Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/111 Thu, 23 Nov 2017 12:43:42 +0000 en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) City Council Speaker Candidates Address Power, Reform and Transparency http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7331:city-council-speaker-candidates-address-power-reform-and-transparency http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7331:city-council-speaker-candidates-address-power-reform-and-transparency city spe canidates

the City Council Speaker candidates at a prior forum (photo: William Alatriste)


Seven of the eight candidates vying to become the next Speaker of the New York City Council convened at New York Law School on Monday night for a forum focused on government reform, running the Council, transparency, ethics, voting, and elections.

The candidates made their cases for their leadership prowess, and discussed extending term limits for Council members, greater transparency around lobbying, key questions about campaign finance reform in the city, and much more.

With the city’s election season over, all eyes are now turned toward the race for who will replace Melissa Mark-Viverito as Speaker in what is arguably the second most powerful position in city government behind the Mayor. Mark-Viverito is term-limited out of office and eight men, all fellow Democrats, are in the running to replace her. The next Speaker will be chosen by the 51 members of the Council at the first meeting of the next Council class in January, though a great deal of jockeying is already going on, including influential outside forces, and a deal might be struck before the end of the year.

On Tuesday night, the attending candidates were 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. Bronx Council Member Ritchie Torres, also vying for the Speakership, was not in attendance due to a district event. The forum was sponsored by Citizens Union along with other good government groups Reinvent Albany, League of Women Voters of New York City, and NYPIRG. Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max served as moderator.

To start the event the candidates were asked how they think their Council colleagues think of them.

Levine, the first to speak, said that he is an effective member who gets things done, citing his work with Council Member Vanessa Gibson to pass a right-to-counsel in housing court that Mayor Bill de Blasio had initially pushed back against. Richards, after saying his colleagues think he’s “beautiful,” discussed his even temperament and ability to work with other members. He said he doesn’t think his colleagues would have a negative word to say about him.

Rodriguez cited his work on the transportation committee and having been an advocate for immigrants. Johnson said he has been a leader and that the consistent theme of his tenure has been helping marginalized populations such as transgender people and victims of domestic violence. Williams said he hoped his colleagues thought he was honest, and saw himself as an activist who has guided conversations such as for the Community Safety Act. And Cornegy, who initially joked that his colleagues see the 6’10” Council member as “head and shoulders above the rest,” discussed his “temperament” and having passed bills through five separate committees.

The candidates were then asked a question they didn’t seem to have thought much about: what is the Speaker’s role in terms of oversight of how the other 50 members are doing their jobs? The candidates mostly answered by discussing ways in which to empower members. None addressed issues raised by the moderator around what the Speaker should do about a Council member who isn’t performing well in terms constituent services or attendance at hearings.

At one point, Rodriguez reiterated his call that all Council members be allowed three four-year terms. In 2008, the City Council voted to temporarily extend term limits for the Mayor, the other citywide positions, and City Council members to three terms. The move was done despite multiple public votes for the two-term limit.

All of the other candidates, save for Richards, agreed with the notion of extending term limits for Council members, permanently going to three terms for the legislative posts, while keeping citywide and borough-wide positions to two four-year terms. Some asserted that it should only be done through a public referendum, though, not simply through legislation. Candidates argued that large turnovers at once, as will happen through the 2021 elections when about three-quarters of the Council will be term-limited out, is bad for the city. (Richards later told The Daily News he also supports the measure.)

“One, I think it’s unfair that some of us had a third term and some colleagues didn’t,” Williams said. “Two, as good government, it doesn’t fully make sense that you want us to provide a balance to the mayor, but the entire city government is gonna be up at the same time. Two-thirds of the Council will be up at the same time as the mayor. We have to think about the impact that’s gonna have on how we want the government to function.”

On the issue of the city Board of Elections, a notoriously dysfunctional organization rife with political patronage and undue allegiance to county parties, the candidates mostly avoided calling for major changes to how BOE commissioners are appointed (there is one Republican and one Democratic commissioner from each borough, nominated by the political party establishments and approved by the City Council). Williams was most clear in acknowledging that the BOE has a patronage problem, and said he would be open to non-partisan appointments to the board.

Williams and Cornegy both praised John Flateau, the Board of Elections Democratic commissioner from their borough of Brooklyn.

Other candidates shifted the conversation away from reforming the board and towards New York’s substandard voting laws. Candidates called for early voting and same-day voter registration, avoiding discussion of the makeup of the BOE as they continue to seek support from the same party apparatuses that control current BOE appointments. Johnson veered to an even larger topic, home rule, whereby the state controls numerous major city issues, before disagreeing with the premise of a non-partisan board.

“I do not support non-partisan appointments to the Board of Elections,” Johnson said. “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.”

Levine took a similar stance to Johnson, referring to elections as the “ultimate partisan battlefield,” not acknowledging that the BOE is supposed to be a fair arbiter and election administrator. Levine said that the partisan nature of the Board of Elections, and its Democratic-Republican balance, ensures parity between the parties and doesn’t allow one to dominate.

The candidates further refrained from criticizing county party organizations and particularly the party chairs, who are often seen as deciding the speaker’s race in the city. Richards and Van Bramer, both of Queens, praised Queens Democratic Party Chair Joe Crowley, with Van Bramer in particular singling out the congressman for praise.

“In Queens,” Van Bramer said, “we are fortunate to have a terrific leader. And I’ve said that Congressman Crowley would be a great Speaker of the House of Representatives, and I stand by that. Obviously, being a Sunnyside/Woodside guy, we have a lot of local pride in a Woodsider potentially being the Speaker of the House of Representatives.”

Rodriguez, who is not a member of the Queens Democratic delegation, also had words of praise for Crowley, who is seen this year as the top “kingmaker” in the speaker process because of his ability to control the votes of many Queens Council members.

“I will be working shoulder to shoulder with County Leader Joe Crowley for immigrants’ rights,” Rodriguez said. “As a leader nationwide, if I become the speaker he will have an ally, and I know that I will count him as an ally.” Rodriguez also said he would be working with Bronx Democratic Leader Marcos Crespo; both Crowley and Crespo are known to run machine-style party organizations within their respective boroughs and together they are seen to control a bloc of speaker votes close to the 25 needed to get a candidate, along with their own singular vote, the majority needed.

None of the candidates acknowledged that part of the deal to crown the next Speaker may include choices of top leadership posts like Majority Leader and chairs of the most powerful Council committees, finance and land use. Given the vote for the next Speaker is still several weeks away, specific discussions of this nature may not have occurred yet, but they are known to have occurred in the past.

All of the candidates argued for greater transparency in lobbying and in general, to some degree. Johnson said that Council members should be required to post their schedules online to allow the public to see who they are meeting with. Van Bramer said that people can get Council members’ schedules through Freedom of Information Law requests (FOILs), but acknowledged that it should not necessarily take such an effort.

Opinions about lobbyists themselves varied. Williams joked that he would be Speaker already if he had built a tunnel to allow members to escape from them; meanwhile, Rodriguez said that many lobbyists represent good people and shouldn’t be universally panned. Williams and Rodriguez were the only two candidates on the stage who said they have not hired a political consultant for the speaker’s race. Other members defended the practice, noting how time-consuming and complicated it has become to run for the post. Levine said it may make sense to examine if there are ways to regulate the speaker’s race in the future. When asked, none of the candidates indicated they would need to take any special steps to ensure that their consultants don’t have undue influence over them if they become the Speaker.

When it came time for the “lightning round” of quick questions-and-answers, it was clear that there were more substantive differences among the candidates. Though all candidates said that the current $4,950 campaign contribution limit to citywide candidates is good and that ranked-choice voting should be adopted to avoid runoffs, the candidates disagreed other items.

Richards broke with the pack to oppose non-citizen voting in municipal elections, explaining that he had “trepidation” with the Trump administration, possibly a reference to the possibility of federal officials being able to obtain new information about those in the country illegally. The others were all in support of the concept to varying degrees, with some saying it should be restricted to legal permanent residents and others not attaching conditions.

The question that most split the field was the question of whether city elections should take the form of open primaries, which would allow any registered voter to cast a vote in the party primary of their choice. Richards, Rodriguez, and Williams all affirmed their support for open primaries, while Cornegy, Levine, and Van Bramer stated their opposition to the concept. Van Bramer said that partisan primaries are the “good government position,” despite many good government groups actively opposing closed partisan primaries. Johnson said that political party affiliation matters, but didn’t firmly answer either way.

Members were also split on whether the Council should have fewer committees (there are currently more than 40 issue committees run in the 51-member body). Surprisingly, Rodriguez said that there should be more committees, so that every member could chair one. Johnson, meanwhile, said that some committees should be folded together but others, such as Fire and Criminal Justice Services, should be separated. Williams said that the reason there were so many committees was because of the attached stipends, which were recently eliminated as part of reforms to the Council member position, including salary raises, and called for an increased use of task forces, like on gun violence.

None of the candidates wanted to answer one lightning round question: who would you back for Speaker if you couldn’t vote for yourself? Johnson, by luck of the draw, was asked first and took a long pause before attempting a roundabout answer without naming anyone. It soon became clear that none of the seven wanted to answer the question, and the round moved on with some laughter from the crowd and the candidates.

When asked for a single idea on how to make city government more transparent, the candidates all gave different answers.

Richards called for strengthening the Council’s investigations and oversight committee to hold agencies more accountable; Rodriguez called for greater transparency in Council discretionary spending; Johnson called for putting the budget online for people to easily find out where money is being spent; Van Bramer called for “gender and race audits” of the Council and city agencies to ensure parity; Williams called for the committee hearing process, and how it’s presented to the public, to be reformed; Cornegy called for city contractors to disclose the demographics of their workforce; and Levine called for greater transparency in budget appropriations.

To close the event the candidates were asked how they would seek to improve Council oversight of the mayoral administration. In their remarks, each candidate answered the question while also mixing in something of a closing argument for their candidacy. Several candidates offered a number of specific reforms they want to push if elected Speaker.

All candidates advocated for a stronger, independent Council, with Williams stating that the lack of any use of a veto in de Blasio’s term may mean the Council hasn’t pushed the envelope enough. Cornegy said that the Council hadn’t exercised its strength given by the dissolution of the Board of Estimate, and that budget issues would continue to be an issue in that regard. Richards once again called for strengthening the oversight committee, while Johnson called for increasing the Council’s central budget to be more in line with city agencies. Levine said the Council should delve into budget issues beyond the marquee items, Van Bramer said the Council should utilize its subpoena power, and Rodriguez pledged to maintain the body’s independence but work with the mayor when possible.

Full video of the forum:

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. ]]>
City Council Speaker Candidates Address Power, Reform and Transparency Mon, 20 Nov 2017 05:00:00 +0000
City Council Ends Term with Flurry of Oversight Hearings http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7328:city-council-ends-term-with-flurry-of-oversight-hearings http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7328:city-council-ends-term-with-flurry-of-oversight-hearings mmv hearing john mccarten city council

Speaker Mark-Viverito (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


A flurry of oversight hearings are filling the City Council calendar as the Council enters its final month of the four-year session, most notably a hearing slated to address controversies over NYCHA’s falsified lead inspection reports, a hearing to discuss the city’s progress in closing Rikers Island jails, and a hearing on integrating the city's segregated public schools.

More than a dozen oversight hearings are slated for Council committee discussion between November 20 and December 4 as this current iteration of the Council ends its term. A new class of Council members, many of whom are current officeholders who won reelection this fall, will be sworn in just after the new year, with a new Council Speaker chosen at the first full-body “stated meeting” in early January.

At oversight hearings, Council members typically question the relevant top officials in the mayoral administration about the topic at hand, before testimony from other stakeholders, like advocates, non-governmental experts, or members of the public. While the hearings can be informative to Council members, journalists, advocates, and the broader public, further Council action will likely be taken in the next session, when many committee chair positions will have changed hands.

Along with the oversight hearings on the NYCHA lead controversy and initial steps being taken toward closing Rikers jails, some of the scheduled oversight hearings deal with fighting homelessness, the NYPD’s role in school safety, mental health services for military veterans, evaluating workforce development programs, “the feasibility of microgrids,” and more.

The oversight hearing scheduled to discuss closing Rikers, set for December 4, comes on the heels of the de Blasio administration’s release of a request for proposals to assess existing jails as potential sites to accommodate additional inmates and the overall need for space across the boroughs other than State Island, where Mayor Bill de Blasio has said no new jail will be opened.

A 10-year plan issued by the mayor’s office in June committed to reducing the city’s jail population from the now roughly 9,500 to 5,000 within this time frame, while ensuring space in four borough jails for that smaller number of detainees.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is term-limited out of office at the end of the year, has been a driving force behind the mission to close Rikers jails. At a press conference on Thursday, she told Gotham Gazette that the hearing will be important in terms of examining progress on several fronts important to the larger goal.

“There’s already sites that exist and what we have to do is look at how we can create a modern day facility that really addresses some of the concerns that were raised and the recommendations made in the independent commission report,” she said, referring to the issue of identifying space and the RFP being put out by the city whereby a consultant will be hired to study resources and need. She also referred to the report put forth by a commission she empaneled led by former New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, which crafted its own 10-year plan for closing Rikers jails. "There’s stuff to talk about, there’s other recommendations and action items that have to be taken, action that has to be taken and we can’t do that alone so it’s a matter of figuring out, where do we stand, what’s next to do, how quickly can we get it done,” Mark-Viverito said.

The timeline for closing Rikers, the designation of responsibility, locations for housing detainees, the rate of population decline within the correctional facility, and a number of recent bail reform laws are topics of interest for the oversight hearing according to Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, chair of the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice, which will host the hearing. Crowley will lead it, likely along with Mark-Viverito.

“This would be the most ideal way of wrapping up the session because it’s an immense endeavor and one that clearly the Department of Corrections doesn’t have the talents right now and the ability to address,” Crowley told Gotham Gazette in an interview. “I’m hoping that we can put together recommendations for the mayor’s office to help make this plan more of a reality.”

The NYCHA lead hearing was a recent addition to the slate, called by City Council Member Ritchie Torres, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Public Housing, in light of a Department of Investigations report revealing that NYCHA submitted false documentation of lead paint safety inspections never completed. Torres said there will be a December oversight hearing to discuss the practice and steps being taken to make things right. According to the report, NYCHA failed to perform apartment inspections in 2013, 2014 and 2015 despite not having conducted the approximate 55,000 annual inspections required to satisfy the federal rule.

The DOI report asserted that false paperwork was submitted even after NYCHA Chair Shola Olatoye learned of the department’s non-compliance with city and federal rules. Olatoye is expected to appear before the committee during the oversight hearing next month. “I want to ask the chairperson about the agency’s practice of misleading the federal government about conducting lead paint inspections. Why did those practices transpire? When did she find out those practices were happening? How long did it take her before she revealed it to the general public and revealed it to DOI?” Torres told Gotham Gazette in an interview.

On Friday, NYCHA announced personnel and programmatic changes in response to the scandal. Meanwhile, Mayor de Blasio has stated his support for Olatoye, whose departure has been called for by several people, most notably Public Advocate Letitia James.

The Department of Investigation, Council Member Torres, and Public Advocate James, among others, have called for an independent monitor to oversee NYCHA inspections in the future. “NYCHA no longer has the credibility to monitor its own lead paint inspections. The only hope for restoring public confidence is an independent monitor,” Torres said.

On December 7, the Council's education committee will hold an oversight hearing on "diversity in New York City schools," whereby the Council will check in on progress in reports from the Department of Education mandated by legislation co-sponsored by Council Members Brad Lander and Ritchie Torres.

"This hearing will begin with testimony from the NYC Department of Education (DOE) about the plan they released in the spring (“Equity and Excellence for All: Diversity in New York City Public Schools”), the third-annual “School Diversity Accountability Act” report (just released last week), and other efforts such as their recently-announced plan for District 1 and the work they are beginning for District 15 middle-schools," according to an announcemnt from Lander's office.

"After that -- and just as important -- the hearing will also provide an opportunity for the City Council to hear public testimony from students, parents, educators, and advocates working to combat school segregation and create truly integrated schools," the Lander announcement adds.

An oversight hearing to discuss career pathways and workforce development systems is also scheduled, for November 27. New York City’s population is notably underprepared for the workforce, with more than 3.3 million residents over the age of 25 lacking an associate’s degree or other level of college education, according to July 2016 Census data estimates. Those with degrees are concentrated largely within Manhattan. The city’s launch of the Career Pathways program in 2014 was an initial step in addressing the issue; committed to improving working conditions for lower-wage workers emphasizing training and education and creating connections with city employers. While the program has shown some promise in reforming and overhauling the city’s approach to skill-building programs, Career Pathways still lacks permanent funding and has yet to establish the necessary system of referrals and partnerships, according to report released by Center for an Urban Future in 2016.

The oversight hearing will likely include an update on the status of the Career Pathways program from the city’s Department of Small Business Services and testimony from Stacy Woodruff of the Workforce Professionals Training Institute on changes within the job market, according to Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr., chair of the Committee on Small Business.

“November’s small business committee hearing will be geared towards gaining a better understanding of the progress of the Career Pathways program announced in 2014. As New York’s economy continues to evolve, it is essential we understand the ways in which we can anticipate that evolution and ensure we prepare New Yorkers for the jobs that will come along with it,” said Cornegy, whose committee will co-host the hearing with the Committee on Civil Service and Labor, chaired by Council Member Daneek Miller.

Earlier this year, Mayor de Blasio announced a new plan to use city resources to spur 100,000 new, good-paying jobs, with an emphasis on making sure that current city residents and those who have long-lived in the city are able to fill the new jobs. The Career Pathways program is seen by many in economic development and job training circles as key to this effort, but experts say that it has been underfunded by the de Blasio administration.

Under this City Council, a bill was passed and signed by the mayor in 2016 to establish a separate Department of Veterans Affairs, outside of the Mayor’s Office. The new department has a much bigger staff and budget than the old Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs, and works to place veterans in jobs through Workforce1 centers, reduce homelessness among military veterans, connect veterans to benefits and services, including mental health care. An oversight meeting on Monday, November 20 will see discussion of the city’s progress in providing mental health services for veterans.

The hearing will be co-hosted by the Committee on Mental Health, chaired by Council Member Andrew Cohen, and the Committee on Veterans, chaired by Council Member Eric Ulrich.

“This is the end of the City Council session so it’s the last opportunity to check in here on the status of the newly created Department of Veterans, the overall services available to veterans. I’d like to make an inquiry into the nexus between Thrive[NYC] and our veterans, the number of veterans being serviced through Thrive and just kind of an overall taking the temperature of where we’re at in terms of connecting veterans with mental health services,” said Cohen, referring to the de Blasio administration’s large mental health care program spearheaded by First Lady Chirlane McCray.

Also slated for the City Council calendar is an oversight meeting on Tuesday, November 21 to discuss “the feasibility of microgrids.” Local energy grids capable of disconnecting from central power sources and operating autonomously, microgrids are used to provide power when the traditional grid has been compromised by an emergency or major power outage. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which left 800,000 city residents without power, microgrids could offer an important alternative in helping deal with future storms.

Such grids also enable greater use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, potentially allowing city residents more flexibility in their energy sources. “These types of small electricity grids have the potential to change the way we generate and consume power “ said Council Member Costa Constantinides, chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection, in a statement to Gotham Gazette about the hearing, which his committee will host in conjunction with the Committee on Consumer Affairs, chaired by Council Member Rafael Espinal. “We hope to learn more about how microgrids could be implemented in our city, how consumers could save money on utility bills, and hear feedback from environmental advocacy groups,” said Constantinides.

On Monday, November 20, the committees on housing and on general welfare will hold an oversight hearing on how the city’s housing department coordinates with the city’s homeless services department and its welfare agency “to address the homelessness crisis.”

Other scheduled oversight hearings include: a public safety committee hearing on “NYPD’s School Safety’s Role and Efforts to Improve School Climate”; the committees on transportation and sanitation on “Private Sanitation Fleet Safety”; the committees on higher education and technology on “CUNY Tech Incubators”; the committees on health and immigration on “Immigrant Access to Healthcare”; the governmental operations committee on “DCAS’s Energy Management and Energy Efficiency Initiatives”; the economic development committee on “NYC’s Sagging Air Cargo Industry”; the recovery and resiliency committee on “Update on assisting vulnerable populations in emergency evacuations”; the juvenile justice committee on “Trauma-Informed Services in the Juvenile Justice System”; the contracts committee on “Examining Existing Supports and Needs of Underrepresented Business Owners in City Procurement”; and the aging committee on “Supporting Unpaid Caregivers.”

(Note: be sure to re-check the Council calendar as hearings are often postponed or canceled.)

(Note: this article has been updated with information about an additional hearing.)

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by Grace Dixon for Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

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City Council Ends Term with Flurry of Oversight Hearings Sun, 19 Nov 2017 05:00:00 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, November 20 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7327:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-november-20 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7327:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-november-20 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

Welcome to Thanksgiving week, which has a lot going on the first couple of days before quieting down for the long holiday weekend.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is back in town after a week on family vacation in Connecticut. While de Blasio was away, controversy blew up around NYCHA’s mishandling of lead inspections. De Blasio defended Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye amid calls from Public Advocate Letitia James and others that she step down. Council Member Ritchie Torres, chair of the public housing committee, announced plans for an oversight hearing in December. NYCHA announced multiple personnel and protocol changes on Friday, with Olatoye remaining in charge. Questions will surely follow into this week, especially amid calls from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and others for an independent monitor of the housing authority, and new information is released -- there will be at least one relevant event Monday, see below for details.

On Monday, de Blasio has three public events on his schedule -- see below for details. De Blasio will hold a town hall meeting in Queens on Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, there’ a bit of action at the City Council this week, including a couple of high-profile oversight hearings -- see below for details, and, on Monday night, a forum for those seeking to become the next Speaker of the Council, an event co-hosted by Citizens Union and New York Law School, as well as other co-sponsors, and moderated by Gotham Gazette’s Ben Max. Attend the event at New York Law School or watch the livestream on Facebook or listen to the live broadcast on WBAI radio (99.5 FM).  

As always, there's a great deal happening all over the city, with many events to be aware of - see our day-by-day rundown below.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday
Mayor de Blasio will and NYPD Commissioner Jimmy O’Neill "will deliver remarks at the NYPD Academy Library’s renaming ceremony in honor of Commissioner Benjamin Ward" at 11 a.m. At 12:30 p.m., "the Mayor and Commissioner will hold a media availability about security for the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade" and will take press questions. Later, at 4 p.m. at City Hall, "the Mayor will hold a public hearing on 23 pieces of legislation."

At the City Council on Monday:
--The Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet at 9:30 a.m.
--The Committees on Veterans and Mental Health will meet jointly at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “mental health services for NYC-area veterans.”
--The Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting, and Maritime Uses will meet at 11 a.m.
--The Committees on Housing and Buildings and General Welfare will meet jointly at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “HPD’s coordination with DHS/HRA to address the homelessness crisis.”
--The Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions, and Concessions will meet at 1 p.m.

On Monday at 8 a.m. at The InterContinental New York Barclay Hotel, "Food Bank For New York City will hold "a Legislative Breakfast to release a new report on the state of hunger and the Emergency Food Network in NYC. The report analyzes food insecurity among New York’s communities in the face of looming uncertainty at the federal level." The report comes amid federal cuts and threats to food funding. The breakfast will also "honor New York City Council Members Levin and Grodenchik for their leadership in the fight to eradicate poverty and hunger across the five boroughs by working to strengthen New York’s emergency food network."

On Monday at 11 a.m., Riders Alliance "will introduce a new tool for riders to address continuing subway delays by becoming transit activists in the moment, right on the train or platform. The Riders Alliance will distribute thousands of “Subway Delay Action Kits,” packets of cards with instructions that riders can use to sign the online “Fix the Subway” petition, tweet their frustration directly at Governor Cuomo, and become transit advocates who can help win the funding and attention needed to modernize the MTA." The event, which will include elected officials, will take place "outside Grand Central Station at the SE corner of 42nd St and Park Ave." 

At 11 a.m. Monday, the Assembly Standing Committees on Health and Aging will meet jointly in the Assembly Hearing Room at 250 Broadway in Manhattan, to discuss “nursing home quality of care and patient safety and enforcement.”

At 12:30 p.m. Monday at 250 Broadway in Manhattan, "Members of the New York State Senate, Assembly and New York City Council will call for the creation of an independent monitor to oversee the New York City Housing Authority...Members of the Independent Democratic Conference will also unveil a new report, “Public Housing Peril: The Need to Hold NYCHA Accountable,” conducted with City Council Public Housing Chair Ritchie Torres and Community Voices Heard, on poor NYCHA conditions and the slow responses to requests from tenants to remedy their complaints." Participants will include Senator Jeff Klein, Council Member Rafael Salamanca, Assemblyman Walter Mosley, Senator Marisol Alcantara, Senator Diane Savino, City Council Public Housing Chair Ritchie Torres, Councilman Mark Treyger, and others.

At 5 p.m. Monday, the Brooklyn Historical Society and the Brooklyn Navy Yard will “celebrate Teen Innovators, an after school program offered by BHS and BNY, which has just been named a 2017 National  Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award winner.” The celebration will take place at BLDG 92 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

On Monday at 6 p.m., #GetOrganizedBK will partner with Congregation Beth Elohim for a town hall with newly-elected Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez.

At 6:30 p.m. Monday, Citizens Union and New York Law School will host a forum for candidates for New York City Council Speaker, focusing on good government. Confirmed attendees are Manhattan Council Members Corey Johnson, Mark Levine, and Ydanis Rodriguez; Queens Council Members Donovan Richards and Jimmy Van Bramer; and Brooklyn Council Members Robert Cornegy and Jumaane Williams. Gotham Gazette’s Ben Max will serve as moderator. Other co-sponsors include Reinvent Albany, League of Women Voters, and NYPIRG.

Tuesday
At the City Council on Tuesday:
--The Committee on Public Safety will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “NYPD’s School Safety’s role and efforts to improve school climate.”
--The Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions, and Concessions will meet at 10:30 a.m.
--The Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet at 10:30 a.m.
--The Committee on Land Use will meet at 11 a.m.
--The Committees on Consumer Affairs and Environmental Protection will meet jointly at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “the feasibility of microgrids.”

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals will hold a public hearing at Spector Hall.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Mayor de Blasio will hold a town hall meeting at Flushing International High School with Council Member Peter Koo, U.S. Rep Grace Meng, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, and Assemblymember Ron Kim.

Wednesday
No events on our radar as of Sunday evening.

Thursday
Happy Thanksgiving! The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will travel through Midtown Manhattan on Thursday.

Friday and the weekend
No events on our radar as of Sunday evening.

***
Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: bmax@gothamgazette.com (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

***
by Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max
@GothamGazette

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The Week Ahead in New York Politics, November 20 Sun, 19 Nov 2017 05:00:00 +0000
What's The [DATA] Point? 44, with City Council Member Dan Garodnick http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7320:what-s-the-data-point-44-with-city-council-member-dan-garodnick http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7320:what-s-the-data-point-44-with-city-council-member-dan-garodnick whats the data point


What's The Data Point? Episode 20 -- 44, with City Council Member Dan Garodnick [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]

ep20 garodnick podcast

City Council Member Dan Garodnick has represented his Manhattan district for the past 12 years. At the end of this year, he's leaving the Council due to term limits. He joined the podcast to discuss his time in office and a variety of issues that he has worked on and is continuing to work on in his final 44 days on the job. Garodnick discussed lessons learned, problems in city government, and whether or not he plans to run for elected office again down the road.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (@TweetBenMax), Carol Kellerman of CBC (@cbcny), and guest Dan Garodnick (@DanGarodnick). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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What's The [DATA] Point? 44, with City Council Member Dan Garodnick Thu, 16 Nov 2017 05:00:00 +0000
Women's Caucus Secures Commitments from City Council Speaker Candidates http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7324:women-s-caucus-secures-commitments-from-city-council-speaker-candidates http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7324:women-s-caucus-secures-commitments-from-city-council-speaker-candidates Helen Rosenthal City Council Speaker

Helen Rosenthal among Speaker hopefuls Cornegy, Levine, Johnson (photo: William Alatriste)


The Women’s Caucus of the City Council recently interviewed the eight candidates -- all men -- seeking to become the next Speaker of the Council, arguably the second most powerful position in city government. While the Women’s Caucus will not be endorsing a speaker candidate ahead of the January vote, according to caucus co-chair Helen Rosenthal, it did secure important commitments from each candidate and the process, which also included a questionnaire, was informative in helping the female members of the next Council class decide who to support.

When inaugurated in January, next Council of 51 members will include only 11 women, a gender imbalance that has been the focus of a good deal of recent attention, in the media and from the Women’s Caucus itself, which issued a report detailing the declining number of women in the Council, causes of the trend, and ideas for what to do to reverse it.

According to Council Member Rosenthal, all eight speaker candidates committed to funding through the speaker’s office a staff person for the Women’s Caucus, something that is currently only afforded to the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus (BLAC). Rosenthal called it “an incredibly important achievement” since it will allow the caucus to be more active in terms of releasing press statements and substantive reports, and more.

The speaker candidates -- Council Members Robert Cornegy, Corey Johnson, Mark Levine, Donovan Richards, Ydanis Rodriguez, Ritchie Torres, Jimmy Van Bramer, and Jumaane Williams -- also committed to ensuring that about half of their leadership team would be women if they are elected speaker, Rosenthal said. In this context “leadership” was defined as the majority leader and deputy leaders that the next speaker names, but Rosenthal said the Women’s Caucus also pushed the candidates on committing to strong female representation as chairs of Council committees.

“The speaker candidate interviews went really well,” Rosenthal said in an interview. “All of the candidates were extremely engaged in the process.”

Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat who co-chairs the caucus with Brooklyn Democratic Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who is currently on maternity leave, explained that soon after Election Day, current and incoming members of the Women’s Caucus held interviews with each of the eight speaker candidates over the course of two days, with each interview lasting about 15 minutes. The interviews came after the candidates were asked to fill out a questionnaire (see below). Some of the in-person questions were follow-ups from questionnaire answers, while others were asked to all of the candidates.

“We asked questions like ‘What’s a women's issue?’” Rosenthal said. “It was telling. There were a few people who went right to domestic violence and child care, but the vast majority said ‘All issues are women’s issues,’ and that was revealing.”

Rosenthal said that caucus members agreed not to talk in specifics about individual speaker candidates and how they answered questions. (She is backing Levine, who represents a neighboring district, but in the interview she did not discuss that support relative to the Women’s Caucus process.)

“What has become clear in this whole exercise is that having a female speaker has somewhat masked over the importance in this loss of women in the Council,” Rosenthal said, referring to the fact that the Council has had a female speaker for the past 12 years, with Melissa Mark-Viverito for four and Christine Quinn for the eight before that. Mark-Viverito is term-limited out of office at the end of this year. The number of women in the Council has decreased from 18 elected in 2009 to 11 after this year’s elections.

“If you look at what Melissa’s done with the staff in the Council -- roughly half of the staff are women,” Rosenthal said. “And we wanted to know what [the speaker candidates] would do in terms of leadership positions, committee chair positions, and also staff in the Council.”

“We really wanted a clear answer. ‘You say you want women on your team, but what are your staffing levels in your own office?’ Again, there were actual differences,” Rosenthal added, noting that one speaker candidate was caught in an uncomfortable situation due to a lack of women on his current staff.

Returning female members of the Council include Rosenthal and Cumbo, as well as Margaret Chin, Vanessa Gibson, Deborah Rose, Inez Barron, and Karen Koslowitz.

“The new women coming in were in the room,” Rosenthal said of incoming Council members who were just elected. She said some of those women -- Council Members-Elect Carlina Rivera, Diana Ayala, Alick Ampry-Samuel, and Adrienne Adams -- were present over the two days of interviews. “The whole dynamic was great,” Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal said there were frank discussions about why it is important to have women in the room and asking candidates things like, “What’s your vision for amplifying women’s voices?”

Heading into the race to be the next speaker, a woman was thought to be the frontrunner, but Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland announced earlier this year that she would not seek reelection and would be moving to Maryland for family reasons.

Asked why there were no other women who sought the speakership, Rosenthal said she couldn’t speak for others. “I know why I didn’t,” she said. “Certainly Julissa did. You would have to ask each woman, and my guess is, it’s personal. If there were more women in the Council, you’d see a different outcome.”

As for her own decision, Rosenthal said, “It’s because to do the job well, I don’t think I could manage having a family life and being speaker. That’s personal to me. I’m at a stage in my life where any down-time I have, which is very little, I need to be with my family. The thought of having no down-time weighs on me personally. It doesn’t mean I’m not ambitious, I certainly am. It doesn’t mean I play the traditional woman’s role in my family -- my husband and I are equal partners, and he’s stepped up during this experience.”

Ferreras-Copeland is currently chair of the finance committee, one of the Council’s two most powerful committees along with land use. Rosenthal is currently chair of the contracts committee, while Cumbo chairs the women’s issues committee, Gibson chairs public safety, Chin chairs aging, Barron chairs the higher education committee, and Koslowitz chairs the state and federal legislative committee. Choices for committee chair positions, especially finance and land use, are often part of the process of selecting the speaker, which is greatly influenced by the Democratic county machines, especially those in Queens and the Bronx.

Asked if she hoped one of the big two committees would be chaired by a woman in the next Council, Rosenthal said, “Sure, I hope both are. Both and majority leader.” Does she want one of the two? “No, not necessarily,” she said. “I would like to be part of the leadership team.”

womens caucus sc questionaire 600b

 

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Women's Caucus Secures Commitments from City Council Speaker Candidates Thu, 16 Nov 2017 05:00:00 +0000
City Council Evaluates Progress of NYPD Inspector General http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7325:city-council-examines-progress-under-nypd-inspector-general http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7325:city-council-examines-progress-under-nypd-inspector-general Mark Peters DOI City Council

DOI Commissioner Mark Peters (photo: William Alatriste)


Four years ago, over the veto of then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the City Council passed the Community Safety Act, a landmark piece of legislation relating to policing in New York City. One of the law’s most prominent planks was the creation of the NYPD Inspector General, an independent police department watchdog that would audit NYPD practices and operations and make recommendations on improvements.

With the nation on edge over widely disseminated videos of black men being shot by officers and reform activists continuously criticizing the NYPD’s broken windows policing model and the use of stop-and-frisk as racist, the Community Safety Act aimed to increase the department’s accountability to the public and increase the public’s confidence in the department. In 2014, after Mayor Bill de Blasio took office, the city’s Department of Investigation (DOI) appointed Philip Eure, the former head of Washington D.C.’s Office of Police Complaints, to be the first NYPD Inspector General.

On Wednesday, the City Council’s Committees on Public Safety and Oversight and Investigations held a joint oversight hearing to see how, nearly four years down the line, the NYPD Inspector General is accomplishing its stated goals.

The IG’s goals for improving the NYPD were repeated several times throughout the hearing, which saw initial testimony from Eure and his supervisor, DOI Commissioner Mark Peters. Among those doing the questioning were City Council Members Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams, who were the lead sponsors of the Community Safety Act.

“The IG’s mission is to enhance the effectiveness of the police department, increase public safety, protect civil liberties and civil rights, and increase the public’s confidence in the police force, thereby building stronger police-community relations,” Eure said at the hearing. “We believe that we have made important strides towards accomplishing all of these goals in the last four years, and we look forward to continuing to build upon that work in the years to come.”

Since its first publicly released report in January 2015, concerning police chokeholds, the IG has released nine reports on various NYPD practices that have resulted in some significant policy changes, but have also occasionally resulted in no changes. When the IG releases recommendations, the NYPD is pressured but not required to adopt reforms to operations and practices; if the NYPD refuses to take up a reform voluntarily, the City Council can pass legislation to mandate it.

The IG has released reports on NYPD practices such as chokeholds, de-escalation and use of force, quality of life summonses, responding to emotionally disturbed people, body camera use, investigations of political activity, and, most recently, handling of U visa requests for undocumented immigrants who were the victims of a crime.

Although the NYPD has often refused to implement recommended policies, some significant reforms have been voluntarily taken up by the department. For instance, the NYPD's Intelligence Bureau has formalized tracking measures for investigations into political activity, particularly with regard to investigative deadlines that were often ignored by the department's investigators.

However, in a large number of areas, the NYPD has simply ignored the recommendations of the IG, at times displaying open hostility toward the IG’s office. In January, IG’s office released a report showing that the NYPD is not adequately coordinating Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for officers, crucial when responding to calls involving an emotionally disturbed person (EDP).

At Wednesday’s hearing, Council Member Lander asked Eure and Peters what could be done to ensure NYPD compliance with recommendations, highlighting the NYPD’s refusal to streamline and improve its coordination of trained officers responding to the scene of calls regarding EDPs.

Peters urged the Council to step up efforts to codify into law certain recommendations that the NYPD refuses to implement.

“The NYPD has accepted far more recommendations than they have not,” Peters said. “And that’s great. And then the job for us, the DOI, is to follow up and to make sure that they’re implementing that.”

Peters later said that instances where the NYPD refuses to comply are the most crucial places that the IG’s office and the Council must partner.

“At the end of the day, that is the place where it’s most important for us to be partnering with the Council,” Peters said. “Because you have that report, we present that report to the mayor, we present that to the Council. And so the Council has the opportunity to read that report if you have questions.”

Council Member Williams, who represents the district where an NYPD officer recently shot and killed Dwayne Jeune, an emotionally disturbed man, questioned when a task force would be created to investigate and determine best practices for the NYPD in responding to EDP calls. Four officers responded to the Jeune call; Jeune was killed by the only responding officer who did not receive CIT training.

Mayor Bill de Blasio initially refused to set up a task force after Jeune’s death in July, but relented after prodding from the Council, according to Williams.

Although Eure and Peters had earlier said that they shared reports with the NYPD and City Hall before releasing them to the public in order to glean potentially overlooked facts, Peters said that IG is not involved with the task force.

"I think, obviously, it is an important idea. What I would say, the task force is important, but I believe there are already some things that we know need to be done," Peters said.

The IG’s office will also soon be releasing its first report related to Williams’ recently passed bill, Intro 119, requiring compilation of litigation data against officers and for the IG to use that to develop recommendations. The IG will be releasing the report in April, which Williams said he looks forward to.

Williams proudly proclaimed that things are going well, despite the NYPD and pundits saying that the creation of the NYPD Inspector General would "destroy the city, the sky would literally crack open, and brown and black young people were gonna wreak havoc on this city, and the inspector general in particular was going to confuse all police officers, they would have no idea who to listen to: the inspector general or the commissioner."

Crime has continued to fall while the NYPD has adopted some, but not all, of the reforms proposed by the IG. All 23,000 foot patrol officers are scheduled to do their jobs with body cameras on their person by 2019.

And, according to Eure, the NYPD has issued tighter guidelines on use of force as a result of the Inspector General's reports.

"Approximately eight months after this office published its first report on use of force by NYPD, the department released a set of revised policies that more precisely define the use of force, as well as a more detailed tracking form," Eure said. "All uniformed officers are now required to use a 'Threat, Resistance, or Injury Form" (TRI) whenever they use force or witness another officer using force at the scene." Last year, the City Council passed a law requiring the NYPD to publicly report use of force metrics derived from TRI data, and Eure stated that the IG’s office will soon release a report on the NYPD’s compliance with TRI.

Eure also boasted of a 2016 report that found no increase in felony crime concurrent with a dramatic decrease in enforcement of quality-of-life offenses, better known as broken windows offenses. While the NYPD continues to utilize broken windows policing that data shows disproportionately impacts communities of color, arrests and summonses have continued to drop, as has crime.

After Peters and Eure, advocates and service providers testified, offering some ideas for further scrutiny by the IG. According to testimony from Brooklyn Defender Services’ Debora Silberman, 86% of the almost 61,000 low-level marijuana arrests in New York City were of African-Americans or Latinos, despite whites using marijuana at an approximately equivalent rate.

Silberman also criticized the common NYPD practice of “testilying,” better known as police perjury, and the NYPD IG’s failure to address an apparent culture of officers lying on the stand. Recently, The New York Times reported that a Brooklyn judge warned the city that a court hearing on police perjury was imminent.

“As a public defender, I can assure you that such lying is prevalent and the NYPD has made no recognizable efforts to meaningfully address it,” Silberman said. “Likewise, the imbalance of power in the criminal legal system that pressures defendants to accept plea deals rather than go to trial also enables prosecutors to provide cover for police perjury, or ‘testilying,’ by making offers that defendants all-but-cannot refuse.”

Although the NYPD has decided not to comply with many recommendations, the department has not been outright dismissive of the IG. Peters said that, to date, the Inspector General has not had to issue a subpoena to the NYPD for documents related to an investigation.

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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City Council Evaluates Progress of NYPD Inspector General Wed, 15 Nov 2017 05:00:00 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, November 13 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7315:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-november-13 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7315:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-november-13 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week after the election does not look like it will be too quiet, though Mayor Bill de Blasio will be away on a family vacation in Connecticut all week, Monday through Friday. Still, there is a lot going on, including the ongoing attempts to fight a Republican effort to overhaul the federal tax code that has many in New York very concerned; two City Council speaker candidates forums (Monday and Tuesday); and a variety of City Council hearings, as well as a "stated meeting" of the full Council at which bills are passed and new bills introduced. One bill likely to move through committee and the full Council this week would allow online voter registration in New York City.

On Sunday at City Hall, de Blasio, Senators Kirsten Gillebrand and Charles Schumer, and many others rallied against the GOP tax plan, which would drastically reduce corporate taxes as well as federal deductions people can take for their local and state taxes. Since New York is a high-tax state, New Yorkers no longer able to deduct their local and state taxes from their federal taxes would significantly add to New Yorkers' tax bills. Some Republicans, including in New York, are against the plan, and GOP members of Congress who are undecided are being lobbied from both sides.

As always, there are many events to be aware of this week - see our day-by-day rundown below.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday
Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is in Germany on Monday and Tuesday for a climate change conference.

Governor Andrew Cuomo leaves New York on Monday for California, where he is set to hold multiple fundraisers.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul has two public events Monday: at 11 a.m. she will deliver remarks at New York University Veterans Incubator Ribbon Cutting, at Veterans Future Lab in Brooklyn; and at 6:30 p.m. she will be in Buffalo to congratulate inductees at the inaugural Business First WNY Hall of Fame Ceremony, art the Buffalo History Museum.

On Monday, schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña is Mott Haven Community High School, where she will "visit a new AP class, a Career and Technical Education class, and a recording studio at a transfer school in the Bronx."

At 10 a.m. Monday, the Assembly Standing Committees on Small Business and Economic Development will meet jointly in Albany for an oversight hearing regarding “the economic development programs that leverage state funds to translate technology advancements into viable long-term business development and economic growth.”

At 10 a.m. Monday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, City Council Member Corey Johnson, and the National Supermarket Association will hold a rally at the City Hall steps to call for an end to Manhattan’s commercial rent tax.

On Monday at noon outside Governor Cuomo’s Manhattan office, “climate activists and concerned New Yorkers will form a picket line outside Governor Cuomo’s Manhattan office and call on him to halt all fracking infrastructure projects in the state, and begin a rapid transition from fossil fuel to 100 percent renewable energy....This New York City event is part of a statewide week of action to launch a major new campaign to push Governor Cuomo to move New York away from fossil fuels as fast as possible.”

At 6 p.m. Monday, the Association for a Better New York will host a panel discussion at New Lab in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, exploring “policies and actions New York can do today to position itself as the most attractive and competitive place for major employers” such as Amazon, but also “beyond Amazon.” The panel will consist of Juliette Michaelson of the Regional Plan Association, Bishop Mitchell Taylor of Urban Upbound, Serkan Piantino of Spell, and Jed Walentas of Two Trees Management. The panel will open with remarks from Michael Rudin of Rudin Management Company.

At 6 p.m. Monday evening there will be a forum for City Council speaker candidates focused on "the candidates’ policy priorities, strategies to alleviate poverty in New York City, and proposals to strengthen the human services sector," and co-sponsored by FPWA, Catholic Charities, United Neighborhood Houses, UJA - Federation of NY, Human Services Council; and hosts The New School's Center for NYC Affairs and Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy. It will be moderated by Bill Ritter of ABC News.

At 6:30 p.m. Monday, the Brooklyn Historical Society will host “Digital Democracy: How Technology Impacts Politics.” Matthew McGregor, who worked for Barack Obama, will discuss “how a mastery of technology, from real-time data analytics to quick draw social media, is the driving force of political campaigns today.”

At 7:15 p.m. Monday, Public Advocate Letitia James will attend the Higher Heights' "Moving to Higher Heights When #BlackWomenLead" at the Rainbow Room.

Tuesday
At the City Council on Tuesday:
--The Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet at 9:30 a.m.
--The Committee on Governmental Operations will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss a proposed law relating to online voter registration. [Read: Online Voter Registration on Verge of Passage in New York City]
--The Committee on Youth Services will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “DYCD’s neighborhood development area (NDA) opportunity youth program.”
--The Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting, and Maritime Uses will meet at 11 a.m.
--The Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions, and Concessions will meet at 1 p.m.

On Tuesday at 8 a.m. at NYU Wagner, "The Center for an Urban Future will hold a high-level symposium...Scaling Up Successful Workforce Development Programs in NYC." A "panel of experts that will analyze why so few of New York City’s most successful workforce development programs ever manage scale up and serve more New Yorkers." Panelists will be Plinio Ayala, President & CEO, Per Scholas; David Fischer, Founding Executive Director, NYC Center for Youth Employment; Angie Kamath, University Dean for Continuing Education and Workforce Development, City University of New York; Abby Jo Sigal, Founding CEO, HERE to HERE; Stacy Woodruff, Director, Workforce Field Building Hub, Workforce Professionals Training Institute; and moderator Christian González-Rivera, Senior Researcher, Center for an Urban Future.

At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, City & State will host “Front Page Roundtable Series: Real Estate” at the New York Institute of Technology, discussing urban issues of land use, zoning, planning, and development, among other things. City & State editor Jon Lentz and Real Deal reporter Kathryn Brenzel will moderate a panel consisting of Council Member David Greenfield, chair of the Land Use Committee; Council Member Jumaane Williams, Chair of the Housing and Buildings Committee; Purnima Kapur, Executive Director of the Department of City Planning; and Molly Park, Deputy Commissioner for Development at HPD.

On Tuesday, "Public Advocate Letitia James will host a tenant rally and release the 2017 Worst Landlord Watchlist. Following the rally, Public Advocate James will tour buildings in Manhattan and Brooklyn on this year’s Watchlist." The rally will be at 10 a.m. at Foley Square.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, the Senate Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction will meet at 321 S William St in Newburgh, Orange County to “examine the issues facing communities in the wake of increased heroin abuse.”

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, the Senate Public Forum on Climate Change and Community Protection will meet at CUNY Law School in Long Island City, Queens to “provide an open forum for experts in the climate change community to craft the most accurate version of a comprehensive act relating to climate change and community protection.”

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, Public Advocate Letitia James will join the Association for a Better New York for their “What’s On Tap” happy hour series, at the Dark Horse in the Financial District.

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the New York Civil Liberties Union, Make the Road NY, JustLeadershipUSA, the Working Families Party, Citizen Action, Vocal NY, and Change the NYPD will host a forum for City Council Speaker candidates focusing on “police accountability, closing Rikers, and criminal justice reform” at Columbia University’s Horace Mann Hall. Dr. Christina Greer, Fordham University political science professor, will moderate.

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Riders Alliance will hold a meeting discussing “next steps in our campaign to fix the subway.”

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, City Council Member Dan Garodnick, State Senator Liz Krueger, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, and others will host a public forum on the Reproductive Health Act, currently held up in the State Senate. The forum will take place at the CUNY Graduate Center’s Proshansky Auditorium.

Wednesday
At the City Council on Wednesday:
--The Committee on Health will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss a proposed law relating to “the documentation of annual water tank inspections and the reporting of such inspections.”
--The Committee on Consumer Affairs will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “Enforcement of Local Law 17 of 2011 and the Regulation of Pregnancy Service Centers.”
--The Committee on Finance will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss proposed laws relating to “the inclusion of information on registration of rent-stabilized units and housing affordability programs on real property tax bills” and to “requiring the Department of Finance to provide new homeowners with information about real property taxes and exemptions.”
--The Committee on Land Use will meet at 11 a.m.
--The Committees on Public Safety and Oversight & Investigations will meet jointly at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing “examining the office of Inspector General for the NYPD.”

At 11 a.m. Wednesday, the Senate Standing Committee on Civil Service will meet at 250 Broadway in Manhattan to discuss “the denial of accidental disability applications from those who participated in the World Trade Center rescue, recovery and clean up.”

Thursday
The full City Council will meet at 1:30 p.m. Thursday. The meeting will be prefaced by a press conference hosted by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

At 8 a.m. Thursday, the Daily News and City & State will host the “Politics of Food Conference” at the New York Institute of Technology, convening “over 250 top chefs, policy makers, innovators and leaders from diverse fields to uncover and assess the most important issues and trends affecting the nourishment of our New York.” New York State Agriculture Department Commissioner Richard Ball will deliver keynote remarks. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will sit on a panel at 10 a.m. on “nutrition and sustainability.”

At 6 p.m. Thursday, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal and State Senator Brad Hoylman will host a panel discussion on childhood sexual assault, and how “New York State can better help protect your children from harm.” The event will take place at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Friday and the weekend
No events on our radar as of Sunday night.

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Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: bmax@gothamgazette.com (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

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by Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max
@GothamGazette

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The Week Ahead in New York Politics, November 13 Sun, 12 Nov 2017 05:00:52 +0000
Online Voter Registration on Verge of Passage in New York City http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7314:online-voter-registration-on-verge-of-passage-in-new-york-city http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7314:online-voter-registration-on-verge-of-passage-in-new-york-city polling place

Polling place (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)


As New York State’s archaic election and voting laws continue to dampen voter turnout, the New York City Council is about to take a step to encourage participation. The City Council’s governmental operations committee will vote on Tuesday, November 14 to approve a bill allowing online voter registration for city residents, Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the committee, told Gotham Gazette on Thursday. The bill is then expected to pass the full City Council on Thursday.

“With the historic low in turnout on Tuesday, online voter registration will be an essential tool to help more residents become voters,” Kallos said in a phone interview, referring to the 22 percent of registered voters who showed up to the polls to vote for mayor. Following the committee vote, the bill will head to the Council floor for a vote at its next stated meeting, he said.

New York’s laws lag behind most other states and voter turnout has been consistently low in recent elections at the federal, state and city level. Nationally, 34 states and Washington D.C. allow some form of online voter registration. Although New Yorkers can submit registration forms online through the Department of Motor Vehicles, only those with DMV-issued identification can do so. “Many people in urban areas, which have higher concentrations of low-income communities of color, may not have drivers licenses because they rely on public transportation,” Kallos said.

Kallos’ bill requires that the New York City Campaign Finance Board, or another agency designated by the mayor, create a website and mobile application where residents can register to vote or update their registration. The agency will have to submit those registration forms to the Board of Elections within two weeks, and the portal will inform applicants when their registration will go into effect. The online form will allow applicants to either upload files with a copy of their handwritten signature, a photo for instance, or directly sign the form using a touchscreen.

“I think it’s long overdue and it’s good to see the City of New York join the 20th century,” Kallos said, hinting that the state’s voting laws require broader modernization. While online registration would make registering easier, to significantly improve turnout -- millions of registered New Yorkers do not vote in local elections -- many point to state-level reforms, such as early voting and same-day registration, which have stalled in Albany, curbed by the Republican-controlled state Senate.

“Anything that can be done to improve New York’s appalling voter participation rate is worth doing,” said Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit that advocates for better election laws. “We live in the 21st century. We shouldn’t have VHS technology in the Netflix age and this makes perfect sense to do what can be done to make it easier for people to register to vote.”

Kallos, a Democrat who represents the Upper East Side, credited Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for paving the way for online registration through an informal opinion he issued in April last year. Schneiderman, who was responding to Suffolk County officials seeking clarity on voter registration requirements, wrote that a registration form completed with an “electronically-affixed handwritten signature” would be consistent with state law.

Although the bill would take effect 18 months after it is signed into law, Kallos urged the de Blasio administration to move quickly. As a demonstration of the ease with which a portal can be created, he built his own fully-functional microsite, which he said took only a few hours. “I hope the city doesn’t wait years or months but gets it done in weeks, days or even hours,” he said, also hoping that every city agency integrates links to the portal in online forms, which isn’t mandated in the legislation.

“The Administration worked closely with the City Council in crafting this legislation,” said mayoral spokesperson Seth Stein, in an email. “We support online registration and making voting more accessible to New Yorkers. We look forward to reviewing the final legislation when it passes the Council.”

Kallos is also hoping that the city’s bill will “convince our colleagues in Albany to bring online voter registration to the state.” The New York State Legislature has been consistently averse to electoral and voting reforms. “Elected officials get elected by the voters that exist, not by the voters who might exist,” said NYPIRG’s Horner. “So there’s a natural reluctance to bring new voters into the system.”

He added, “New York needs a soup-to-nuts review of its elections process with a goal toward making it easier for people to register, making it easier for people to vote, not harder, and that’s what New York does unfortunately right now.”

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Online Voter Registration on Verge of Passage in New York City Thu, 09 Nov 2017 05:00:00 +0000
2017 New York City General Election Results http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7307:2017-new-york-city-general-election-results http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7307:2017-new-york-city-general-election-results voting elections New York City

(photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)


Mayor Bill de Blasio won reelection on Tuesday, earning about two-thirds of the vote in another low-turnout election -- about 1,070,000 voters cast ballots in the mayoral race. De Blasio's fellow incumbent citywide Democrats, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James, also won reelection, each with about three-quarters of the vote.

Among the most notable other votes cast in New York this Election Day, the constitutional convention ballot question -- proposal one on the back of the ballot -- was resoundly defeated, with more than 83% voting "no" statewide. Proposition two, which would allow the stripping of pensions from elected officials convicted of corruption, passed, and proposition three, allowing some opening up of preserved upstate land for important infrastructure projects, also passed. All three were statewide referendums, as voters went to the polls across New York, including in some interesting mayoral and county executive contests.

In New York City, though, de Blasio defeated six other candidates on the ballot, receiving about 66% of the vote, with Republican Nicole Malliotakis coming in second, earning about 28% of the vote. The other candidates -- Sal Albanese (Reform), Akeem Browder (Green), Mike Tolkin (Smart Cities), Bo Dietl (Dump the Mayor), and Aaron Commey (Libertarian) -- all finished at 2% or lower. Dietl, who raised and spent over $1 million and was included in both televised debates, got just 1% of the vote.

Stringer's Republican opponent, Michel Faulkner, came in second in the comptroller race with nearly 20% of the vote. Green Party nominee Julia Willebrand and Libertarian Alex Merced came in distant third and fourth, respectively.

James' Republican opponent, J.C. Polanco, came in second in the public advocate race with about 16% of the vote. Michael O'Reilly, the Conservative Party nominee, got about 8%; Green Party nominee James Lane about 2%; and Libertarian Devin Balkind under 1%.

Democrats Eric Gonzalez and Cyrus Vance won their Brooklyn and Manhattan District Attorney races overwhelmingly.

All five borough presidents were easily reelected with at least 75% of the vote: Gale Brewer in Manhattan; Ruben Diaz, Jr. in the Bronx; Eric Adams in Brooklyn; Melinda Katz in Queens -- all Democrats -- and James Oddo, a Republican, on Staten Island.

Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh won a special election to the state Senate, taking the Brooklyn and Manhattan seat vacated by Daniel Squadron earlier this year.

The following City Council results came in on Election Day -- it is worth noting that Council District 30, in Queens, appears headed to a recount after, in a bit of a surprise, incumbent Democrat City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley appers on the verge of losing to Robert Holden, who had lost the Democratic primary to Crowley but ran in the general on several ballot lines, including Republican.

Council District 1: Margaret Chin, a Democrat, will win with about 50% of the vote, with Christopher Marte coming in second with about 37%. This, after Marte lost the Democratic primary to Chin by just over 200 votes.

CD2: Carlina Rivera, Democrat, elected

CD3: Corey Johnson, Democrat, reelected

CD4: Keith Powers, Democrat, elected with 57% of the vote; Republican Rebecca Harary received about 31%; Liberal Party nominee Rachel Honig got 12%.

CD5: Ben Kallos, Democrat, reelected

CD6: Helen Rosenthal, Democrat, reelected

CD7: Mark Levine, Democrat, reelected

CD8: Diana Ayala, Democrat, elected

CD9: Bill Perkins, Democrat, reelected

CD10: Ydanis Rodriguez, Democrat, reelected

CD11: Andrew Cohen, Democrat, reelected

CD12: Andy King, Democrat, reelected

CD13: Mark Gjonaj, Democrat, elected with 49% of the vote; Republican John Cerini received 36%; and Working Families Party nominee Marjorie Velazquez, who did not campaign in the general, received 13%

CD14: Fernando Cabrera, Democrat, reelected

CD15: Ritchie Torres, Democrat, reelected

CD16: Vanessa Gibson, Democrat, reelected

CD17: Rafael Salamanca, Democrat, reelected

CD18: Ruben Diaz, Sr., Democrat, elected

CD19: Paul Vallone, Democrat, reelected with 56% of the vote; Republican Konstantinos Poulidis received 25%; and Reform Party nominee Paul Graziano received 18%

CD20: Peter Koo, Democrat, reelected

CD21: Francisco Moya, Democrat, elected

CD22: Costa Constantinides, Democrat, reelected

CD23: Barry Grodenchik, Democrat, reelected

CD24: Rory Lancman, Democrat, reelected

CD25: Danny Dromm, Democrat, reelected

CD26: Jimmy Van Bramer, Democrat, reelected

CD27: I. Daneek Miller, Democrat, reelected

CD28: Adrienne Adams, Democrat, elected

CD29: Karen Koslowitz, Democrat, reelected

CD30: TBD, either incumbent Elizabeth Crowley (Democrat) or challenger Robert Holden (Republican)

CD31: Donovan Richards, Democrat, reelected

CD32: Eric Ulrich, Republican, reelected with 66% of the vote; Democrat Mike Scala received about 34%

CD33: Stephen Levin, Democrat, reelected

CD34: Antonio Reynoso, Democrat, reelected

CD35: Laurie Cumbo, Democrat, reelected with 68% of the vote; Green Party nominee Jabari Brisport received about 29%

CD36: Robert Cornegy, Jr., Democrat, reelected, reelected

CD37: Rafael Espinal, Democrat, reelected

CD38: Carlos Menchaca, Democrat, reelected

CD39: Brad Lander, Democrat, reelected

CD40: Mathieu Eugene, Democrat, reelected with 60% of the vote; Reform Party nominee Brian Cunningham received about 36%

CD41: Alicka Ampry-Samuel, Democrat, elected

CD42: Inez Barron, Democrat, reelected

CD43: Justin Brannan, Democrat, elected with about 51% of the vote; Republican John Quaglione received about 47%

CD44: Kalman Yeger, Democrat, elected, with 67% of the vote; Yoni Hikind, running on the Our Community line, received about 29%

CD45: Jumaane Williams, Democrat, reelected

CD46: Alan Maisel, Democrat, reelected

CD47: Mark Treyger, Democrat, reelected

CD48: Chaim Deutsch, Democrat, reelected

CD49: Debroah Rose, Democrat, reelected

CD50: Steve Matteo, Republican, reelected

CD51: Joseph Borelli, Republican, reelected

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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2017 New York City General Election Results Tue, 07 Nov 2017 05:00:00 +0000
City Council Passes Bills Expanding Oversight of Economic Development Spending http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7284:city-council-to-pass-bills-expanding-oversight-of-economic-development-spending http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7284:city-council-to-pass-bills-expanding-oversight-of-economic-development-spending dmw7vyeuqaayxfq.jpg large

CM Garodnick speaks at a groundbreaking ceremony (photo via @DanGarodnick)


[editor's note: the bills discussed in this story have passed the Council since its publish; the headline has been tweaked to indicate that fact, but the story remains unchanged from its publish]

The New York City Council is set to pass a package of three bills that will expand its oversight of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, a city-affiliated non-profit that is instrumental in the city’s efforts to stimulate business and create jobs.

The EDC handles a wide array of projects and initiatives from infrastructure and real estate development to cultural projects and parks and public spaces. The organization’s work is at the center of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to create 100,000 jobs over ten years that pay $50,000 annually, and it recently led the process for the city’s bid to host the second headquarters of retail giant Amazon. Hundreds of projects receive financial assistance each year from the city through EDC in the form of tax benefits, loans, grants, and even energy benefits

But as of now, EDC is required to report little publicly about its operations and the benefits of its work to the city and New Yorkers. The City Council bills being passed this week, which are expected to be signed into law by the mayor, seek to increase those reporting requirements to add a layer of accountability and transparency to EDC’s work.

“We spend an extraordinary sum every year on economic development and the goals are laudable: creation of jobs, the expansion of affordable housing or even the refurbishing of important cultural or historical sites,” said City Council Member Daniel Garodnick, chair of the economic development committee and prime sponsor of one of the three bills in the package, in a phone interview. “But, unfortunately it’s not always clear whether these dollars achieve their intended objectives.”

Garodnick’s bill would require the EDC to provide fiscal impact statements for projects it sponsors, including estimates of the number of jobs being created. Another bill, sponsored by Council Member Corey Johnson, would require EDC to report on its efforts to recover funds from any third party that received financial assistance but failed to live up to an economic development agreement. The third bill, sponsored by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, would give the City Council an opportunity to comment on proposed economic development agreements by mandating that EDC provide project descriptions and budgets to the Council at least 30 days before the agreement is finalized.  

The three bills build on Garodnick’s efforts that he began in 2014 to improve oversight of EDC and how it utilizes taxpayer money. Last year, Garodnick and Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, the Council’s finance chair, led a task force to examine the city’s economic development tax expenditures. The task force issued 10 recommendations including instituting regular reviews of tax expenditures and improved oversight. The three bills being passed on Wednesday were an outcome of those recommendations.

“Through these bills, EDC will provide comprehensive fiscal impact statements and enhanced compliance reports for projects that receive our financial assistance,” said Shavone Williams, an EDC spokesperson, in a statement. “We look forward to this collaboration with the City Council as part of our larger efforts to remain as transparent as possible to the communities we serve.”

Support from EDC indicates the mayor will sign into laws the bills, which have passed through Garodnick’s committee and will be voted on by the full City Council on Tuesday.

Garodnick did acknowledge that EDC has improved its processes and that it already provides some information annually on its projects as required under city and state law. EDC puts out an Annual Investments Projects Report, in three volumes, on projects that receive financial assistance and details of the sales and leases of city-land. The last report, issued January 30, notes that EDC provided some form of financial assistance to 554 projects in fiscal year 2016. The report included information on 46 sales of city-land that brought in $536.1 million and 89 leases of city-owned land with rents worth $126.1 million.

The 554 projects accounted for 5.9 percent of the total private employment in the city; about $36.1 billion in private investment; they cost the city about $138 million in fiscal year 2016 (totalling $1.8 billion over the life of the projects) and brought in $5.2 billion in tax revenue (estimated to grow to $50.3 billion over the life of the projects).

“I felt that more could be done to ensure that the public has a handle on how we are spending our money here and we want to give the public better access to this information,” said Garodnick, who is leaving the Council at the end of the year due to term limits. “We want to go further and be able to measure the upfront goals with the outcomes.”

Indeed, in the context of numerous neighborhood rezonings proposed by the de Blasio administration across the city, advocacy groups have consistently called for more rigorous scrutiny of promises made by the city and keeping developers accountable if they receive any benefits from the administration. This also applies to singular projects, including the prominent example of the Bedford Union Armory redevelopment, a process that was spearheaded by EDC. The project is on city land but proposes a long-term lease to a private developer, raising concerns among community advocates.

“There is a natural tension here between the need to activate economic development measures and local community perspectives,” Garodnick said, when Gotham Gazette ventured whether increased oversight was necessary in the aftermath of the Bloomberg years, when development went largely unchecked. “And part of this is ensuring that local needs are considered and that’s really what the Rosenthal bill is about. This is a very important agency that spends an extraordinary amount of money which does a lot of good work. We want to add these oversight measures to ensure the greatest transparency of taxpayer dollars.”

Garodnick also agreed that there’s a need to ensure that the mayor’s plan to invest in burgeoning economic sectors to directly create 100,000 jobs receives the appropriate scrutiny. “This would always be important but with the commitment that is being made to find ways to create economic opportunities, this is even more important,” he said.

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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City Council Passes Bills Expanding Oversight of Economic Development Spending Mon, 30 Oct 2017 04:00:00 +0000