election to the Council; they represent neighboring districts. Rivera declined to comment. Ampry-Samuels said in a statement, “My focus right now are the constituents of the 41st District and the residents of public housing.”</p> <p>There’s no one predictable path to the speakership. “I think it’s hard because there’s been so few speakers that to go back and look historically how a speaker gets made, it’s different every time,” said the second Council source. “There’s the wisdom that Queens and the Bronx never make their own person the speaker, that would mean that Salamanca and Moya wouldn’t be the speaker. But who knows? There’s a lot of dynamics. There’s also the demographic dynamics. If we have a white mayor, chances are Justin’s not gonna be the speaker. If we have a black mayor, maybe there’s a chance there.”</p> <p>In this last speaker’s election, there was vocal indignation that yet another white man was going be elected to a powerful seat in city government -- both Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Comptroller Scott Stringer are white men, Public Advocate Letitia James is a black woman. There were calls for electing a speaker of color, including from black and Latino Council members who were running for the seat themselves. All that could change, as the source noted, if the citywide seats aren’t occupied four years from now by mostly white men.</p> <p>Brannan is coy about his plans, even if they seem transparent to others. “It’s April 2018!,” he said with a jovial laugh, when asked outside City Hall whether he was making an early move for the speakership. “It’s barely four months into my first term and I’m just laser-focused on being a good Council member for my district. Having succeeded a guy that was in office for a long time, I’ve got a lot to prove. So that’s my number one focus.”</p> <p>He added, “It’s fun and flattering to be mentioned in that circle [of speaker potentials]. I think this new crop of my colleagues are all very talented and very smart. To be mentioned with this class is great.”</p> <p>He conceded that maybe another white man may not be the way the Council will look to go and that diverse representation is sorely lacking in the legislative body. “Bottom line is that it’s gotta be someone that’s qualified for the job...I’ve already said in my Council seat, I would love nothing more than to be succeeded by a woman. So those things are important to me too. I’m certainly not blind to those dynamics but it’s just so far away.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/justin_brannan_nyccouncil.jpg" alt="justin brannan city council" width="600" height="390" /></p> <p>Council Member Justin Brannan (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>City Council Member Justin Brannan is everywhere.</p> <p>He’s at the governor’s mansion <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan/status/965376267775303682" target="_blank" rel="noopener">discussing</a> the state’s efforts to empower women- and minority-owned businesses. He’s meeting with the president of the Building and Construction Trades Council about the city’s construction industry. He’s at the Chinese-American Planning Council’s 53rd anniversary celebration, <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan/status/966828470633484288" target="_blank" rel="noopener">posing</a> for <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan/status/966826842966708224" target="_blank" rel="noopener">photos</a> with Congressional Rep. Grace Meng, state Assembly members Peter Abbate Jr. and Yuh-line Niou, and fellow Council members. He’s talking police-community relations with NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill. He’s <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan/status/958028916710674432" target="_blank" rel="noopener">speaking with</a> the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. He’s at union rallies, nonprofit galas, senior centers, PTA meetings and parades.</p> <p>He’s being interviewed on television and photographed at City Hall, and he’s developing more and more of a social media presence, showcasing both his travels around the city but also his focus on constituent services in his district, praising his colleagues, chronicling his subway struggles, and sharing song lyrics. And, he’s <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan/status/977662531715108864" target="_blank" rel="noopener">campaigning</a> for Congressional Rep. Joe Crowley, the Queens Democratic Party leader with outsized influence in other parts of government.</p> <p>All that in the last two months, part of a frenetic start for a Council Member who has only been on the job since January, though he has been involved in city politics for much longer. And those activities haven’t gone unnoticed as Brannan, a Brooklyn Democrat, is emerging very early on as a potential contender to be the next Speaker of the City Council.</p> <p>The Council Speaker, arguably the second-most powerful elected official in the city, is chosen internally by members every four years, in a process that is less-public facing and more backroom-dealing. In 2021, the next city election year, 36 Council members will be term-limited, portending a sea change in the 51-member legislative body and giving incumbents, who usually sail to reelection, a leg up in the speaker race. Brannan seems to be following the playbook of current Speaker Corey Johnson, who started making moves for the speakership early in his first four-year term.</p> <p>It is, of course, far too early to tell what the field of candidates will look like, which is why Council sources are reluctant to speak openly. But the buzz around the Council threw up the same names over and over. Besides Brannan, other potential contenders -- all of them Democrats -- include Bronx Council Member Rafael Salamanca, Queens Council Members Francisco Moya and Adrienne Adams, Manhattan Council Member Carlina Rivera, and Brooklyn Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel. The list, save for Brannan, who seems to be the most active, is the same as that <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/new-york-city/5-city-council-members-eyeing-2021-speakership.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reported by City &amp; State</a> earlier this year. Some seem to have better odds, given their prominence on the Council and their relationships with the powerful Queens and Bronx Democratic county committees.</p> <p>Brannan represents District 43 in Brooklyn, covering Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Bath Beach. He has a deep well of experience, as a former chief of staff to his predecessor, Council Member Vincent Gentile, and as intergovernmental affairs director at the Department of Education. He founded the Bay Ridge Democrats and served as its president. He’s also been a professional musician.</p> <p>“You can see that he’s been out there, in other Council members’ districts and all over the city, so he might be taking a cue card from Corey Johnson’s playbook,” said a Council source who wished to remain unnamed. The source noted that though it will be an “open field” of candidates in 2021, the names that are popping up early are because of their relationships with county committees. “I think people are trying to get a sense of how to play the game...so it’s early to put money on a particular candidate.”</p> <p>Another source with knowledge of Brannan’s moves noted that he has the advantage of being one of the few members who will be returning to the Council. “The fact that there’s only a handful of members coming back in four years sort of narrows the pool because...unless people would be OK with another two-term speaker, the next speaker is going to be one of the people that’s coming back,” the source said. Brannan, if reelected, would be serving his second and final term, as would the other contenders previously mentioned.</p> <p>The source also noted that Brannan has made relationships over the last few years that will be beneficial down the line. “I think Justin’s always had, whether it was through the Bay Ridge Democrats or whether through campaign work he did, he’s always had those relationships,” the source said. “When he goes to the boroughs, it’s not like he’s introducing himself for the first time.”</p> <p>Those relationships, including with Crowley and labor union leaders, will largely determine how the speaker race shakes out. The other members on the list of contenders have their own strengths and connections as well, and the speaker race often comes down to powerful stakeholders compromising in support of one candidate, taking into account a wide variety of factors.</p> <p>Council Member Salamanca chairs the powerful land use committee and is a product of the Bronx Democratic County Committee. Salamanca’s office did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>Council Members Moya and Adams are closely aligned with the Queens Democratic County Committee and its powerful boss, Rep. Crowley, who played kingmaker in the election of Johnson as speaker, in partnership with others, especially state Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, who heads the Bronx Democrats. Moya has the added bonus of having worked in the Assembly with Crespo.</p> <p>“I’m sure this makes for great debate among all the political junkies out there, but the speakership is more than three years away,” Moya said in a statement. He insisted his focus is on his community, particularly on affordable housing, reduced-price MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers, and protections for workers in the building industry. “There will be a time and place to talk about the speakership but that’s a long ways away,” he said, not denying interest.</p> <p>Stacey Yearwood, a spokesperson for Adams said the Council Member would not comment on being a speaker contender “as it is premature.”</p> <p>None of the six potential candidates denied an interest in being the next speaker of the Council.</p> <p>Council Members Rivera and Ampry-Samuel are viewed as rising stars in the Council and have have both been given prominent committees to lead -- hospitals and public housing, respectively. Rivera also received considerable support from Johnson in her election to the Council; they represent neighboring districts. Rivera declined to comment. Ampry-Samuels said in a statement, “My focus right now are the constituents of the 41st District and the residents of public housing.”</p> <p>There’s no one predictable path to the speakership. “I think it’s hard because there’s been so few speakers that to go back and look historically how a speaker gets made, it’s different every time,” said the second Council source. “There’s the wisdom that Queens and the Bronx never make their own person the speaker, that would mean that Salamanca and Moya wouldn’t be the speaker. But who knows? There’s a lot of dynamics. There’s also the demographic dynamics. If we have a white mayor, chances are Justin’s not gonna be the speaker. If we have a black mayor, maybe there’s a chance there.”</p> <p>In this last speaker’s election, there was vocal indignation that yet another white man was going be elected to a powerful seat in city government -- both Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Comptroller Scott Stringer are white men, Public Advocate Letitia James is a black woman. There were calls for electing a speaker of color, including from black and Latino Council members who were running for the seat themselves. All that could change, as the source noted, if the citywide seats aren’t occupied four years from now by mostly white men.</p> <p>Brannan is coy about his plans, even if they seem transparent to others. “It’s April 2018!,” he said with a jovial laugh, when asked outside City Hall whether he was making an early move for the speakership. “It’s barely four months into my first term and I’m just laser-focused on being a good Council member for my district. Having succeeded a guy that was in office for a long time, I’ve got a lot to prove. So that’s my number one focus.”</p> <p>He added, “It’s fun and flattering to be mentioned in that circle [of speaker potentials]. I think this new crop of my colleagues are all very talented and very smart. To be mentioned with this class is great.”</p> <p>He conceded that maybe another white man may not be the way the Council will look to go and that diverse representation is sorely lacking in the legislative body. “Bottom line is that it’s gotta be someone that’s qualified for the job...I’ve already said in my Council seat, I would love nothing more than to be succeeded by a woman. So those things are important to me too. I’m certainly not blind to those dynamics but it’s just so far away.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Corey Johnson’s Record and Promises 2018-01-02T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-02T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7398-corey-johnson-s-record-and-promises Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/corey_oath_of_office.jpg" alt="corey oath of office" width="600" height="415" /></p> <p>Corey Johnson takes the oath of office (photo: The City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>City Council Member Corey Johnson is expected to be elected the next speaker of the New York City Council on Wednesday, January 3, and will take the powerful office with a busy first-term legislative record and having made a slew of public promises during the speaker race that are likely to be watched closely by supporters, detractors, and others.</p> <p>Johnson, a Democrat re-elected for a second term in November, was one of eight Council members running for speaker, but he became the presumptive next speaker when Democratic county party leaders from Queens and the Bronx coalesced around his bid. Johnson was subsequently endorsed by Mayor Bill de Blasio and many other elected officials, while most of the other speaker candidates conceded and congratulated him.</p> <p>Two of the eight candidates, Council Members Robert Cornegy and Jumaane Williams, remained in the race, until Cornegy conceded on December 29. A ninth candidate, Council Member Inez Barron, announced her late-game and long-shot candidacy, however. All three are black and have expressed concern that the next speaker may not be a person of color and that Johnson would be yet another white man in a major city or state position of power.</p> <p>Johnson, who has promised a diverse leadership team and argued his own demographics -- he is openly gay and HIV positive -- indicate he will lead inclusively, represents District 3 in Manhattan, which covers a large swathe of the west side from the Holland Tunnel to Columbus Circle. When he was took office in 2014, he replaced outgoing Council Speaker Christine Quinn who, like Johnson, chaired the Committee on Health in her first term. Johnson will become the second openly gay speaker of the Council, after Quinn, and its first openly HIV-positive one.</p> <p>In his first term, Johnson has seen numerous bills he sponsored passed through the Council. Over four years, he introduced 59 bills, of which 29 have already become law while another 4 were approved by the Council but await action from the mayor as of December 24 (If the mayor fails to sign or veto the bills within 30 days of passage, they automatically become law.)</p> <p>Serving as chair of the health committee, Johnson sponsored many bills related to public health measures, such as to further regulate the sale of tobacco and electronic cigarettes, requiring the city to conduct air quality surveys, and allowing individuals to choose their sex designation on birth certificates, among other bills. He backed measures regulating shift scheduling for retail and fast food workers and to mandate Department of Education reports on student health services, and he supported the successful extension of the city’s rent stabilization laws.</p> <p>Johnson headed a high-profile legislative effort, in conjunction with de Blasio, to reduce the number of smokers in the city by 160,000 by the end of 2020. He sponsored two bills, part of a larger package, that increased the minimum price of a pack of cigarettes or cigars, set a price-floor on tobacco products, and doubled the fee to obtain or renew a tobacco retail dealer license. Johnson has spoken passionately about his own battles with alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. He <a href="https://twitter.com/CoreyinNYC/status/885250167498301440" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has said</a> he has not had an alcoholic drink in more than eight years.</p> <p>While Johnson has had a focus on public health, he has not made particularly clear any other areas of deep interest that may inform a policy agenda as speaker of the Council. Outgoing Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito put a great deal of focus on legislation related to helping immigrants and reforming the criminal justice system.</p> <p>In running for speaker, Johnson has addressed a broad range of issues at numerous community forums and debates, and expressed policy priorities that may form his agenda both for the city and for the Council as an institution. He was one of 33 returning and newly elected Council members to sign on to a rules reform package that aims to improve the Council’s budget and legislative processes while also reforming and enhancing internal culture and workplace conditions. That package could move forward early in the new term at the behest of Johnson, whomever he names to chair the Council’s rules committee, and a majority of members overall.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7378-rules-reform-package-supported-by-33-current-and-incoming-city-council-members" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Rules Reform Package Supported by 33 Current and Incoming City Council Members</a>]</p> <p>Separately, Johnson has discussed ways in which he would run the Council and proposed several policies related to government transparency, elections reform, mass transit, land use, public housing, women’s rights, and other issues. At a series of speaker candidate forums, Johnson made clear his stances on a number of policy issues, sometimes in support, as with congestion pricing, at times in opposition, as with reforming the city Board of Elections.</p> <p>One of the City Council’s principle responsibilities is negotiating the city’s now-$86 billion budget with the mayoral administration. Johnson has insisted that, as speaker, he will only allow a vote on the budget after it has been fully posted online for 48 hours, including the Council’s discretionary funding awards, in an easily searchable format.</p> <p>“When we adopt our budget every single year, we should adopt it in a way so the public can easily search online and see how their taxpayer dollars are being spent by the Council and by the mayor,” he said at a speaker forum hosted by New York Law School, Citizens Union, and other good government groups in November. Johnson has also separately pledged additional support for Council members who employ participatory budgeting for capital projects in their districts. &nbsp;</p> <p>He has also said he would regularly make public his schedules of meetings with lobbyists, as is currently the practice for the mayor’s office, and post his schedule online for people to see. And he supports automatic Council votes on bills that have a supermajority: 34 members in the 51-seat body. “I think these are common-sense, transparency-related reforms that anyone who runs for speaker and hopefully more broadly Council members would be supportive of,” he told the <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/city-councilman-prepares-unveil-reforms-boosting-transparency-article-1.3675894" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York Daily News</a>.</p> <p>At the good government forum, Johnson also expressed support for certain voting and elections reforms. Although he said he is ardently opposed to non-partisan appointments at the scandal-plagued New York City Board of Elections, and does not back BOE reform in general, he came out in favor of noncitizen voting by legal permanent residents (though not undocumented residents of the five boroughs). He also said he supports rank-choice voting, also known as instant runoff voting, which would help prevent costly and labor-intensive runoff elections for the three citywide positions of mayor, public advocate, and comptroller. At a recent Council hearing, a State BOE official urged the city to immediately implement instant runoffs for future elections.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7369-state-board-of-elections-official-says-city-must-move-to-instant-runoff-voting" target="_blank" rel="noopener">State Board of Elections Official Says City Must Move to Instant Runoff Voting</a>]</p> <p>A key challenge and expectation for Johnson will be exhibiting his independence from Mayor de Blasio. Mark-Viverito is a close ally of the mayor and was elected to her post with crucial support from him, at times leading some to question her willingness to advance legislation that he opposed. Johnson, however, is viewed as someone who is likely to take a stronger stand, apparently one of the reasons that the Queens and Bronx county leaders decided to back him, after they were bested in selecting the speaker last time around by a coalition including the Council’s progressive caucus, of which Johnson is a member.</p> <p>While Johnson is almost certain to take more oppositional stances to de Blasio in the new term, they are largely ideological allies, and have worked closely together on a number of initiatives, like the anti-smoking bills. Johnson has also raised money and campaigned on behalf of de Blasio reelection bid.</p> <p>One key area where Johnson’s independence might be put to the test is on congestion pricing, a concept that de Blasio has insisted is “regressive” and would hurt outer borough commuters. Johnson instead supports a congestion pricing proposal that has been put forward by Move New York, a transit advocacy coalition, which would apply tolls to the East River bridges while reducing tolls elsewhere, along with variable pricing based on peak traffic hours. Revenue raised would largely go toward the MTA, but also benefit road and bridge repairs.</p> <p>“I believe we should take the money that would be generated from congestion pricing, put it into a rapid bus service for the outer boroughs, invest in the underfunded capital plan for the MTA and continue to ensure that our mass transit system actually is a world class transit system,” Johnson said at a Crain’s New York Business breakfast forum in November. At the same event, Johnson also came out in favor of a new citywide waste removal plan -- “I think a zoned plan makes sense” -- and supported legislation to regulate commercial leases to help small business owners have a better chance at affording their rent. Separately, he has said the city should increase its subsidy to the state-controlled MTA, a position likely to be at odds with the mayor, who has repeatedly feuded with Governor Andrew Cuomo over MTA capital and operational funding.</p> <p>Another issue where Johnson breaks from de Blasio is on funding half-priced MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers, commonly known as the Fair Fares proposal that was crafted by the Community Service Society of New York and Riders Alliance. Johnson believes the city should fund Fair Fares through congestion pricing, while de Blasio has proposed a tax on high-income New Yorkers to accomplish the same goal while additionally funding mass transit.</p> <p>What wasn’t lost to any observer in this speaker race was that all eight original candidates were men, following three consecutive terms of a female speaker (two for Quinn, one for Mark-Viverito). Issues related to women’s rights and opportunities and diverse representation in city government were especially prominent in several speaker forums. Johnson issued numerous pronouncements for which advocates and watchers both within government and outside of it will hold him accountable. At a December 1 <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/inside-city-hall/2017/12/02/road-to-city-hall--city-council-speaker-debate" target="_blank" rel="noopener">debate on NY1</a>, he committed to supporting race and gender audits of city agencies. “The city workforce needs to be representative of the city of New York,” he said. “I would do that as the speaker of the Council.”</p> <p>Johnson is also said to have agreed to proposals from the Council’s women’s caucus, which did interviews with the eight male candidates and asked them to commit to funding a full-time staff position for the caucus, and to ensure gender balance in their leadership team and top committee chair positions.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7324-women-s-caucus-secures-commitments-from-city-council-speaker-candidates" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Women’s Caucus Secures Commitments from Council Speaker Candidates</a>]</p> <p>At a forum hosted by a coalition of advocates for women’s rights and LGBTQ and non-gender conforming New Yorkers, Johnson promised that a majority of his leadership team would comprise women and people of color and that more than half of his staff would be women and LGBTQ people. He said he would continue to support Mark-Viverito’s Young Women’s Initiative, which has a particular focus on young women of color and young cis and trans girls. Besides reiterating his support for women’s reproductive rights and committing to strong funding for Planned Parenthood, Johnson also said he would work with the host coalition on “<a href="https://avp.org/solutions-struggle-survival-tgnc-policy-brief/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Solutions out of Struggle and Survival</a>,” a slew of much-needed policies identified by trans and gender non-conforming advocates. He also spoke of implementing a less-punitive model of discipline at city schools, where current practices disproportionately affect students of colors.</p> <p>Additionally, Johnson recently <a href="https://www.villagevoice.com/2018/01/02/speaker-front-runner-corey-johnson-seeks-seismic-impact/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told The Village Voice</a> that he thinks the city may need to again expand its police form to continue its citywide implementation of neighborhood policing. The Council pushed for and won an expansion of the NYPD by about 1,300 officers under Mark-Viverito, with the argument that the added person-power is necessary to have more cops walking the beat and positively interacting with New Yorkers.</p> <p>Johnson is expected to be voted in as speaker at the first meeting of the full class of the new Council, on Wednesday, Jan. 3 at noon. He will then be able to name his leadership team of majority leader and deputy leaders, as well as the chairs of each of the Council’s more than 40 issue committees.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Grace Dixon contributed to this article.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/corey_oath_of_office.jpg" alt="corey oath of office" width="600" height="415" /></p> <p>Corey Johnson takes the oath of office (photo: The City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>City Council Member Corey Johnson is expected to be elected the next speaker of the New York City Council on Wednesday, January 3, and will take the powerful office with a busy first-term legislative record and having made a slew of public promises during the speaker race that are likely to be watched closely by supporters, detractors, and others.</p> <p>Johnson, a Democrat re-elected for a second term in November, was one of eight Council members running for speaker, but he became the presumptive next speaker when Democratic county party leaders from Queens and the Bronx coalesced around his bid. Johnson was subsequently endorsed by Mayor Bill de Blasio and many other elected officials, while most of the other speaker candidates conceded and congratulated him.</p> <p>Two of the eight candidates, Council Members Robert Cornegy and Jumaane Williams, remained in the race, until Cornegy conceded on December 29. A ninth candidate, Council Member Inez Barron, announced her late-game and long-shot candidacy, however. All three are black and have expressed concern that the next speaker may not be a person of color and that Johnson would be yet another white man in a major city or state position of power.</p> <p>Johnson, who has promised a diverse leadership team and argued his own demographics -- he is openly gay and HIV positive -- indicate he will lead inclusively, represents District 3 in Manhattan, which covers a large swathe of the west side from the Holland Tunnel to Columbus Circle. When he was took office in 2014, he replaced outgoing Council Speaker Christine Quinn who, like Johnson, chaired the Committee on Health in her first term. Johnson will become the second openly gay speaker of the Council, after Quinn, and its first openly HIV-positive one.</p> <p>In his first term, Johnson has seen numerous bills he sponsored passed through the Council. Over four years, he introduced 59 bills, of which 29 have already become law while another 4 were approved by the Council but await action from the mayor as of December 24 (If the mayor fails to sign or veto the bills within 30 days of passage, they automatically become law.)</p> <p>Serving as chair of the health committee, Johnson sponsored many bills related to public health measures, such as to further regulate the sale of tobacco and electronic cigarettes, requiring the city to conduct air quality surveys, and allowing individuals to choose their sex designation on birth certificates, among other bills. He backed measures regulating shift scheduling for retail and fast food workers and to mandate Department of Education reports on student health services, and he supported the successful extension of the city’s rent stabilization laws.</p> <p>Johnson headed a high-profile legislative effort, in conjunction with de Blasio, to reduce the number of smokers in the city by 160,000 by the end of 2020. He sponsored two bills, part of a larger package, that increased the minimum price of a pack of cigarettes or cigars, set a price-floor on tobacco products, and doubled the fee to obtain or renew a tobacco retail dealer license. Johnson has spoken passionately about his own battles with alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. He <a href="https://twitter.com/CoreyinNYC/status/885250167498301440" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has said</a> he has not had an alcoholic drink in more than eight years.</p> <p>While Johnson has had a focus on public health, he has not made particularly clear any other areas of deep interest that may inform a policy agenda as speaker of the Council. Outgoing Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito put a great deal of focus on legislation related to helping immigrants and reforming the criminal justice system.</p> <p>In running for speaker, Johnson has addressed a broad range of issues at numerous community forums and debates, and expressed policy priorities that may form his agenda both for the city and for the Council as an institution. He was one of 33 returning and newly elected Council members to sign on to a rules reform package that aims to improve the Council’s budget and legislative processes while also reforming and enhancing internal culture and workplace conditions. That package could move forward early in the new term at the behest of Johnson, whomever he names to chair the Council’s rules committee, and a majority of members overall.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7378-rules-reform-package-supported-by-33-current-and-incoming-city-council-members" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Rules Reform Package Supported by 33 Current and Incoming City Council Members</a>]</p> <p>Separately, Johnson has discussed ways in which he would run the Council and proposed several policies related to government transparency, elections reform, mass transit, land use, public housing, women’s rights, and other issues. At a series of speaker candidate forums, Johnson made clear his stances on a number of policy issues, sometimes in support, as with congestion pricing, at times in opposition, as with reforming the city Board of Elections.</p> <p>One of the City Council’s principle responsibilities is negotiating the city’s now-$86 billion budget with the mayoral administration. Johnson has insisted that, as speaker, he will only allow a vote on the budget after it has been fully posted online for 48 hours, including the Council’s discretionary funding awards, in an easily searchable format.</p> <p>“When we adopt our budget every single year, we should adopt it in a way so the public can easily search online and see how their taxpayer dollars are being spent by the Council and by the mayor,” he said at a speaker forum hosted by New York Law School, Citizens Union, and other good government groups in November. Johnson has also separately pledged additional support for Council members who employ participatory budgeting for capital projects in their districts. &nbsp;</p> <p>He has also said he would regularly make public his schedules of meetings with lobbyists, as is currently the practice for the mayor’s office, and post his schedule online for people to see. And he supports automatic Council votes on bills that have a supermajority: 34 members in the 51-seat body. “I think these are common-sense, transparency-related reforms that anyone who runs for speaker and hopefully more broadly Council members would be supportive of,” he told the <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/city-councilman-prepares-unveil-reforms-boosting-transparency-article-1.3675894" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York Daily News</a>.</p> <p>At the good government forum, Johnson also expressed support for certain voting and elections reforms. Although he said he is ardently opposed to non-partisan appointments at the scandal-plagued New York City Board of Elections, and does not back BOE reform in general, he came out in favor of noncitizen voting by legal permanent residents (though not undocumented residents of the five boroughs). He also said he supports rank-choice voting, also known as instant runoff voting, which would help prevent costly and labor-intensive runoff elections for the three citywide positions of mayor, public advocate, and comptroller. At a recent Council hearing, a State BOE official urged the city to immediately implement instant runoffs for future elections.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7369-state-board-of-elections-official-says-city-must-move-to-instant-runoff-voting" target="_blank" rel="noopener">State Board of Elections Official Says City Must Move to Instant Runoff Voting</a>]</p> <p>A key challenge and expectation for Johnson will be exhibiting his independence from Mayor de Blasio. Mark-Viverito is a close ally of the mayor and was elected to her post with crucial support from him, at times leading some to question her willingness to advance legislation that he opposed. Johnson, however, is viewed as someone who is likely to take a stronger stand, apparently one of the reasons that the Queens and Bronx county leaders decided to back him, after they were bested in selecting the speaker last time around by a coalition including the Council’s progressive caucus, of which Johnson is a member.</p> <p>While Johnson is almost certain to take more oppositional stances to de Blasio in the new term, they are largely ideological allies, and have worked closely together on a number of initiatives, like the anti-smoking bills. Johnson has also raised money and campaigned on behalf of de Blasio reelection bid.</p> <p>One key area where Johnson’s independence might be put to the test is on congestion pricing, a concept that de Blasio has insisted is “regressive” and would hurt outer borough commuters. Johnson instead supports a congestion pricing proposal that has been put forward by Move New York, a transit advocacy coalition, which would apply tolls to the East River bridges while reducing tolls elsewhere, along with variable pricing based on peak traffic hours. Revenue raised would largely go toward the MTA, but also benefit road and bridge repairs.</p> <p>“I believe we should take the money that would be generated from congestion pricing, put it into a rapid bus service for the outer boroughs, invest in the underfunded capital plan for the MTA and continue to ensure that our mass transit system actually is a world class transit system,” Johnson said at a Crain’s New York Business breakfast forum in November. At the same event, Johnson also came out in favor of a new citywide waste removal plan -- “I think a zoned plan makes sense” -- and supported legislation to regulate commercial leases to help small business owners have a better chance at affording their rent. Separately, he has said the city should increase its subsidy to the state-controlled MTA, a position likely to be at odds with the mayor, who has repeatedly feuded with Governor Andrew Cuomo over MTA capital and operational funding.</p> <p>Another issue where Johnson breaks from de Blasio is on funding half-priced MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers, commonly known as the Fair Fares proposal that was crafted by the Community Service Society of New York and Riders Alliance. Johnson believes the city should fund Fair Fares through congestion pricing, while de Blasio has proposed a tax on high-income New Yorkers to accomplish the same goal while additionally funding mass transit.</p> <p>What wasn’t lost to any observer in this speaker race was that all eight original candidates were men, following three consecutive terms of a female speaker (two for Quinn, one for Mark-Viverito). Issues related to women’s rights and opportunities and diverse representation in city government were especially prominent in several speaker forums. Johnson issued numerous pronouncements for which advocates and watchers both within government and outside of it will hold him accountable. At a December 1 <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/inside-city-hall/2017/12/02/road-to-city-hall--city-council-speaker-debate" target="_blank" rel="noopener">debate on NY1</a>, he committed to supporting race and gender audits of city agencies. “The city workforce needs to be representative of the city of New York,” he said. “I would do that as the speaker of the Council.”</p> <p>Johnson is also said to have agreed to proposals from the Council’s women’s caucus, which did interviews with the eight male candidates and asked them to commit to funding a full-time staff position for the caucus, and to ensure gender balance in their leadership team and top committee chair positions.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7324-women-s-caucus-secures-commitments-from-city-council-speaker-candidates" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Women’s Caucus Secures Commitments from Council Speaker Candidates</a>]</p> <p>At a forum hosted by a coalition of advocates for women’s rights and LGBTQ and non-gender conforming New Yorkers, Johnson promised that a majority of his leadership team would comprise women and people of color and that more than half of his staff would be women and LGBTQ people. He said he would continue to support Mark-Viverito’s Young Women’s Initiative, which has a particular focus on young women of color and young cis and trans girls. Besides reiterating his support for women’s reproductive rights and committing to strong funding for Planned Parenthood, Johnson also said he would work with the host coalition on “<a href="https://avp.org/solutions-struggle-survival-tgnc-policy-brief/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Solutions out of Struggle and Survival</a>,” a slew of much-needed policies identified by trans and gender non-conforming advocates. He also spoke of implementing a less-punitive model of discipline at city schools, where current practices disproportionately affect students of colors.</p> <p>Additionally, Johnson recently <a href="https://www.villagevoice.com/2018/01/02/speaker-front-runner-corey-johnson-seeks-seismic-impact/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told The Village Voice</a> that he thinks the city may need to again expand its police form to continue its citywide implementation of neighborhood policing. The Council pushed for and won an expansion of the NYPD by about 1,300 officers under Mark-Viverito, with the argument that the added person-power is necessary to have more cops walking the beat and positively interacting with New Yorkers.</p> <p>Johnson is expected to be voted in as speaker at the first meeting of the full class of the new Council, on Wednesday, Jan. 3 at noon. He will then be able to name his leadership team of majority leader and deputy leaders, as well as the chairs of each of the Council’s more than 40 issue committees.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Grace Dixon contributed to this article.</p>
Max & Murphy Podcast: City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito 2017-12-20T05:00:00+00:00 2017-12-20T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7383-max-murphy-podcast-city-council-speaker-melissa-mark-viverito Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>December 20, 2017 - Max &amp; Murphy: City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (photo by William Alatriste/City Council)<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/podcast/melissa-mark-viverito-alatriste-podium277.jpg" alt="melissa mark viverito alatriste podium277" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Melissa Mark-Viverito, the City Council Speaker for about 10 more days, joined the podcast to discuss her tenure, how she has approached leading the city's legislative body, and what she hopes the next speaker will do. She answered questions from Max, Murphy, and Gotham Gazette's Samar Khurshid about her approach to balancing work with advocates, negotiating with the mayoral administration, leading 50 other Council members, and moving a progressive agenda. Mark-Viverito explains what she sees as her legacy and jokes that she is relieved she didn't really have the option to run for mayor this year, given her closeness with Mayor de Blasio and how past speakers have faired in their mayoral pursuits.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@jarrettmurphy</a>&nbsp;and <a href="https://twitter.com/samarkhurshid" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@samarkhurshid</a> and guest <a href="https://twitter.com/MMViverito" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MMViverito</a>. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/372270125&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>December 20, 2017 - Max &amp; Murphy: City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (photo by William Alatriste/City Council)<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/podcast/melissa-mark-viverito-alatriste-podium277.jpg" alt="melissa mark viverito alatriste podium277" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Melissa Mark-Viverito, the City Council Speaker for about 10 more days, joined the podcast to discuss her tenure, how she has approached leading the city's legislative body, and what she hopes the next speaker will do. She answered questions from Max, Murphy, and Gotham Gazette's Samar Khurshid about her approach to balancing work with advocates, negotiating with the mayoral administration, leading 50 other Council members, and moving a progressive agenda. Mark-Viverito explains what she sees as her legacy and jokes that she is relieved she didn't really have the option to run for mayor this year, given her closeness with Mayor de Blasio and how past speakers have faired in their mayoral pursuits.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@jarrettmurphy</a>&nbsp;and <a href="https://twitter.com/samarkhurshid" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@samarkhurshid</a> and guest <a href="https://twitter.com/MMViverito" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MMViverito</a>. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/372270125&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Rules Reform Package Supported by 33 Current and Incoming City Council Members 2017-12-19T05:00:00+00:00 2017-12-19T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7378-rules-reform-package-supported-by-33-current-and-incoming-city-council-members Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/27078525624_90910e7fa8_z.jpg" alt="27078525624 90910e7fa8 z" width="640" height="428" /></p> <p>City Council chambers (photo: Sofie Hecht/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>A majority of the incoming class of the New York City Council, including newly elected and returning members, has signed on to a newly-released package of internal rules reforms for the next four-year session, which begins in January. The agenda is intended to improve the Council’s budgeting and legislative drafting processes, strengthen the role of committees, bolster internal budgets, and enhance workplace conditions for Council staff, among other measures.</p> <p>Of the 51-member legislative body, 33 members have expressed support for the reforms, which would have to be first heard through the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections before being incorporated into a rules resolution to be adopted by the full Council, which will elect a new speaker at its first meeting, on January 3. The members, in a <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/14EOSWsaqbtukzxDJLYccEjkcEcoOVvJx/view" target="_blank" rel="noopener">draft document</a> released Tuesday, called on the next speaker to support the reforms and ensure their passage by March, and not later than June.</p> <p>Seven of the eight speaker candidates back the proposals, including Council Members Robert Cornegy, Mark Levine, Corey Johnson, Jumaane Williams, Ydanis Rodriguez, Jimmy Van Bramer, and Donovan Richards. Council Member Ritchie Torres was the only speaker candidate not to signal support. “The [Council Member] is still considering and deliberating each proposed reform, and their potential impact, before making a decision to sign on,” explained Raymond Rodriguez, a spokesperson for Torres, in a text message.</p> <p>The proposals included in the package deal broadly with the Council internal culture and processes, seeking to further empower members and provide more transparency and representation in internal decision making. While they are inwardly focused, the reforms could have significant impact on how the Council operates and the work it does on behalf of New Yorkers.</p> <p>Although the current Council instituted new rules in 2014 that created an independent bill drafting unit for members, legislation continues to be delayed in the drafting process with “first-in-time” bill requests delaying subsequent ones. It is a particularly frustrating issue for members that bills often get stuck in the "legislative services blackhole," said Council Member Brad Lander, chair of the rules committee, insisting it was not meant that way by design. "Things have evolved over time in a way that has become problematic," he said.&nbsp;The new proposals call for bolstering drafting capacity, setting new rules for drafting requests by prohibiting indefinite delays and creating formalized rules for “first-in-time” requests.&nbsp;</p> <p>The reforms also propose seeking more input from members on the Council’s policy priorities and for the speaker’s annual State of the City address, which current and outgoing Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has often used as an avenue to announce sweeping policy proposals.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Council’s Committee on Oversight and Investigations has been called to action over the last four years to scrutinize Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration and for high-profile failures of city agencies such as the Administration for Children Services and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. But, the committee did not exercise its subpoena power in any of those cases. The new proposals call for strengthening the oversight committee “with dedicated investigative staff and a willingness to use the Council’s subpoena power when necessary,” to conduct more regular oversight of city agencies.</p> <p>The proposals also emphasize improvements in appointment of members to the 40-plus committees and subcommittees, and reforming how the Council’s committees function, including giving committee chairs more discretion in hiring committee staff.</p> <p>The scheduling of committee hearings would also be reformed to ensure more regularly scheduled hearings, adequate disability and language access, and automatically triggering a hearing for a bill with strong support. They would also require committees to publish summaries of testimony from hearings, including the promises made by the administration and requests made by Council members.</p> <p>"Over the past term, we have made the Council a dramatically more accountable, fair, and democratic body by bringing fairness to discretionary funding, eliminating lulus and outside income, expanding participatory budgeting, and significantly increasing transparency,” Lander said, in a statement accompanying the release. “The new proposals will take us even further.”</p> <p>The package also deals with the Council’s internal budget, and the process by which members negotiate the city’s now-$86 billion budget with the administration. It calls for expanded Council support for participatory budgeting and community engagement, and increased capital funding given to each member for their districts. It also exhorts the next speaker to ensure that the Council’s budget negotiating team is fully representative of the Council’s composition, with borough and caucus representation and a few rotating seats to allow members to experience the process. “Council Members who chair committees that oversee 10% or more of the budget should automatically be on BNT,” the document states. &nbsp;</p> <p>The 33 council members also appeal for an increase in the Council’s budget, bringing it to the same level as the Comptroller’s office, offering salaries to staff in parity with similar positions at city agencies and training and educational scholarships for staff.</p> <p>The package also proposes reinforcing the prominent and powerful land use division, which is tasked with evaluating and approving land use applications across the city. The reforms seek to provide urban planners and attorneys to assist Council members navigating related issues and also propose allowing individual members and groups on the Council to sponsor land use applications themselves.</p> <p>Finally, the reforms also advance quality-of-life improvements at City Hall, including sliding scale child care for members and improvements in air and noise quality. A minor proposal also calls for filling gaps in cell-phone and wireless internet service.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated with additional comment from Council Member Brad Lander.&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/27078525624_90910e7fa8_z.jpg" alt="27078525624 90910e7fa8 z" width="640" height="428" /></p> <p>City Council chambers (photo: Sofie Hecht/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>A majority of the incoming class of the New York City Council, including newly elected and returning members, has signed on to a newly-released package of internal rules reforms for the next four-year session, which begins in January. The agenda is intended to improve the Council’s budgeting and legislative drafting processes, strengthen the role of committees, bolster internal budgets, and enhance workplace conditions for Council staff, among other measures.</p> <p>Of the 51-member legislative body, 33 members have expressed support for the reforms, which would have to be first heard through the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections before being incorporated into a rules resolution to be adopted by the full Council, which will elect a new speaker at its first meeting, on January 3. The members, in a <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/14EOSWsaqbtukzxDJLYccEjkcEcoOVvJx/view" target="_blank" rel="noopener">draft document</a> released Tuesday, called on the next speaker to support the reforms and ensure their passage by March, and not later than June.</p> <p>Seven of the eight speaker candidates back the proposals, including Council Members Robert Cornegy, Mark Levine, Corey Johnson, Jumaane Williams, Ydanis Rodriguez, Jimmy Van Bramer, and Donovan Richards. Council Member Ritchie Torres was the only speaker candidate not to signal support. “The [Council Member] is still considering and deliberating each proposed reform, and their potential impact, before making a decision to sign on,” explained Raymond Rodriguez, a spokesperson for Torres, in a text message.</p> <p>The proposals included in the package deal broadly with the Council internal culture and processes, seeking to further empower members and provide more transparency and representation in internal decision making. While they are inwardly focused, the reforms could have significant impact on how the Council operates and the work it does on behalf of New Yorkers.</p> <p>Although the current Council instituted new rules in 2014 that created an independent bill drafting unit for members, legislation continues to be delayed in the drafting process with “first-in-time” bill requests delaying subsequent ones. It is a particularly frustrating issue for members that bills often get stuck in the "legislative services blackhole," said Council Member Brad Lander, chair of the rules committee, insisting it was not meant that way by design. "Things have evolved over time in a way that has become problematic," he said.&nbsp;The new proposals call for bolstering drafting capacity, setting new rules for drafting requests by prohibiting indefinite delays and creating formalized rules for “first-in-time” requests.&nbsp;</p> <p>The reforms also propose seeking more input from members on the Council’s policy priorities and for the speaker’s annual State of the City address, which current and outgoing Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has often used as an avenue to announce sweeping policy proposals.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Council’s Committee on Oversight and Investigations has been called to action over the last four years to scrutinize Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration and for high-profile failures of city agencies such as the Administration for Children Services and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. But, the committee did not exercise its subpoena power in any of those cases. The new proposals call for strengthening the oversight committee “with dedicated investigative staff and a willingness to use the Council’s subpoena power when necessary,” to conduct more regular oversight of city agencies.</p> <p>The proposals also emphasize improvements in appointment of members to the 40-plus committees and subcommittees, and reforming how the Council’s committees function, including giving committee chairs more discretion in hiring committee staff.</p> <p>The scheduling of committee hearings would also be reformed to ensure more regularly scheduled hearings, adequate disability and language access, and automatically triggering a hearing for a bill with strong support. They would also require committees to publish summaries of testimony from hearings, including the promises made by the administration and requests made by Council members.</p> <p>"Over the past term, we have made the Council a dramatically more accountable, fair, and democratic body by bringing fairness to discretionary funding, eliminating lulus and outside income, expanding participatory budgeting, and significantly increasing transparency,” Lander said, in a statement accompanying the release. “The new proposals will take us even further.”</p> <p>The package also deals with the Council’s internal budget, and the process by which members negotiate the city’s now-$86 billion budget with the administration. It calls for expanded Council support for participatory budgeting and community engagement, and increased capital funding given to each member for their districts. It also exhorts the next speaker to ensure that the Council’s budget negotiating team is fully representative of the Council’s composition, with borough and caucus representation and a few rotating seats to allow members to experience the process. “Council Members who chair committees that oversee 10% or more of the budget should automatically be on BNT,” the document states. &nbsp;</p> <p>The 33 council members also appeal for an increase in the Council’s budget, bringing it to the same level as the Comptroller’s office, offering salaries to staff in parity with similar positions at city agencies and training and educational scholarships for staff.</p> <p>The package also proposes reinforcing the prominent and powerful land use division, which is tasked with evaluating and approving land use applications across the city. The reforms seek to provide urban planners and attorneys to assist Council members navigating related issues and also propose allowing individual members and groups on the Council to sponsor land use applications themselves.</p> <p>Finally, the reforms also advance quality-of-life improvements at City Hall, including sliding scale child care for members and improvements in air and noise quality. A minor proposal also calls for filling gaps in cell-phone and wireless internet service.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated with additional comment from Council Member Brad Lander.&nbsp;</p>
Max & Murphy Podcast: Eric Koch, former City Council communications director 2017-12-15T05:00:00+00:00 2017-12-15T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7363-max-murphy-podcast-eric-koch-former-city-council-communications-director Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>December 15, 2017 - Max &amp; Murphy: Eric Koch, former top aide to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/podcast/eric-koch-277-b.jpg" alt="eric koch 277 b" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Eric Koch helped Melissa Mark-Viverito become the City Council Speaker, then was her communications director for more than three years. He helped her craft policy and messaging, gave her political guidance, booked her media appearances, drafted her major speeches, and more. Koch has been a fierce defender of Mark-Viverito and is proud of her legacy as she wraps up her four years at the top of the city's legislative body. Earlier this year, Koch left city government to join Precision Strategies, a consultancy. He joined Max &amp; Murphy to discuss his work, Mark-Viverito's tenure, the ongoing race to replace her, and more.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@jarrettmurphy</a>&nbsp;and guest <a href="https://twitter.com/EricDKoch" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@EricDKoch</a>. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/369956462&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>December 15, 2017 - Max &amp; Murphy: Eric Koch, former top aide to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/podcast/eric-koch-277-b.jpg" alt="eric koch 277 b" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Eric Koch helped Melissa Mark-Viverito become the City Council Speaker, then was her communications director for more than three years. He helped her craft policy and messaging, gave her political guidance, booked her media appearances, drafted her major speeches, and more. Koch has been a fierce defender of Mark-Viverito and is proud of her legacy as she wraps up her four years at the top of the city's legislative body. Earlier this year, Koch left city government to join Precision Strategies, a consultancy. He joined Max &amp; Murphy to discuss his work, Mark-Viverito's tenure, the ongoing race to replace her, and more.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@jarrettmurphy</a>&nbsp;and guest <a href="https://twitter.com/EricDKoch" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@EricDKoch</a>. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/369956462&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Council Speaker Candidates Hesitant to Criticize or Reform Party-Controlled Board of Elections 2017-12-13T05:00:00+00:00 2017-12-13T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7368-council-speaker-candidates-hesitant-to-criticize-or-reform-board-of-elections Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/24746697891_2461799422_z.jpg" alt="City Council chambers with members" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>photo by William Alatriste/City Council</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Board of Elections has widely been acknowledged as a dysfunctional agency in need of urgent and sweeping reform, yet the political will for modernizing and professionalizing the board has not existed, at least in part because its current structure benefits those in power.</p> <p>Its system of appointments based on political patronage has long been a source of criticism and its mismanagement of election operations has frustrated voters and been the subject of City Council oversight hearings. But, when asked, the eight men vying to become the next Speaker of the City Council recently said concerns about the BOE are misguided. To varying degrees, they indicated that the board is effective and efficient, that its failings are isolated rather than systematic, and that its current structure should be preserved.</p> <p>At a November 20 speaker candidate forum hosted by Citizens Union, other government reform groups, and New York Law School, seven speaker candidates -- Corey Johnson, Mark Levine, and Ydanis Rodriguez of Manhattan; Donovan Richards and Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens; and Robert Cornegy and Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn -- were present and they mostly took the middle of the road when asked about the steps the City Council, which approves appointments to the BOE, could take to improve the board. The ten BOE commissioners include two -- one Republican and one Democrat -- from each borough.</p> <p>The Council members hedged their bets and praised the BOE, recognizing that any criticism could potentially be read as directed toward the county party organizations that nominate BOE commissioners and place other employees at the board -- the same county organizations whose support each candidate is seeking in order to become speaker. The eighth candidate, Ritchie Torres from the Bronx, would later give Gotham Gazette a similar response.</p> <p>None of the members were in favor of a non-partisan restructuring of the board. “That’s a tough question to ask of speaker candidates,” Williams said, to laughter from his colleagues in acknowledgement of the role of the county party machines in both picking BOE commissioners and picking the Council speaker. Williams defended the board but did acknowledge that patronage has played a role in appointments and that the Council could do more to improve it.</p> <p>“We know that we do have some issues and if we can just do some more thinking through that process and make sure that it’s not as patronage as some folks may think, we can move a lot further,” Williams said, taking the most bold position of the group. “I’m not sure if we push as hard as we can when things go wrong.”</p> <p>Other candidates spoke generally about reforming election and voting laws, a tangential subject that is mostly the prerogative of the state Legislature, and some staunchly argued in favor of the current partisan composition of the board, which they insisted maintains a balance and prevents one-party hegemony in elections.</p> <p>“I do not support non-partisan appointments to the Board of Elections,” said Johnson, one of the three perceived frontrunners in the race, along with Levine and Cornegy. “I believe that the parties play a particular role in ensuring that we make sure that any party that’s dominant at a given time cannot run roughshod over another party. If someone came up with a perfect system of a non-partisan way to handle it, maybe I’d entertain it. I’ve never heard of that system, I don’t know how you take political influence out of politics.”</p> <p>“I couldn’t agree more,” Van Bramer said in response.</p> <p>The city BOE falls under state jurisdiction, like all local boards of election, although the city gets to decide the board’s budget and not much else. The ten board commissioners are nominated by the county party machinery and appointed by the City Council. Representatives from the board testify at City Council hearings, usually during budget season, and receive recommendations and often admonitions from Council members, but are not bound to follow any Council mandates.</p> <p>The board is often seen as favoring the Democratic Party establishment, given that the vast majority of candidates for city offices are Democrats. Candidates not backed by the party machinery are often challenged in board proceedings and kicked off the ballot, though they are often first-time candidates with fewer resources and without experienced election lawyers.</p> <p>On Monday, Torres reiterated what his colleagues had said weeks ago. “I suspect you’re misdiagnosing the problem, the problem is a lack of resources,” he told Gotham Gazette at City Hall. “I suspect it’s a lack of resources more than the manner in which the appointments are made.”</p> <p>He continued, “Does the BOE have inefficiencies? Yes. It’s true of every agency in city government. There’s not a single agency in city government that’s free of inefficiency. So the notion that you would cite inefficiency as an excuse for fundamentally changing the structure of an institution is dubious.” Torres said he would oppose any measures that could weaken the party organizations’ role but conceded that the Council should “study the problem comprehensively” to determine the needs and inefficiencies of the BOE.</p> <p>There have been studies in the past, and each has found persistent issues.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doi/reports/pdf/2013/2013-12-30-BOE_Unit_Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2013 report</a> by the city’s Department of Investigations <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131230/civic-center/nyc-board-of-elections-riddled-with-problems-dept-of-investigation-finds" target="_blank" rel="noopener">found</a> a raft of problems in elections management as well as internal board administration. In 2016, the BOE was responsible for a massive voter purge in Brooklyn during the presidential primaries, resulting in legal action by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. In November, Schneiderman announced a consent decree with the BOE that requires added oversight of the board’s voter list maintenance.</p> <p>Less than a week before this year’s general election on November 7, city Comptroller Scott Stringer also released an <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/audit-report-on-the-board-of-elections-controls-over-the-maintenance-of-voters-records-and-poll-access/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">audit</a> that excoriated the BOE’s dysfunctional election operations. At each step, the BOE has pushed back and has been resistant to change. Even when Mayor Bill de Blasio offered a $20 million incentive for the board to enact major reforms -- recommending the empaneling of a Blue Ribbon Commission to analyze the BOE, more transparency in hiring and improved poll worker training, among other measures -- its commissioners refused.</p> <p>“The Mayor believes that it is critical that we reform the Board of Elections,” said Seth Stein, a mayoral spokesperson, in a statement on Tuesday. “They have demonstrated time and again that they are unable to perform the basic functions of their office, like keeping eligible voters on the rolls. The Mayor looks forward to working with whoever the next Speaker is to encourage the Board to accept the $20 million we have offered in exchange for necessary reforms.”</p> <p>State-level BOE reforms have not progressed in Albany.</p> <p>Those who could take steps or apply pressure to improve the BOE’s abysmal record are the very people invested in the status quo, however, and the City Council, particularly its speaker, falls squarely within that dynamic. Election experts also tend to agree that the Council can pass little meaningful reform, absent legislative action at the state level, and that the bi-partisan BOE composition is appropriate. &nbsp;</p> <p>“There’s very little the City Council can do regarding the structural functioning of the agency,” said Sarah Steiner, an election lawyer. “They could maybe fund the board at a higher level so it could function better.”</p> <p>“In terms of patronage, it’s a bi-partisan agency, not a civil service agency. Unless that’s changed, the county organizations is where the commissioners and employees will come from,” she added. She insisted that most of the board’s employees are, in her experience, qualified and hard-working professionals. “As in any organization, some employees are better than others,” she said. And she warned that a civil service agency running elections could be open to political interference, while the current structure is designed to prevent just that.</p> <p>Steiner praised, in particular, the speed and accuracy with which the BOE provides election night results. But, she said, “they are less good at some of the work regarding candidates. I think the rules structure for candidates needs substantial revision.” Unlike the state BOE, the city agency doesn’t provide a public comment period for rules changes, she said, which often leaves the candidates and their campaigns unaware and unprepared. “The administrative rules are not as easy as the board thinks they are, and they’re largely a minefield,” she added.</p> <p>J.C. Polanco, a Republican who unsuccessfully ran for public advocate this year, has served as &nbsp;president of the city BOE and saw the problems first hand and attempted to fix them. He campaigned this year on a platform that included BOE reform. He’s blunt about the Council speaker candidates and why they wouldn’t speak up against the agency. “Each candidate has to try not to offend the county organizations,” he said. &nbsp;</p> <p>Though Polanco also agrees that the BOE’s partisan structure may be necessary, he believes it can be better. “One of the things to do is to professionalize the board,” he said, “by forcing every candidate to go through the crucible of the [Council’s] investigations process required of commissioners.” He favors merit-based hiring and called for it when he worked at the board.</p> <p>“There are professionals at the board that get a bad rap for the failures of the board to modernize,” he insisted, echoing Steiner. “You can definitely have a professionalized partisan agency.” The board should post positions with qualifications online, he said, and more publicly seek employees. “It would require an enlightenment of the citizenry and the board,” Polanco said. He also speculated about giving third parties representation on the board, proportionate to their vote shares in prior elections.</p> <p>Although the Council members poised to be the next speaker may not agree, the official they are hoping to succeed believes that the BOE needs improvement. Melissa Mark-Viverito, who, in the waning days of her speakership, has waded into <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/local-politics/2017/12/09/squabble-among-manhattan-democrats-pits-council-speaker-against-county-chair" target="_blank" rel="noopener">conflict</a> with the Manhattan Democratic County Committee over a BOE commissioner appointment, said the Council has discussed reforming the BOE for years. Responding to a question from Gotham Gazette, she said, “There’s obviously a lot more work that has to be done. We’ve seen the reports issued by DOI and others with the dysfunction at the Board of Elections and there definitely has to be a lot more professionalizing of the Board of Elections and being able to implement reforms.”</p> <p>While much of the conversation around elections and voting in New York tends to revolve around the state’s antiquated laws, there have been local attempts at such reform. Council Member Ben Kallos has been a particularly vocal critic of the board and, as chair of the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, has pushed legislation that can improve elections and voting access. He has time and again urged representatives of the board to move towards merit-based hiring -- &nbsp;“I favor the civil service over the patronage appointment process,” he told Gotham Gazette on Monday. Kallos’ bill allowing online voter registration recently passed the Council. The mayor is expected to sign it into law, and it is considered valid under guidance from A.G. Schneiderman.</p> <p>We can “find meaningful alternatives that can help fix the BOE at the city level,” Kallos said. “As we learned with online voter registration, with a little bit of creativity and good attorneys, I think a lot can be possible at the local level.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7331-city-council-speaker-candidates-address-power-reform-and-transparency">City Council Speaker Candidates Address Power, Reform and Transparency</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/24746697891_2461799422_z.jpg" alt="City Council chambers with members" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>photo by William Alatriste/City Council</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Board of Elections has widely been acknowledged as a dysfunctional agency in need of urgent and sweeping reform, yet the political will for modernizing and professionalizing the board has not existed, at least in part because its current structure benefits those in power.</p> <p>Its system of appointments based on political patronage has long been a source of criticism and its mismanagement of election operations has frustrated voters and been the subject of City Council oversight hearings. But, when asked, the eight men vying to become the next Speaker of the City Council recently said concerns about the BOE are misguided. To varying degrees, they indicated that the board is effective and efficient, that its failings are isolated rather than systematic, and that its current structure should be preserved.</p> <p>At a November 20 speaker candidate forum hosted by Citizens Union, other government reform groups, and New York Law School, seven speaker candidates -- Corey Johnson, Mark Levine, and Ydanis Rodriguez of Manhattan; Donovan Richards and Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens; and Robert Cornegy and Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn -- were present and they mostly took the middle of the road when asked about the steps the City Council, which approves appointments to the BOE, could take to improve the board. The ten BOE commissioners include two -- one Republican and one Democrat -- from each borough.</p> <p>The Council members hedged their bets and praised the BOE, recognizing that any criticism could potentially be read as directed toward the county party organizations that nominate BOE commissioners and place other employees at the board -- the same county organizations whose support each candidate is seeking in order to become speaker. The eighth candidate, Ritchie Torres from the Bronx, would later give Gotham Gazette a similar response.</p> <p>None of the members were in favor of a non-partisan restructuring of the board. “That’s a tough question to ask of speaker candidates,” Williams said, to laughter from his colleagues in acknowledgement of the role of the county party machines in both picking BOE commissioners and picking the Council speaker. Williams defended the board but did acknowledge that patronage has played a role in appointments and that the Council could do more to improve it.</p> <p>“We know that we do have some issues and if we can just do some more thinking through that process and make sure that it’s not as patronage as some folks may think, we can move a lot further,” Williams said, taking the most bold position of the group. “I’m not sure if we push as hard as we can when things go wrong.”</p> <p>Other candidates spoke generally about reforming election and voting laws, a tangential subject that is mostly the prerogative of the state Legislature, and some staunchly argued in favor of the current partisan composition of the board, which they insisted maintains a balance and prevents one-party hegemony in elections.</p> <p>“I do not support non-partisan appointments to the Board of Elections,” said Johnson, one of the three perceived frontrunners in the race, along with Levine and Cornegy. “I believe that the parties play a particular role in ensuring that we make sure that any party that’s dominant at a given time cannot run roughshod over another party. If someone came up with a perfect system of a non-partisan way to handle it, maybe I’d entertain it. I’ve never heard of that system, I don’t know how you take political influence out of politics.”</p> <p>“I couldn’t agree more,” Van Bramer said in response.</p> <p>The city BOE falls under state jurisdiction, like all local boards of election, although the city gets to decide the board’s budget and not much else. The ten board commissioners are nominated by the county party machinery and appointed by the City Council. Representatives from the board testify at City Council hearings, usually during budget season, and receive recommendations and often admonitions from Council members, but are not bound to follow any Council mandates.</p> <p>The board is often seen as favoring the Democratic Party establishment, given that the vast majority of candidates for city offices are Democrats. Candidates not backed by the party machinery are often challenged in board proceedings and kicked off the ballot, though they are often first-time candidates with fewer resources and without experienced election lawyers.</p> <p>On Monday, Torres reiterated what his colleagues had said weeks ago. “I suspect you’re misdiagnosing the problem, the problem is a lack of resources,” he told Gotham Gazette at City Hall. “I suspect it’s a lack of resources more than the manner in which the appointments are made.”</p> <p>He continued, “Does the BOE have inefficiencies? Yes. It’s true of every agency in city government. There’s not a single agency in city government that’s free of inefficiency. So the notion that you would cite inefficiency as an excuse for fundamentally changing the structure of an institution is dubious.” Torres said he would oppose any measures that could weaken the party organizations’ role but conceded that the Council should “study the problem comprehensively” to determine the needs and inefficiencies of the BOE.</p> <p>There have been studies in the past, and each has found persistent issues.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doi/reports/pdf/2013/2013-12-30-BOE_Unit_Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2013 report</a> by the city’s Department of Investigations <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131230/civic-center/nyc-board-of-elections-riddled-with-problems-dept-of-investigation-finds" target="_blank" rel="noopener">found</a> a raft of problems in elections management as well as internal board administration. In 2016, the BOE was responsible for a massive voter purge in Brooklyn during the presidential primaries, resulting in legal action by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. In November, Schneiderman announced a consent decree with the BOE that requires added oversight of the board’s voter list maintenance.</p> <p>Less than a week before this year’s general election on November 7, city Comptroller Scott Stringer also released an <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/audit-report-on-the-board-of-elections-controls-over-the-maintenance-of-voters-records-and-poll-access/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">audit</a> that excoriated the BOE’s dysfunctional election operations. At each step, the BOE has pushed back and has been resistant to change. Even when Mayor Bill de Blasio offered a $20 million incentive for the board to enact major reforms -- recommending the empaneling of a Blue Ribbon Commission to analyze the BOE, more transparency in hiring and improved poll worker training, among other measures -- its commissioners refused.</p> <p>“The Mayor believes that it is critical that we reform the Board of Elections,” said Seth Stein, a mayoral spokesperson, in a statement on Tuesday. “They have demonstrated time and again that they are unable to perform the basic functions of their office, like keeping eligible voters on the rolls. The Mayor looks forward to working with whoever the next Speaker is to encourage the Board to accept the $20 million we have offered in exchange for necessary reforms.”</p> <p>State-level BOE reforms have not progressed in Albany.</p> <p>Those who could take steps or apply pressure to improve the BOE’s abysmal record are the very people invested in the status quo, however, and the City Council, particularly its speaker, falls squarely within that dynamic. Election experts also tend to agree that the Council can pass little meaningful reform, absent legislative action at the state level, and that the bi-partisan BOE composition is appropriate. &nbsp;</p> <p>“There’s very little the City Council can do regarding the structural functioning of the agency,” said Sarah Steiner, an election lawyer. “They could maybe fund the board at a higher level so it could function better.”</p> <p>“In terms of patronage, it’s a bi-partisan agency, not a civil service agency. Unless that’s changed, the county organizations is where the commissioners and employees will come from,” she added. She insisted that most of the board’s employees are, in her experience, qualified and hard-working professionals. “As in any organization, some employees are better than others,” she said. And she warned that a civil service agency running elections could be open to political interference, while the current structure is designed to prevent just that.</p> <p>Steiner praised, in particular, the speed and accuracy with which the BOE provides election night results. But, she said, “they are less good at some of the work regarding candidates. I think the rules structure for candidates needs substantial revision.” Unlike the state BOE, the city agency doesn’t provide a public comment period for rules changes, she said, which often leaves the candidates and their campaigns unaware and unprepared. “The administrative rules are not as easy as the board thinks they are, and they’re largely a minefield,” she added.</p> <p>J.C. Polanco, a Republican who unsuccessfully ran for public advocate this year, has served as &nbsp;president of the city BOE and saw the problems first hand and attempted to fix them. He campaigned this year on a platform that included BOE reform. He’s blunt about the Council speaker candidates and why they wouldn’t speak up against the agency. “Each candidate has to try not to offend the county organizations,” he said. &nbsp;</p> <p>Though Polanco also agrees that the BOE’s partisan structure may be necessary, he believes it can be better. “One of the things to do is to professionalize the board,” he said, “by forcing every candidate to go through the crucible of the [Council’s] investigations process required of commissioners.” He favors merit-based hiring and called for it when he worked at the board.</p> <p>“There are professionals at the board that get a bad rap for the failures of the board to modernize,” he insisted, echoing Steiner. “You can definitely have a professionalized partisan agency.” The board should post positions with qualifications online, he said, and more publicly seek employees. “It would require an enlightenment of the citizenry and the board,” Polanco said. He also speculated about giving third parties representation on the board, proportionate to their vote shares in prior elections.</p> <p>Although the Council members poised to be the next speaker may not agree, the official they are hoping to succeed believes that the BOE needs improvement. Melissa Mark-Viverito, who, in the waning days of her speakership, has waded into <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/local-politics/2017/12/09/squabble-among-manhattan-democrats-pits-council-speaker-against-county-chair" target="_blank" rel="noopener">conflict</a> with the Manhattan Democratic County Committee over a BOE commissioner appointment, said the Council has discussed reforming the BOE for years. Responding to a question from Gotham Gazette, she said, “There’s obviously a lot more work that has to be done. We’ve seen the reports issued by DOI and others with the dysfunction at the Board of Elections and there definitely has to be a lot more professionalizing of the Board of Elections and being able to implement reforms.”</p> <p>While much of the conversation around elections and voting in New York tends to revolve around the state’s antiquated laws, there have been local attempts at such reform. Council Member Ben Kallos has been a particularly vocal critic of the board and, as chair of the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, has pushed legislation that can improve elections and voting access. He has time and again urged representatives of the board to move towards merit-based hiring -- &nbsp;“I favor the civil service over the patronage appointment process,” he told Gotham Gazette on Monday. Kallos’ bill allowing online voter registration recently passed the Council. The mayor is expected to sign it into law, and it is considered valid under guidance from A.G. Schneiderman.</p> <p>We can “find meaningful alternatives that can help fix the BOE at the city level,” Kallos said. “As we learned with online voter registration, with a little bit of creativity and good attorneys, I think a lot can be possible at the local level.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7331-city-council-speaker-candidates-address-power-reform-and-transparency">City Council Speaker Candidates Address Power, Reform and Transparency</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
City Council Speaker Candidates, All Men, Promise Gender Equity if Victorious 2017-12-08T05:00:00+00:00 2017-12-08T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7359-city-council-speaker-candidates-all-men-promise-gender-equity-if-victorious Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/img_8295.jpg" alt="City Council speaker candidates" width="600" height="382" /></p> <p>The City Council speaker candidates (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>At the last public forum in the race to become the next speaker of the City Council, seven of the eight men contending for the Council’s top leadership spot took turns making their argument for why they would be the right person to continue Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s legacy of protecting and promoting the cause of women, transgender, and gender non-conforming New Yorkers. Though few new ideas emerged, for nearly two hours, the seven Council members pitched their progressive credentials and promised to champion the city’s underrepresented and underserved populations.</p> <p>Hosted by a coalition of 14 organizations, at Hunter College’s Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute in Manhattan, the forum capped off a post-election month that has seen the candidates appear at more than a dozen issue-focused debates and discussions on everything from criminal justice to <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7331-city-council-speaker-candidates-address-power-reform-and-transparency?mc_cid=5cc59c4465&amp;mc_eid=6382885063&amp;utm_source=CFB+weekly+updates&amp;utm_campaign=cf7f97599c-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_12_01&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_745d48d7ac-cf7f97599c-290605553" target="_blank" rel="noopener">government transparency and accountability</a>. Thursday’s event was moderated by Politico New York reporter Laura Nahmias and Shatia Burks of the New York City Young Women’s Initiative. In attendance were Council Members Corey Johnson, Mark Levine, Ydanis Rodriguez, Robert Cornegy Jr., Donovan Richards, Jumaane Williams, and Jimmy Van Bramer. Ritchie Torres was the only candidate absent.</p> <p>Past was prologue as the candidates took turns briefly narrating their individual histories, giving tactful yet heartfelt answers while also lamenting the obvious irony of them all being men after 12 years of the City Council having women serve as speaker.</p> <p>Council Member Cornegy, who in recent weeks has risen to become one of the perceived frontrunners in the race, spoke as a family man, a husband and father of six. He noted his support for reproductive health bills in the Council, particularly one that created lactation rooms at city agencies that provide family services (he first opened a “lactation station” in his district office). He half-joked that he co-chairs the Council’s “men who get it” caucus.</p> <p>Johnson, another leading contender, reminded the audience that he is an openly gay man and the only openly HIV positive elected official in New York, and that issues related to transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) individuals are “deeply important” to him. He touted the passage of his bill allowing transgender New Yorkers to receive accurate birth certificates from the city.</p> <p>“The fact that the people running for Council speaker are all men reflects a failing of the political system in New York City,” said Levine, who is seen with Cornegy and Johnson as one of the three most likely to win the position when the vote takes place in January. “I think it does obligate the eight of us to reign in the hubris a little bit and do more listening than dictating.”</p> <p>Richards echoed the sentiment, saying “it is shameful that there is not a woman in this race,” while emphasizing that not only would the next speaker have to focus on women’s issues, but also ensure that women are in leadership positions.</p> <p>Rodriguez cited his experience as an immigrant, in a large family with many sisters. “Women’s issues are trans-sectional,” he said, while promising to continue Mark-Viverito’s legacy.</p> <p>Van Bramer, who is also openly gay, spoke from the experience of his own coming out. Being an LGBTQ activist meant also being “an activist for choice and a woman’s right to choose,” he said. “The two of them are inseparable.” He proudly touted his successful efforts to open the first Planned Parenthood health center in Queens, and in helping found the first Girl Scout troop for homeless girls.</p> <p>Williams, who noted early that the seven would likely respond similarly to questions, instead emphasized that he is “battle-tested to move forward” and has passed the most bills of all the candidates. His statement would ring true as there was little daylight between the candidates as they addressed the issues raised at the forum including access to reproductive health services, education, economic development and workplace sexual harassment, NYPD policy, affordable housing, city budgeting, and Council governance.</p> <p>On abortion access and so-called crisis pregnancy centers -- which NARAL Pro-choice America calls “fake health clinics” that mislead women to block access to abortions -- all seven agreed that the NYPD should play a stronger role in both protecting women from protesters outside Planned Parenthood clinics and in cracking down on predatory crisis centers. Cornegy even floated the idea of a dedicated police unit focused on these centers.</p> <p>Johnson insisted that Planned Parenthood is always a budget priority for him. He said the Council needed to do more to “reign in” CPCs while calling on the police to be more vigilant to protect women seeking abortions at clinics.</p> <p>Levine said the Council needs to fight back against the demonization of Planned Parenthood, and use its budgetary resources to provide services for women and TGNC individuals. Should the Republican-led federal government cut contraception coverage, for instance, Levine said the city should step in to fund it.</p> <p>Richards, of Queens, said there was a need to fund services where “people are living in the shadows” and expand health centers to communities like his that are underserved. And he said the Council should fund local organizations that provide those services.</p> <p>Rodriguez urged continued support for Planned Parenthood and better reproductive education in schools. Van Bramer insisted that contraceptives should be fully covered and if they’re not, the City Council should fund them. Williams, who jokingly apologized that all the candidates were men, echoed his colleagues and said he looked forward to passing his “boss bill” prohibiting discrimination by employers based on workers’ reproductive decisions.</p> <p>The candidates varied little on their perspectives on providing a quality education in city schools, particularly for those that face greater obstacles in the system including students in foster care, low-income, undocumented and LGBT and GNC students. Johnson emphasized that schools should not be punitive, but rather supportive and rehabilitative.</p> <p>Richards, Levine and Rodriguez touted the virtues of community schools that provide wraparound services to students, including physical and mental health and social services. Levine raised the spectre of school bullying and its “frequent entanglement” with anti-LGBT prejudice, which he said the school system and city leadership have failed to acknowledge and address. Rodriguez railed against school segregation, and called for the launch of an “education civil rights movement” under the next Council.</p> <p>The issue hit home for Van Bramer, who admitted being “near-suicidal” and skipping school to avoid a constant barrage of homophobic slurs. “All of us have to make sure that that stops once and for all and all children are safe to go to school,” he said.</p> <p>Williams stressed a change in school curriculums to ensure the inclusion of people of color and LGBT and GNC people. Cornegy said school segregation and prejudice based on sexual orientation need to be tackled at the Department of Education, and he lauded the effectiveness of community schools as well.</p> <p>Given the current national climate on sexual assault and workplace harassment, it was only natural that the candidates for arguably the second-most powerful position in city government would be asked about their perspective on the model policy to deal with the endemic problem.</p> <p>Levine reiterated three proposals, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7357-council-members-announce-legislation-to-root-out-sexual-misconduct-in-city-government" target="_blank" rel="noopener">which he announced earlier in the day</a>, for rooting out sexual misconduct in city government through regular disclosure of sexual harassment claims by city agencies, a evaluation of sexual harassment policy and by elevating City Council staff complaints to bring them under committee oversight. Van Bramer also released details of bills on Thursday that would evaluate sexual harassment at city contractors and embargo those organizations with a history of misconduct. Another member with pending legislation was Cornegy, whose bill would require small businesses to detail what constitutes sexual harassment and provide hotline numbers for victims.</p> <p>Richards advocated a “zero tolerance” policy and said the Council should have its own independent department or agent to monitor sexual harassment. Rodriguez called for an entire agency to do the same citywide.</p> <p>Williams expressed support for his colleagues’ legislative efforts and candidly said, “The one thing we could all do immediately is believe” women’s stories of harassment. Johnson bemoaned a culture that allows men to believe they can act and behave in any way in a public setting because of their inherent power. “We have to change that,” he said.</p> <p>On changes to NYPD policy in interactions with LGBT and GNC New Yorkers, Richards and Rodriguez both stressed that the city needs to fully implement its body camera program and strengthen community-police relationships. Richards said the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates complaints of police misconduct, needs more teeth to hold erring officers accountable. “That’s where the culture shift absolutely needs to happen,” he said.</p> <p>Williams touted his “demonstrable leadership” against the NYPD’s racially biased use of stop-and-frisk policing, and the Council’s Community Safety Act of 2013, which he co-sponsored. The act created an independent monitor for the police department and added protections against biased profiling by officers. Cornegy subsequently advanced the idea of characterizing negative police interactions with protected classes of people as hate crimes.</p> <p>Women, trans and GNC communities and domestic violence survivors are at greater risk of becoming homeless in the city, said Burks of the Young Women’s Initiative, seeking the candidates’ ideas on improving access to affordable housing. Again, there were only slight differences in the candidates’ proposals as they called for deeper affordability and more set asides for formerly homeless New Yorkers, while some emphasized increased services and resources for survivors of domestic violence.</p> <p>The 51-member Council will have only 11 women members in the next term starting January, down from 19 a few years ago, and has not had a trans member yet. In the current Council, debate moderator Nahmias noted, three women of color negotiate the city budget -- Speaker Mark-Viverito, Finance Committee chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, and Council finance director Latonia McKinney. Nahmias pressed the seven candidates on how they would ensure representation of cis and trans women, and women of color in particular, in their own senior teams and in the Council’s top leadership positions, namely the powerful chairs of the land use and finance committees.</p> <p>All the candidates were strongly committed to the task of choosing women and people of color as a majority of their senior leadership, and some said their staffs already reflect that commitment, though some rued the political reality that makes such a pledge necessary. “Women are 50 percent of the workforce and none of us deserves a gold star for making sure that women are in these positions and roles,” said Van Bramer.</p> <p>“It is appalling that there are only 11 women on the Council,” said Williams. The candidates <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7324-women-s-caucus-secures-commitments-from-city-council-speaker-candidates" target="_blank" rel="noopener">all interviewed with the Council's Women's Caucus and made commitments</a> to its existing and incoming members.</p> <p>Cornegy noted that hiring of people of color in the Council central staff had doubled in Mark-Viverito’s tenure, and he vowed to build on that by including women and trans individuals in particular.</p> <p>Danced around was the fact that the winning speaker candidate will likely have earned the backing of the major Democratic political organizations of the Queens and the Bronx, which will then have a lot of say in staffing and top Council leadership decisions made by the next speaker.</p> <p>Richards was possibly the only one to acknowledge that the speaker race will be influenced heavily by forces outside of the Council, including county party chairs and the mayor. He wouldn’t say who might be the finance or land use chairs under his speakership since “we all have power brokers that we’re talking to at play,” though he did promise to advocate for women to be chosen for those positions.</p> <p>Levine stressed the need to support far more diverse candidates for the Council in the 2021 elections, when nearly 40 seats will be up for grabs. Richards said the Council’s efforts need to go further, by making sure each city agency has diverse staff, by hiring gender diversity compliance officers and ensuring that women of color and trans people move up into managerial positions.</p> <p>In a brief lightning round, all seven candidates agreed to staff their senior teams and central staff with more than 50 percent women and TGNC individuals, committed to support and expand the Young Women’s Initiative, and said they would back the “<a href="https://avp.org/solutions-struggle-survival-tgnc-policy-brief/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Solutions out of Struggle and Survival</a>” policy proposals identified by numerous TGNC advocacy groups.</p> <p>With the last of the speaker forums, the public-facing aspect of the speaker-selection process appears effectively over. Candidates will now spend much of the next few weeks in backroom negotiations and closed meetings before the next speaker will be chosen in January when the next class of the City Council convenes.</p> <p>The partner organizations for Thursday’s forum included: Girls for Gender Equity, Women of Color for Progress, Brooklyn Movement Center, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual &amp; Transgender Community Center, PowHer NY, Planned Parenthood of New York City, National Organization for Women-NYC, New Leaders Council--NYC Chapter, National Institute for Reproductive Health, The Brotherhood/Sister Sol, Campaign for Black Male Achievement, Citizens’ Committee for Children, Eleanor’s Legacy, National Association of Social Workers—NYC Chapter.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[READ: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7331-city-council-speaker-candidates-address-power-reform-and-transparency?mc_cid=5cc59c4465&amp;mc_eid=6382885063&amp;utm_source=CFB+weekly+updates&amp;utm_campaign=cf7f97599c-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_12_01&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_745d48d7ac-cf7f97599c-290605553" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Council Speaker Candidates Address Power, Reform and Transparency</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/img_8295.jpg" alt="City Council speaker candidates" width="600" height="382" /></p> <p>The City Council speaker candidates (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>At the last public forum in the race to become the next speaker of the City Council, seven of the eight men contending for the Council’s top leadership spot took turns making their argument for why they would be the right person to continue Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s legacy of protecting and promoting the cause of women, transgender, and gender non-conforming New Yorkers. Though few new ideas emerged, for nearly two hours, the seven Council members pitched their progressive credentials and promised to champion the city’s underrepresented and underserved populations.</p> <p>Hosted by a coalition of 14 organizations, at Hunter College’s Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute in Manhattan, the forum capped off a post-election month that has seen the candidates appear at more than a dozen issue-focused debates and discussions on everything from criminal justice to <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7331-city-council-speaker-candidates-address-power-reform-and-transparency?mc_cid=5cc59c4465&amp;mc_eid=6382885063&amp;utm_source=CFB+weekly+updates&amp;utm_campaign=cf7f97599c-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_12_01&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_745d48d7ac-cf7f97599c-290605553" target="_blank" rel="noopener">government transparency and accountability</a>. Thursday’s event was moderated by Politico New York reporter Laura Nahmias and Shatia Burks of the New York City Young Women’s Initiative. In attendance were Council Members Corey Johnson, Mark Levine, Ydanis Rodriguez, Robert Cornegy Jr., Donovan Richards, Jumaane Williams, and Jimmy Van Bramer. Ritchie Torres was the only candidate absent.</p> <p>Past was prologue as the candidates took turns briefly narrating their individual histories, giving tactful yet heartfelt answers while also lamenting the obvious irony of them all being men after 12 years of the City Council having women serve as speaker.</p> <p>Council Member Cornegy, who in recent weeks has risen to become one of the perceived frontrunners in the race, spoke as a family man, a husband and father of six. He noted his support for reproductive health bills in the Council, particularly one that created lactation rooms at city agencies that provide family services (he first opened a “lactation station” in his district office). He half-joked that he co-chairs the Council’s “men who get it” caucus.</p> <p>Johnson, another leading contender, reminded the audience that he is an openly gay man and the only openly HIV positive elected official in New York, and that issues related to transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) individuals are “deeply important” to him. He touted the passage of his bill allowing transgender New Yorkers to receive accurate birth certificates from the city.</p> <p>“The fact that the people running for Council speaker are all men reflects a failing of the political system in New York City,” said Levine, who is seen with Cornegy and Johnson as one of the three most likely to win the position when the vote takes place in January. “I think it does obligate the eight of us to reign in the hubris a little bit and do more listening than dictating.”</p> <p>Richards echoed the sentiment, saying “it is shameful that there is not a woman in this race,” while emphasizing that not only would the next speaker have to focus on women’s issues, but also ensure that women are in leadership positions.</p> <p>Rodriguez cited his experience as an immigrant, in a large family with many sisters. “Women’s issues are trans-sectional,” he said, while promising to continue Mark-Viverito’s legacy.</p> <p>Van Bramer, who is also openly gay, spoke from the experience of his own coming out. Being an LGBTQ activist meant also being “an activist for choice and a woman’s right to choose,” he said. “The two of them are inseparable.” He proudly touted his successful efforts to open the first Planned Parenthood health center in Queens, and in helping found the first Girl Scout troop for homeless girls.</p> <p>Williams, who noted early that the seven would likely respond similarly to questions, instead emphasized that he is “battle-tested to move forward” and has passed the most bills of all the candidates. His statement would ring true as there was little daylight between the candidates as they addressed the issues raised at the forum including access to reproductive health services, education, economic development and workplace sexual harassment, NYPD policy, affordable housing, city budgeting, and Council governance.</p> <p>On abortion access and so-called crisis pregnancy centers -- which NARAL Pro-choice America calls “fake health clinics” that mislead women to block access to abortions -- all seven agreed that the NYPD should play a stronger role in both protecting women from protesters outside Planned Parenthood clinics and in cracking down on predatory crisis centers. Cornegy even floated the idea of a dedicated police unit focused on these centers.</p> <p>Johnson insisted that Planned Parenthood is always a budget priority for him. He said the Council needed to do more to “reign in” CPCs while calling on the police to be more vigilant to protect women seeking abortions at clinics.</p> <p>Levine said the Council needs to fight back against the demonization of Planned Parenthood, and use its budgetary resources to provide services for women and TGNC individuals. Should the Republican-led federal government cut contraception coverage, for instance, Levine said the city should step in to fund it.</p> <p>Richards, of Queens, said there was a need to fund services where “people are living in the shadows” and expand health centers to communities like his that are underserved. And he said the Council should fund local organizations that provide those services.</p> <p>Rodriguez urged continued support for Planned Parenthood and better reproductive education in schools. Van Bramer insisted that contraceptives should be fully covered and if they’re not, the City Council should fund them. Williams, who jokingly apologized that all the candidates were men, echoed his colleagues and said he looked forward to passing his “boss bill” prohibiting discrimination by employers based on workers’ reproductive decisions.</p> <p>The candidates varied little on their perspectives on providing a quality education in city schools, particularly for those that face greater obstacles in the system including students in foster care, low-income, undocumented and LGBT and GNC students. Johnson emphasized that schools should not be punitive, but rather supportive and rehabilitative.</p> <p>Richards, Levine and Rodriguez touted the virtues of community schools that provide wraparound services to students, including physical and mental health and social services. Levine raised the spectre of school bullying and its “frequent entanglement” with anti-LGBT prejudice, which he said the school system and city leadership have failed to acknowledge and address. Rodriguez railed against school segregation, and called for the launch of an “education civil rights movement” under the next Council.</p> <p>The issue hit home for Van Bramer, who admitted being “near-suicidal” and skipping school to avoid a constant barrage of homophobic slurs. “All of us have to make sure that that stops once and for all and all children are safe to go to school,” he said.</p> <p>Williams stressed a change in school curriculums to ensure the inclusion of people of color and LGBT and GNC people. Cornegy said school segregation and prejudice based on sexual orientation need to be tackled at the Department of Education, and he lauded the effectiveness of community schools as well.</p> <p>Given the current national climate on sexual assault and workplace harassment, it was only natural that the candidates for arguably the second-most powerful position in city government would be asked about their perspective on the model policy to deal with the endemic problem.</p> <p>Levine reiterated three proposals, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7357-council-members-announce-legislation-to-root-out-sexual-misconduct-in-city-government" target="_blank" rel="noopener">which he announced earlier in the day</a>, for rooting out sexual misconduct in city government through regular disclosure of sexual harassment claims by city agencies, a evaluation of sexual harassment policy and by elevating City Council staff complaints to bring them under committee oversight. Van Bramer also released details of bills on Thursday that would evaluate sexual harassment at city contractors and embargo those organizations with a history of misconduct. Another member with pending legislation was Cornegy, whose bill would require small businesses to detail what constitutes sexual harassment and provide hotline numbers for victims.</p> <p>Richards advocated a “zero tolerance” policy and said the Council should have its own independent department or agent to monitor sexual harassment. Rodriguez called for an entire agency to do the same citywide.</p> <p>Williams expressed support for his colleagues’ legislative efforts and candidly said, “The one thing we could all do immediately is believe” women’s stories of harassment. Johnson bemoaned a culture that allows men to believe they can act and behave in any way in a public setting because of their inherent power. “We have to change that,” he said.</p> <p>On changes to NYPD policy in interactions with LGBT and GNC New Yorkers, Richards and Rodriguez both stressed that the city needs to fully implement its body camera program and strengthen community-police relationships. Richards said the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates complaints of police misconduct, needs more teeth to hold erring officers accountable. “That’s where the culture shift absolutely needs to happen,” he said.</p> <p>Williams touted his “demonstrable leadership” against the NYPD’s racially biased use of stop-and-frisk policing, and the Council’s Community Safety Act of 2013, which he co-sponsored. The act created an independent monitor for the police department and added protections against biased profiling by officers. Cornegy subsequently advanced the idea of characterizing negative police interactions with protected classes of people as hate crimes.</p> <p>Women, trans and GNC communities and domestic violence survivors are at greater risk of becoming homeless in the city, said Burks of the Young Women’s Initiative, seeking the candidates’ ideas on improving access to affordable housing. Again, there were only slight differences in the candidates’ proposals as they called for deeper affordability and more set asides for formerly homeless New Yorkers, while some emphasized increased services and resources for survivors of domestic violence.</p> <p>The 51-member Council will have only 11 women members in the next term starting January, down from 19 a few years ago, and has not had a trans member yet. In the current Council, debate moderator Nahmias noted, three women of color negotiate the city budget -- Speaker Mark-Viverito, Finance Committee chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, and Council finance director Latonia McKinney. Nahmias pressed the seven candidates on how they would ensure representation of cis and trans women, and women of color in particular, in their own senior teams and in the Council’s top leadership positions, namely the powerful chairs of the land use and finance committees.</p> <p>All the candidates were strongly committed to the task of choosing women and people of color as a majority of their senior leadership, and some said their staffs already reflect that commitment, though some rued the political reality that makes such a pledge necessary. “Women are 50 percent of the workforce and none of us deserves a gold star for making sure that women are in these positions and roles,” said Van Bramer.</p> <p>“It is appalling that there are only 11 women on the Council,” said Williams. The candidates <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7324-women-s-caucus-secures-commitments-from-city-council-speaker-candidates" target="_blank" rel="noopener">all interviewed with the Council's Women's Caucus and made commitments</a> to its existing and incoming members.</p> <p>Cornegy noted that hiring of people of color in the Council central staff had doubled in Mark-Viverito’s tenure, and he vowed to build on that by including women and trans individuals in particular.</p> <p>Danced around was the fact that the winning speaker candidate will likely have earned the backing of the major Democratic political organizations of the Queens and the Bronx, which will then have a lot of say in staffing and top Council leadership decisions made by the next speaker.</p> <p>Richards was possibly the only one to acknowledge that the speaker race will be influenced heavily by forces outside of the Council, including county party chairs and the mayor. He wouldn’t say who might be the finance or land use chairs under his speakership since “we all have power brokers that we’re talking to at play,” though he did promise to advocate for women to be chosen for those positions.</p> <p>Levine stressed the need to support far more diverse candidates for the Council in the 2021 elections, when nearly 40 seats will be up for grabs. Richards said the Council’s efforts need to go further, by making sure each city agency has diverse staff, by hiring gender diversity compliance officers and ensuring that women of color and trans people move up into managerial positions.</p> <p>In a brief lightning round, all seven candidates agreed to staff their senior teams and central staff with more than 50 percent women and TGNC individuals, committed to support and expand the Young Women’s Initiative, and said they would back the “<a href="https://avp.org/solutions-struggle-survival-tgnc-policy-brief/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Solutions out of Struggle and Survival</a>” policy proposals identified by numerous TGNC advocacy groups.</p> <p>With the last of the speaker forums, the public-facing aspect of the speaker-selection process appears effectively over. Candidates will now spend much of the next few weeks in backroom negotiations and closed meetings before the next speaker will be chosen in January when the next class of the City Council convenes.</p> <p>The partner organizations for Thursday’s forum included: Girls for Gender Equity, Women of Color for Progress, Brooklyn Movement Center, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual &amp; Transgender Community Center, PowHer NY, Planned Parenthood of New York City, National Organization for Women-NYC, New Leaders Council--NYC Chapter, National Institute for Reproductive Health, The Brotherhood/Sister Sol, Campaign for Black Male Achievement, Citizens’ Committee for Children, Eleanor’s Legacy, National Association of Social Workers—NYC Chapter.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[READ: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7331-city-council-speaker-candidates-address-power-reform-and-transparency?mc_cid=5cc59c4465&amp;mc_eid=6382885063&amp;utm_source=CFB+weekly+updates&amp;utm_campaign=cf7f97599c-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_12_01&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_745d48d7ac-cf7f97599c-290605553" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Council Speaker Candidates Address Power, Reform and Transparency</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Inside the Fundraising and Spending of the City Council Speaker Candidates 2017-12-06T05:00:00+00:00 2017-12-06T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7356-inside-the-fundraising-of-the-city-council-speaker-candidates Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/img_8277.jpg" alt="city council speaker" width="600" height="406" /></p> <p>City Council Speaker candidates (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>The eight men running to become the next speaker of the City Council are all Democrats who were re-elected in November to serve a final term in the body. None of them faced a strong challenger in their respective races, either in the primaries, which are largely determinative of overall results, or in the November 7 general election. Nevertheless, a few of the candidates raised significant campaign cash and spent it just as liberally as if they were running competitive races. As Gotham Gazette has reported, several of the speaker candidates have donated heavily from their campaign accounts to those of other City Council members and candidates, in apparent effort to win favor ahead of the speaker vote, which will occur in January.</p> <p>Among the eight candidates, a few are seen as frontrunners in the race -- Council Members Robert Cornegy Jr., Corey Johnson, Mark Levine and, to a lesser degree, Ritchie Torres -- though it is a notoriously nebulous contest with shifting dynamics. Labor unions may buoy the chances of certain members while county allegiances may supersede that support. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s role remains to be determined. The other candidates -- Ydanis Rodriguez, Jimmy Van Bramer, Donovan Richards and Jumaane Williams -- are considered less likely to emerge victorious, though one or more may have an outside path to the throne.</p> <p>This week, the candidates had to final a new campaign finance report, with activity between October 24 and November 30. It is the last filing before the speaker vote, which is likely to occur January 3.</p> <p>When it comes to campaign fundraising and spending, Johnson remains at the top of the list. His run for speaker began two years ago and the Manhattan Democrat even eschewed the Campaign Finance Board’s public matching funds program, which would have limited his expenditures. He has also been the most prolific donor to other members who ran for reelection and fresh faces that will be joining the Council come January.</p> <p>Johnson raised $505,818 over the race and spent $374,707, the latest campaign disclosures show. He has $131,111 left to spend on future races or charitable donations or supporting other electoral candidates. Of his total fundraising, $209,000 came from 76 contributions of $2,750, the maximum allowable in a City Council race. A total of $73,600 came from political action committees, while a slew of his largest donations came from individuals in the real estate, hotel, and nightlife industries. Some top donors include Barry Diller, the billionaire IAC and Expedia chairman; former Ralph Lauren Corporation CEO John Mehas; and Tony award-winning producer Daryl Roth. Much of Johnson’s spending, $126,300 to be exact, took the form of political contributions, and he spent only about $22,750 with campaign consulting firm Metropolitan Public Strategies.</p> <p>Levine, another Manhattan Democrat who also did not participate in the public funds program, raised $439,110 over the course of the election cycle. But Levine’s expenditure of $405,802 outpaced the fundraising leader, Johnson, and left just $33,308 in campaign funds at his disposal. There were 45 donors who gave Levine the maximum contribution, for a total of $118,250. He received $86,825 in total from PACs. Among his top donors were employees of real estate firms, law practices, property management companies, and at least one hedge fund. He counts George and Marian Klein of the Park Tower Group among those who gave the highest possible donation.</p> <p>Levine has been seen as the candidate perhaps most favored by the mayor, which has raised concerns about whether he can be a sufficiently independent leader, and led him to focus many of his public remarks on leading an strongly independent Council. He retained the services of Pitta Bishop &amp; Del Giorno LLP, an influential lobbying firm, to handle his strategy in running for speaker. He has spent $58,200 on campaign consultants, including Kirtzman Strategies and RKM Strategic Consulting, and another $84,985 on political contributions.</p> <p>Cornegy Jr., the only candidate who isn’t a member of the Council’s progressive caucus, was once viewed as an unlikely next speaker, having done little to cultivate a viable candidacy, spending little money or time helping others campaign, and having a low-key presence at the Council. But with the backing of the Brooklyn county party apparatus and, more recently, support from prominent voices that can influence the race, including U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, he is seen as having better chances of prevailing. Cornegy did participate in the CFB’s public funds program, which meant he had to abide by a strict spending limit of $182,000 for each of the primary and general elections. He ended up raising a total of $184,730, and spent all but $1,722. He received $71,500 from maxed-out donations, and political action committees contributed a total of $40,650 to his reelection. Billionaire supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis donated to Cornegy’s campaign, as did Soly and David Bawabeh, prominent real estate developers in the city. Campaign consultations accounted for $67,450 in Cornegy’s campaign spending, most of which went to Mercury Public Affairs, a well-known consulting firm. He also doled out $35,750 in political contributions.</p> <p>Torres, a Bronx Democrat and the youngest candidate in the race for speaker, raised $264,819 this election cycle, but he was also a public funds participant and ended up spending $108,851 for his reelection. He has $155,968 in cash on hand. His campaign got $69,400 from PACs and he received less than a dozen maxed-out donations, including one from Council Member Johnson’s campaign.</p> <p>Torres’ prospects depend largely on support from the Bronx county machine, which will likely negotiate with the Queens county establishment to determine how plum Council committee chair positions are distributed. U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley, who chairs the Queens Democrats, is expected to play an outsize role in the entire process this year. The two counties were sidelined in 2014 when the Council’s newly empowered progressive caucus, influential labor unions, de Blasio, and Brooklyn Democratic County chair Frank Seddio collaborated to anoint Melissa Mark-Viverito as speaker.</p> <p>Queens Council Member Van Bramer, another public funds non-participant, raised $539,560 and spent $278,587, for a balance of $260,973. He received 68 contributions of the max $2,750, equalling $170,500 of his total fundraising. About $66,000 of his total came from PAC donations. Van Bramer has attempted to make public and private overtures to Crowley but is not expected to receive the county backing. Currently majority leader of the Council, Van Bramer could wind up with another top leadership or committee post.</p> <p>Richards, whose district spans parts of Brooklyn and Queens, participated in the public funds program and raised $171,598, including $39,700 from PACs, and spent $150,948. He has only $20,650 left in his account. Richards is seen as having long odds in the race but was for a time expected to be the mayor’s preferred candidate after Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland announced she would not be running for reelection. She was widely regarded as a strong contender for the speakership and her exit from the Council left the speaker race dominated by men.</p> <p>Rodriguez was a public funds participant but he had two primary opponents, explaining his expenditure of $242,365 from his total fundraising of $255,423. He has $13,058 in his campaign account. He received $45,175 in PAC money.</p> <p>Williams, who some say could be a potential primary opponent to Governor Andrew Cuomo next year, or a lieutenant governor candidate as part of a ticket, opted out of the public funds program and raised $226,784 for his reelection to the Council, including $66,100 in PAC donations. He also had a non-competitive primary but he spent nearly all of his campaign cash, leaving just $660 in his account.</p> <p>The next and final campaign finance disclosures are due January 16.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/img_8277.jpg" alt="city council speaker" width="600" height="406" /></p> <p>City Council Speaker candidates (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>The eight men running to become the next speaker of the City Council are all Democrats who were re-elected in November to serve a final term in the body. None of them faced a strong challenger in their respective races, either in the primaries, which are largely determinative of overall results, or in the November 7 general election. Nevertheless, a few of the candidates raised significant campaign cash and spent it just as liberally as if they were running competitive races. As Gotham Gazette has reported, several of the speaker candidates have donated heavily from their campaign accounts to those of other City Council members and candidates, in apparent effort to win favor ahead of the speaker vote, which will occur in January.</p> <p>Among the eight candidates, a few are seen as frontrunners in the race -- Council Members Robert Cornegy Jr., Corey Johnson, Mark Levine and, to a lesser degree, Ritchie Torres -- though it is a notoriously nebulous contest with shifting dynamics. Labor unions may buoy the chances of certain members while county allegiances may supersede that support. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s role remains to be determined. The other candidates -- Ydanis Rodriguez, Jimmy Van Bramer, Donovan Richards and Jumaane Williams -- are considered less likely to emerge victorious, though one or more may have an outside path to the throne.</p> <p>This week, the candidates had to final a new campaign finance report, with activity between October 24 and November 30. It is the last filing before the speaker vote, which is likely to occur January 3.</p> <p>When it comes to campaign fundraising and spending, Johnson remains at the top of the list. His run for speaker began two years ago and the Manhattan Democrat even eschewed the Campaign Finance Board’s public matching funds program, which would have limited his expenditures. He has also been the most prolific donor to other members who ran for reelection and fresh faces that will be joining the Council come January.</p> <p>Johnson raised $505,818 over the race and spent $374,707, the latest campaign disclosures show. He has $131,111 left to spend on future races or charitable donations or supporting other electoral candidates. Of his total fundraising, $209,000 came from 76 contributions of $2,750, the maximum allowable in a City Council race. A total of $73,600 came from political action committees, while a slew of his largest donations came from individuals in the real estate, hotel, and nightlife industries. Some top donors include Barry Diller, the billionaire IAC and Expedia chairman; former Ralph Lauren Corporation CEO John Mehas; and Tony award-winning producer Daryl Roth. Much of Johnson’s spending, $126,300 to be exact, took the form of political contributions, and he spent only about $22,750 with campaign consulting firm Metropolitan Public Strategies.</p> <p>Levine, another Manhattan Democrat who also did not participate in the public funds program, raised $439,110 over the course of the election cycle. But Levine’s expenditure of $405,802 outpaced the fundraising leader, Johnson, and left just $33,308 in campaign funds at his disposal. There were 45 donors who gave Levine the maximum contribution, for a total of $118,250. He received $86,825 in total from PACs. Among his top donors were employees of real estate firms, law practices, property management companies, and at least one hedge fund. He counts George and Marian Klein of the Park Tower Group among those who gave the highest possible donation.</p> <p>Levine has been seen as the candidate perhaps most favored by the mayor, which has raised concerns about whether he can be a sufficiently independent leader, and led him to focus many of his public remarks on leading an strongly independent Council. He retained the services of Pitta Bishop &amp; Del Giorno LLP, an influential lobbying firm, to handle his strategy in running for speaker. He has spent $58,200 on campaign consultants, including Kirtzman Strategies and RKM Strategic Consulting, and another $84,985 on political contributions.</p> <p>Cornegy Jr., the only candidate who isn’t a member of the Council’s progressive caucus, was once viewed as an unlikely next speaker, having done little to cultivate a viable candidacy, spending little money or time helping others campaign, and having a low-key presence at the Council. But with the backing of the Brooklyn county party apparatus and, more recently, support from prominent voices that can influence the race, including U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, he is seen as having better chances of prevailing. Cornegy did participate in the CFB’s public funds program, which meant he had to abide by a strict spending limit of $182,000 for each of the primary and general elections. He ended up raising a total of $184,730, and spent all but $1,722. He received $71,500 from maxed-out donations, and political action committees contributed a total of $40,650 to his reelection. Billionaire supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis donated to Cornegy’s campaign, as did Soly and David Bawabeh, prominent real estate developers in the city. Campaign consultations accounted for $67,450 in Cornegy’s campaign spending, most of which went to Mercury Public Affairs, a well-known consulting firm. He also doled out $35,750 in political contributions.</p> <p>Torres, a Bronx Democrat and the youngest candidate in the race for speaker, raised $264,819 this election cycle, but he was also a public funds participant and ended up spending $108,851 for his reelection. He has $155,968 in cash on hand. His campaign got $69,400 from PACs and he received less than a dozen maxed-out donations, including one from Council Member Johnson’s campaign.</p> <p>Torres’ prospects depend largely on support from the Bronx county machine, which will likely negotiate with the Queens county establishment to determine how plum Council committee chair positions are distributed. U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley, who chairs the Queens Democrats, is expected to play an outsize role in the entire process this year. The two counties were sidelined in 2014 when the Council’s newly empowered progressive caucus, influential labor unions, de Blasio, and Brooklyn Democratic County chair Frank Seddio collaborated to anoint Melissa Mark-Viverito as speaker.</p> <p>Queens Council Member Van Bramer, another public funds non-participant, raised $539,560 and spent $278,587, for a balance of $260,973. He received 68 contributions of the max $2,750, equalling $170,500 of his total fundraising. About $66,000 of his total came from PAC donations. Van Bramer has attempted to make public and private overtures to Crowley but is not expected to receive the county backing. Currently majority leader of the Council, Van Bramer could wind up with another top leadership or committee post.</p> <p>Richards, whose district spans parts of Brooklyn and Queens, participated in the public funds program and raised $171,598, including $39,700 from PACs, and spent $150,948. He has only $20,650 left in his account. Richards is seen as having long odds in the race but was for a time expected to be the mayor’s preferred candidate after Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland announced she would not be running for reelection. She was widely regarded as a strong contender for the speakership and her exit from the Council left the speaker race dominated by men.</p> <p>Rodriguez was a public funds participant but he had two primary opponents, explaining his expenditure of $242,365 from his total fundraising of $255,423. He has $13,058 in his campaign account. He received $45,175 in PAC money.</p> <p>Williams, who some say could be a potential primary opponent to Governor Andrew Cuomo next year, or a lieutenant governor candidate as part of a ticket, opted out of the public funds program and raised $226,784 for his reelection to the Council, including $66,100 in PAC donations. He also had a non-competitive primary but he spent nearly all of his campaign cash, leaving just $660 in his account.</p> <p>The next and final campaign finance disclosures are due January 16.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
High Stakes for Affordable Housing in City Council Speaker Race 2017-12-05T05:00:00+00:00 2017-12-05T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7352-high-stakes-for-affordable-housing-in-city-council-speaker-race Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/cornegy_speaker_forum_crop.jpg" alt="cornegy speaker forum crop" width="600" height="363" /></p> <p>Robert Cornegy (far right) at a City Council Speaker forum (photo: @RobertCornegyJr)</p> <hr /> <p>Eight members of the New York City Council are asking their colleagues to elect them as the new Speaker after the new legislative body is seated January 1.</p> <p>Seven of the candidates oppose allowing Airbnb and other on-line platforms to continue their assault on our scarce affordable rental housing. But one of them, Robert Cornegy, Jr. of Brooklyn, does not.</p> <p>In <a href="http://cityandstateny.com/articles/opinion/why-albany-should-reject-the-flawed-airbnb-bill.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a June 2016 opinion piece</a>&nbsp;for City &amp; State, Council Member Cornegy argued that Airbnb brings extra income to his struggling constituents in Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, ensuring that they can continue to live in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. This column was straight out of the Airbnb playbook, and contradicted by the fact that roughly 75 percent of Airbnb revenue in New York City is generated by commercial hosts with multiple listings, not “regular folks” renting their own place.</p> <p>North and Central Brooklyn are the epicenter of gentrification in New York City, and Airbnb has played a destructive role. In Council Member Cornegy’s district, there were some 3,400 listings for Airbnb in October. Of these, almost 1,300 were for entire homes. If these “entire homes” are in apartment buildings, then they are illegal, as short-term rentals are against the law if the tenant is not present. (Renting out a room while the tenant is living in the apartment is not illegal, although tenants who do so risk eviction if the landlord finds out.)</p> <p>Airbnb’s negative impact on Council Member Cornegy’s district is merely one part of a larger trend in the borough. Four City Council districts stretching from Williamsburg to Crown Heights are represented by Steve Levin, Antonio Reynoso, Laurie Cumbo, and Cornegy. These four districts combined had Airbnb listings for more than 16,000 units in October. By contrast, the top four Council districts in Manhattan combined had 10,800 listings.</p> <p><a href="http://insideairbnb.com/face-of-airbnb-nyc/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A study last March</a> by Inside Airbnb tallied the host photographs in the 72 predominately African-American neighborhoods in the city. The Airbnb host population in these communities was 74 percent white, while the white resident population was only 13.9 percent. White hosts in these neighborhoods earned 73.7 percent of the income from Airbnb rentals. Despite Airbnb’s claim that they make it possible for people of color to supplement their incomes, it is clear that the newer, white residents in these gentrifying neighborhoods are the main beneficiaries of the “sharing economy.”</p> <p>So, who suffers? These units have been withdrawn from the rental market because short-term rentals are more profitable. Long-term residents therefore face a tighter market, and are subject to harassment and rent gouging.</p> <p>This is not only a Brooklyn or even a New York problem. From Vancouver to London, local governments are taking action to curb short-term rentals. Airbnb’s response is to stonewall, and enlist surrogates to spin its public relations web.</p> <p>I have a friend whose family owns a restaurant in a year-round resort town in the northeastern United States. He told me recently that until a couple of years ago, the cooks and waiters could share a house for $700 to $800 per month. Now there are no such rentals available, because owners can make that much in a weekend through Airbnb.</p> <p>The sheer scope of this crisis makes the future of New York City’s government all the more critical. The rest of the nation and even the world look to us as a model for policy and politics, and we must do everything we can to make our housing market more affordable.</p> <p>Ensuring that the next Speaker of the City Council is a true advocate for tenants, and for preserving our threatened stock of affordable rental housing, is the first next step in addressing the host of problems we face: weakened rent laws, lax enforcement by state and city, predatory speculators paying excessive prices for apartment buildings with an eye to driving out the rent-regulated tenants, constant upward pressure on rents, construction as harassment, and more.</p> <p>We cannot afford to have in our house of government a Speaker who will not fight to protect the homes of its citizens. I urge Council Member Cornegy’s colleagues to take a look at this before casting their votes, and show that they stand with tenants, not the companies that are forcing them out.</p> <p>***<br /> Michael McKee is treasurer of Tenants Political Action Committee. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/tenantspacny" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@TenantsPACNY</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/cornegy_speaker_forum_crop.jpg" alt="cornegy speaker forum crop" width="600" height="363" /></p> <p>Robert Cornegy (far right) at a City Council Speaker forum (photo: @RobertCornegyJr)</p> <hr /> <p>Eight members of the New York City Council are asking their colleagues to elect them as the new Speaker after the new legislative body is seated January 1.</p> <p>Seven of the candidates oppose allowing Airbnb and other on-line platforms to continue their assault on our scarce affordable rental housing. But one of them, Robert Cornegy, Jr. of Brooklyn, does not.</p> <p>In <a href="http://cityandstateny.com/articles/opinion/why-albany-should-reject-the-flawed-airbnb-bill.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a June 2016 opinion piece</a>&nbsp;for City &amp; State, Council Member Cornegy argued that Airbnb brings extra income to his struggling constituents in Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, ensuring that they can continue to live in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. This column was straight out of the Airbnb playbook, and contradicted by the fact that roughly 75 percent of Airbnb revenue in New York City is generated by commercial hosts with multiple listings, not “regular folks” renting their own place.</p> <p>North and Central Brooklyn are the epicenter of gentrification in New York City, and Airbnb has played a destructive role. In Council Member Cornegy’s district, there were some 3,400 listings for Airbnb in October. Of these, almost 1,300 were for entire homes. If these “entire homes” are in apartment buildings, then they are illegal, as short-term rentals are against the law if the tenant is not present. (Renting out a room while the tenant is living in the apartment is not illegal, although tenants who do so risk eviction if the landlord finds out.)</p> <p>Airbnb’s negative impact on Council Member Cornegy’s district is merely one part of a larger trend in the borough. Four City Council districts stretching from Williamsburg to Crown Heights are represented by Steve Levin, Antonio Reynoso, Laurie Cumbo, and Cornegy. These four districts combined had Airbnb listings for more than 16,000 units in October. By contrast, the top four Council districts in Manhattan combined had 10,800 listings.</p> <p><a href="http://insideairbnb.com/face-of-airbnb-nyc/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A study last March</a> by Inside Airbnb tallied the host photographs in the 72 predominately African-American neighborhoods in the city. The Airbnb host population in these communities was 74 percent white, while the white resident population was only 13.9 percent. White hosts in these neighborhoods earned 73.7 percent of the income from Airbnb rentals. Despite Airbnb’s claim that they make it possible for people of color to supplement their incomes, it is clear that the newer, white residents in these gentrifying neighborhoods are the main beneficiaries of the “sharing economy.”</p> <p>So, who suffers? These units have been withdrawn from the rental market because short-term rentals are more profitable. Long-term residents therefore face a tighter market, and are subject to harassment and rent gouging.</p> <p>This is not only a Brooklyn or even a New York problem. From Vancouver to London, local governments are taking action to curb short-term rentals. Airbnb’s response is to stonewall, and enlist surrogates to spin its public relations web.</p> <p>I have a friend whose family owns a restaurant in a year-round resort town in the northeastern United States. He told me recently that until a couple of years ago, the cooks and waiters could share a house for $700 to $800 per month. Now there are no such rentals available, because owners can make that much in a weekend through Airbnb.</p> <p>The sheer scope of this crisis makes the future of New York City’s government all the more critical. The rest of the nation and even the world look to us as a model for policy and politics, and we must do everything we can to make our housing market more affordable.</p> <p>Ensuring that the next Speaker of the City Council is a true advocate for tenants, and for preserving our threatened stock of affordable rental housing, is the first next step in addressing the host of problems we face: weakened rent laws, lax enforcement by state and city, predatory speculators paying excessive prices for apartment buildings with an eye to driving out the rent-regulated tenants, constant upward pressure on rents, construction as harassment, and more.</p> <p>We cannot afford to have in our house of government a Speaker who will not fight to protect the homes of its citizens. I urge Council Member Cornegy’s colleagues to take a look at this before casting their votes, and show that they stand with tenants, not the companies that are forcing them out.</p> <p>***<br /> Michael McKee is treasurer of Tenants Political Action Committee. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/tenantspacny" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@TenantsPACNY</a>.</p> <p>

***
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Council Speaker Candidates Give Generously to Colleagues 2017-11-30T05:00:00+00:00 2017-11-30T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7343-council-speaker-candidates-give-generously-to-colleagues Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/johnson-moya-crowley-c2.jpg" alt="johnson moya crowley c2" width="600" /></p> <p>Corey Johnson, Francisco Moya, Joe Crowley (photo via @CoreyinNYC)</p> <hr /> <p>The eight City Council members, all Democrats, who are competing to lead the 51-member legislative body as speaker for the next four years must convince numerous constituencies of their viability, including some combination of county party leaders, labor unions, the mayor, and other influential politicos. But, when the new Council class convenes in January, the vote will come down to the 51 Council members, and they are not without agency. The speaker candidates, all men, have for months been seeking to curry favor with their colleagues, employing a variety of methods. One such tactic is to donate campaign funds to current and incoming members of the City Council.</p> <p>All eight candidates -- Council Members Corey Johnson, Mark Levine, Ydanis Rodriguez, Robert Cornegy Jr., Ritchie Torres, Donovan Richards, Jumaane Williams, and Jimmy Van Bramer -- have made large political contributions from their reelection campaigns, according to an analysis of campaign finance filings by the New York City Campaign Finance Board at Gotham Gazette’s request, though the amounts to vary widely.</p> <p>Numbers reflect disclosures filed through November 7, the day of general election and the most recent filing deadline. The next deadline is Monday, December 4.</p> <p>The speaker candidates used money from their campaign accounts to spend on a variety of political causes, but most of their political giving went to other members running for reelection or Council candidates running to replace term-limited members.</p> <p>Council Member Johnson’s lobbying largesse far outpaces the rest of the members, with $126,300 in political contributions, of which $84,875 went to other current or incoming members. Johnson, who has been aggressively campaigning for the Council’s top spot long before others jumped into the fray, also gave to local Democratic clubs and Democratic county organizations. He made the maximum allowable contribution of $2,750 to 26 candidates (including Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, who was unsuccessful in her reelection bid).</p> <p>Levine, who along with Johnson and Cornegy is seen as a frontrunner in the race, has been second with $84,185 in political contributions, including $69,375 to his colleagues.</p> <p>Most of the recipients of campaign cash from the speaker candidates has overlapped.</p> <p>In third place is Rodriguez, whose political contributions to colleagues were $52,750, out of a total $57,761 spent from his campaign account on political donations.</p> <p>The rest of the members spent far less to build support and help colleagues. Torres only gave $35,000 out of $59,117 in political contributions. Richards contributed $31,500 out of $37,465. Cornegy’s donations were only $27,500, Van Bramer’s were $24,675 and Williams gave just $13,000.</p> <p>In total, there were 42 Council candidates from across the city who received a political contribution from another candidate, including both sitting Council members and those running for open seats. Among the 42 were a few who were unsuccessful as well as 11 new incoming members of the City Council.</p> <p>The biggest beneficiary of the political giving was Adrienne Adams, a Democrat who was elected to the District 28 seat in Queens, which was empty following the expulsion of Council Member Ruben Wills after his conviction on corruption charges. Adams received $26,750 from Council colleagues, of which $18,000 was from seven speaker candidates. Cornegy was the only one who did not donate to her. Adams could not be reached for comment. In her run she had the backing of the Queens Democratic Party machine, which is seen as the most influential county party in the speaker race, with Rep. Joe Crowley at its head.</p> <p>Justin Brannan, another Democrat who won the District 43 seat in Bay Ridge, collectively received $12,250 from five speaker candidates. “Having been a staffer in the Council and a Democratic organizer for many years, throughout my primary and general elections, I was grateful to have the support of many of the members I now look forward to calling colleagues and one of which we will elect as our leader,” Brannan said in a statement. “Personally, I'm looking for a speaker who will empower the members and consider the many diverse voices that make up the body.” He did not say who he would vote for.</p> <p>As Brannan indicated, it’s not unusual for Council Members to bolster Council staffers’ bids for City Council. This was the case for Carlina Rivera, the former legislative director to outgoing Council Member Rosie Mendez. Rivera won Mendez’s Council District 2 seat in Manhattan. In a statement, Rivera said she was “thankful” for the support from Council members, who gave her $14,483 in total. All but $150 came from speaker candidates, but Rivera insisted that would not affect her vote. She declined to indicate which speaker candidate she may be leaning towards. “My decision on the next Speaker will be made like any other -- with careful consideration of each candidate’s record and policies,” she said. “It won’t be easy given the strength of each candidate, but I look forward to casting my vote based on these merits.”</p> <p>Even as the speaker candidates’ political giving is tallied, some have helped raise money for their colleagues without raising it directly or bundling it as an intermediary. Some also raised money for or donated to Mayor de Blasio’s reelection bid, even as they attempt to sell their colleagues and others on promises of standing up to the mayor as the next speaker. Speaker candidates, to varying degrees, also went to campaign with members and candidates in their districts. Johnson and Levine were the most active in this respect, too, helping candidates to collect ballot petition signatures, knock on doors, and greet voters.</p> <p>In Midtown Manhattan’s District 4, Keith Powers was elected to the seat being vacated by term-limited Council Member Dan Garodnick. Powers received the maximum $2,750 contribution from five speaker candidates. “I’ve known all the candidates for more than a few years,” said the former lobbyist who ran on a good government platform, in a phone interview, “and I’ve worked with them and I think they know I’ll be a good addition to the City Council. I think that’s why they supported me.”</p> <p>The donations are not considerations in the race for speaker, Powers said, insisting he does not have a preferred candidate yet. “I think for everybody, it’s about the person’s ability to lead the Council, to keep the Council independent of the mayor,” he said. “I think [Council members] choose a speaker based on what’s best for their district and the issues they work on, and someone who shares their values.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/johnson-moya-crowley-c2.jpg" alt="johnson moya crowley c2" width="600" /></p> <p>Corey Johnson, Francisco Moya, Joe Crowley (photo via @CoreyinNYC)</p> <hr /> <p>The eight City Council members, all Democrats, who are competing to lead the 51-member legislative body as speaker for the next four years must convince numerous constituencies of their viability, including some combination of county party leaders, labor unions, the mayor, and other influential politicos. But, when the new Council class convenes in January, the vote will come down to the 51 Council members, and they are not without agency. The speaker candidates, all men, have for months been seeking to curry favor with their colleagues, employing a variety of methods. One such tactic is to donate campaign funds to current and incoming members of the City Council.</p> <p>All eight candidates -- Council Members Corey Johnson, Mark Levine, Ydanis Rodriguez, Robert Cornegy Jr., Ritchie Torres, Donovan Richards, Jumaane Williams, and Jimmy Van Bramer -- have made large political contributions from their reelection campaigns, according to an analysis of campaign finance filings by the New York City Campaign Finance Board at Gotham Gazette’s request, though the amounts to vary widely.</p> <p>Numbers reflect disclosures filed through November 7, the day of general election and the most recent filing deadline. The next deadline is Monday, December 4.</p> <p>The speaker candidates used money from their campaign accounts to spend on a variety of political causes, but most of their political giving went to other members running for reelection or Council candidates running to replace term-limited members.</p> <p>Council Member Johnson’s lobbying largesse far outpaces the rest of the members, with $126,300 in political contributions, of which $84,875 went to other current or incoming members. Johnson, who has been aggressively campaigning for the Council’s top spot long before others jumped into the fray, also gave to local Democratic clubs and Democratic county organizations. He made the maximum allowable contribution of $2,750 to 26 candidates (including Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, who was unsuccessful in her reelection bid).</p> <p>Levine, who along with Johnson and Cornegy is seen as a frontrunner in the race, has been second with $84,185 in political contributions, including $69,375 to his colleagues.</p> <p>Most of the recipients of campaign cash from the speaker candidates has overlapped.</p> <p>In third place is Rodriguez, whose political contributions to colleagues were $52,750, out of a total $57,761 spent from his campaign account on political donations.</p> <p>The rest of the members spent far less to build support and help colleagues. Torres only gave $35,000 out of $59,117 in political contributions. Richards contributed $31,500 out of $37,465. Cornegy’s donations were only $27,500, Van Bramer’s were $24,675 and Williams gave just $13,000.</p> <p>In total, there were 42 Council candidates from across the city who received a political contribution from another candidate, including both sitting Council members and those running for open seats. Among the 42 were a few who were unsuccessful as well as 11 new incoming members of the City Council.</p> <p>The biggest beneficiary of the political giving was Adrienne Adams, a Democrat who was elected to the District 28 seat in Queens, which was empty following the expulsion of Council Member Ruben Wills after his conviction on corruption charges. Adams received $26,750 from Council colleagues, of which $18,000 was from seven speaker candidates. Cornegy was the only one who did not donate to her. Adams could not be reached for comment. In her run she had the backing of the Queens Democratic Party machine, which is seen as the most influential county party in the speaker race, with Rep. Joe Crowley at its head.</p> <p>Justin Brannan, another Democrat who won the District 43 seat in Bay Ridge, collectively received $12,250 from five speaker candidates. “Having been a staffer in the Council and a Democratic organizer for many years, throughout my primary and general elections, I was grateful to have the support of many of the members I now look forward to calling colleagues and one of which we will elect as our leader,” Brannan said in a statement. “Personally, I'm looking for a speaker who will empower the members and consider the many diverse voices that make up the body.” He did not say who he would vote for.</p> <p>As Brannan indicated, it’s not unusual for Council Members to bolster Council staffers’ bids for City Council. This was the case for Carlina Rivera, the former legislative director to outgoing Council Member Rosie Mendez. Rivera won Mendez’s Council District 2 seat in Manhattan. In a statement, Rivera said she was “thankful” for the support from Council members, who gave her $14,483 in total. All but $150 came from speaker candidates, but Rivera insisted that would not affect her vote. She declined to indicate which speaker candidate she may be leaning towards. “My decision on the next Speaker will be made like any other -- with careful consideration of each candidate’s record and policies,” she said. “It won’t be easy given the strength of each candidate, but I look forward to casting my vote based on these merits.”</p> <p>Even as the speaker candidates’ political giving is tallied, some have helped raise money for their colleagues without raising it directly or bundling it as an intermediary. Some also raised money for or donated to Mayor de Blasio’s reelection bid, even as they attempt to sell their colleagues and others on promises of standing up to the mayor as the next speaker. Speaker candidates, to varying degrees, also went to campaign with members and candidates in their districts. Johnson and Levine were the most active in this respect, too, helping candidates to collect ballot petition signatures, knock on doors, and greet voters.</p> <p>In Midtown Manhattan’s District 4, Keith Powers was elected to the seat being vacated by term-limited Council Member Dan Garodnick. Powers received the maximum $2,750 contribution from five speaker candidates. “I’ve known all the candidates for more than a few years,” said the former lobbyist who ran on a good government platform, in a phone interview, “and I’ve worked with them and I think they know I’ll be a good addition to the City Council. I think that’s why they supported me.”</p> <p>The donations are not considerations in the race for speaker, Powers said, insisting he does not have a preferred candidate yet. “I think for everybody, it’s about the person’s ability to lead the Council, to keep the Council independent of the mayor,” he said. “I think [Council members] choose a speaker based on what’s best for their district and the issues they work on, and someone who shares their values.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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