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/corey-johnson 2019-01-23T22:28:00+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com As Acting Public Advocate, Johnson Eyes Information Commission Revived by James But Killed by De Blasio 2019-01-14T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-14T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8200-as-acting-public-advocate-johnson-eyes-information-commission-revived-by-james-but-killed-by-de-blasio Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/46672397441_d47ec97d1e_z.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson Tish James" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Corey Johnson, Laurie Cumbo, Tish James (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>A charter-mandated city commission meant to help New Yorkers access information about their government sputtered to a stop in 2016 owing to a lack of funding, barely three years after being revived by former Public Advocate Letitia James. Now, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is also acting public advocate for the next several weeks, is taking up James’ unfinished business and attempting to raise the commission from its grave.</p> <p>The Commission on Public Information and Communication (COPIC) was created in the City Charter in 1989 with a mandate of informing the public about data created and maintained by the city and helping New Yorkers access it. Chaired by the public advocate, the commission is meant to regularly examine the city’s information policies as well as monitor agency efforts to comply with them.</p> <p>The charter requires the commission to hold at least one hearing each year and issue an annual report. COPIC must also annually publish a directory of “computerized information produced or maintained by city agencies which is required by law to be publicly accessible,” though it has not done so since perhaps the 1990s. The commission does not have a website, despite being in existence for 20 years, and records of past meetings and reports are not easily accessible (the public advocate’s website hosted some of this information but was archived once James vacated her seat).</p> <p>The commission was also tasked with evaluating the implementation of the city’s webcasting law, passed in 2013 and requiring agencies to broadcast meetings online and archive them. In 2015, James’ second year as public advocate, the commission was exploring ways to assist agencies with their webcasting requirements and setting up a central repository of all webcasts.</p> <p>The body’s membership, all unpaid, is meant to comprise the heads of several city agencies or their delegates including the city Law Department, the Department of Records and Information Services, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications; one City Council member; two other members appointed by the mayor; one member appointed by the public advocate; and one appointed by the borough presidents as a group.</p> <p>But COPIC hasn’t held a hearing since March 2016 when James was in the midst of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/government/6025-little-known-commission-expands-access-to-city-government" target="_blank" rel="noopener">her attempt to rescue the commission</a> from bureaucratic apathy only to be denied resources by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration. As James’ predecessor in the public advocate’s office, de Blasio himself had only convened one hearing of the commission. The public advocate’s office receives little funding for its own duties, let alone to hire staff for COPIC.</p> <p>It’s unclear why James did not continue her advocacy for the commission after having revived it with some fanfare early in her tenure (her office even created <a href="https://twitter.com/COPICNYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a new Twitter account</a> just for COPIC). A spokesperson for James did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>When James was sworn in as New York’s attorney general, the public advocate office fell to Speaker Johnson’s stewardship until a new public advocate is chosen by voters in a special election scheduled for February 26. In the limited time available to him, Johnson is eyeing several avenues of his expanded responsibilities. “I absolutely want an active COPIC, and I want to build on the work Tish James did as Public Advocate in this area,” Johnson said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “This is something she fought for and it’s something I want to keep working on in my time as acting Public Advocate.”</p> <p>One reason that COPIC has been unable to publish the requisite public data directory is because the Law Department argued in 2014 that the city’s Open Data portal already accomplishes this goal. But Johnson’s office disagrees. A spokesperson said that though the two databases have significant overlap, COPIC’s public data directory could and would go further, identifying new datasets that members of the public can then request under the city’s Freedom of Information law. The Open Data portal, on the other hand, relies on agencies self-identifying datasets that they believe should be subject to the open data law. Earlier this month, Johnson sent a letter to the mayor requesting that information with a February 15 deadline for a response.</p> <p>“We’ll look into it,” said mayoral spokesperson Eric Phillips, in an email, when asked about the speaker’s letter and the lack of funding for COPIC.</p> <p>Manhattan City Council Member Ben Kallos, who was the Council’s pick to be on the commission, said the fault for COPIC’s inactivity lies solely with the mayor’s office as he praised James for trying to resuscitate the commission. “COPIC is yet another board that is completely controlled by mayoral appointments, which has a responsibility to be a check on the mayor, which is why it has probably never been funded properly in my recent memory,” Kallos said in a phone interview, noting that the mayor chooses seven of the 11 COPIC commissioners. “COPIC is a powerful agency in the charter which has been written out of the charter by a chronic defunding of the agency as a whole.”</p> <p>Kallos requested funding for the agency in three successive budgets. In 2015, several civic technology groups and good government advocacy organizations also joined that push, including Common Cause New York, Citizens Union, the New York Public Interest Research Group, BetaNYC, Civic Hall, Reinvent Albany, the League of Women Voters of the City of New York, and the Women’s City Club of New York. “Given the promise of COPIC to increase public accessibility of city government meetings, data and information, we request the modest budget of $250,000 for staffing of COPIC to ensure it is able to fulfill the duties outlined in the City Charter,” the groups wrote in a 2015 letter. That funding is estimated to be sufficient to hire a full-time executive director and general counsel, which the charter mandates.</p> <p>Kallos was disappointed that those calls went unheeded. “The mayor never included it in the budget. I pushed for it. Tish pushed for it. The good government community pushed for it,” he said. The most impactful role that COPIC could play, Kallos said, is providing advisory opinions to members of the public, elected officials, and city agencies about laws requiring public access to meetings, transcripts and records.</p> <p>“COPIC has the potential to be the equivalent of the Committee on Open Government at the state level,” he said, referring to the state agency that gives the public, press, and state government advice on the state Freedom of Information Law, the Open Meetings Law, and the Personal Privacy Protection Law. Kallos said he would advocate for the 2019 Charter Revision Commission to strengthen COPIC’s powers.</p> <p>“You can only expect people to work for so long without being compensated for their work, and with the federal government shut down, we’re seeing those limits tested,” Kallos said. “In this case we have COPIC being operated and moved forward for three years without any funding and I hope that people will finally fund this important agency that very few have ever heard of but would have the power to really force the executive to really open up.”</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/podcast18/46672397441_d47ec97d1e_z.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson Tish James" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Corey Johnson, Laurie Cumbo, Tish James (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>A charter-mandated city commission meant to help New Yorkers access information about their government sputtered to a stop in 2016 owing to a lack of funding, barely three years after being revived by former Public Advocate Letitia James. Now, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is also acting public advocate for the next several weeks, is taking up James’ unfinished business and attempting to raise the commission from its grave.</p> <p>The Commission on Public Information and Communication (COPIC) was created in the City Charter in 1989 with a mandate of informing the public about data created and maintained by the city and helping New Yorkers access it. Chaired by the public advocate, the commission is meant to regularly examine the city’s information policies as well as monitor agency efforts to comply with them.</p> <p>The charter requires the commission to hold at least one hearing each year and issue an annual report. COPIC must also annually publish a directory of “computerized information produced or maintained by city agencies which is required by law to be publicly accessible,” though it has not done so since perhaps the 1990s. The commission does not have a website, despite being in existence for 20 years, and records of past meetings and reports are not easily accessible (the public advocate’s website hosted some of this information but was archived once James vacated her seat).</p> <p>The commission was also tasked with evaluating the implementation of the city’s webcasting law, passed in 2013 and requiring agencies to broadcast meetings online and archive them. In 2015, James’ second year as public advocate, the commission was exploring ways to assist agencies with their webcasting requirements and setting up a central repository of all webcasts.</p> <p>The body’s membership, all unpaid, is meant to comprise the heads of several city agencies or their delegates including the city Law Department, the Department of Records and Information Services, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications; one City Council member; two other members appointed by the mayor; one member appointed by the public advocate; and one appointed by the borough presidents as a group.</p> <p>But COPIC hasn’t held a hearing since March 2016 when James was in the midst of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/government/6025-little-known-commission-expands-access-to-city-government" target="_blank" rel="noopener">her attempt to rescue the commission</a> from bureaucratic apathy only to be denied resources by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration. As James’ predecessor in the public advocate’s office, de Blasio himself had only convened one hearing of the commission. The public advocate’s office receives little funding for its own duties, let alone to hire staff for COPIC.</p> <p>It’s unclear why James did not continue her advocacy for the commission after having revived it with some fanfare early in her tenure (her office even created <a href="https://twitter.com/COPICNYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a new Twitter account</a> just for COPIC). A spokesperson for James did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>When James was sworn in as New York’s attorney general, the public advocate office fell to Speaker Johnson’s stewardship until a new public advocate is chosen by voters in a special election scheduled for February 26. In the limited time available to him, Johnson is eyeing several avenues of his expanded responsibilities. “I absolutely want an active COPIC, and I want to build on the work Tish James did as Public Advocate in this area,” Johnson said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “This is something she fought for and it’s something I want to keep working on in my time as acting Public Advocate.”</p> <p>One reason that COPIC has been unable to publish the requisite public data directory is because the Law Department argued in 2014 that the city’s Open Data portal already accomplishes this goal. But Johnson’s office disagrees. A spokesperson said that though the two databases have significant overlap, COPIC’s public data directory could and would go further, identifying new datasets that members of the public can then request under the city’s Freedom of Information law. The Open Data portal, on the other hand, relies on agencies self-identifying datasets that they believe should be subject to the open data law. Earlier this month, Johnson sent a letter to the mayor requesting that information with a February 15 deadline for a response.</p> <p>“We’ll look into it,” said mayoral spokesperson Eric Phillips, in an email, when asked about the speaker’s letter and the lack of funding for COPIC.</p> <p>Manhattan City Council Member Ben Kallos, who was the Council’s pick to be on the commission, said the fault for COPIC’s inactivity lies solely with the mayor’s office as he praised James for trying to resuscitate the commission. “COPIC is yet another board that is completely controlled by mayoral appointments, which has a responsibility to be a check on the mayor, which is why it has probably never been funded properly in my recent memory,” Kallos said in a phone interview, noting that the mayor chooses seven of the 11 COPIC commissioners. “COPIC is a powerful agency in the charter which has been written out of the charter by a chronic defunding of the agency as a whole.”</p> <p>Kallos requested funding for the agency in three successive budgets. In 2015, several civic technology groups and good government advocacy organizations also joined that push, including Common Cause New York, Citizens Union, the New York Public Interest Research Group, BetaNYC, Civic Hall, Reinvent Albany, the League of Women Voters of the City of New York, and the Women’s City Club of New York. “Given the promise of COPIC to increase public accessibility of city government meetings, data and information, we request the modest budget of $250,000 for staffing of COPIC to ensure it is able to fulfill the duties outlined in the City Charter,” the groups wrote in a 2015 letter. That funding is estimated to be sufficient to hire a full-time executive director and general counsel, which the charter mandates.</p> <p>Kallos was disappointed that those calls went unheeded. “The mayor never included it in the budget. I pushed for it. Tish pushed for it. The good government community pushed for it,” he said. The most impactful role that COPIC could play, Kallos said, is providing advisory opinions to members of the public, elected officials, and city agencies about laws requiring public access to meetings, transcripts and records.</p> <p>“COPIC has the potential to be the equivalent of the Committee on Open Government at the state level,” he said, referring to the state agency that gives the public, press, and state government advice on the state Freedom of Information Law, the Open Meetings Law, and the Personal Privacy Protection Law. Kallos said he would advocate for the 2019 Charter Revision Commission to strengthen COPIC’s powers.</p> <p>“You can only expect people to work for so long without being compensated for their work, and with the federal government shut down, we’re seeing those limits tested,” Kallos said. “In this case we have COPIC being operated and moved forward for three years without any funding and I hope that people will finally fund this important agency that very few have ever heard of but would have the power to really force the executive to really open up.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
In First Year as Council Speaker, Johnson Establishes Countervailing Force 2019-01-06T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-06T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8180-in-first-year-as-council-speaker-johnson-establishes-countervailing-force Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/46565879862_624ba9c5c0_z.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson Mayor de Blasio " width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Corey Johnson (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>One year ago, New York City Council Member Corey Johnson was near-unanimously elected speaker of the 51-member legislative body, becoming the city’s second-most powerful elected official behind the mayor. In an emotional inaugural speech, he spoke of the heavy burden the Council bears in tackling the issues that face everyday New Yorkers. “There has never been a more important time to ensure that our City has a strong, unified and independent Council to take on these challenges,” he said.</p> <p>In the year since, Johnson has indeed led a chamber that has drawn a stronger line between itself and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, while Johnson has established himself as a new force in New York, operating with an obsession for politics, an enthusiasm for his job, and a wear-it-on-your-sleeve penchant for empathizing with the plights of New Yorkers. Johnson’s style and instincts have drawn a clear counter-figure to de Blasio, though the speaker and the mayor have appeared on good terms throughout Johnson’s first year in the new job, even as he has publicly disagreed with the mayor on numerous occasions and taken a harsh tone with several de Blasio administration officials.</p> <p>Johnson’s chosen a few areas of legislative focus, but has yet to put forth a clear policy agenda that signals his true priorities, though he said upon taking the speakership that strengthening the “social safety net” was of utmost importance to him. He has made transit a major focus, riding the subway daily, voicing his displeasure with the system's reliability, and even calling for municipal control of the trains and buses.</p> <p>The City Council was particularly active in 2018, passing nearly three times as much legislation in the first year of this new four-year session as the previous Council class did in 2014.&nbsp;Though there are mitigating factors at play -- like the fact that most of the current Council is holdovers from the past session -- legislative productivity is an apt defining feature for the body under the stewardship of Johnson, the outgoing, outspoken speaker who has quickly established himself as a formidable opposite — not oppositional, he says — force to de Blasio and who has injected a different energy into the city’s political landscape, even shaking up discussions around the next mayoral race.</p> <p>“One of the things that’s just sort of in my DNA is, I like to work...I get bored if I don’t,” Johnson said in a phone interview about his first year as speaker, “I’m not good at downtime. So that kinda means that I live and breathe this every single day.”</p> <p>Johnson’s path to the position and approach once in office have been poles apart from his predecessor, Melissa Mark-Viverito, though both are groundbreaking officials. Mark-Viverito was the first Latina to be speaker and Johnson is it’s first openly gay male and openly HIV-positive one.</p> <p>Mark-Viverito in part owed her ascendance in 2014 to de Blasio, himself newly-elected and especially powerful, who helped put her over the finish line in a tight contest with City Council Member Daniel Garodnick. With the mayor’s help, Mark-Viverito and her allies corralled a newly-elected group of progressive City Council members and bucked the traditional bastions of county party power in Queens and the Bronx.</p> <p>A Democrat representing the west side of Manhattan, Johnson became speaker despite the mayor, emerging above a crowded field of candidates and receiving support from those two counties. In what looked to be an almost overt rejection of the mayor, leaders of the Democratic machines in the two boroughs announced their decision to back Johnson when de Blasio was out of town, while much of the discussion around Johnson’s colleagues support for him was not about working with de Blasio to pass sweeping progressive programs, as it had been in 2014, and more about independence from the mayor.</p> <p>Johnson repeatedly vowed that he would not be beholden to the other side of City Hall, an allegation that dogged Mark-Viverito for her tenure as she balanced her support for the mayor’s policies with occasional rejection of them and very much <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7394-melissa-mark-viverito-a-mayor-made-speaker-who-sought-a-member-driven-legacy" target="_blank" rel="noopener">charted her own agenda</a>, often bringing de Blasio along, like on the closing of the Rikers Island jail complex.</p> <p>A <a href="https://cityandstateny.com/articles/personality/interviews-profiles/new-york-city-council-speaker-corey-johnson.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">City &amp; State profile</a> of Johnson published in December — titled “Is Corey Johnson already mayor?” — noted that he had made converts of several City Council members who had opposed him during the race for speaker and who worried that he may exact revenge on them if elected. “If Corey had an approval rating in the City Council, I suspect it would be nearly 100 percent,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres, quoted in the article. Torres said Johnson was filling a vacuum of leadership left by the mayor, who is increasingly absent from City Hall and who seems more intent on building a national profile than running the city. It’s an observation that’s been thrown around more and more even though Johnson disagrees with it.</p> <p>Part of the apparent discrepancy stems from their different approaches to communicating with the public — Johnson is an open book and known to say what’s on his mind, often on Twitter, and responds immediately to virtually every significant event related to public life in New York and with compassion to the plight of suffering New Yorkers. De Blasio, on the other hand, seems to struggle to express empathy and often has a measured, almost academic response to any given crisis. Johnson appears to relish being a New Yorker, holding public office, and doing any and all part of the job, even if some are less fun or interesting than others. De Blasio appears to dislike most aspects of his job.</p> <p>There are times when the speaker has been more outspoken than the mayor -- his response to the city’s handling of the November snowstorm; his immediate call for the resignation of Board of Elections executive director Mike Ryan after the abysmal administration of the general election; and his more direct statements on incidents of apparent police misconduct. But Johnson has pushed back against the narrative that he is playing the role that the mayor should, as emotional leader of the city and its cheerleader, as the elected official who cares about every detail of city government and how it performs.</p> <p>“We have one mayor. He was elected twice and I do not think I’m mayor,” Johnson said, echoing remarks he had made earlier in a television interview when asked about the City &amp; State profile, which had the city political scene buzzing. “I do not have the powers of the mayor. I do not have the everyday responsibilities of the mayor.” He repeatedly emphasized that his relationship with de Blasio has been productive and collaborative, rather than combative. “It’s flattering in some way,” he said of the comparison with the mayor, “but I don’t think it comports with reality.”</p> <p>It was early on in 2018, as budget season was kicking off, that Johnson showed he would test the mayor’s mettle. He dug his heels in on funding Fair Fares, reduced-price MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers, a program that de Blasio had repeatedly dismissed as a state obligation that shouldn’t burden the city’s coffers. Johnson spearheaded an advocacy campaign, sending Council members into the field to talk with commuters outside subway stops and heavily spotlighting the push on social media.</p> <p>It became the Council’s top priority in budget negotiations with de Blasio, and the mayor eventually relented, a six-month Fair Fares pilot program was approved in the budget — and is launching this month, though the de Blasio administration has apparently dragged its heels on implementation, rolling it out late and in phases that have left some questioning the mayor’s commitment to the program. In a telling decision, Johnson has chosen not to publicly criticize the mayor for his approach to the program, the speaker’s signature accomplishment thus far.</p> <p>Johnson also flexed the Council’s muscles to push the mayor on several other priorities -- more fair student funding for city schools, deeper savings and greater set asides in the city’s reserves -- though he did not win a desired property tax rebate that was at the top of the Council’s wish list; and has taken a clearly more critical tone in public comments. While he regularly stresses that “it’s not personal,” Johnson has made pointed comments about the mayor’s attention to matters, city agency performance, and policy priorities he believes the mayor should adopt, such as an outspokenness about reducing the city’s deference to cars in its public policies and his call for municipal control of the subways and buses (something <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/31/nyregion/corey-johnson-public-advocate-council-president.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">he told the New York Times</a> he would soon have more to say about).</p> <p>“To see him emerge as such a strong and confident leader has been really exciting to watch,” said Council Member Laurie Cumbo, a close Johnson ally and first African-American woman to serve as the Council’s majority leader. She cited two successful legislative efforts that she sponsored under Johnson of which she is particularly proud -- the “Mother’s Day” package aimed at helping pregnant women, new mothers, and parents more broadly; and a bill that just passed to mandate that the administration report on pay levels in the city’s workforce, disaggregated by race and gender. “He’s just done an extraordinary job of raising the issues that members are really concerned about, solidifying our place as an equal branch of government to balance out the powers of the mayor.”</p> <p>Among Johnson’s first acts as speaker was to bolster the City Council’s resources and staff, to be better able to hold its own with the mayor’s administration. Johnson increased the Council’s budget by millions of dollars, raised salaries across the board, beefed up several divisions — land use, finance, bill drafting (which helped to increase legislative productivity) — and created new committees to reflect the changing issues affecting the city (and reward supporters). Those include a subcommittee dedicated to the massive capital budget and a committee dealing with for-hire vehicle services such as Uber and Lyft. And he added new life to the oversight and investigations committee, now helmed by Torres, which has allowed the Council to more deeply scrutinize the failures of the de Blasio administration and city agencies.</p> <p>Johnson, who often leads the hearings in tandem with Torres, has repeatedly called on agency heads at those hearings to apologize for their failings, though he insists he is not trying to embarrass the administration or pander to the cameras. “I think we’ve been an independent branch of government and independent not in a way just to score cheap political points or grab a headline,” he said, “but independent to serve the city as a whole and our constituents that expect results.”</p> <p>But he has aggressively demanded answers from the administration, most recently by convening the first of a series of hearings on the joint state-city deal with Amazon to build a massive new campus in Long Island City. Critics pointed out that while it may be right for Johnson and his colleagues to ask questions after the announcement, they were silent as the well-known but secretive negotiations were happening.</p> <p>Johnson doesn’t have a legislative agenda that can be summed up easily. Where Mark-Viverito’s chief concerns were immigrant rights and criminal justice reform, Johnson says he’s just trying to make the city fairer, strengthening the social safety net, and working on issues “that affect the most number of people and the most vulnerable.”</p> <p>“I would love for us to be the fairest city in America,” he said, using a similar phrase to what the mayor has adopted as a second term goal, “but to do that, it’s not easy, it can’t be done overnight. It has to be done in collaboration with the state government and with the federal government. We don’t solely control our own destiny.”</p> <p>The Council’s legislative record under his leadership is growing, though the political landscape is very different given what Mark-Viverito worked with de Blasio to advance during the first four years of the new Democratic era in the city and the latest policies out of the Cuomo and Trump administrations. Mark-Viverito spearheaded or worked with de Blasio on a long list of accomplishments, from a city bail fund to a municipal identification card program to shifting how low-level, non-violent offenses are policed in the city.</p> <p>Still, the hundreds of bills the Council passed in 2018 include a landmark package of anti-sexual harassment laws, new rules for the for-hire vehicle industry (which Johnson had opposed under Mark-Viverito but came around on, admitting fault for prior opposition), a waste equity bill aimed at reducing the environmental burden on low-income communities of color, and regulations aimed at illegal short-term rentals through Airbnb. The Council’s efforts also pushed the mayor to change the NYPD’s policy on marijuana arrests and added to the significant cascade of criticism about how NYCHA has been run, eliciting new plans from de Blasio. Johnson worked with de Blasio and the Cuomo administration on a creative city-based solution to the state Legislature allowing authority for speed cameras in school zones to expire, reviving the program.</p> <p>He’s also allowed members to drive the agenda more than in the past when some raised concerns that the speaker’s office throttled their priorities in service of its own, Johnson says.</p> <p>“Part of my role is to amplify and support the voices of all Council members while at the exact same time balancing a citywide agenda that I believe in,” Johnson said. Members agree. To some, it’s been an entire year of the Council stepping in where the mayor and his administration have dropped the ball.</p> <p>“I think the first year has been a good year, it’s defined our Council leadership style in a world where the mayor continues to make himself irrelevant,” Brooklyn Council Member Carlos Menchaca told Gotham Gazette, shortly before a hearing in the Council chambers. He pointed to a “vacuum” of leadership amid the policies emanating from the federal government and even the lack of state action, and said the Council has been taking up the charge by championing the issues raised by their communities. “And that’s the kinda participatory democracy that I know the speaker believes in…and you’ll see that as a defining pillar of this Council,” he said.</p> <p>Council Member Joe Borelli, one of only three Republicans in the 51-member body, drew sharp comparisons between Johnson’s management style and Mark-Viverito’s “top-down approach.”</p> <p>“We go to him and say ‘this should be, this must be, this oughta be,’ and there’s a receptive ear,” he said. “That’s a lot different than the Melissa Mark-Viverito approach where it’s ideology and personal ambition first and good government second.”&nbsp;</p> <p>In a statement on Monday, Mark-Viverito had tough words for Borelli. "When you’re a woman in power who has a vision to make this city more fair and just, you end up with Trump-loving men like Joe Borelli calling you a mean, ambitious woman," she said. "It's no surprise that the Councilmember who wholeheartedly defends pussy-grabbing Donald Trump has a problem with women who speak their mind. What a joke."</p> <p>Borelli also said Johnson had been taking on a more prominent role in the absence of leadership by major citywide officials. “The major political issues of the day fall on Corey Johnson because the mayor has not always been a voice on the right side and the public advocate has been running her campaign and doing what she needs to do to be attorney general,” he said.</p> <p>Freshman Council Member Bob Holden, a Queens Democrat elected on the Republican line, had effusive praise for Johnson. “He does more than any other human being that I know,” Holden said. “He just operates on another level. I can’t say enough about him.”</p> <p>Johnson’s looking forward to the year ahead, with several large packages of legislation awaiting passage including tenant protection bills, legislation to require energy efficiency retrofits on the buildings in the city with the greatest carbon footprint, and one that would eliminate non-disclosure agreements when city officials negotiate economic development deals with private firms, prompted by the secrecy around the Amazon deal. There will also be the next phases, including ballot proposals, from the 2019 City Charter Revision Commission, the creation of which Johnson helped spearhead, and which could propose significant changes to how city government is structured and functions.</p> <p>He also teased a reshuffle of committee memberships to come in January, based on requests from Council members, including a few chair positions. Several sitting members are also running for public advocate in a special election expected in February, which could create a vacancy that would need to be filled.</p> <p>Not everyone is happy that the Council has been quite so active. “I think more than...in the years before term limits, the agenda of the Council is very diffuse and is set by individual members who have far more discretion to introduce legislation,” said Kathy Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit group that represents the business sector. Term limits put pressure on Council members to achieve big legislative victories very quickly, she said, as they look to their next job in government. “I think what the current speaker is doing is using his bully pulpit and his personal style and relationships to set a tone and to affirm the interests of the Council as a whole,” she added. “But there’s such a cacophony of legislative initiatives, 18 bills on the crisis du jour, that he’s in a tough spot. It’s hard.”</p> <p>Though Wylde did say that she’d like to see “more collaboration, less confrontation,” as has been apparent at some of the oversight hearings, she said Johnson has created a healthy counterpoint to the mayor. “In New York City, where there are so many different interests, I think it’s positive that Corey Johnson feels comfortable putting out his ideas even when they’re not in sync with the mayor,” she said. “I think that’s a good thing.”</p> <p>Johnson has suggested bringing the MTA’s subways and buses (New York City Transit) under the control of the city, and has supported a congestion pricing plan for the city and legalizing recreational marijuana use for adults long before the mayor or governor did.</p> <p>There have been bumps in the road for Johnson. Early on he tried his hand at negotiating with the governor over funding for city public housing (NYCHA), only to publicly be undermined by the Cuomo administration (in what seemed to be a tactic aimed at leverage over de Blasio). He was also elevated to his position with the help of Joe Crowley, the Queens county boss and Democratic giant who lost his Congressional seat to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, now a national political star. Johnson endorsed Crowley, a move that earned him some criticism, particularly as he later went on to support several insurgent and unabashedly progressive Democrats running competitive primaries against more moderate incumbents at the state level, though those races did have the added element whereby the incumbents had formed a rogue conference and governed with Republicans.</p> <p>Johnson also endorsed Cuomo for reelection, over Cynthia Nixon, another insurgent Democratic primary challenger, though at times he seemed to support Nixon’s ambitious agenda, including single-payer health care. He also backed City Council Member Jumaane Williams for lieutenant governor over Cuomo's running-mate, incumbent Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, angering Cuomo's inner circle and likely getting the governor's attention.</p> <p>Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, has known Johnson since before he took elected office. “I believe that Corey has remade city government, with the City Council playing a crucial role in decisions impacting all New Yorkers,” Appelbaum said in a phone interview.</p> <p>Johnson appears to be a likely contender for the 2021 mayoral race, though he hasn’t expressed direct interest in the position, nor has he ruled it out. He would join a field likely to include Comptroller Scott Stringer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, among others who may throw their hats in the ring (including, possibly, Mark-Viverito).</p> <p>“I think that the most important thing he’s done is the way that he’s elevated the role of the City Council to have a real voice in decision making and I think that the Council is adding transparency to government in the city,” Appelbaum added. “We’ve seen the most professional City Council operation since I’ve been a New Yorker and that has resulted in important victories.”</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated with comment from former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/46565879862_624ba9c5c0_z.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson Mayor de Blasio " width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Corey Johnson (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>One year ago, New York City Council Member Corey Johnson was near-unanimously elected speaker of the 51-member legislative body, becoming the city’s second-most powerful elected official behind the mayor. In an emotional inaugural speech, he spoke of the heavy burden the Council bears in tackling the issues that face everyday New Yorkers. “There has never been a more important time to ensure that our City has a strong, unified and independent Council to take on these challenges,” he said.</p> <p>In the year since, Johnson has indeed led a chamber that has drawn a stronger line between itself and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, while Johnson has established himself as a new force in New York, operating with an obsession for politics, an enthusiasm for his job, and a wear-it-on-your-sleeve penchant for empathizing with the plights of New Yorkers. Johnson’s style and instincts have drawn a clear counter-figure to de Blasio, though the speaker and the mayor have appeared on good terms throughout Johnson’s first year in the new job, even as he has publicly disagreed with the mayor on numerous occasions and taken a harsh tone with several de Blasio administration officials.</p> <p>Johnson’s chosen a few areas of legislative focus, but has yet to put forth a clear policy agenda that signals his true priorities, though he said upon taking the speakership that strengthening the “social safety net” was of utmost importance to him. He has made transit a major focus, riding the subway daily, voicing his displeasure with the system's reliability, and even calling for municipal control of the trains and buses.</p> <p>The City Council was particularly active in 2018, passing nearly three times as much legislation in the first year of this new four-year session as the previous Council class did in 2014.&nbsp;Though there are mitigating factors at play -- like the fact that most of the current Council is holdovers from the past session -- legislative productivity is an apt defining feature for the body under the stewardship of Johnson, the outgoing, outspoken speaker who has quickly established himself as a formidable opposite — not oppositional, he says — force to de Blasio and who has injected a different energy into the city’s political landscape, even shaking up discussions around the next mayoral race.</p> <p>“One of the things that’s just sort of in my DNA is, I like to work...I get bored if I don’t,” Johnson said in a phone interview about his first year as speaker, “I’m not good at downtime. So that kinda means that I live and breathe this every single day.”</p> <p>Johnson’s path to the position and approach once in office have been poles apart from his predecessor, Melissa Mark-Viverito, though both are groundbreaking officials. Mark-Viverito was the first Latina to be speaker and Johnson is it’s first openly gay male and openly HIV-positive one.</p> <p>Mark-Viverito in part owed her ascendance in 2014 to de Blasio, himself newly-elected and especially powerful, who helped put her over the finish line in a tight contest with City Council Member Daniel Garodnick. With the mayor’s help, Mark-Viverito and her allies corralled a newly-elected group of progressive City Council members and bucked the traditional bastions of county party power in Queens and the Bronx.</p> <p>A Democrat representing the west side of Manhattan, Johnson became speaker despite the mayor, emerging above a crowded field of candidates and receiving support from those two counties. In what looked to be an almost overt rejection of the mayor, leaders of the Democratic machines in the two boroughs announced their decision to back Johnson when de Blasio was out of town, while much of the discussion around Johnson’s colleagues support for him was not about working with de Blasio to pass sweeping progressive programs, as it had been in 2014, and more about independence from the mayor.</p> <p>Johnson repeatedly vowed that he would not be beholden to the other side of City Hall, an allegation that dogged Mark-Viverito for her tenure as she balanced her support for the mayor’s policies with occasional rejection of them and very much <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7394-melissa-mark-viverito-a-mayor-made-speaker-who-sought-a-member-driven-legacy" target="_blank" rel="noopener">charted her own agenda</a>, often bringing de Blasio along, like on the closing of the Rikers Island jail complex.</p> <p>A <a href="https://cityandstateny.com/articles/personality/interviews-profiles/new-york-city-council-speaker-corey-johnson.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">City &amp; State profile</a> of Johnson published in December — titled “Is Corey Johnson already mayor?” — noted that he had made converts of several City Council members who had opposed him during the race for speaker and who worried that he may exact revenge on them if elected. “If Corey had an approval rating in the City Council, I suspect it would be nearly 100 percent,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres, quoted in the article. Torres said Johnson was filling a vacuum of leadership left by the mayor, who is increasingly absent from City Hall and who seems more intent on building a national profile than running the city. It’s an observation that’s been thrown around more and more even though Johnson disagrees with it.</p> <p>Part of the apparent discrepancy stems from their different approaches to communicating with the public — Johnson is an open book and known to say what’s on his mind, often on Twitter, and responds immediately to virtually every significant event related to public life in New York and with compassion to the plight of suffering New Yorkers. De Blasio, on the other hand, seems to struggle to express empathy and often has a measured, almost academic response to any given crisis. Johnson appears to relish being a New Yorker, holding public office, and doing any and all part of the job, even if some are less fun or interesting than others. De Blasio appears to dislike most aspects of his job.</p> <p>There are times when the speaker has been more outspoken than the mayor -- his response to the city’s handling of the November snowstorm; his immediate call for the resignation of Board of Elections executive director Mike Ryan after the abysmal administration of the general election; and his more direct statements on incidents of apparent police misconduct. But Johnson has pushed back against the narrative that he is playing the role that the mayor should, as emotional leader of the city and its cheerleader, as the elected official who cares about every detail of city government and how it performs.</p> <p>“We have one mayor. He was elected twice and I do not think I’m mayor,” Johnson said, echoing remarks he had made earlier in a television interview when asked about the City &amp; State profile, which had the city political scene buzzing. “I do not have the powers of the mayor. I do not have the everyday responsibilities of the mayor.” He repeatedly emphasized that his relationship with de Blasio has been productive and collaborative, rather than combative. “It’s flattering in some way,” he said of the comparison with the mayor, “but I don’t think it comports with reality.”</p> <p>It was early on in 2018, as budget season was kicking off, that Johnson showed he would test the mayor’s mettle. He dug his heels in on funding Fair Fares, reduced-price MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers, a program that de Blasio had repeatedly dismissed as a state obligation that shouldn’t burden the city’s coffers. Johnson spearheaded an advocacy campaign, sending Council members into the field to talk with commuters outside subway stops and heavily spotlighting the push on social media.</p> <p>It became the Council’s top priority in budget negotiations with de Blasio, and the mayor eventually relented, a six-month Fair Fares pilot program was approved in the budget — and is launching this month, though the de Blasio administration has apparently dragged its heels on implementation, rolling it out late and in phases that have left some questioning the mayor’s commitment to the program. In a telling decision, Johnson has chosen not to publicly criticize the mayor for his approach to the program, the speaker’s signature accomplishment thus far.</p> <p>Johnson also flexed the Council’s muscles to push the mayor on several other priorities -- more fair student funding for city schools, deeper savings and greater set asides in the city’s reserves -- though he did not win a desired property tax rebate that was at the top of the Council’s wish list; and has taken a clearly more critical tone in public comments. While he regularly stresses that “it’s not personal,” Johnson has made pointed comments about the mayor’s attention to matters, city agency performance, and policy priorities he believes the mayor should adopt, such as an outspokenness about reducing the city’s deference to cars in its public policies and his call for municipal control of the subways and buses (something <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/31/nyregion/corey-johnson-public-advocate-council-president.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">he told the New York Times</a> he would soon have more to say about).</p> <p>“To see him emerge as such a strong and confident leader has been really exciting to watch,” said Council Member Laurie Cumbo, a close Johnson ally and first African-American woman to serve as the Council’s majority leader. She cited two successful legislative efforts that she sponsored under Johnson of which she is particularly proud -- the “Mother’s Day” package aimed at helping pregnant women, new mothers, and parents more broadly; and a bill that just passed to mandate that the administration report on pay levels in the city’s workforce, disaggregated by race and gender. “He’s just done an extraordinary job of raising the issues that members are really concerned about, solidifying our place as an equal branch of government to balance out the powers of the mayor.”</p> <p>Among Johnson’s first acts as speaker was to bolster the City Council’s resources and staff, to be better able to hold its own with the mayor’s administration. Johnson increased the Council’s budget by millions of dollars, raised salaries across the board, beefed up several divisions — land use, finance, bill drafting (which helped to increase legislative productivity) — and created new committees to reflect the changing issues affecting the city (and reward supporters). Those include a subcommittee dedicated to the massive capital budget and a committee dealing with for-hire vehicle services such as Uber and Lyft. And he added new life to the oversight and investigations committee, now helmed by Torres, which has allowed the Council to more deeply scrutinize the failures of the de Blasio administration and city agencies.</p> <p>Johnson, who often leads the hearings in tandem with Torres, has repeatedly called on agency heads at those hearings to apologize for their failings, though he insists he is not trying to embarrass the administration or pander to the cameras. “I think we’ve been an independent branch of government and independent not in a way just to score cheap political points or grab a headline,” he said, “but independent to serve the city as a whole and our constituents that expect results.”</p> <p>But he has aggressively demanded answers from the administration, most recently by convening the first of a series of hearings on the joint state-city deal with Amazon to build a massive new campus in Long Island City. Critics pointed out that while it may be right for Johnson and his colleagues to ask questions after the announcement, they were silent as the well-known but secretive negotiations were happening.</p> <p>Johnson doesn’t have a legislative agenda that can be summed up easily. Where Mark-Viverito’s chief concerns were immigrant rights and criminal justice reform, Johnson says he’s just trying to make the city fairer, strengthening the social safety net, and working on issues “that affect the most number of people and the most vulnerable.”</p> <p>“I would love for us to be the fairest city in America,” he said, using a similar phrase to what the mayor has adopted as a second term goal, “but to do that, it’s not easy, it can’t be done overnight. It has to be done in collaboration with the state government and with the federal government. We don’t solely control our own destiny.”</p> <p>The Council’s legislative record under his leadership is growing, though the political landscape is very different given what Mark-Viverito worked with de Blasio to advance during the first four years of the new Democratic era in the city and the latest policies out of the Cuomo and Trump administrations. Mark-Viverito spearheaded or worked with de Blasio on a long list of accomplishments, from a city bail fund to a municipal identification card program to shifting how low-level, non-violent offenses are policed in the city.</p> <p>Still, the hundreds of bills the Council passed in 2018 include a landmark package of anti-sexual harassment laws, new rules for the for-hire vehicle industry (which Johnson had opposed under Mark-Viverito but came around on, admitting fault for prior opposition), a waste equity bill aimed at reducing the environmental burden on low-income communities of color, and regulations aimed at illegal short-term rentals through Airbnb. The Council’s efforts also pushed the mayor to change the NYPD’s policy on marijuana arrests and added to the significant cascade of criticism about how NYCHA has been run, eliciting new plans from de Blasio. Johnson worked with de Blasio and the Cuomo administration on a creative city-based solution to the state Legislature allowing authority for speed cameras in school zones to expire, reviving the program.</p> <p>He’s also allowed members to drive the agenda more than in the past when some raised concerns that the speaker’s office throttled their priorities in service of its own, Johnson says.</p> <p>“Part of my role is to amplify and support the voices of all Council members while at the exact same time balancing a citywide agenda that I believe in,” Johnson said. Members agree. To some, it’s been an entire year of the Council stepping in where the mayor and his administration have dropped the ball.</p> <p>“I think the first year has been a good year, it’s defined our Council leadership style in a world where the mayor continues to make himself irrelevant,” Brooklyn Council Member Carlos Menchaca told Gotham Gazette, shortly before a hearing in the Council chambers. He pointed to a “vacuum” of leadership amid the policies emanating from the federal government and even the lack of state action, and said the Council has been taking up the charge by championing the issues raised by their communities. “And that’s the kinda participatory democracy that I know the speaker believes in…and you’ll see that as a defining pillar of this Council,” he said.</p> <p>Council Member Joe Borelli, one of only three Republicans in the 51-member body, drew sharp comparisons between Johnson’s management style and Mark-Viverito’s “top-down approach.”</p> <p>“We go to him and say ‘this should be, this must be, this oughta be,’ and there’s a receptive ear,” he said. “That’s a lot different than the Melissa Mark-Viverito approach where it’s ideology and personal ambition first and good government second.”&nbsp;</p> <p>In a statement on Monday, Mark-Viverito had tough words for Borelli. "When you’re a woman in power who has a vision to make this city more fair and just, you end up with Trump-loving men like Joe Borelli calling you a mean, ambitious woman," she said. "It's no surprise that the Councilmember who wholeheartedly defends pussy-grabbing Donald Trump has a problem with women who speak their mind. What a joke."</p> <p>Borelli also said Johnson had been taking on a more prominent role in the absence of leadership by major citywide officials. “The major political issues of the day fall on Corey Johnson because the mayor has not always been a voice on the right side and the public advocate has been running her campaign and doing what she needs to do to be attorney general,” he said.</p> <p>Freshman Council Member Bob Holden, a Queens Democrat elected on the Republican line, had effusive praise for Johnson. “He does more than any other human being that I know,” Holden said. “He just operates on another level. I can’t say enough about him.”</p> <p>Johnson’s looking forward to the year ahead, with several large packages of legislation awaiting passage including tenant protection bills, legislation to require energy efficiency retrofits on the buildings in the city with the greatest carbon footprint, and one that would eliminate non-disclosure agreements when city officials negotiate economic development deals with private firms, prompted by the secrecy around the Amazon deal. There will also be the next phases, including ballot proposals, from the 2019 City Charter Revision Commission, the creation of which Johnson helped spearhead, and which could propose significant changes to how city government is structured and functions.</p> <p>He also teased a reshuffle of committee memberships to come in January, based on requests from Council members, including a few chair positions. Several sitting members are also running for public advocate in a special election expected in February, which could create a vacancy that would need to be filled.</p> <p>Not everyone is happy that the Council has been quite so active. “I think more than...in the years before term limits, the agenda of the Council is very diffuse and is set by individual members who have far more discretion to introduce legislation,” said Kathy Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit group that represents the business sector. Term limits put pressure on Council members to achieve big legislative victories very quickly, she said, as they look to their next job in government. “I think what the current speaker is doing is using his bully pulpit and his personal style and relationships to set a tone and to affirm the interests of the Council as a whole,” she added. “But there’s such a cacophony of legislative initiatives, 18 bills on the crisis du jour, that he’s in a tough spot. It’s hard.”</p> <p>Though Wylde did say that she’d like to see “more collaboration, less confrontation,” as has been apparent at some of the oversight hearings, she said Johnson has created a healthy counterpoint to the mayor. “In New York City, where there are so many different interests, I think it’s positive that Corey Johnson feels comfortable putting out his ideas even when they’re not in sync with the mayor,” she said. “I think that’s a good thing.”</p> <p>Johnson has suggested bringing the MTA’s subways and buses (New York City Transit) under the control of the city, and has supported a congestion pricing plan for the city and legalizing recreational marijuana use for adults long before the mayor or governor did.</p> <p>There have been bumps in the road for Johnson. Early on he tried his hand at negotiating with the governor over funding for city public housing (NYCHA), only to publicly be undermined by the Cuomo administration (in what seemed to be a tactic aimed at leverage over de Blasio). He was also elevated to his position with the help of Joe Crowley, the Queens county boss and Democratic giant who lost his Congressional seat to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, now a national political star. Johnson endorsed Crowley, a move that earned him some criticism, particularly as he later went on to support several insurgent and unabashedly progressive Democrats running competitive primaries against more moderate incumbents at the state level, though those races did have the added element whereby the incumbents had formed a rogue conference and governed with Republicans.</p> <p>Johnson also endorsed Cuomo for reelection, over Cynthia Nixon, another insurgent Democratic primary challenger, though at times he seemed to support Nixon’s ambitious agenda, including single-payer health care. He also backed City Council Member Jumaane Williams for lieutenant governor over Cuomo's running-mate, incumbent Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, angering Cuomo's inner circle and likely getting the governor's attention.</p> <p>Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, has known Johnson since before he took elected office. “I believe that Corey has remade city government, with the City Council playing a crucial role in decisions impacting all New Yorkers,” Appelbaum said in a phone interview.</p> <p>Johnson appears to be a likely contender for the 2021 mayoral race, though he hasn’t expressed direct interest in the position, nor has he ruled it out. He would join a field likely to include Comptroller Scott Stringer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, among others who may throw their hats in the ring (including, possibly, Mark-Viverito).</p> <p>“I think that the most important thing he’s done is the way that he’s elevated the role of the City Council to have a real voice in decision making and I think that the Council is adding transparency to government in the city,” Appelbaum added. “We’ve seen the most professional City Council operation since I’ve been a New Yorker and that has resulted in important victories.”</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated with comment from former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.&nbsp;</p>
The 10 Most-Read Gotham Gazette Stories of 2018 2018-12-30T05:00:00+00:00 2018-12-30T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8165-the-10-most-read-gotham-gazette-stories-of-2018 Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/40343614815_577c08b0c8_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Stewart-Cousins Klein" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As 2018 comes to a close, we’re looking back at some of our “best” and most-read articles of the year. In a separate post, we’ll highlight some of the “best” pieces we reported that aren’t among our top ten most-read articles, which are listed below. This list does not include articles like election guides or candidate lists or even our summaries of voter turnout numbers, all of which are often among our most-read posts, as was our article that reported on the mayor's charter revision commission announcing which questions it would put on the November ballot.</p> <p>The list below also does not include opinion pieces, though several of the op-ed columns that we published this year did qualify in terms of page-views. But this list is for reporting done by Gotham Gazette, and here it is, our ten most-read articles of 2018:</p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/myrie_rally.png" alt="myrie rally" width="250" height="132" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7512-conflict-escalates-between-working-families-party-and-independent-democratic-conference" target="_blank" rel="noopener">1. Conflict Escalates Between Working Families Party and Independent Democratic Conference</a><br />by Ben Max, March 2018<br />In late February the Working Families Party announced a series of candidates it was backing to challenge members of the Independent Democratic Conference in state Senate primaries. While a lot changed from February to the September primaries, in the end six WFP-backed candidates defeated members of what had been the eight-member IDC, with the WFP working alongside an extremely organized and energized group of other activists set on unseating IDC members and flipping the state Senate to Democrats.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7512-conflict-escalates-between-working-families-party-and-independent-democratic-conference" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the March article about the WFP escalating its efforts to unseat IDC members.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/marc-molinaro400px.jpg" alt="marc molinaro" width="250" height="104" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7581-in-run-for-governor-marc-molinaro-will-make-a-character-argument" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2. In Run for Governor, Marc Molinaro Will Make A Character Argument</a><br />by Ben Max, March 2018<br />As Republican Marc Molinaro launched his campaign for governor, this profile outlined how he would pitch himself to voters as a person of integrity and good leadership, and juxtaposed as such to the image he would portrary of Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Dutchess county executive ran a spirited and earnest campaign, regularly hitting the themes of this initial Gotham Gazette look at his candidacy, which was based on an hourlong interview with Molinaro while he was deciding whether to run or not. In the end, Cuomo dispatched Cynthia Nixon in the Democratic primary, then beat Molinaro and others in the general election, winning a third term.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7581-in-run-for-governor-marc-molinaro-will-make-a-character-argument" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the March article about how Molinaro would present himself to the statewide electorate and his stances on several key issues.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/eny_rezoning_map.png" alt="rezoning de blasio" width="250" height="138" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7521-questions-arise-as-de-blasio-rezones-series-of-low-income-neighborhoods" target="_blank" rel="noopener">&nbsp;3. Questions Arise as De Blasio Administration Rezones Series of Low-Income Neighborhoods</a><br />by Sam Raskin, March 2018<br />Mayor de Blasio's administration has pushed through several neighborhood rezonings aimed at adding housing density, building affordable housing, and making neighborhood improvements. All of them have occurred in low-income neighborhoods, a phenomenon not lost on many. In this piece, we examine the trend and what it means as areas like East New York, East Harlem, and the Jerome Avenue corridor in the Bronx are rezoned.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7521-questions-arise-as-de-blasio-rezones-series-of-low-income-neighborhoods" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the March article about the de Blasio administration's approach to neighborhood rezonings, and which areas of the city appear to be off limits in terms of seeking added housing density.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/cuomo_abny_brachfeld.jpg" alt="cuomo state senate" width="250" height="167" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7624-major-cuomo-supporters-don-t-want-a-democratic-state-senate" target="_blank" rel="noopener">4. Major Cuomo Supporters Don’t Want a Democratic State Senate</a><br />by Ben Brachfeld, April 2018<br />As Governor Cuomo professed his full support for helping to flip the state Senate to Democrats, this article examined the fact that many of Cuomo's biggest supporters were also supporters of a Republican Senate. The Democratic governor had, after all, himself been seen as supportive of a split Legislature, with Democrats in control of the Assembly, so that he could triangulate, carefully craft which progressive policies he wanted to pass, and keep fiscal restraints in place, while also pushing ahead a charter school and real estate friendly agenda that aligned with his beliefs.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7624-major-cuomo-supporters-don-t-want-a-democratic-state-senate" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the April article outlining the main Cuomo backers who also backed a Republican state Senate.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cyn-nixon.jpg" alt="cynthia nixon" width="250" height="194" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7631-is-cynthia-nixon-qualified-to-be-governor" target="_blank" rel="noopener">5. Is Cynthia Nixon Qualified To Be Governor?</a><br />by Ashley Hupfl, April 2018<br />From the moment she declared her candidacy for governor, Cynthia Nixon was dogged by one key question: what makes you qualified to lead the state of New York and run its government? Nixon gave various answers to the question, mostly saying that she had the right values and the right policy plans. In this article, we explored her qualifications and the general question of what makes someone qualified to be governor.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7631-is-cynthia-nixon-qualified-to-be-governor" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the April article discussing Nixon's resume and what it means to be qualified to become governor.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/hamilton_adams.jpg" alt="hamilton adams" width="250" height="188" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7862-adams-allocates-1-million-in-government-funding-as-hamilton-attempts-to-fend-off-primary-challenger" target="_blank" rel="noopener">6. Senator Facing Tough Primary is Spending $1 Million from Brooklyn Borough President</a><br />by Daniel Yadin, August 2018<br />State Senator Jesse Hamilton, who became a member of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference, was the preferred successor to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams when Adams left the Senate to take his borough presidency position. The two close friends remained tight as Hamilton fought for his political life against a variety of forces looking to unseat him and other members of the IDC, and Adams was helpful to Hamilton in an unprecedented move of providing city funds for Hamilton to dedicate to projects in his Senate district.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7862-adams-allocates-1-million-in-government-funding-as-hamilton-attempts-to-fend-off-primary-challenger" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the article that exposed the fact that Senator Hamilton was generously allocated participatory budgeting money by his close ally Borough President Adams as the senator was in a tough reelection campaign that he ultimately lost to Zellnor Myrie.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/corey_.jpg" alt="corey johnson" width="250" height="167" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7416-now-pursuing-diversity-new-city-council-speaker-has-employed-mostly-white-men" target="_blank" rel="noopener">7. Now Pursuing Diversity, New City Council Speaker Has Employed Mostly White Men</a><br />by Samar Khurshid, January 2018<br />During the race to become the next speaker of the City Council, questions were raised about diversity in city government leadership given the fact that the mayor and comptroller were both white men, along with top statewide positions. As Corey Johnson won that race, he talked about both the diversity he would bring to the role as an openly gay and HIV positive person, and the diversity he promised he would bring to the Council under his leadership. But a review of Johnson's hiring as a City Council member showed a track record of largely employing white men.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7416-now-pursuing-diversity-new-city-council-speaker-has-employed-mostly-white-men" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the January 2018 article that examined new Speaker Corey Johnson's past staffing demographics and his pledge to hire a diverse staff as speaker amid questions about the elevation of another white man to a powerful city government position.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/klein_gjonaj.png" alt="klein gjonaj" width="250" height="154" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7993-close-ties-among-bronx-electeds-campaign-consultants-lobbyists-and-donors" target="_blank" rel="noopener">8. Close Ties Among Bronx Electeds, Campaign Consultants, Lobbyists and Donors</a><br />by Jake Shore, October 2018<br />There are often blurry lines in politics, especially when government and campaigns are concerned, involving lobbyists, consultants, donors, and elected officials who have various relationships. Some of the closest ties in New York politics have included State Senator Jeff Klein and City Council Member Mark Gjonaj, along with consultants and lobbyists who have worked with them, and donors who have given to their campaigns.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7993-close-ties-among-bronx-electeds-campaign-consultants-lobbyists-and-donors" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the October 2018 article that examined the close ties among Klein, Gjonaj, campaign consultants and donors, and others in their orbits.&nbsp;&nbsp;</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/de_blasio_bratton_oneill_nypd_crime.jpg" alt="de blasio bratton oneill nypd crime" width="250" height="166" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7410-why-does-crime-keep-falling-in-new-york-city" target="_blank" rel="noopener">9. Why Does Crime Keep Falling in New York City?</a><br />by Samar Khurshid, January 2018<br />While New York City has seen decades of declining crime numbers, part of a national and international trend, do we really know why? In this article we explored the theories and the facts about New York City's remarkable crime decline.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7410-why-does-crime-keep-falling-in-new-york-city" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the January 2018 article that examined the decades-long crime decline in the city, which has continued under Mayor Bill de Blasio, some of the reasons experts provide for the trend, and what can actually be supported by data.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/cuomo_vital_brooklyn.jpg" alt="cuomo vital brooklyn" width="250" height="207" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8144-a-closer-look-at-vital-brooklyn-cuomo-s-plan-for-one-of-the-greatest-areas-of-need-in-the-entire-state" target="_blank" rel="noopener">10. A Closer Look at 'Vital Brooklyn,' Cuomo's Plan for 'One of the Greatest Areas of Need in the Entire State'</a><br />by Rachel Holliday Smith, December 2018<br />Governor Cuomo surprised many people when he first announced in 2017 a state investment of $1.4 billion in Central Brooklyn, with the governor explaining that "Vital Brooklyn" was a program to bring much-needed resources to an area of the city and state with some of the most significant challenges facing New Yorkers, including poor health, bad schools, lack of park space, and more. The program hadn't been a heralded or even named part of the prior state budget deal, but Cuomo explained it as a major initiative and went on to make many Vital Brooklyn announcements, including several in the lead up to the 2018 primary election wherein he was attempting to defeat Cynthia Nixon while relying on a political base including Central Brooklyn voters.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8144-a-closer-look-at-vital-brooklyn-cuomo-s-plan-for-one-of-the-greatest-areas-of-need-in-the-entire-state" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the December 2018 article that examines what exactly Vital Brooklyn is, where the money comes from and is going, and how Cuomo has used the program to make those many announcements.</a></p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/40343614815_577c08b0c8_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Stewart-Cousins Klein" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As 2018 comes to a close, we’re looking back at some of our “best” and most-read articles of the year. In a separate post, we’ll highlight some of the “best” pieces we reported that aren’t among our top ten most-read articles, which are listed below. This list does not include articles like election guides or candidate lists or even our summaries of voter turnout numbers, all of which are often among our most-read posts, as was our article that reported on the mayor's charter revision commission announcing which questions it would put on the November ballot.</p> <p>The list below also does not include opinion pieces, though several of the op-ed columns that we published this year did qualify in terms of page-views. But this list is for reporting done by Gotham Gazette, and here it is, our ten most-read articles of 2018:</p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/myrie_rally.png" alt="myrie rally" width="250" height="132" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7512-conflict-escalates-between-working-families-party-and-independent-democratic-conference" target="_blank" rel="noopener">1. Conflict Escalates Between Working Families Party and Independent Democratic Conference</a><br />by Ben Max, March 2018<br />In late February the Working Families Party announced a series of candidates it was backing to challenge members of the Independent Democratic Conference in state Senate primaries. While a lot changed from February to the September primaries, in the end six WFP-backed candidates defeated members of what had been the eight-member IDC, with the WFP working alongside an extremely organized and energized group of other activists set on unseating IDC members and flipping the state Senate to Democrats.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7512-conflict-escalates-between-working-families-party-and-independent-democratic-conference" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the March article about the WFP escalating its efforts to unseat IDC members.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/marc-molinaro400px.jpg" alt="marc molinaro" width="250" height="104" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7581-in-run-for-governor-marc-molinaro-will-make-a-character-argument" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2. In Run for Governor, Marc Molinaro Will Make A Character Argument</a><br />by Ben Max, March 2018<br />As Republican Marc Molinaro launched his campaign for governor, this profile outlined how he would pitch himself to voters as a person of integrity and good leadership, and juxtaposed as such to the image he would portrary of Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Dutchess county executive ran a spirited and earnest campaign, regularly hitting the themes of this initial Gotham Gazette look at his candidacy, which was based on an hourlong interview with Molinaro while he was deciding whether to run or not. In the end, Cuomo dispatched Cynthia Nixon in the Democratic primary, then beat Molinaro and others in the general election, winning a third term.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7581-in-run-for-governor-marc-molinaro-will-make-a-character-argument" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the March article about how Molinaro would present himself to the statewide electorate and his stances on several key issues.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/eny_rezoning_map.png" alt="rezoning de blasio" width="250" height="138" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7521-questions-arise-as-de-blasio-rezones-series-of-low-income-neighborhoods" target="_blank" rel="noopener">&nbsp;3. Questions Arise as De Blasio Administration Rezones Series of Low-Income Neighborhoods</a><br />by Sam Raskin, March 2018<br />Mayor de Blasio's administration has pushed through several neighborhood rezonings aimed at adding housing density, building affordable housing, and making neighborhood improvements. All of them have occurred in low-income neighborhoods, a phenomenon not lost on many. In this piece, we examine the trend and what it means as areas like East New York, East Harlem, and the Jerome Avenue corridor in the Bronx are rezoned.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7521-questions-arise-as-de-blasio-rezones-series-of-low-income-neighborhoods" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the March article about the de Blasio administration's approach to neighborhood rezonings, and which areas of the city appear to be off limits in terms of seeking added housing density.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/cuomo_abny_brachfeld.jpg" alt="cuomo state senate" width="250" height="167" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7624-major-cuomo-supporters-don-t-want-a-democratic-state-senate" target="_blank" rel="noopener">4. Major Cuomo Supporters Don’t Want a Democratic State Senate</a><br />by Ben Brachfeld, April 2018<br />As Governor Cuomo professed his full support for helping to flip the state Senate to Democrats, this article examined the fact that many of Cuomo's biggest supporters were also supporters of a Republican Senate. The Democratic governor had, after all, himself been seen as supportive of a split Legislature, with Democrats in control of the Assembly, so that he could triangulate, carefully craft which progressive policies he wanted to pass, and keep fiscal restraints in place, while also pushing ahead a charter school and real estate friendly agenda that aligned with his beliefs.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7624-major-cuomo-supporters-don-t-want-a-democratic-state-senate" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the April article outlining the main Cuomo backers who also backed a Republican state Senate.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cyn-nixon.jpg" alt="cynthia nixon" width="250" height="194" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7631-is-cynthia-nixon-qualified-to-be-governor" target="_blank" rel="noopener">5. Is Cynthia Nixon Qualified To Be Governor?</a><br />by Ashley Hupfl, April 2018<br />From the moment she declared her candidacy for governor, Cynthia Nixon was dogged by one key question: what makes you qualified to lead the state of New York and run its government? Nixon gave various answers to the question, mostly saying that she had the right values and the right policy plans. In this article, we explored her qualifications and the general question of what makes someone qualified to be governor.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7631-is-cynthia-nixon-qualified-to-be-governor" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the April article discussing Nixon's resume and what it means to be qualified to become governor.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/hamilton_adams.jpg" alt="hamilton adams" width="250" height="188" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7862-adams-allocates-1-million-in-government-funding-as-hamilton-attempts-to-fend-off-primary-challenger" target="_blank" rel="noopener">6. Senator Facing Tough Primary is Spending $1 Million from Brooklyn Borough President</a><br />by Daniel Yadin, August 2018<br />State Senator Jesse Hamilton, who became a member of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference, was the preferred successor to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams when Adams left the Senate to take his borough presidency position. The two close friends remained tight as Hamilton fought for his political life against a variety of forces looking to unseat him and other members of the IDC, and Adams was helpful to Hamilton in an unprecedented move of providing city funds for Hamilton to dedicate to projects in his Senate district.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7862-adams-allocates-1-million-in-government-funding-as-hamilton-attempts-to-fend-off-primary-challenger" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the article that exposed the fact that Senator Hamilton was generously allocated participatory budgeting money by his close ally Borough President Adams as the senator was in a tough reelection campaign that he ultimately lost to Zellnor Myrie.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/corey_.jpg" alt="corey johnson" width="250" height="167" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7416-now-pursuing-diversity-new-city-council-speaker-has-employed-mostly-white-men" target="_blank" rel="noopener">7. Now Pursuing Diversity, New City Council Speaker Has Employed Mostly White Men</a><br />by Samar Khurshid, January 2018<br />During the race to become the next speaker of the City Council, questions were raised about diversity in city government leadership given the fact that the mayor and comptroller were both white men, along with top statewide positions. As Corey Johnson won that race, he talked about both the diversity he would bring to the role as an openly gay and HIV positive person, and the diversity he promised he would bring to the Council under his leadership. But a review of Johnson's hiring as a City Council member showed a track record of largely employing white men.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7416-now-pursuing-diversity-new-city-council-speaker-has-employed-mostly-white-men" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the January 2018 article that examined new Speaker Corey Johnson's past staffing demographics and his pledge to hire a diverse staff as speaker amid questions about the elevation of another white man to a powerful city government position.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/klein_gjonaj.png" alt="klein gjonaj" width="250" height="154" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7993-close-ties-among-bronx-electeds-campaign-consultants-lobbyists-and-donors" target="_blank" rel="noopener">8. Close Ties Among Bronx Electeds, Campaign Consultants, Lobbyists and Donors</a><br />by Jake Shore, October 2018<br />There are often blurry lines in politics, especially when government and campaigns are concerned, involving lobbyists, consultants, donors, and elected officials who have various relationships. Some of the closest ties in New York politics have included State Senator Jeff Klein and City Council Member Mark Gjonaj, along with consultants and lobbyists who have worked with them, and donors who have given to their campaigns.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7993-close-ties-among-bronx-electeds-campaign-consultants-lobbyists-and-donors" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the October 2018 article that examined the close ties among Klein, Gjonaj, campaign consultants and donors, and others in their orbits.&nbsp;&nbsp;</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/de_blasio_bratton_oneill_nypd_crime.jpg" alt="de blasio bratton oneill nypd crime" width="250" height="166" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7410-why-does-crime-keep-falling-in-new-york-city" target="_blank" rel="noopener">9. Why Does Crime Keep Falling in New York City?</a><br />by Samar Khurshid, January 2018<br />While New York City has seen decades of declining crime numbers, part of a national and international trend, do we really know why? In this article we explored the theories and the facts about New York City's remarkable crime decline.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7410-why-does-crime-keep-falling-in-new-york-city" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the January 2018 article that examined the decades-long crime decline in the city, which has continued under Mayor Bill de Blasio, some of the reasons experts provide for the trend, and what can actually be supported by data.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/cuomo_vital_brooklyn.jpg" alt="cuomo vital brooklyn" width="250" height="207" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8144-a-closer-look-at-vital-brooklyn-cuomo-s-plan-for-one-of-the-greatest-areas-of-need-in-the-entire-state" target="_blank" rel="noopener">10. A Closer Look at 'Vital Brooklyn,' Cuomo's Plan for 'One of the Greatest Areas of Need in the Entire State'</a><br />by Rachel Holliday Smith, December 2018<br />Governor Cuomo surprised many people when he first announced in 2017 a state investment of $1.4 billion in Central Brooklyn, with the governor explaining that "Vital Brooklyn" was a program to bring much-needed resources to an area of the city and state with some of the most significant challenges facing New Yorkers, including poor health, bad schools, lack of park space, and more. The program hadn't been a heralded or even named part of the prior state budget deal, but Cuomo explained it as a major initiative and went on to make many Vital Brooklyn announcements, including several in the lead up to the 2018 primary election wherein he was attempting to defeat Cynthia Nixon while relying on a political base including Central Brooklyn voters.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8144-a-closer-look-at-vital-brooklyn-cuomo-s-plan-for-one-of-the-greatest-areas-of-need-in-the-entire-state" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the December 2018 article that examines what exactly Vital Brooklyn is, where the money comes from and is going, and how Cuomo has used the program to make those many announcements.</a></p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
City Council Considers De Blasio Nominee for Department of Investigation 2018-11-26T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-26T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8102-city-council-considers-de-blasio-nominee-for-department-of-investigation Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mg-headshot.jpg" alt="mg headshot" /></p> <p>Margaret Garnett (photo via City Hall)</p> <hr /> <p>Margaret Garnett, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pick to replace recently fired Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters, received praise from City Council Members and the support of City Council Speaker Corey Johnson at a Monday hearing on her nomination. Currently serving as the Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice in the New York State Attorney General’s office, Garnett’s nomination hearing came amid significant controversy over de Blasio’s firing of Peters, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8089-doubt-upon-the-mayor-s-true-motives-investigations-commissioner-responds-to-firing-by-de-blasio" target="_blank" rel="noopener">who claimed on his way out</a> that de Blasio’s behavior and motives in taking the unprecedented step of letting him go were highly questionable.</p> <p>The DOI commissioner, charged with running the agency that independently investigates corruption and wrongdoing in city government, is the only mayoral department-head appointee that requires approval by the City Council. Peters, the treasurer for de Blasio’s first mayoral campaign, used his position to examine systemic failings in the mayor’s administration and issued several scathing reports on the public housing authority, the police department, and the children’s services department, among other agencies. But Peters’ work drew the ire of the mayor, who reportedly considered removing the commissioner for months.</p> <p>The mayor was presented with a justifiable opportunity after an independent investigator, prosecutor James McGovern, issued a report that said Peters had exceeded his legal authority in attempting to take over an independent office that conducts oversight of the Department of Education, among other transgressions.</p> <p>In responding to the report and his termination, Peters questioned the mayor’s motives in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8089-doubt-upon-the-mayor-s-true-motives-investigations-commissioner-responds-to-firing-by-de-blasio" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a letter</a> to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Ritchie Torres, who chairs the Committee on Oversight and Investigations. Peters pointed to instances where the mayor and his aides had sought to suppress critical reports by DOI and speculated that de Blasio was attempting to bring an end to potential ongoing investigations into the mayor’s office. Those actions, he said, could chill the independence of the next DOI commissioner.</p> <p>De Blasio responded that Peters was fired for cause and alluded to other troubling behavior not in the McGovern report, while adding that he regretted nominating Peters in the first place and saying the former prosecutor had delusions of grandeur. <a href="https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/kendalltaggart/nypd-inspector-general-discipline-false-statements" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A BuzzFeed News report</a> on Monday appeared to poke holes in Peters’ critique of the mayor, citing unnamed former and current DOI employees who said that Peters himself quashed a report about NYPD officers who lied in official statements and were not disciplined.</p> <p>Naturally, Peters’ conduct and the saga around his dismissal by de Blasio formed the basis of Monday’s City Council hearing, held by the Council’s Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, chaired by City Council Member Karen Koslowitz. Council Members questioned Garnett on the approach she would take if she was confirmed to replace Peters in leading an office with dozens of investigators and the power to make arrests, and pressed her on how she would withstand influence from the administration and handle investigations, if any, that are already underway related to the mayor’s office.</p> <p>“To do its job, It is imperative that DOI remain independent from the entities it is obligated to monitor, including and especially the mayor,” Speaker Johnson said in his opening statement. “The DOI commissioner must not be beholden to any political figure and she must be capable of withstanding political pressure that would affect the integrity of DOI’s work.”</p> <p>Garnett emphasized her prosecutorial experience and her apolitical beliefs in her testimony. She also said that the findings of the McGovern Report, based on which Peters was fired, were “very shocking” and said she herself would expect to be terminated under those circumstances.</p> <p>The Council members and Garnett seemed reconciled to a degree of professional tension between the legislative body and the independent agency. The McGovern report, Johnson said, raised the question of whether there needs to be structural changes to prevent the types of actions for which Peters was removed. “Who watches the watchman?,” Johnson asked.</p> <p>But Garnett seemed to reject that idea, emphasizing rather that DOI remain independent and create an internal culture of integrity to prevent even the commissioner from abusing their power. “It’s very important...that prosecutors and law enforcement investigators be independent from political influence or political control, partisan concerns,” Garnett said, “and in order for that independence to be effective, that often means limited oversight by elected officials and other bodies.”</p> <p>Garnett said she could cite “dozens of examples” from her career of withstanding political pressure into investigations, and said bluntly that if she was ever asked to end a particular inquiry or affect its outcome, “The first thing I’d do is hang up the phone.”</p> <p>“I’m not a political person, I have no political ambitions...I would much sooner risk being fired than risk damaging my professional reputation,” she later said.&nbsp;Garnett is a veteran prosecutor and previously served as Assistant United States Attorney for the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. She has prosecuted tax fraud, embezzlement, narcotics cases and violent crimes, supervising the Violent and Organized Crime Unit for four years. She was later appointed Chief of Appeals for the Criminal Division. In the Attorney General’s office, besides heading the criminal division, Garnett oversees investigations of deaths of unarmed civilians in police interactions through the Special Investigations and Prosecution Unit.</p> <p>Council members also used the hearing as an opportunity to delve further into Peters’ actions as commissioner, seeking assurances from Garnett that she would not make the same missteps. Among Peters abuses of power was the firing of a whistleblower in his own department, which Johnson said, and Garnett agreed, might necessitate strengthening whistleblower protections through legislative action.</p> <p>Garnett shared the Council members’ apprehensions about Peters’ disclosure, in his letter to the Council, of the possible existence of investigations into the mayor’s office. But she also promised to look into any such investigations and said she would follow the facts and evidence without backing down as Peters’ letter suggested.</p> <p>“I can assure you that I will not be chilled,” she said, “and to the extent that anyone, Mr. Peters or in the administration or otherwise, thinks that I will be intimidated or chilled, I think they’ll be sorely disappointed.”</p> <p>Peters’ actions also prompted Council members to seek clarity on DOI’s role and authority over the NYPD inspector general, which is housed at DOI, and the Special Commissioner for Investigation at DOE, which Peters had tried to bring under his control. Garnett shared their concerns and was asked repeatedly about SCI’s structure in relation to DOI, even though she said she could not adequately address the question since she had yet to examine it. Council Member Mark Treyger in particular questioned whether that structural relationship should be reimagined considering that SCI has not conducted any systematic review of DOE for years despite the agency accounting for the largest share of the city budget.</p> <p>Council Member Torres, who was critical of the mayor’s decision to fire Peters, said Garnett was “exceptionally qualified” to replace him. He said his “greatest frustration” with DOI was the lack of acknowledgement of the Council’s requests for probes of city agencies or particular issues. Garnett made no promises about instituting a formal reporting structure, as Torres proposed, but she agreed to have conversations with members about their concerns.</p> <p>Members praised Garnett’s testimony and lengthy resume and, in the end, her confirmation to the post seemed assured (a vote is likely to be taken in committee then the full Council in the coming days). Shortly before departing the hearing, Johnson said he was impressed with Garnett’s testimony and qualifications and would support her nomination. “I feel confident in your ability to lead this agency,” he said.</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mg-headshot.jpg" alt="mg headshot" /></p> <p>Margaret Garnett (photo via City Hall)</p> <hr /> <p>Margaret Garnett, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pick to replace recently fired Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters, received praise from City Council Members and the support of City Council Speaker Corey Johnson at a Monday hearing on her nomination. Currently serving as the Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice in the New York State Attorney General’s office, Garnett’s nomination hearing came amid significant controversy over de Blasio’s firing of Peters, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8089-doubt-upon-the-mayor-s-true-motives-investigations-commissioner-responds-to-firing-by-de-blasio" target="_blank" rel="noopener">who claimed on his way out</a> that de Blasio’s behavior and motives in taking the unprecedented step of letting him go were highly questionable.</p> <p>The DOI commissioner, charged with running the agency that independently investigates corruption and wrongdoing in city government, is the only mayoral department-head appointee that requires approval by the City Council. Peters, the treasurer for de Blasio’s first mayoral campaign, used his position to examine systemic failings in the mayor’s administration and issued several scathing reports on the public housing authority, the police department, and the children’s services department, among other agencies. But Peters’ work drew the ire of the mayor, who reportedly considered removing the commissioner for months.</p> <p>The mayor was presented with a justifiable opportunity after an independent investigator, prosecutor James McGovern, issued a report that said Peters had exceeded his legal authority in attempting to take over an independent office that conducts oversight of the Department of Education, among other transgressions.</p> <p>In responding to the report and his termination, Peters questioned the mayor’s motives in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8089-doubt-upon-the-mayor-s-true-motives-investigations-commissioner-responds-to-firing-by-de-blasio" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a letter</a> to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Ritchie Torres, who chairs the Committee on Oversight and Investigations. Peters pointed to instances where the mayor and his aides had sought to suppress critical reports by DOI and speculated that de Blasio was attempting to bring an end to potential ongoing investigations into the mayor’s office. Those actions, he said, could chill the independence of the next DOI commissioner.</p> <p>De Blasio responded that Peters was fired for cause and alluded to other troubling behavior not in the McGovern report, while adding that he regretted nominating Peters in the first place and saying the former prosecutor had delusions of grandeur. <a href="https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/kendalltaggart/nypd-inspector-general-discipline-false-statements" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A BuzzFeed News report</a> on Monday appeared to poke holes in Peters’ critique of the mayor, citing unnamed former and current DOI employees who said that Peters himself quashed a report about NYPD officers who lied in official statements and were not disciplined.</p> <p>Naturally, Peters’ conduct and the saga around his dismissal by de Blasio formed the basis of Monday’s City Council hearing, held by the Council’s Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, chaired by City Council Member Karen Koslowitz. Council Members questioned Garnett on the approach she would take if she was confirmed to replace Peters in leading an office with dozens of investigators and the power to make arrests, and pressed her on how she would withstand influence from the administration and handle investigations, if any, that are already underway related to the mayor’s office.</p> <p>“To do its job, It is imperative that DOI remain independent from the entities it is obligated to monitor, including and especially the mayor,” Speaker Johnson said in his opening statement. “The DOI commissioner must not be beholden to any political figure and she must be capable of withstanding political pressure that would affect the integrity of DOI’s work.”</p> <p>Garnett emphasized her prosecutorial experience and her apolitical beliefs in her testimony. She also said that the findings of the McGovern Report, based on which Peters was fired, were “very shocking” and said she herself would expect to be terminated under those circumstances.</p> <p>The Council members and Garnett seemed reconciled to a degree of professional tension between the legislative body and the independent agency. The McGovern report, Johnson said, raised the question of whether there needs to be structural changes to prevent the types of actions for which Peters was removed. “Who watches the watchman?,” Johnson asked.</p> <p>But Garnett seemed to reject that idea, emphasizing rather that DOI remain independent and create an internal culture of integrity to prevent even the commissioner from abusing their power. “It’s very important...that prosecutors and law enforcement investigators be independent from political influence or political control, partisan concerns,” Garnett said, “and in order for that independence to be effective, that often means limited oversight by elected officials and other bodies.”</p> <p>Garnett said she could cite “dozens of examples” from her career of withstanding political pressure into investigations, and said bluntly that if she was ever asked to end a particular inquiry or affect its outcome, “The first thing I’d do is hang up the phone.”</p> <p>“I’m not a political person, I have no political ambitions...I would much sooner risk being fired than risk damaging my professional reputation,” she later said.&nbsp;Garnett is a veteran prosecutor and previously served as Assistant United States Attorney for the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. She has prosecuted tax fraud, embezzlement, narcotics cases and violent crimes, supervising the Violent and Organized Crime Unit for four years. She was later appointed Chief of Appeals for the Criminal Division. In the Attorney General’s office, besides heading the criminal division, Garnett oversees investigations of deaths of unarmed civilians in police interactions through the Special Investigations and Prosecution Unit.</p> <p>Council members also used the hearing as an opportunity to delve further into Peters’ actions as commissioner, seeking assurances from Garnett that she would not make the same missteps. Among Peters abuses of power was the firing of a whistleblower in his own department, which Johnson said, and Garnett agreed, might necessitate strengthening whistleblower protections through legislative action.</p> <p>Garnett shared the Council members’ apprehensions about Peters’ disclosure, in his letter to the Council, of the possible existence of investigations into the mayor’s office. But she also promised to look into any such investigations and said she would follow the facts and evidence without backing down as Peters’ letter suggested.</p> <p>“I can assure you that I will not be chilled,” she said, “and to the extent that anyone, Mr. Peters or in the administration or otherwise, thinks that I will be intimidated or chilled, I think they’ll be sorely disappointed.”</p> <p>Peters’ actions also prompted Council members to seek clarity on DOI’s role and authority over the NYPD inspector general, which is housed at DOI, and the Special Commissioner for Investigation at DOE, which Peters had tried to bring under his control. Garnett shared their concerns and was asked repeatedly about SCI’s structure in relation to DOI, even though she said she could not adequately address the question since she had yet to examine it. Council Member Mark Treyger in particular questioned whether that structural relationship should be reimagined considering that SCI has not conducted any systematic review of DOE for years despite the agency accounting for the largest share of the city budget.</p> <p>Council Member Torres, who was critical of the mayor’s decision to fire Peters, said Garnett was “exceptionally qualified” to replace him. He said his “greatest frustration” with DOI was the lack of acknowledgement of the Council’s requests for probes of city agencies or particular issues. Garnett made no promises about instituting a formal reporting structure, as Torres proposed, but she agreed to have conversations with members about their concerns.</p> <p>Members praised Garnett’s testimony and lengthy resume and, in the end, her confirmation to the post seemed assured (a vote is likely to be taken in committee then the full Council in the coming days). Shortly before departing the hearing, Johnson said he was impressed with Garnett’s testimony and qualifications and would support her nomination. “I feel confident in your ability to lead this agency,” he said.</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
City Council Pushes Board of Elections on Another Round of Issues at the Polls 2018-11-20T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-20T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8093-city-council-pushes-board-of-elections-on-another-round-of-issues-at-the-polls Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/citycouncil-jcommhearing.jpg" alt="citycouncil jcommhearing" width="600" height="383" /></p> <p>BOE ED Michael Ryan (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Embattled City Board of Elections Executive Director Michael Ryan testified before the City Council's Committees on Oversight and Government Operations on Tuesday, explaining that a perforated two-page ballot, never before used anywhere in the United States, was primarily to blame for the issues at polling sites across the city on Election Day.</p> <p>In a combative hearing initially presided over by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Ryan apologized, after being asked to do so, for the poor administration of the general election but defended the BOE by noting it was forced to work under tight timelines and restrictive administrative law, which required the center perforation on the two-page ballot and did not allow ballot questions, of which there were three this year proposed by the mayor’s Charter Revision Commission, to appear on the same side as candidates.</p> <p>“The board has been advised that an initial analysis points to the perforated ballot requirement as the major cause of the increased ballot jams,” Ryan said in prepared testimony to the joint committees. “Such a ballot configuration has not been attempted in any jurisdiction in the United States for use with a poll site scanner. The perforated two page ballot presented a series of problems never before experienced by the Board or anywhere in the country.”</p> <p>These problems included malfunctioning scanners without adequate tech support to fix them and lines so long that some voters simply went home without casting a ballot.</p> <p>The timing of the submission of the ballot questions proposed by the Charter Revision Commission caused the ballot to not be finalized until October 9, and the hundreds of different "ballot styles" across various different overlapping jurisdictions for different offices, prevented adequate testing and the ability to upload different styles on the same machine, Ryan said.</p> <p>In Manhattan alone, there were 924 different ballot styles, Ryan testified, owing to the various different combinations of overlapping districts for different offices such as Senate, Assembly, and Judgeships, among others.</p> <p>Staten Island was the lone borough with a single sheet ballot, and did not experience the poll site issues that the other four boroughs did on Election Day.</p> <p>Though still only about 38 percent, voter turnout in New York City for the general election was substantially higher than in recent non-presidential elections. Ryan said that state law dictates that there must be one scanner for every 4,000 voters, while BOE protocol stipulates one scanner for every 1,400 voters.</p> <p>Because of both the abnormally high turnout and the two-page ballot, which when separated doubled the amount of paper that machines needed to process, “ballot bins” in the voting machines filled up much quicker than normally. In fact, most of the issues were related to simple overcapacity of ballots in the bins, rather than technical malfunction, Ryan said.</p> <p>Ryan noted that about 4,000 scanners were in use on Election Day, while about 1,000 were left in the warehouse; they could not be brought out to poll sites due to transportation issues and the fact that individual ballot styles take an hour to upload onto the machine’s ballot reading software.</p> <p>Ryan said that a two-page ballot was considered a possibility in 2016, but was ultimately not used. Nonetheless, Ryan was criticized for not testing a "generic" perforated ballot in that two-year span.</p> <p>“There’s nothing that prevents you from testing the machines for a generic two-page perforated ballot,” said City Council Member Ritchie Torres, chair of the Oversight Committee. “For about two years, you’ve had the opportunity to test your equipment for a two-page perforated ballot, and it sounds like over the course of those two years, you’ve failed to do so.”</p> <p>In fact, Ryan said that the Board did not test for potential malfunctions at all, citing a lack of adequate time between the ballot finalization and Election Day and the inability to predict voter behavior.</p> <p>“We had just enough time to test the DS200 scanners for functionality,” he said, referring to the scanners that the state has used since switching from lever voting in 2010. “We did not have any time to do any kind of random testing to try to replicate the voter experience.”</p> <p>Speaker Johnson, who called on Ryan to resign during the Election Day fiasco, expressed displeasure and distrust in Ryan but also condemned the election process in New York generally.</p> <p>“I am embarrassed as a New Yorker about what happened on Election Day,” Johnson said. “I feel like this happens over and over and over again. I can’t remember an election where people said ‘you know what, it was done in a thoughtful, calm, professional, easy manner.’ New Yorkers deserve that. I don’t have confidence that that is gonna happen.” Johnson noted that he is not confident that the Board can competently administer the upcoming special election for Public Advocate, likely to occur in February.</p> <p>Johnson was just one of several Council members to detail his own experience voting, noting that his polling place had only a single functioning scanner by 11 a.m., resulting in a significant line that stretched outside into the rain, which was another factor in the day’s issues.</p> <p>"I expect to hear a plan forthcoming from the city and the state to rectify the issues of this election, and to improve tenfold the election operations for the next election, and the one after that, and the one after that," Johnson said.</p> <p>Another problem beyond ballot design and machine capacity was staffing, which failed on multiple levels on Election Day, ranging from poll workers unable to handle the influx of voters or scanner malfunctions or a greatly deficient number of tech support workers to fix the mounting issues with the machines. The BOE supplied tech staff commensurate with the number staffed in the 2016 presidential election, which Ryan called a bad idea in retrospect.</p> <p>"There was an avalanche early in the morning and we just could never catch up,” he said.</p> <p>Ryan disclosed that the BOE had received nearly 10,000 calls on Election Day, with most related to technical issues, a number he said was much higher than previous elections.</p> <p>The problem was most significant in Brooklyn, where the Board fielded 3,362 calls and wait times for a technician averaged an hour and 15 minutes. The average wait time citywide was 52 minutes.</p> <p>Ryan, who is hired by the city BOE to run operations and be non-political, did not take an explicit position on some of the more talked-about election reform proposals for the state, such as early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, or automatic voter registration. However, he urged Council members on multiple occasions to work with the Board to establish a municipal poll-worker program modeled on a similar program in Los Angeles, where municipal workers at city agencies would get a bonus or a day off to work the polls. This could include techs from the city’s technology department, DoITT, or other agencies, who could supplement the existing tech support workers.</p> <p>In the meantime, however, Ryan wants to staff poll sites in future elections with workers trained to fix malfunctions, rather than relying on a finite number of outside techs.</p> <p>Brooklyn Council Member Kalman Yeger questioned why the existing poll workers themselves couldn’t be trained to clear ballot jams, comparing the issue to a printer malfunction.</p> <p>"You make a straightforward and reasonable suggestion. The reluctance going back to 2010 was that we were losing poll workers because of their fear of the new machines,” Ryan said. “So a decision was made in that moment, which carried through to this election, have the poll workers do less with the machines, not more. This election, in a very hard way, taught us a difficult lesson."</p> <p>Other testifiers, such as Douglas Kellner of the State Board of Elections, agreed with the municipal poll worker suggestion, while also suggesting that staffing in general needed to be improved to comply with the “30-minute rule,” a federal rule which stipulates that no voter should wait more than 30 minutes to vote.</p> <p>“New York City has not complied with this regulation in its presidential general elections since the regulation was adopted in 2007,” Kellner said. “And I see no meaningful efforts by New York City to come into compliance in 2020.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/citycouncil-jcommhearing.jpg" alt="citycouncil jcommhearing" width="600" height="383" /></p> <p>BOE ED Michael Ryan (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Embattled City Board of Elections Executive Director Michael Ryan testified before the City Council's Committees on Oversight and Government Operations on Tuesday, explaining that a perforated two-page ballot, never before used anywhere in the United States, was primarily to blame for the issues at polling sites across the city on Election Day.</p> <p>In a combative hearing initially presided over by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Ryan apologized, after being asked to do so, for the poor administration of the general election but defended the BOE by noting it was forced to work under tight timelines and restrictive administrative law, which required the center perforation on the two-page ballot and did not allow ballot questions, of which there were three this year proposed by the mayor’s Charter Revision Commission, to appear on the same side as candidates.</p> <p>“The board has been advised that an initial analysis points to the perforated ballot requirement as the major cause of the increased ballot jams,” Ryan said in prepared testimony to the joint committees. “Such a ballot configuration has not been attempted in any jurisdiction in the United States for use with a poll site scanner. The perforated two page ballot presented a series of problems never before experienced by the Board or anywhere in the country.”</p> <p>These problems included malfunctioning scanners without adequate tech support to fix them and lines so long that some voters simply went home without casting a ballot.</p> <p>The timing of the submission of the ballot questions proposed by the Charter Revision Commission caused the ballot to not be finalized until October 9, and the hundreds of different "ballot styles" across various different overlapping jurisdictions for different offices, prevented adequate testing and the ability to upload different styles on the same machine, Ryan said.</p> <p>In Manhattan alone, there were 924 different ballot styles, Ryan testified, owing to the various different combinations of overlapping districts for different offices such as Senate, Assembly, and Judgeships, among others.</p> <p>Staten Island was the lone borough with a single sheet ballot, and did not experience the poll site issues that the other four boroughs did on Election Day.</p> <p>Though still only about 38 percent, voter turnout in New York City for the general election was substantially higher than in recent non-presidential elections. Ryan said that state law dictates that there must be one scanner for every 4,000 voters, while BOE protocol stipulates one scanner for every 1,400 voters.</p> <p>Because of both the abnormally high turnout and the two-page ballot, which when separated doubled the amount of paper that machines needed to process, “ballot bins” in the voting machines filled up much quicker than normally. In fact, most of the issues were related to simple overcapacity of ballots in the bins, rather than technical malfunction, Ryan said.</p> <p>Ryan noted that about 4,000 scanners were in use on Election Day, while about 1,000 were left in the warehouse; they could not be brought out to poll sites due to transportation issues and the fact that individual ballot styles take an hour to upload onto the machine’s ballot reading software.</p> <p>Ryan said that a two-page ballot was considered a possibility in 2016, but was ultimately not used. Nonetheless, Ryan was criticized for not testing a "generic" perforated ballot in that two-year span.</p> <p>“There’s nothing that prevents you from testing the machines for a generic two-page perforated ballot,” said City Council Member Ritchie Torres, chair of the Oversight Committee. “For about two years, you’ve had the opportunity to test your equipment for a two-page perforated ballot, and it sounds like over the course of those two years, you’ve failed to do so.”</p> <p>In fact, Ryan said that the Board did not test for potential malfunctions at all, citing a lack of adequate time between the ballot finalization and Election Day and the inability to predict voter behavior.</p> <p>“We had just enough time to test the DS200 scanners for functionality,” he said, referring to the scanners that the state has used since switching from lever voting in 2010. “We did not have any time to do any kind of random testing to try to replicate the voter experience.”</p> <p>Speaker Johnson, who called on Ryan to resign during the Election Day fiasco, expressed displeasure and distrust in Ryan but also condemned the election process in New York generally.</p> <p>“I am embarrassed as a New Yorker about what happened on Election Day,” Johnson said. “I feel like this happens over and over and over again. I can’t remember an election where people said ‘you know what, it was done in a thoughtful, calm, professional, easy manner.’ New Yorkers deserve that. I don’t have confidence that that is gonna happen.” Johnson noted that he is not confident that the Board can competently administer the upcoming special election for Public Advocate, likely to occur in February.</p> <p>Johnson was just one of several Council members to detail his own experience voting, noting that his polling place had only a single functioning scanner by 11 a.m., resulting in a significant line that stretched outside into the rain, which was another factor in the day’s issues.</p> <p>"I expect to hear a plan forthcoming from the city and the state to rectify the issues of this election, and to improve tenfold the election operations for the next election, and the one after that, and the one after that," Johnson said.</p> <p>Another problem beyond ballot design and machine capacity was staffing, which failed on multiple levels on Election Day, ranging from poll workers unable to handle the influx of voters or scanner malfunctions or a greatly deficient number of tech support workers to fix the mounting issues with the machines. The BOE supplied tech staff commensurate with the number staffed in the 2016 presidential election, which Ryan called a bad idea in retrospect.</p> <p>"There was an avalanche early in the morning and we just could never catch up,” he said.</p> <p>Ryan disclosed that the BOE had received nearly 10,000 calls on Election Day, with most related to technical issues, a number he said was much higher than previous elections.</p> <p>The problem was most significant in Brooklyn, where the Board fielded 3,362 calls and wait times for a technician averaged an hour and 15 minutes. The average wait time citywide was 52 minutes.</p> <p>Ryan, who is hired by the city BOE to run operations and be non-political, did not take an explicit position on some of the more talked-about election reform proposals for the state, such as early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, or automatic voter registration. However, he urged Council members on multiple occasions to work with the Board to establish a municipal poll-worker program modeled on a similar program in Los Angeles, where municipal workers at city agencies would get a bonus or a day off to work the polls. This could include techs from the city’s technology department, DoITT, or other agencies, who could supplement the existing tech support workers.</p> <p>In the meantime, however, Ryan wants to staff poll sites in future elections with workers trained to fix malfunctions, rather than relying on a finite number of outside techs.</p> <p>Brooklyn Council Member Kalman Yeger questioned why the existing poll workers themselves couldn’t be trained to clear ballot jams, comparing the issue to a printer malfunction.</p> <p>"You make a straightforward and reasonable suggestion. The reluctance going back to 2010 was that we were losing poll workers because of their fear of the new machines,” Ryan said. “So a decision was made in that moment, which carried through to this election, have the poll workers do less with the machines, not more. This election, in a very hard way, taught us a difficult lesson."</p> <p>Other testifiers, such as Douglas Kellner of the State Board of Elections, agreed with the municipal poll worker suggestion, while also suggesting that staffing in general needed to be improved to comply with the “30-minute rule,” a federal rule which stipulates that no voter should wait more than 30 minutes to vote.</p> <p>“New York City has not complied with this regulation in its presidential general elections since the regulation was adopted in 2007,” Kellner said. “And I see no meaningful efforts by New York City to come into compliance in 2020.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
With Nod from De Blasio and Push from Johnson, Momentum for Ranked-Choice Voting in New York City 2018-11-08T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-08T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8062-with-nod-from-de-blasio-and-push-from-johnson-momentum-for-ranked-choice-voting-in-new-york-city Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/bdb_at_voting_machine.jpg" alt="bdb at voting machine" width="600" height="410" /></p> <p>(photo: Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>With all three of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s charter revision proposals approved by voters by wide margins on Tuesday, eyes are now on the 2019 Charter Revision Commission, empaneled by the City Council and other officials, which will, in some respects, pick up where the 2018 commission left off, possibly considering issues that the mayor’s commission did not act on.</p> <p>Key among those is ranked-choice voting (also known as instant runoff voting), an alternative method of voting wherein voters rank their candidate preferences rather than simply voting for one. For whichever races it is applied to, if no candidate wins the required percentage of the vote on initial count, the last place candidate is eliminated, and the second preference of the eliminated candidate’s voters receives those votes. This continues until one candidate secures the required percentage, often set at 50 percent.</p> <p>As of now, New York City only holds runoffs for citywide positions -- mayor, public advocate, comptroller -- and if no candidate receives 40 percent of the vote. Mayor Bill de Blasio narrowly avoided a runoff in the 2013 Democratic primary for mayor, but there was one that year for public advocate.</p> <p>That runoff, in the Democratic primary between eventual winner Letitia James and Daniel Squadron, led to heightened calls for ranked-choice voting, especially given the high cost of the runoff relative to the budget of the public advocate’s office.</p> <p>Increasing support from elected officials and among the public led to ranked-choice voting being considered and discussed by the 2018 charter commission; in its <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/charter/downloads/pdf/final-report-20180904.pdf">final report</a>, the commission said that it had received a “considerable volume of public comment about ranked choice voting.” In the end, the commission demurred on ranked-choice, arguing that more research and time were required and recommending that a future commission tackle the issue.</p> <p>It may not take long; that commission may well end up being the 2019 commission, which has already met six times, twice in Manhattan and once each in the other boroughs, and has a much longer timeline on which to tackle issues. It is expected to continue deliberations, solicit online feedback, and hold hearings and meetings throughout the first half of next year, with its ballot proposals likely due by early September.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who got to name several commissioner including the chair, Gail Benjamin, testified at a recent hearing in favor of ranked-choice voting, urging the commission to look into it. De Blasio, meanwhile, singled out ranked-choice voting when asked by Gotham Gazette at a press availability what he would like the 2019 commission to tackle, though he did not endorse the idea outright.</p> <p>“There was a very vibrant discussion in this charter revision commission, for example, about ranked-choice voting,” the mayor said. “For me, the jury’s still out on ranked-choice voting. I grew up with it in Massachusetts. I think it has strengths and I think it has weaknesses. And I’d sure like to see a lot more research on it. But there’s a lot of people who believe it might be very beneficial in New York City.”</p> <p>Despite not taking an affirmative stance on the issue, de Blasio’s answer is a signal of his evolving position on ranked-choice, according to Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor at Reinvent Albany, a good government group that supports ranked-choice voting.</p> <p>“I think it’s significant,” Camarda said. “I think what’s telling is we’ve now seen, in the last few months, the mayor last week and the Council speaker at the Manhattan charter revision commission hearing, both called on the commission to consider instant runoff voting, and ‘here are the different arguments for it.’ And I think that’s a signal to the commission that they should seriously look at this.”</p> <p>“I think there’s a new openness to it on their parts that at least wasn’t public in the past,” he continued. “De Blasio in 2013 went on The Brian Lehrer Show and actually took a position against IRV, and said at the time that the starkness of two candidates in the runoff, he thought was clarifying for voters. So clearly, his position seems to have evolved.”</p> <p>Aside from good government groups, which almost uniformly support it, ranked choice also has the support of other prominent city elected officials: along with Johnson, support comes from <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7650-elected-officials-advocates-push-for-instant-runoff-voting">Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate James</a>, who was elected State Attorney General on Tuesday and in May called herself “the face of instant runoff” given her 2013 race. City Council Member Brad Lander has sponsored <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3331744&amp;GUID=C3185645-9437-40A8-B334-B72CA18DD21D" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a bill</a> to implement "instant run-off voting" (James is a co-sponsor) in the Council.</p> <p>"As the upcoming Public Advocate race shows, Ranked Choice Voting is an idea whose time has come for New York City," Lander said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "Stronger majority support, better outreach to diverse communities, less negative campaigning, and it even saves money. What's not to like?"</p> <p>Advocates, including those in New York, note that ranked-choice both makes third parties more viable (by limiting the need for “strategic voting”) and forces candidates to appeal beyond their base, in the hope of attracting voters as second preference. Ranked-choice would also allow city elections to avoid costly, low-turnout runoff elections when no candidate secures the required threshold of votes.</p> <p>“We think that enabling voters to rank candidates creates an environment where there's more substantive policy debate, and there’s less negativity in campaigning, because candidates have to appeal to second choice and even third choice votes,” Camarda said.</p> <p>In 2013, the runoff between James and Squadron was <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/30/nyregion/high-cost-runoff-for-public-advocates-post-prompts-calls-for-reform.html">estimated to cost about $13 million</a>, for a position with a $2 million budget, in an election with 6.5% turnout. In a <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/PDF/per/2013_PER/2013_PER.pdf">report</a> released the following year, the city’s Campaign Finance Board recommended that New York City adopt ranked-choice voting for municipal elections.</p> <p>Advocates also claim that ranked-choice increases turnout, though <a href="https://www.fairvote.org/research_rcvvoterturnout">studies have been conflicting</a> on the matter. Some have charged that it can be confusing to voters, decreasing turnout and the diversity of the electorate. Turnout in <a href="https://sfelections.sfgov.org/historical-voter-turnout">San Francisco</a>, the largest American city using ranked-choice, has been generally depressed since the implementation of ranked-choice, while in Minneapolis, <a href="https://sophia.stkate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://en.wikipedia.org/&amp;httpsredir=1&amp;article=1022&amp;context=maol_theses">the results have been</a> <a href="https://www.fairvote.org/voter_turnout_surges_in_all_four_cities_with_ranked_choice_voting">far more promising</a>.</p> <p>Ranked choice has taken a higher political profile after Maine voters adopted the system by referendum in 2016, after a string of gubernatorial elections going back to 2002 where no candidate received a majority of the vote. The measure survived several legal and legislative challenges and was used in this year’s midterm elections; the Democratic gubernatorial candidate won an outright majority, but the race in the 2nd Congressional District is <a href="https://bangordailynews.com/2018/11/07/politics/maines-toss-up-2nd-district-appears-headed-to-a-ranked-choice-count/">currently being decided by instant runoff</a>.</p> <p>Along with San Francisco and Minneapolis, ranked-choice is used in cities such as Oakland and Memphis, where voters approved ranked-choice in 2008 but it has not yet been implemented. On Tuesday, voters in that city <a href="https://www.fairvote.org/memphis_voters_reaffirm_ranked_choice_voting">rejected a ballot proposal</a> to abandon ranked-choice, and it will be used in 2019. And de Blasio’s hometown of Cambridge has used ranked-choice since the 1940s; Cambridge’s system is a <a href="https://www.cambridgema.gov/~/media/BD029816F80C4CDC89FD22B40EEBE4BE.ashx">unique hybrid</a> of ranked-choice and proportional representation.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>This story has been updated.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/bdb_at_voting_machine.jpg" alt="bdb at voting machine" width="600" height="410" /></p> <p>(photo: Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>With all three of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s charter revision proposals approved by voters by wide margins on Tuesday, eyes are now on the 2019 Charter Revision Commission, empaneled by the City Council and other officials, which will, in some respects, pick up where the 2018 commission left off, possibly considering issues that the mayor’s commission did not act on.</p> <p>Key among those is ranked-choice voting (also known as instant runoff voting), an alternative method of voting wherein voters rank their candidate preferences rather than simply voting for one. For whichever races it is applied to, if no candidate wins the required percentage of the vote on initial count, the last place candidate is eliminated, and the second preference of the eliminated candidate’s voters receives those votes. This continues until one candidate secures the required percentage, often set at 50 percent.</p> <p>As of now, New York City only holds runoffs for citywide positions -- mayor, public advocate, comptroller -- and if no candidate receives 40 percent of the vote. Mayor Bill de Blasio narrowly avoided a runoff in the 2013 Democratic primary for mayor, but there was one that year for public advocate.</p> <p>That runoff, in the Democratic primary between eventual winner Letitia James and Daniel Squadron, led to heightened calls for ranked-choice voting, especially given the high cost of the runoff relative to the budget of the public advocate’s office.</p> <p>Increasing support from elected officials and among the public led to ranked-choice voting being considered and discussed by the 2018 charter commission; in its <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/charter/downloads/pdf/final-report-20180904.pdf">final report</a>, the commission said that it had received a “considerable volume of public comment about ranked choice voting.” In the end, the commission demurred on ranked-choice, arguing that more research and time were required and recommending that a future commission tackle the issue.</p> <p>It may not take long; that commission may well end up being the 2019 commission, which has already met six times, twice in Manhattan and once each in the other boroughs, and has a much longer timeline on which to tackle issues. It is expected to continue deliberations, solicit online feedback, and hold hearings and meetings throughout the first half of next year, with its ballot proposals likely due by early September.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who got to name several commissioner including the chair, Gail Benjamin, testified at a recent hearing in favor of ranked-choice voting, urging the commission to look into it. De Blasio, meanwhile, singled out ranked-choice voting when asked by Gotham Gazette at a press availability what he would like the 2019 commission to tackle, though he did not endorse the idea outright.</p> <p>“There was a very vibrant discussion in this charter revision commission, for example, about ranked-choice voting,” the mayor said. “For me, the jury’s still out on ranked-choice voting. I grew up with it in Massachusetts. I think it has strengths and I think it has weaknesses. And I’d sure like to see a lot more research on it. But there’s a lot of people who believe it might be very beneficial in New York City.”</p> <p>Despite not taking an affirmative stance on the issue, de Blasio’s answer is a signal of his evolving position on ranked-choice, according to Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor at Reinvent Albany, a good government group that supports ranked-choice voting.</p> <p>“I think it’s significant,” Camarda said. “I think what’s telling is we’ve now seen, in the last few months, the mayor last week and the Council speaker at the Manhattan charter revision commission hearing, both called on the commission to consider instant runoff voting, and ‘here are the different arguments for it.’ And I think that’s a signal to the commission that they should seriously look at this.”</p> <p>“I think there’s a new openness to it on their parts that at least wasn’t public in the past,” he continued. “De Blasio in 2013 went on The Brian Lehrer Show and actually took a position against IRV, and said at the time that the starkness of two candidates in the runoff, he thought was clarifying for voters. So clearly, his position seems to have evolved.”</p> <p>Aside from good government groups, which almost uniformly support it, ranked choice also has the support of other prominent city elected officials: along with Johnson, support comes from <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7650-elected-officials-advocates-push-for-instant-runoff-voting">Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate James</a>, who was elected State Attorney General on Tuesday and in May called herself “the face of instant runoff” given her 2013 race. City Council Member Brad Lander has sponsored <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3331744&amp;GUID=C3185645-9437-40A8-B334-B72CA18DD21D" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a bill</a> to implement "instant run-off voting" (James is a co-sponsor) in the Council.</p> <p>"As the upcoming Public Advocate race shows, Ranked Choice Voting is an idea whose time has come for New York City," Lander said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "Stronger majority support, better outreach to diverse communities, less negative campaigning, and it even saves money. What's not to like?"</p> <p>Advocates, including those in New York, note that ranked-choice both makes third parties more viable (by limiting the need for “strategic voting”) and forces candidates to appeal beyond their base, in the hope of attracting voters as second preference. Ranked-choice would also allow city elections to avoid costly, low-turnout runoff elections when no candidate secures the required threshold of votes.</p> <p>“We think that enabling voters to rank candidates creates an environment where there's more substantive policy debate, and there’s less negativity in campaigning, because candidates have to appeal to second choice and even third choice votes,” Camarda said.</p> <p>In 2013, the runoff between James and Squadron was <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/30/nyregion/high-cost-runoff-for-public-advocates-post-prompts-calls-for-reform.html">estimated to cost about $13 million</a>, for a position with a $2 million budget, in an election with 6.5% turnout. In a <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/PDF/per/2013_PER/2013_PER.pdf">report</a> released the following year, the city’s Campaign Finance Board recommended that New York City adopt ranked-choice voting for municipal elections.</p> <p>Advocates also claim that ranked-choice increases turnout, though <a href="https://www.fairvote.org/research_rcvvoterturnout">studies have been conflicting</a> on the matter. Some have charged that it can be confusing to voters, decreasing turnout and the diversity of the electorate. Turnout in <a href="https://sfelections.sfgov.org/historical-voter-turnout">San Francisco</a>, the largest American city using ranked-choice, has been generally depressed since the implementation of ranked-choice, while in Minneapolis, <a href="https://sophia.stkate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://en.wikipedia.org/&amp;httpsredir=1&amp;article=1022&amp;context=maol_theses">the results have been</a> <a href="https://www.fairvote.org/voter_turnout_surges_in_all_four_cities_with_ranked_choice_voting">far more promising</a>.</p> <p>Ranked choice has taken a higher political profile after Maine voters adopted the system by referendum in 2016, after a string of gubernatorial elections going back to 2002 where no candidate received a majority of the vote. The measure survived several legal and legislative challenges and was used in this year’s midterm elections; the Democratic gubernatorial candidate won an outright majority, but the race in the 2nd Congressional District is <a href="https://bangordailynews.com/2018/11/07/politics/maines-toss-up-2nd-district-appears-headed-to-a-ranked-choice-count/">currently being decided by instant runoff</a>.</p> <p>Along with San Francisco and Minneapolis, ranked-choice is used in cities such as Oakland and Memphis, where voters approved ranked-choice in 2008 but it has not yet been implemented. On Tuesday, voters in that city <a href="https://www.fairvote.org/memphis_voters_reaffirm_ranked_choice_voting">rejected a ballot proposal</a> to abandon ranked-choice, and it will be used in 2019. And de Blasio’s hometown of Cambridge has used ranked-choice since the 1940s; Cambridge’s system is a <a href="https://www.cambridgema.gov/~/media/BD029816F80C4CDC89FD22B40EEBE4BE.ashx">unique hybrid</a> of ranked-choice and proportional representation.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>This story has been updated.</p>
Prominent Elected Officials Oppose De Blasio Charter Revision Proposals 2018-10-29T04:00:00+00:00 2018-10-29T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8026-prominent-elected-officials-oppose-de-blasio-charter-revision-proposals Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27811376699_c0b0d6b3ca_z.jpg" alt="Mayor de Blasio " width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio is seeking to make a lasting impact on city governance through a charter revision commission that would transform the city’s campaign finance system, promote greater civic involvement in city affairs, and inject new blood into local community boards. But prominent elected officials, most of whom are Democrats like de Blasio, don’t agree with the proposals the mayor’s commission has put on the November 6 ballot and are urging New Yorkers to reject them.</p> <p>The mayor’s commission put <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/charter/downloads/pdf/2018_charter_revision_commission_ballot_proposals_1_pdf.PDF" target="_blank" rel="noopener">three questions</a> on the ballot for voter approval through a simple majority. The first would significantly reduce individual campaign contribution limits and expand the city’s public matching funds program; the second would create a civic engagement commission with appointments mostly by the mayor to coordinate citywide participatory budgeting and other initiatives such as interpreting services at polling sites; and the third would impose term limits on community board members and alter how those members are recruited and appointed to ensure greater diversity.</p> <p>Though the mayor appointed the commission and announced its areas of focus, he was not to have direct say over its final report or proposals, but he did announce support for all three and is now campaigning to see them approved by voters.</p> <p>“These reforms will go a long way toward strengthening our democracy and limiting the influence of big money in our elections,” he said in a September statement, when the proposals were released. “There's no doubt in my mind that these measures will help us build a more fair and equitable city.” <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/10/28/de-blasio-stumps-for-his-ballot-initiatives-667543" target="_blank" rel="noopener">On Sunday</a>, de Blasio spoke at two churches in Manhattan, urging congregants to flip their ballot and decide on the three questions. “[V]ote yes, yes, yes. So we can open up the doors of democracy wide and make this an even greater city,” he said at Bethel Gospel Assembly.</p> <p>Other elected officials, however, are not so certain, and are expressing somewhat mixed reviews, though many are opposed to community board term limits.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, for instance, supports lowering contribution limits and creating a civic engagement commission, but not term limits for community board members. “I don’t think term limits are necessary,” Johnson, a former community boar chair, said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “These aren’t lifetime appointments. They must be reappointed by elected officials who are term limited. I think that provides enough checks and balances to our community boards, while allowing us to keep the good members with experience and wisdom. It is also our job as elected officials to always be looking to appoint new civic minded leaders who are interested in serving.”</p> <p>It’s an argument that’s also been advanced by four of the five borough presidents -- only Brooklyn’s Eric Adams supports the term limits question.</p> <p>Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, in fact, led the creation of an independent expenditure committee to oppose both term limits and the civic engagement commission, an effort in which she was joined by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, and Staten Island Borough President James Oddo (Oddo is the lone Republican in the group). “These proposals would be a real—and in some cases dangerous—disruption to the way Community Boards protect our communities,” Brewer wrote in an email to supporters earlier this month, arguing that it could lead to a drain in institutional wisdom and give real estate interests and lobbyists a leg up in discussions about community development. The proposal does include a provision whereby individuals term-limited off of community boards are eligible to serve again after a one-term, two-year “cooling off period.”</p> <p>“Our community boards are the eyes and ears of our neighborhoods and are often the first line of defense against unwanted projects as well as the initial point of contact between city agencies and our neighbors,” said Diaz Jr. “We should be working to strengthen their role, not strip them of the knowledge and historical focus that makes them so important in the first place.”</p> <p>Katz said the current appointment process allows “ample opportunity” to pick diverse candidates “for a dynamic mix of talent,” while Oddo worried that the “one-size-fits-all solution” could have unintended consequences.</p> <p>Adams, however, has argued, “While institutional knowledge is valuable, a reasonable term limit for Community Board members will allow the best of both worlds: institutional knowledge and new voices.”</p> <p>On expanding the campaign finance system, however, only Adams and Oddo have publicly opposed the question among the borough presidents, though for different reasons. “[Brooklyn BP Adams] opposes the campaign finance reform measure because it doesn’t go far enough as he believes in 100 percent public financing,” said an Adams spokesperson. Oddo, on the other hand, has been a staunch opponent of public financing and simply said, “Hell no!” about proposal one.</p> <p>Spokespeople for Katz and Diaz Jr. did not respond to requests for comment about the campaign finance reform proposal.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8000-brewer-creates-committee-to-oppose-charter-revision-proposals" target="_blank">Brewer Creates Committee to Oppose Charter Revision Proposals</a>]</p> <p>Comptroller Scott Stringer also opposes the second and third questions while supporting the first on campaign finance reform. “The City must take a serious look at our Charter — it’s critical to tackling the important issues facing New Yorkers,” he said in a statement. Stringer has laid out his own exhaustive plan of charter proposals to the 2019 charter commission, a separate one from the mayor’s that was created through City Council legislation that is taking a far broader look at the city’s governing principles.&nbsp;</p> <p>Stringer added, “I support the first initiative because we need a campaign finance system that does everything it can to engage New Yorkers and help people run for office. I oppose proposals 2 and 3 which will weaken communities’ voices in shaping their own development.”</p> <p>At an October 31 news conference at City Hall, Gotham Gazette asked Speaker Johnson if he would urge the 2019 commission to reverse community board term limits if they should pass. Johnson said he would not. "I think it's important to lice by the will of the voters," he said. &nbsp;</p> <p>A spokesperson for Public Advocate Letitia James did not provide her stances despite multiple requests for comment, one of which was acknowledged.</p> <p>Among a few rank-and-file City Council Members, reception of the proposals seems to be mixed. Council Member Brad Lander, a Brooklyn Democrat, for example, supports all three proposals and has in particular been advocating for the creation of the civic engagement commission -- Lander had proposed the idea through legislation and presented it to the commission.</p> <p>“I truly believe these ballot proposals give us an opportunity to do something important to strengthen our local democracy: To improve our campaign finance rules. To turbo-charge civic engagement. To expand participatory budgeting city-wide,” he said in an email blast to supporters, calling on New Yorkers to pledge their support.</p> <p>Manhattan Council Member Ben Kallos, also a Democrat, is backing all the proposals as well. Kallos has been a staunch campaign finance reform advocate and the first question would partially achieve what he has in the past tried to do through legislation, to expand the amount of public funds given to candidates running for office. “Democracy in New York City will finally get better,” he said in a September 6 statement, if the first question is passed, “reducing contribution limits and making small dollars more valuable by matching more of them with a greater multiplier.”</p> <p>City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, a Queens Democrat, is also <a href="https://twitter.com/JimmyVanBramer/status/1057284940314918913" target="_blank" rel="noopener">urging a "yes" vote</a> on all three proposals. City Council Member Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat, has expressed support for the campaign finance proposal, but a spokesperson did not respond to a request for his positions on the other two.</p> <p>On the other end, there’s Council Member Helen Rosenthal, again a Manhattan Democrat, who opposes all three measures. “The spirit of the first two proposals is positive and some of the substance is even promising, but each raises significant concerns to the point where I cannot support them,” she said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. Also noting a criticism that was raised when the mayor first announced his commission, she added, “Of course, all three proposals could be implemented through the current legislative process.”</p> <p>Even government reform groups appear somewhat split on the ballot proposals. Reinvent Albany is advocating for all three. “Reinvent Albany believes a YES vote on these ballot measures will collectively amplify the voice of everyday New Yorkers and create new opportunities for injecting fresh perspectives into the public debate over how to make our city better for everyone,” the group said in an email blast on Monday.</p> <p>Citizens Union, another good government advocacy organization <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-pol-citizens-union-charter-revision-questions-20181024-story.html">opposes</a> the proposal for a civic engagement commission, supports community board term limits, and has not taken a position on the campaign finance question.</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 City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Jumaane Williams. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27811376699_c0b0d6b3ca_z.jpg" alt="Mayor de Blasio " width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio is seeking to make a lasting impact on city governance through a charter revision commission that would transform the city’s campaign finance system, promote greater civic involvement in city affairs, and inject new blood into local community boards. But prominent elected officials, most of whom are Democrats like de Blasio, don’t agree with the proposals the mayor’s commission has put on the November 6 ballot and are urging New Yorkers to reject them.</p> <p>The mayor’s commission put <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/charter/downloads/pdf/2018_charter_revision_commission_ballot_proposals_1_pdf.PDF" target="_blank" rel="noopener">three questions</a> on the ballot for voter approval through a simple majority. The first would significantly reduce individual campaign contribution limits and expand the city’s public matching funds program; the second would create a civic engagement commission with appointments mostly by the mayor to coordinate citywide participatory budgeting and other initiatives such as interpreting services at polling sites; and the third would impose term limits on community board members and alter how those members are recruited and appointed to ensure greater diversity.</p> <p>Though the mayor appointed the commission and announced its areas of focus, he was not to have direct say over its final report or proposals, but he did announce support for all three and is now campaigning to see them approved by voters.</p> <p>“These reforms will go a long way toward strengthening our democracy and limiting the influence of big money in our elections,” he said in a September statement, when the proposals were released. “There's no doubt in my mind that these measures will help us build a more fair and equitable city.” <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/10/28/de-blasio-stumps-for-his-ballot-initiatives-667543" target="_blank" rel="noopener">On Sunday</a>, de Blasio spoke at two churches in Manhattan, urging congregants to flip their ballot and decide on the three questions. “[V]ote yes, yes, yes. So we can open up the doors of democracy wide and make this an even greater city,” he said at Bethel Gospel Assembly.</p> <p>Other elected officials, however, are not so certain, and are expressing somewhat mixed reviews, though many are opposed to community board term limits.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, for instance, supports lowering contribution limits and creating a civic engagement commission, but not term limits for community board members. “I don’t think term limits are necessary,” Johnson, a former community boar chair, said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “These aren’t lifetime appointments. They must be reappointed by elected officials who are term limited. I think that provides enough checks and balances to our community boards, while allowing us to keep the good members with experience and wisdom. It is also our job as elected officials to always be looking to appoint new civic minded leaders who are interested in serving.”</p> <p>It’s an argument that’s also been advanced by four of the five borough presidents -- only Brooklyn’s Eric Adams supports the term limits question.</p> <p>Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, in fact, led the creation of an independent expenditure committee to oppose both term limits and the civic engagement commission, an effort in which she was joined by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, and Staten Island Borough President James Oddo (Oddo is the lone Republican in the group). “These proposals would be a real—and in some cases dangerous—disruption to the way Community Boards protect our communities,” Brewer wrote in an email to supporters earlier this month, arguing that it could lead to a drain in institutional wisdom and give real estate interests and lobbyists a leg up in discussions about community development. The proposal does include a provision whereby individuals term-limited off of community boards are eligible to serve again after a one-term, two-year “cooling off period.”</p> <p>“Our community boards are the eyes and ears of our neighborhoods and are often the first line of defense against unwanted projects as well as the initial point of contact between city agencies and our neighbors,” said Diaz Jr. “We should be working to strengthen their role, not strip them of the knowledge and historical focus that makes them so important in the first place.”</p> <p>Katz said the current appointment process allows “ample opportunity” to pick diverse candidates “for a dynamic mix of talent,” while Oddo worried that the “one-size-fits-all solution” could have unintended consequences.</p> <p>Adams, however, has argued, “While institutional knowledge is valuable, a reasonable term limit for Community Board members will allow the best of both worlds: institutional knowledge and new voices.”</p> <p>On expanding the campaign finance system, however, only Adams and Oddo have publicly opposed the question among the borough presidents, though for different reasons. “[Brooklyn BP Adams] opposes the campaign finance reform measure because it doesn’t go far enough as he believes in 100 percent public financing,” said an Adams spokesperson. Oddo, on the other hand, has been a staunch opponent of public financing and simply said, “Hell no!” about proposal one.</p> <p>Spokespeople for Katz and Diaz Jr. did not respond to requests for comment about the campaign finance reform proposal.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8000-brewer-creates-committee-to-oppose-charter-revision-proposals" target="_blank">Brewer Creates Committee to Oppose Charter Revision Proposals</a>]</p> <p>Comptroller Scott Stringer also opposes the second and third questions while supporting the first on campaign finance reform. “The City must take a serious look at our Charter — it’s critical to tackling the important issues facing New Yorkers,” he said in a statement. Stringer has laid out his own exhaustive plan of charter proposals to the 2019 charter commission, a separate one from the mayor’s that was created through City Council legislation that is taking a far broader look at the city’s governing principles.&nbsp;</p> <p>Stringer added, “I support the first initiative because we need a campaign finance system that does everything it can to engage New Yorkers and help people run for office. I oppose proposals 2 and 3 which will weaken communities’ voices in shaping their own development.”</p> <p>At an October 31 news conference at City Hall, Gotham Gazette asked Speaker Johnson if he would urge the 2019 commission to reverse community board term limits if they should pass. Johnson said he would not. "I think it's important to lice by the will of the voters," he said. &nbsp;</p> <p>A spokesperson for Public Advocate Letitia James did not provide her stances despite multiple requests for comment, one of which was acknowledged.</p> <p>Among a few rank-and-file City Council Members, reception of the proposals seems to be mixed. Council Member Brad Lander, a Brooklyn Democrat, for example, supports all three proposals and has in particular been advocating for the creation of the civic engagement commission -- Lander had proposed the idea through legislation and presented it to the commission.</p> <p>“I truly believe these ballot proposals give us an opportunity to do something important to strengthen our local democracy: To improve our campaign finance rules. To turbo-charge civic engagement. To expand participatory budgeting city-wide,” he said in an email blast to supporters, calling on New Yorkers to pledge their support.</p> <p>Manhattan Council Member Ben Kallos, also a Democrat, is backing all the proposals as well. Kallos has been a staunch campaign finance reform advocate and the first question would partially achieve what he has in the past tried to do through legislation, to expand the amount of public funds given to candidates running for office. “Democracy in New York City will finally get better,” he said in a September 6 statement, if the first question is passed, “reducing contribution limits and making small dollars more valuable by matching more of them with a greater multiplier.”</p> <p>City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, a Queens Democrat, is also <a href="https://twitter.com/JimmyVanBramer/status/1057284940314918913" target="_blank" rel="noopener">urging a "yes" vote</a> on all three proposals. City Council Member Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat, has expressed support for the campaign finance proposal, but a spokesperson did not respond to a request for his positions on the other two.</p> <p>On the other end, there’s Council Member Helen Rosenthal, again a Manhattan Democrat, who opposes all three measures. “The spirit of the first two proposals is positive and some of the substance is even promising, but each raises significant concerns to the point where I cannot support them,” she said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. Also noting a criticism that was raised when the mayor first announced his commission, she added, “Of course, all three proposals could be implemented through the current legislative process.”</p> <p>Even government reform groups appear somewhat split on the ballot proposals. Reinvent Albany is advocating for all three. “Reinvent Albany believes a YES vote on these ballot measures will collectively amplify the voice of everyday New Yorkers and create new opportunities for injecting fresh perspectives into the public debate over how to make our city better for everyone,” the group said in an email blast on Monday.</p> <p>Citizens Union, another good government advocacy organization <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-pol-citizens-union-charter-revision-questions-20181024-story.html">opposes</a> the proposal for a civic engagement commission, supports community board term limits, and has not taken a position on the campaign finance question.</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 City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Jumaane Williams. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p>
Elected Officials Present Broad Proposals to 2019 Charter Revision Commission 2018-10-11T04:00:00+00:00 2018-10-11T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7990-elected-officials-present-broad-proposals-to-2019-charter-revision-commission Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/stringer_charter_testimony.jpg" alt="stringer charter testimony" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Comptroller Stringer testifies at the 2019 Charter Revision Commission (photo: @NYCComptroller)</p> <hr /> <p>The charter revision commission created through New York City Council legislation concluded its first round of public hearings last month, receiving dozens of suggestions about improving the functions and structure of city government. Unlike the commission established by Mayor Bill de Blasio, which has three proposals on this November’s ballot, the Council-created commission is set to propose changes to the city’s central governing document via the 2019 election.</p> <p>Among those who testified at the 2019 commission’s initial hearings were several elected officials who presented their own broad proposals that could significantly change how the city conducts its business and how those who hold power can wield it. They included City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, and several City Council members from the five boroughs.</p> <p>Johnson -- who appointed the commission’s chair Gail Benjamin, the former head of the Council’s land use division, and three other members -- sees in the commission an opportunity to fix the balance of power in the city, which tilts toward the mayoralty and at times can diminish the oversight and accountability role played by the 51-member Council.</p> <p>In testimony at the September 27 hearing held at City Hall, Johnson noted the Council’s limited ability to review mayoral appointees to head city agencies, and that the body cannot remove an agency head. He also suggested that the commission examine whether the budgets for certain offices “which are uncertain and subject to political considerations as opposed to substantive need, should be fixed or independently set.”</p> <p>Johnson also recommended the commission look at the structure of the Law Department and the Corporation Counsel. “One lawyer attempting to serve two separate branches of government is an invitation for confusion and disruption and may not be in the best interests of the City,” his testimony reads, in reference to representation of both the executive and legislative branches of city government, an issue that has come to the fore as Council members have sought to join a lawsuit against the city’s property tax system.</p> <p>Johnson is also pushing for changes to the city’s budget process to give the Council a greater voice and to tie budget allocations more closely to city programs, and also argued in favor of instant runoff voting, also known as ranked choice voting.</p> <p>The most sweeping reforms that Johnson proposed, however, deal with the city’s land use process, which is almost always contentious and has been recently as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has moved to rezone several neighborhoods -- mostly low-income, communities of color -- to increase density and create more affordable housing. Johnson and other members of the Council’s Progressive Caucus have advocated for a citywide planning framework that gives communities greater say in land use decisions and balances equity with development. They have also called for an independent City Planning Commission, as opposed to the one currently composed largely of mayoral appointees. Council Members Diana Ayala, who co-chairs the caucus, Keith Powers, a vice co-chair, Brad Lander, and Adrienne Adams each testified on those proposals at separate borough hearings. “The status quo of ad hoc planning is just not working…We need a larger vision based on equity, a vision in which low-income communities do not have to slowly bear the brunt of the city’s every housing and infrastructure need,” Ayala <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7932-2019-charter-revision-commission-holds-first-public-hearing" target="_blank">said at a September 12 hearing</a> in the Bronx.</p> <p>Those goals are also in line with a <a href="http://library.rpa.org/pdf/Inclusive-City-NYC.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report released in January</a> by the Regional Planning Association, a prominent think tank, in partnership with community advocacy groups, academic experts and partners in city government. The RPA report, titled “<a href="http://library.rpa.org/pdf/Inclusive-City-NYC.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Inclusive City</a>”, was also presented to the charter commission and cited by elected officials, including Brewer, who also testified at the Sept. 27 hearing. Brewer, along with Public Advocate Letitia James, was the driver behind the legislation that created the commission and has expressed hope that it can bring a sea change the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the 1989 charter commission fundamentally altered the structure of city government, giving it its present form.</p> <p>In her testimony, Brewer emphasized a more thoughtful process for land use decisions that includes early input from community boards and elected officials before applications are certified through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). “With pre-planning we can do more than merely react—we can shape a project,” she said.</p> <p>She also pushed for more technical improvements to zoning and permitting procedures, in the context of a long-term citywide approach. “There needs to be a citywide comprehensive plan every ten years,” she said. “This planning process could distribute new development equitably across the city, rather than concentrate rezonings in communities of color.”</p> <p>Similar to Johnson’s testimony, Brewer advocated for increased transparency in the city budget. She also said the Civilian Complaint Review Board should be strengthened and its budget tied to the NYPD’s, to ensure that the watchdog agency has sufficient resources to deal with a growing police body. Additionally, she noted her opposition to term limits for community boards, which have been proposed in a ballot question by the mayor’s commission. Borough presidents appoint most community board members.</p> <p>Comptroller Stringer’s ideas, in number at least, outpaced other elected officials. In an <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/a-new-charter-to-confront-new-challenges/overview/?utm_source=Media-All&amp;utm_campaign=dd88068c66-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_12_08_COPY_01&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_7cd514b03e-dd88068c66-154020809" target="_blank" rel="noopener">exhaustive report</a> presented at the City Hall hearing, Stringer recommended 65 revisions to the charter ranging from proposals on city budgeting and procurement to housing, cybersecurity, children’s services, campaign finance and voting reforms.</p> <p>“Since the last major charter revision nearly thirty years ago, New York City has grown by 1.2 million people and the world has changed around it, yet its charter is not prepared to meet the needs of today’s challenges,” Stringer said in a statement. “The Charter Review Commission is an opportunity for us to build a better government that takes aim at our affordability crisis and builds a fairer city by giving a voice to New Yorkers.”</p> <p>Chief among Stringer’s proposals was a push for a Chief Diversity Officer in the mayor’s office and in each city agency, to ensure diversity in hiring and in contracting. Stringer has advocated for increased investment in Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs) and he noted that though New York City spends nearly $20 billion on goods and services each year, less than 5 percent of the contracts are given to M/WBEs.</p> <p>He also proposed a new Office of Inspection independent of the Department of Buildings and the Housing and Preservation Department, which he said play conflicting roles since they both approve new construction and development and are also charged with enforcing housing and construction codes. In line with his role as the city’s chief fiscal officer, Stringer also pushed for reforms to the capital budget, which funds infrastructure projects in the city. He said it should be transparent enough so the public can identify the cost of specific projects and be informed when those costs change.</p> <p>Several other City Council members also weighed in on proposed charter revisions.</p> <p>Council Member Ben Kallos, also co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, proposed 72 ideas in total, in updated testimony, including a citizen “Bill of Rights to free higher education, affordable health and mental health care, and, access to parks, libraries, public transit and affordable internet.” He stressed that any revisions to the charter brought about through a ballot referendum should go through further changes only after being presented to voters again. He pushed to give the Council and borough presidents the ability to make appointments to mayoral boards that have land use authority and said the charter should be amended to allow city residents to propose legislation and be heard before the Council. “Our City’s Charter is truly a living document,” he said in a statement, “but it is up to us to make sure it remains alive.”</p> <p>Council Member Helen Rosenthal pushed for the charter to formally adopt the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against<br />Women (CEDAW), and also advocated for reforms to the city's contracting process to ease burdensome requirements on non-profits that provide early childhood<br />education, homeless services, senior services, and mental healthcare.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>At the September 20 hearing in Queens, Council Members Adams and Francisco Moya, who is not a Progressive Caucus member, supported improvements to ULURP. “Displacement in our neighborhoods is no longer a possibility but a fact of life,” Moya said, according to written testimony. He called for the charter to mandate assessments of displacement brought about by proposed development. “We cannot view our city and its neighborhoods in a vacuum,” Moya said.</p> <p>There were, of course, elected officials with more borough-specific agendas. At the September 24 hearing on Staten Island, testimony by Borough President James Oddo, and Council Members Steven Matteo and Joseph Borelli (all three Republicans, unlike all of the other aforementioned officials, who are Democrats), advocated for greater freedom for the borough from “bureaucrats in Manhattan,” as Oddo and Matteo put it.</p> <p>Oddo and Matteo, in submitted testimony, said that city agencies should be restructured to give borough commissioners more power over local issues. “Agencies should be restructured in such a way that the chain of command within the agency is clear, and that one individual on the local level is not only responsible and accountable, but specifically empowered within the agency to act,” they wrote.</p> <p>Borelli similarly pushed for more decentralization of power, expressing concern that the priorities of Staten Islanders are often ignored by city government and that new changes to the charter could adversely affect the borough. “We don’t want to be laboratories for the latest experiments in social engineering as too often seems the case on issues ranging from buses to composting,” he said. He largely argued for giving the borough president greater jurisdiction over local issues, similar to a county executive outside New York City.</p> <p>He also criticized the city’s public matching funds program for campaign financing, calling on the commission to negate the potential expansion of the program that could happen through a ballot proposal put forward by the mayor’s commission. And, he advanced several other proposals -- mandating that the Independent Budget Office study the fiscal impact of every piece of City Council legislation; reducing duplicative roles played by different city agencies; making it harder to raise taxes in the city; improving the process for holding special elections; and curbing the power of the Board of Standards and Appeals.</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 to include testimony from Council Member Helen Rosenthal and updated testimony from Council Member Ben Kallos. &nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/stringer_charter_testimony.jpg" alt="stringer charter testimony" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Comptroller Stringer testifies at the 2019 Charter Revision Commission (photo: @NYCComptroller)</p> <hr /> <p>The charter revision commission created through New York City Council legislation concluded its first round of public hearings last month, receiving dozens of suggestions about improving the functions and structure of city government. Unlike the commission established by Mayor Bill de Blasio, which has three proposals on this November’s ballot, the Council-created commission is set to propose changes to the city’s central governing document via the 2019 election.</p> <p>Among those who testified at the 2019 commission’s initial hearings were several elected officials who presented their own broad proposals that could significantly change how the city conducts its business and how those who hold power can wield it. They included City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, and several City Council members from the five boroughs.</p> <p>Johnson -- who appointed the commission’s chair Gail Benjamin, the former head of the Council’s land use division, and three other members -- sees in the commission an opportunity to fix the balance of power in the city, which tilts toward the mayoralty and at times can diminish the oversight and accountability role played by the 51-member Council.</p> <p>In testimony at the September 27 hearing held at City Hall, Johnson noted the Council’s limited ability to review mayoral appointees to head city agencies, and that the body cannot remove an agency head. He also suggested that the commission examine whether the budgets for certain offices “which are uncertain and subject to political considerations as opposed to substantive need, should be fixed or independently set.”</p> <p>Johnson also recommended the commission look at the structure of the Law Department and the Corporation Counsel. “One lawyer attempting to serve two separate branches of government is an invitation for confusion and disruption and may not be in the best interests of the City,” his testimony reads, in reference to representation of both the executive and legislative branches of city government, an issue that has come to the fore as Council members have sought to join a lawsuit against the city’s property tax system.</p> <p>Johnson is also pushing for changes to the city’s budget process to give the Council a greater voice and to tie budget allocations more closely to city programs, and also argued in favor of instant runoff voting, also known as ranked choice voting.</p> <p>The most sweeping reforms that Johnson proposed, however, deal with the city’s land use process, which is almost always contentious and has been recently as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has moved to rezone several neighborhoods -- mostly low-income, communities of color -- to increase density and create more affordable housing. Johnson and other members of the Council’s Progressive Caucus have advocated for a citywide planning framework that gives communities greater say in land use decisions and balances equity with development. They have also called for an independent City Planning Commission, as opposed to the one currently composed largely of mayoral appointees. Council Members Diana Ayala, who co-chairs the caucus, Keith Powers, a vice co-chair, Brad Lander, and Adrienne Adams each testified on those proposals at separate borough hearings. “The status quo of ad hoc planning is just not working…We need a larger vision based on equity, a vision in which low-income communities do not have to slowly bear the brunt of the city’s every housing and infrastructure need,” Ayala <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7932-2019-charter-revision-commission-holds-first-public-hearing" target="_blank">said at a September 12 hearing</a> in the Bronx.</p> <p>Those goals are also in line with a <a href="http://library.rpa.org/pdf/Inclusive-City-NYC.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report released in January</a> by the Regional Planning Association, a prominent think tank, in partnership with community advocacy groups, academic experts and partners in city government. The RPA report, titled “<a href="http://library.rpa.org/pdf/Inclusive-City-NYC.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Inclusive City</a>”, was also presented to the charter commission and cited by elected officials, including Brewer, who also testified at the Sept. 27 hearing. Brewer, along with Public Advocate Letitia James, was the driver behind the legislation that created the commission and has expressed hope that it can bring a sea change the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the 1989 charter commission fundamentally altered the structure of city government, giving it its present form.</p> <p>In her testimony, Brewer emphasized a more thoughtful process for land use decisions that includes early input from community boards and elected officials before applications are certified through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). “With pre-planning we can do more than merely react—we can shape a project,” she said.</p> <p>She also pushed for more technical improvements to zoning and permitting procedures, in the context of a long-term citywide approach. “There needs to be a citywide comprehensive plan every ten years,” she said. “This planning process could distribute new development equitably across the city, rather than concentrate rezonings in communities of color.”</p> <p>Similar to Johnson’s testimony, Brewer advocated for increased transparency in the city budget. She also said the Civilian Complaint Review Board should be strengthened and its budget tied to the NYPD’s, to ensure that the watchdog agency has sufficient resources to deal with a growing police body. Additionally, she noted her opposition to term limits for community boards, which have been proposed in a ballot question by the mayor’s commission. Borough presidents appoint most community board members.</p> <p>Comptroller Stringer’s ideas, in number at least, outpaced other elected officials. In an <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/a-new-charter-to-confront-new-challenges/overview/?utm_source=Media-All&amp;utm_campaign=dd88068c66-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_12_08_COPY_01&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_7cd514b03e-dd88068c66-154020809" target="_blank" rel="noopener">exhaustive report</a> presented at the City Hall hearing, Stringer recommended 65 revisions to the charter ranging from proposals on city budgeting and procurement to housing, cybersecurity, children’s services, campaign finance and voting reforms.</p> <p>“Since the last major charter revision nearly thirty years ago, New York City has grown by 1.2 million people and the world has changed around it, yet its charter is not prepared to meet the needs of today’s challenges,” Stringer said in a statement. “The Charter Review Commission is an opportunity for us to build a better government that takes aim at our affordability crisis and builds a fairer city by giving a voice to New Yorkers.”</p> <p>Chief among Stringer’s proposals was a push for a Chief Diversity Officer in the mayor’s office and in each city agency, to ensure diversity in hiring and in contracting. Stringer has advocated for increased investment in Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs) and he noted that though New York City spends nearly $20 billion on goods and services each year, less than 5 percent of the contracts are given to M/WBEs.</p> <p>He also proposed a new Office of Inspection independent of the Department of Buildings and the Housing and Preservation Department, which he said play conflicting roles since they both approve new construction and development and are also charged with enforcing housing and construction codes. In line with his role as the city’s chief fiscal officer, Stringer also pushed for reforms to the capital budget, which funds infrastructure projects in the city. He said it should be transparent enough so the public can identify the cost of specific projects and be informed when those costs change.</p> <p>Several other City Council members also weighed in on proposed charter revisions.</p> <p>Council Member Ben Kallos, also co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, proposed 72 ideas in total, in updated testimony, including a citizen “Bill of Rights to free higher education, affordable health and mental health care, and, access to parks, libraries, public transit and affordable internet.” He stressed that any revisions to the charter brought about through a ballot referendum should go through further changes only after being presented to voters again. He pushed to give the Council and borough presidents the ability to make appointments to mayoral boards that have land use authority and said the charter should be amended to allow city residents to propose legislation and be heard before the Council. “Our City’s Charter is truly a living document,” he said in a statement, “but it is up to us to make sure it remains alive.”</p> <p>Council Member Helen Rosenthal pushed for the charter to formally adopt the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against<br />Women (CEDAW), and also advocated for reforms to the city's contracting process to ease burdensome requirements on non-profits that provide early childhood<br />education, homeless services, senior services, and mental healthcare.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>At the September 20 hearing in Queens, Council Members Adams and Francisco Moya, who is not a Progressive Caucus member, supported improvements to ULURP. “Displacement in our neighborhoods is no longer a possibility but a fact of life,” Moya said, according to written testimony. He called for the charter to mandate assessments of displacement brought about by proposed development. “We cannot view our city and its neighborhoods in a vacuum,” Moya said.</p> <p>There were, of course, elected officials with more borough-specific agendas. At the September 24 hearing on Staten Island, testimony by Borough President James Oddo, and Council Members Steven Matteo and Joseph Borelli (all three Republicans, unlike all of the other aforementioned officials, who are Democrats), advocated for greater freedom for the borough from “bureaucrats in Manhattan,” as Oddo and Matteo put it.</p> <p>Oddo and Matteo, in submitted testimony, said that city agencies should be restructured to give borough commissioners more power over local issues. “Agencies should be restructured in such a way that the chain of command within the agency is clear, and that one individual on the local level is not only responsible and accountable, but specifically empowered within the agency to act,” they wrote.</p> <p>Borelli similarly pushed for more decentralization of power, expressing concern that the priorities of Staten Islanders are often ignored by city government and that new changes to the charter could adversely affect the borough. “We don’t want to be laboratories for the latest experiments in social engineering as too often seems the case on issues ranging from buses to composting,” he said. He largely argued for giving the borough president greater jurisdiction over local issues, similar to a county executive outside New York City.</p> <p>He also criticized the city’s public matching funds program for campaign financing, calling on the commission to negate the potential expansion of the program that could happen through a ballot proposal put forward by the mayor’s commission. And, he advanced several other proposals -- mandating that the Independent Budget Office study the fiscal impact of every piece of City Council legislation; reducing duplicative roles played by different city agencies; making it harder to raise taxes in the city; improving the process for holding special elections; and curbing the power of the Board of Standards and Appeals.</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 to include testimony from Council Member Helen Rosenthal and updated testimony from Council Member Ben Kallos. &nbsp;</p>
Vacancy in the Public Advocate's Office? Call the City Council Speaker 2018-09-06T04:00:00+00:00 2018-09-06T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7918-vacancy-in-the-public-advocate-s-office-call-the-city-council-speaker Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/tish-james-co-jo-cityhall.jpg" alt="tish james co jo cityhall" width="600" /></p> <p>Letitia James and Corey Johnson (photo: Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>Two former speakers of the New York City Council -- Melissa Mark-Viverito and Christine Quinn -- are on the list of possible contenders for a potential vacancy in the office of public advocate should the current occupant, Letitia James, win the post of attorney general in this fall’s elections. But it’s the sitting Council speaker, Corey Johnson, who will get to do the job first if that scenario came to pass.</p> <p>James is competing against three other Democrats to win the party’s primary nomination for attorney general on September 13. She has been the presumed frontrunner for months, with the blessing of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Democratic Party, though one of her opponents, Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout, has picked up strong momentum and several prominent endorsement in recent weeks.</p> <p>If James prevails in the primary then the general, assuming she is sworn in an attorney general at the start of 2019, it would trigger a nonpartisan special election to be held roughly 51 days later. And for those seven weeks or so, the City Council speaker would assume her duties.</p> <p>Under Section 44 of the City Charter, in the event of a vacancy in the public advocate’s office, “the speaker shall act as public advocate pending the filling of the vacancy pursuant to subdivision c of section twenty-four, and shall be a member of every board of which the public advocate is a member by virtue of his or her office.”</p> <p>It would be the first time since the creation of the office of public advocate and the current office of the speaker, through a charter revision in 1989, that the clause would go into effect. It’s unclear how the speaker would approach the dual role, even in the interim, as he would both lead his 51-member legislative body and large central staff, and, as the title suggests, an office that advocates for the interests of everyday New Yorkers and keeps a watch on the functions and failures of city government. Both Johnson’s and James’ offices declined to comment for this article. Johnson has endorsed James for attorney general.</p> <p>“If you get a vacancy, you want to get it filled by someone. Elections are gonna take a long time. A short time but a long time,” said Eric Lane, the Eric J. Schmertz Distinguished Professor of Public Law and Public Service at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law, Hofstra University. Lane served as executive director and counsel to the 1989 charter revision commission, which overhauled the structure of city government and created the positions that James and Johnson now hold.</p> <p>“We definitely didn’t want the mayor to make that appointment,” Lane said, explaining the thinking behind the line of succession for public advocate. “In an intensely administrative government, where the mayor holds so much power, it’s the public advocate’s function to be a watchdog on that power.” The public advocate is also next in line to the mayoralty if a sitting mayor is removed from office or unable to carry out his or her duties.&nbsp;</p> <p>The public advocate was formerly known as the City Council president, but the position’s powers were stripped by the 1989 commission through the creation of the City Council speaker. The commission then decided to retain and re-envision the public advocate’s office in its current form, Lane said. “It was, in some ways, the least significant, most controversial topic we considered in the 1989 commission,” he said, noting that there was hotly-contested debate over the necessity of another citywide office. The rationale behind it was two-fold, he insisted. To have another set of independent eyes on the city bureaucracy and to allow minority communities to have a more participatory role in city politics.</p> <p>Given the public advocate’s connection with the City Council, it then made sense for the vacancy to fall to the speaker. “We could’ve appointed the comptroller,” Lane conceded, “but at the time, we thought it would be more consistent with what the Council does. The Council had a relationship with that office, historically.”</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7910-potentially-crowded-public-advocate-special-election-could-feature-two-former-council-speakers" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Potentially Crowded Public Advocate Special Election Could Feature Two Former Council Speakers</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/2018/tish-james-co-jo-cityhall.jpg" alt="tish james co jo cityhall" width="600" /></p> <p>Letitia James and Corey Johnson (photo: Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>Two former speakers of the New York City Council -- Melissa Mark-Viverito and Christine Quinn -- are on the list of possible contenders for a potential vacancy in the office of public advocate should the current occupant, Letitia James, win the post of attorney general in this fall’s elections. But it’s the sitting Council speaker, Corey Johnson, who will get to do the job first if that scenario came to pass.</p> <p>James is competing against three other Democrats to win the party’s primary nomination for attorney general on September 13. She has been the presumed frontrunner for months, with the blessing of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Democratic Party, though one of her opponents, Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout, has picked up strong momentum and several prominent endorsement in recent weeks.</p> <p>If James prevails in the primary then the general, assuming she is sworn in an attorney general at the start of 2019, it would trigger a nonpartisan special election to be held roughly 51 days later. And for those seven weeks or so, the City Council speaker would assume her duties.</p> <p>Under Section 44 of the City Charter, in the event of a vacancy in the public advocate’s office, “the speaker shall act as public advocate pending the filling of the vacancy pursuant to subdivision c of section twenty-four, and shall be a member of every board of which the public advocate is a member by virtue of his or her office.”</p> <p>It would be the first time since the creation of the office of public advocate and the current office of the speaker, through a charter revision in 1989, that the clause would go into effect. It’s unclear how the speaker would approach the dual role, even in the interim, as he would both lead his 51-member legislative body and large central staff, and, as the title suggests, an office that advocates for the interests of everyday New Yorkers and keeps a watch on the functions and failures of city government. Both Johnson’s and James’ offices declined to comment for this article. Johnson has endorsed James for attorney general.</p> <p>“If you get a vacancy, you want to get it filled by someone. Elections are gonna take a long time. A short time but a long time,” said Eric Lane, the Eric J. Schmertz Distinguished Professor of Public Law and Public Service at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law, Hofstra University. Lane served as executive director and counsel to the 1989 charter revision commission, which overhauled the structure of city government and created the positions that James and Johnson now hold.</p> <p>“We definitely didn’t want the mayor to make that appointment,” Lane said, explaining the thinking behind the line of succession for public advocate. “In an intensely administrative government, where the mayor holds so much power, it’s the public advocate’s function to be a watchdog on that power.” The public advocate is also next in line to the mayoralty if a sitting mayor is removed from office or unable to carry out his or her duties.&nbsp;</p> <p>The public advocate was formerly known as the City Council president, but the position’s powers were stripped by the 1989 commission through the creation of the City Council speaker. The commission then decided to retain and re-envision the public advocate’s office in its current form, Lane said. “It was, in some ways, the least significant, most controversial topic we considered in the 1989 commission,” he said, noting that there was hotly-contested debate over the necessity of another citywide office. The rationale behind it was two-fold, he insisted. To have another set of independent eyes on the city bureaucracy and to allow minority communities to have a more participatory role in city politics.</p> <p>Given the public advocate’s connection with the City Council, it then made sense for the vacancy to fall to the speaker. “We could’ve appointed the comptroller,” Lane conceded, “but at the time, we thought it would be more consistent with what the Council does. The Council had a relationship with that office, historically.”</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7910-potentially-crowded-public-advocate-special-election-could-feature-two-former-council-speakers" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Potentially Crowded Public Advocate Special Election Could Feature Two Former Council Speakers</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Extending the Human Right of Health Care to All New Yorkers 2018-08-08T04:00:00+00:00 2018-08-08T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7853-extending-the-human-right-of-health-care-to-all-new-yorkers Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/c-johnson-brooklyn-credit.jpg" alt="c johnson brooklyn credit" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson, the author, visits a health care facility (photo via John McCarten)</p> <hr /> <p>Health care for all is a human right. This means no one should be denied care based on their ability to pay.</p> <p>The World Health Organization recognized this fundamental truth 70 years ago, most countries around the world have been putting it into action for decades now, and doctors and nurses live it out professionally every day.</p> <p>Truly achieving this moral imperative means we need a universal health care system supported by taxes and administered by one provider. Not only is this the right thing to do, it’s also more practical and less expensive than the status quo.</p> <p><a href="https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2424.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A recent study</a> conducted by the RAND Corporation shows that single-payer is likely to save our state health care system $15 billion by 2031 compared to our current system. Other estimates project savings of up to $45 billion.</p> <p>For these reasons I introduced a resolution Wednesday urging our state government to approve a law that would lay the foundation for single-payer healthcare in the Empire State. The proposal would create the New York Health program, which, if fully implemented, would result in 90 percent of New Yorkers spending less on health care than they currently do.</p> <p>The plan would help save New Yorkers money by cutting administrative costs and simplifying the present system. Approximately one million New Yorkers are without any health insurance and have essentially been priced out of the market, which is another practical reason why I support this legislation. Also, you, the patient, would pay no premiums, deductibles or co-payments when visiting a doctor under the new system.</p> <p>According to the RAND study, New Yorkers could spend half as much money out of their own pockets under the New York Health program than they do within the current system. In fact, according to a relatively conservative scenario, New Yorkers with an annual household compensation of less than $105,300 would save about $2,800 per person every year. Other estimates project even greater savings.</p> <p>Single-payer is traditionally viewed as a progressive cause, but it has earned support from conservative quarters too. RAND, which was originally founded to provide research to the armed forces, isn’t exactly a progressive endeavor.</p> <p>It is also worth noting that New York is a relatively wealthy state. Our economy is the third largest in the nation, behind California and Texas. And with a gross domestic product of $1.56 trillion, our economy is comparable to Canada’s, which has a $1.65 trillion GDP.</p> <p>That kind of prosperity is an advantage few states – and few countries, for that matter – enjoy, and it’s one we should leverage so as many New Yorkers as possible have access to good health care. Failing to do so would be an abdication of our responsibility as elected representatives.</p> <p>The current landscape is complicated and there are a lot of moving parts, but complexity shouldn’t be the enemy of what is right.</p> <p>President Trump’s administration has signaled it would oppose single-payer plans from state governments seeking to bring sanity to their respective health care landscapes, so it is unlikely his administration will grant New York the federal waivers needed for a single-payer system to be fully implemented here.</p> <p>However, even without a waiver, the state could still ramp up the program on a partial basis and, in the process, save money for current Medicare and Medicaid recipients through improved, wrap-around coverage. It would also lay the framework for full implementation of the plan under a new president.</p> <p>Critics on the other side of this debate have also argued that adequate health care shouldn’t be considered a right – that it is a finite resource and can’t be placed in the same category as voting or free speech.</p> <p>I disagree.</p> <p>Many human rights we now take for granted in the United States weren’t considered rights at all during various periods of history. But eventually we evolved to see them as such.</p> <p>The right to vote, freedom of speech, the right to assemble – these are now encoded into our nation’s DNA, but over the course of world history this wasn’t always the case.</p> <p>Even today, not everyone on earth has the right to vote. Many Americans didn’t have that right immediately after our nation was founded.</p> <p>But we’ve made progress – often that progress comes too slowly, but there is no progress until we take the first steps forward.</p> <p>Adopting single-payer healthcare in New York State would be an enormous step in the right direction. This is why I am standing with my colleagues in state government who support it, and I hope you will too.</p> <p>***<br /> Corey Johnson is the Speaker of the New York City Council and represents the Council’s 3rd District, in Manhattan. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCSpeakerCoJo" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@NYCSpeakerCoJo</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/c-johnson-brooklyn-credit.jpg" alt="c johnson brooklyn credit" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson, the author, visits a health care facility (photo via John McCarten)</p> <hr /> <p>Health care for all is a human right. This means no one should be denied care based on their ability to pay.</p> <p>The World Health Organization recognized this fundamental truth 70 years ago, most countries around the world have been putting it into action for decades now, and doctors and nurses live it out professionally every day.</p> <p>Truly achieving this moral imperative means we need a universal health care system supported by taxes and administered by one provider. Not only is this the right thing to do, it’s also more practical and less expensive than the status quo.</p> <p><a href="https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2424.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A recent study</a> conducted by the RAND Corporation shows that single-payer is likely to save our state health care system $15 billion by 2031 compared to our current system. Other estimates project savings of up to $45 billion.</p> <p>For these reasons I introduced a resolution Wednesday urging our state government to approve a law that would lay the foundation for single-payer healthcare in the Empire State. The proposal would create the New York Health program, which, if fully implemented, would result in 90 percent of New Yorkers spending less on health care than they currently do.</p> <p>The plan would help save New Yorkers money by cutting administrative costs and simplifying the present system. Approximately one million New Yorkers are without any health insurance and have essentially been priced out of the market, which is another practical reason why I support this legislation. Also, you, the patient, would pay no premiums, deductibles or co-payments when visiting a doctor under the new system.</p> <p>According to the RAND study, New Yorkers could spend half as much money out of their own pockets under the New York Health program than they do within the current system. In fact, according to a relatively conservative scenario, New Yorkers with an annual household compensation of less than $105,300 would save about $2,800 per person every year. Other estimates project even greater savings.</p> <p>Single-payer is traditionally viewed as a progressive cause, but it has earned support from conservative quarters too. RAND, which was originally founded to provide research to the armed forces, isn’t exactly a progressive endeavor.</p> <p>It is also worth noting that New York is a relatively wealthy state. Our economy is the third largest in the nation, behind California and Texas. And with a gross domestic product of $1.56 trillion, our economy is comparable to Canada’s, which has a $1.65 trillion GDP.</p> <p>That kind of prosperity is an advantage few states – and few countries, for that matter – enjoy, and it’s one we should leverage so as many New Yorkers as possible have access to good health care. Failing to do so would be an abdication of our responsibility as elected representatives.</p> <p>The current landscape is complicated and there are a lot of moving parts, but complexity shouldn’t be the enemy of what is right.</p> <p>President Trump’s administration has signaled it would oppose single-payer plans from state governments seeking to bring sanity to their respective health care landscapes, so it is unlikely his administration will grant New York the federal waivers needed for a single-payer system to be fully implemented here.</p> <p>However, even without a waiver, the state could still ramp up the program on a partial basis and, in the process, save money for current Medicare and Medicaid recipients through improved, wrap-around coverage. It would also lay the framework for full implementation of the plan under a new president.</p> <p>Critics on the other side of this debate have also argued that adequate health care shouldn’t be considered a right – that it is a finite resource and can’t be placed in the same category as voting or free speech.</p> <p>I disagree.</p> <p>Many human rights we now take for granted in the United States weren’t considered rights at all during various periods of history. But eventually we evolved to see them as such.</p> <p>The right to vote, freedom of speech, the right to assemble – these are now encoded into our nation’s DNA, but over the course of world history this wasn’t always the case.</p> <p>Even today, not everyone on earth has the right to vote. Many Americans didn’t have that right immediately after our nation was founded.</p> <p>But we’ve made progress – often that progress comes too slowly, but there is no progress until we take the first steps forward.</p> <p>Adopting single-payer healthcare in New York State would be an enormous step in the right direction. This is why I am standing with my colleagues in state government who support it, and I hope you will too.</p> <p>***<br /> Corey Johnson is the Speaker of the New York City Council and represents the Council’s 3rd District, in Manhattan. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCSpeakerCoJo" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@NYCSpeakerCoJo</a>.</p> <p>

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

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