Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/163 Sat, 20 Jan 2018 12:56:52 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Max & Murphy Podcast: City Council Member Ritchie Torres on The New Council & His New Role http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7426:max-murphy-podcast-city-council-member-ritchie-torres-on-the-new-council-his-new-role http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7426:max-murphy-podcast-city-council-member-ritchie-torres-on-the-new-council-his-new-role

Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette


January 17, 2017 - Max & Murphy Podcast: City Council Member Ritchie Torres

ritchie torres 277px

Bronx City Council Member Ritchie Torres is very excited about the new class of the City Council and his role in it -- he's been named by new Speaker Corey Johnson to chair the Committee on Oversight and Investigations, with a promise to beef the committee's staff so that it can be a powerful force in holding city government accountable.

Torres joined the podcast to discuss that role and how he will approach it, as well as other Council and political dynamics, including his own bid for the speakership that came up short, his decision to leave the Progressive Caucus, and more.

Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @jarrettmurphy, with guest @RitchieTorres. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: City Council Member Ritchie Torres on The New Council & His New Role Wed, 17 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Candidates File Final Campaign Finance Reports of 2017 Election Cycle http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7429:candidates-file-final-campaign-finance-reports-of-2017-election-cycle http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7429:candidates-file-final-campaign-finance-reports-of-2017-election-cycle de Blasio inauguration

Mayor de Blasio at inauguration (photo: NYC Mayor's Office)


The recent citywide municipal election saw more than $53 million in spending, with nearly $42 million in private funds raised by candidates and more than $17 million in public matching funds disbursed by the New York City Campaign Finance Board. Candidates just filed their final campaign disclosures with the Board, which were due Tuesday, showing the last weeks of activity as the election cycle came to a close, and totals for the full campaign cycle.

The final filing period covered December 1, 2017 to January 11, 2018, therefore largely including the last spending outlays by campaigns, especially in contested general election races, and including those who ran for City Council speaker.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat who was handily reelected for a second and final term, spent a total $10.2 million on his campaign, raising $6.5 million in private funds. He received about $3.5 million from the CFB’s matching funds program, which provides a 6-to-1 match for small dollar donations up to $175 from city residents. As of Tuesday, de Blasio had spent $210,267 more than he had brought in, strangely leaving him a negative balance.

As with most candidates, de Blasio’s major post-election expenditures went to payroll and campaign consultants that deal with issues such as compliance with election law. In the last disclosure period, Dec. 1-Jan. 11, de Blasio spent about $211,000, with $82,500 in payments to a campaign consultancy -- Kantor, Davidoff, Mandelker -- and much of the rest to campaign workers.

De Blasio finished the cycle having brought in donations from 11,772 different donors, with an average donation of $556, according to CFB records. He raised about $4 million from within the five boroughs and more than $2.5 million from outside New York City.

De Blasio’s Republican opponent, Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, had a much smaller war chest, raising $1.2 million and getting about $2.5 million in public funds. She spent nearly all of it, about $3.7 million, leaving her $47,689 in the end. She spent $53,613 in the latest disclosure period.

In a city with nearly seven Democrats for each Republican, the citywide Democratic incumbents stood at a great advantage. Like de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James vastly outraised and outspent their opponents and were comfortably reelected.  

Stringer raised $2.3 million for his reelection, spending about $880,000 of it on his race. Although the comptroller was a participant in the matching funds program, his GOP opponent Michel Faulkner posed little competition and Stringer declined a potential public funds payment of nearly $600,000. After the election, Stringer transferred $1.3 million to another campaign account, Stringer For New York. He has $131,200 in cash on hand, money he is widely expected to use toward a mayoral run for 2021.

Faulkner, a Harlem pastor and former professional football player, raised $281,706 in sum, much of which was his own money on loan. He ended up spending $405,963, leaving him $124,257 in the red. He participated in the matching funds program but did not qualify for any payments.

Unlike Stringer, Public Advocate James decided to take public funds, controversially claiming that she faced a competitive opponent. James got $756,486 from the CFB and raised $947,530. After spending more than $1.6 million, including about $10,000 in the last period, she was left with a balance of $30,517. She is also widely expected to run for mayor next cycle.

James’ opponent, Republican J.C. Polanco, raised just $26,456 and spent $27,076.

Although the citywide positions saw a continuity of leadership, at the New York City Council, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito faced term limits and could not run for reelection. Her eventual successor was fellow Democrat Council Member Corey Johnson, a prolific fundraiser and retail campaigner who was reelected for a second and final term to Council District 3 in Manhattan. Johnson raised $507,416 and spent $415,993. He spent about $44,000 in the last disclosure period, leaving $91,423 in his campaign coffers. Johnson spent a good deal of money donating to his Council colleagues in order to both help them win their elections and curry favor ahead of the January 3 speaker vote that he won.

Johnson had a nominal, albeit colorful, opponent in Marni Halasa, a former legal journalist who runs a protest consulting group. Halasa only raised $13,625, most of it from personal loans to her campaign, and spent all but $61.

The five borough presidents mostly faced little competition, each of them being reelected with at least 75 percent of the vote.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams raised $659,932 for his race and spent $350,656. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. brought in more than $1.3 million and dropped $927,404 on his race. Both are considered likely 2021 mayoral candidates.

Manhattan BP Gale Brewer ran practically unopposed and spent $201,118, after raising $115,562 and receiving a $209,334 public funds payment. Queens BP Melinda Katz raised  $980,312 and got another $567,464 in public funds, despite facing a weak underfunded opponent. She spent $1.4 million on her reelection bid, leaving her $145,263 in cash on hand.

Staten Island BP James Oddo, the only Republican of the five, raised $138,891 and received $215,737 from the CFB. He had $154,336 left after spending $200,293.

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Candidates File Final Campaign Finance Reports of 2017 Election Cycle Wed, 17 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
New City Council Committee Chairs Have Plenty on Their Plates http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7419:new-city-council-committee-chairs-have-plenty-on-their-plates http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7419:new-city-council-committee-chairs-have-plenty-on-their-plates City Council Speaker Corey Johnson members

Members of th new City Council with Speaker Johnson (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)


The new class of the New York City Council took greater shape on Thursday with the appointment of chairs and members to the 40-plus committees and subcommittees that oversee the broad legislative, land use, and oversight roles of the 51-member body. Most returning Council members were reassigned to lead different committees while some remained in the positions they’ve served the past four years. New Speaker Corey Johnson also chose to create a few new committees to boost staff levels in certain areas and to better address specific issues that were subsumed under broader committee purviews.

In their new roles, many of the committee chairs will have to navigate a slate of issues, which in many cases will likely lead them into direct confrontation with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration. This holds particularly true for the powerful land use and finance committees, both of which have new Council members at the helm. Speaker Johnson has also pledged broader independence from the mayor than his predecessor, indicating that members will be allowed, and even encouraged, to take the administration to task. He has pledged an enhanced oversight and investigations committee to lead the way in that regard.

Council Member Rafael Salamanca Jr. of the Bronx was appointed chair of the land use committee, which is tasked with overseeing and reviewing land use applications, zoning amendment,s and landmark preservation in the city. Since the committee has the final say on any development projects that require city government approval, it plays a prominent role in determining the success of the mayor’s affordable housing program, in particular thus far by approving comprehensive, and controversial, neighborhood rezonings in communities such as East New York and East Harlem.

The city is exploring similar rezonings -- to create more affordable housing while also injecting economic energy and other benefits into neighborhoods -- in the Bay Street corridor on Staten Island, Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, and Flushing, Queens, among other communities. “Our city is at a crossroads, including my community in the South Bronx,” Salamanca said in a statement Thursday. The City Council, he said, “should be on the front lines on shaping the planning, development and all other land use actions in a way that listens to and addresses the concerns of all New Yorkers.” Freshman Council Member Francisco Moya is heading up the subcommittee on zoning and franchises which falls under Salamanca’s purview.

The finance committee, led by its new chair Council Member Daniel Dromm of Queens, also has a tough task ahead as it heads into budget season. Dromm will lead the Council’s negotiations with the administration over the $86 billion-plus city budget. The mayor is expected to release his fiscal year 2019 preliminary budget proposal later this month and the administration has been bracing for cuts in federal funding, threatened by the Trump administration, and a widely expected economic slowdown after years of continuous growth.

Last year, the Council advocated for increased savings and reduced agency inefficiencies even as they called for new funding for Council priorities. “I intend to use this position to move a progressive budget forward working closely with Speaker Corey Johnson who I thank for giving me this opportunity to serve,” Dromm said in a statement.

The Council’s budget hearings will no doubt also touch on the city’s $96 billion capital budget. Numerous Council members called last year for increased transparency in how capital projects are funded and managed, insisting that the city needs to reduce financial waste and cut down on project delays.
Johnson has now gone so far as to create an entirely new subcommittee to oversee the capital budget, chaired by Council Member Vanessa Gibson. “Many members, including myself, have been frustrated by the capital process itself,” Gibson told Gotham Gazette outside the Council chambers on Thursday. She said the new committee will allow expanded oversight of capital spending, particularly by individual city agencies. “At the end of the day, we just wanna say to the public, to New Yorkers and to all of my colleagues that we are spending your money wisely,” she said.

The transportation committee continues to be led by Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who has been a vocal supporter of the Move New York congestion pricing plan, which would impose tolls on the East River bridges to raise funds for mass transit infrastructure and reduced fare MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers, while also lowering tolls on other bridges.

De Blasio has opposed both congestion pricing and the “Fair Fares” campaign, insisting that fair fares should be funded by the state and that congestion pricing is a “regressive tax” that hurts outer borough commuters. He has instead proposed a so-called millionaires tax, which Rodriguez also supports, that would accomplish both goals - subsidized MetroCards and new transit revenue. However, like congestion pricing, the tax would have to be approved by the state Legislature where it has already been rejected by Governor Cuomo and the state Senate, portending perhaps that the fair fares fight will be fought locally yet again. Cuomo appears on the verge of pursuing some version of congestion pricing.

In keeping with Johnson’s promise to stand up to the de Blasio administration, the Council now has an expanded Oversight and Investigations committee, led by Council Member Ritchie Torres of the Bronx. The committee is expected to have a full-time investigation staff made up of professional investigators, former prosecutors, and journalists. In an interview with the New York Times, Torres indicated a number of different issue areas he would approach for added oversight. “The abuse of placards. The use of eminent domain. The disposition of public land. Deed restriction. The disbursement of city subsidies. All of it is on the table,” he said.

On Thursday, Torres told Gotham Gazette that the New York City Housing Authority’s lead contamination issue, which has been a black eye for the de Blasio administration, was a “continuing concern” for him. “I have not set the investigative priorities of the committee just yet, but given my former position as chairman of the public housing committee, given my interest in the subject, NYCHA is going to be figuring prominently in my oversight priorities,” he said.

Torres’ role will crossover with the work of other committees, such as the Committee on Public Housing, which he led last term and will this term be led by Brooklyn Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel. The public housing authority needs $25 billion for infrastructure improvements, with few forthcoming state and federal funds this year. The authority’s numerous public failures continue to haunt the administration and invite criticism from the Council and community activists. And although the city has put a NYCHA overhaul plan into motion and seen some successes and promising developments, problems are not likely to abate any time soon.

“As chair, I will ensure that critical issues are addressed, from heat, to lead, to security issues,” Ampry-Samuel said in a statement. “I look forward to visiting every housing development in the city and the opportunity to hear from the residents and the resident leaders.”

Johnson also chose to expand the role the Council plays in scrutinizing the city’s criminal justice system. Council Member Rory Lancman of Queens was chosen to lead the newly formed Committee on the Justice System, which has oversight of city courts, district attorneys, legal service providers and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

Manhattan Council Member Keith Powers will be heading the Committee on Criminal Justice, which has oversight of the Department of Correction and Department of Probation. Both committees will play a prominent part in the plan to close the Rikers Island jail complex, which is contingent on reducing the city’s jail population to less than 5,000 -- it is currently just under 9,000 detainees -- while also creating borough-based jail facilities. Lancman told Gotham Gazette he expects to “aggressively oversee and try to reform” the city’s justice system. “You’ll see a very robust agenda coming out of my committee,” he said.

Lancman and Powers’ committees were carved out of the earlier Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services and the Committee on Courts and Legal Services, which Lancman led last term. Powers, who is new to the Council like Ampry-Samuel and others, said that move “recognizes that Rikers Island and the corrections system is really its own issue that needs to be tackled in the next coming years.”

“There are a lot of thorny issues,” Powers said of the closure of Rikers, “and I think a big part of it is really making sure that we put on the right timeline and that we make sure we manage all the different constituencies that are involved here.”

New York City Health + Hospitals, the cash-strapped municipal hospital system, continues to be a big area of concern for the Council and in particular Johnson, who led the health committee for the last four years. Johnson created a separate Committee on Hospitals to oversee the system, appointing new Manhattan Council Member Carlina Rivera as chair.

Council Member Mark Levine, chosen to be the new health committee chair, noted a number of issues he will address, including the opioid crisis, racial disparities in health outcomes, animal rights and the threat of bioterrorism. He has promised to push for a single payer healthcare system in the city -- a priority for the speaker -- and told Gotham Gazette he expects “there will be times when the Council and the administration are on different sides of an issue,” and that its incumbent on members to advocate for the Council’s priorities. “That’s the job of a good committee chair,” he said.

See the full list of new Council leadership, committee chairs, and committee members.

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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New City Council Committee Chairs Have Plenty on Their Plates Thu, 11 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Now Pursuing Diversity, New City Council Speaker Has Employed Mostly White Men http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7416:now-pursuing-diversity-new-city-council-speaker-has-employed-mostly-white-men http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7416:now-pursuing-diversity-new-city-council-speaker-has-employed-mostly-white-men Speaker Corey Johnson

Speaker Corey Johnson (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)


Corey Johnson’s ascension to speaker of the New York City Council came amid concerns by elected officials and activists that yet another white man would be in a seat of leadership in a majority-minority city where the mayor and comptroller, two of three citywide elected officials, are also white men. During his pursuit of the position against several men of color and amid citywide outcry over the gender imbalance in the City Council, Johnson promised to ensure a diverse senior leadership team and central staff, and early indications are that he is following through on that pledge.

However, before rising to speaker, on his Council staff and his reelection campaign, Johnson has seemingly surrounded himself with almost exclusively other white men, in positions from communications to chief of staff.

Before Council Member Inez Barron made an eleventh hour bid, Johnson was one of eight men running for the speakership, raising a red flag for a City Council that had female speakers for 12 years -- Christine Quinn, who led the body for two terms, followed by Melissa Mark-Viverito for one. The new speaker would also be taking the reins of a 51-member legislative body with only 11 women, down from 18 a few years ago.

As speaker, Johnson will be overseeing about 300 central Council staffers, a big leap from a rank-and-file Council office with fewer than 10 employees. In the last four years, under Mark-Viverito, the entire Council staff, including members’ aides, has seen increasing representation for women and people of color. It has been clear that people expect Johnson to build on that progress.

In the lead up to the Council speaker election, Gotham Gazette sought staff member names, titles, and salaries for each of the speaker candidates -- including frontrunners Johnson, Mark Levine, and Robert Cornegy, Jr. -- but the freedom of information law request was not returned before Johnson was chosen, and has still not been fulfilled by the Council.

Of the seven people on Johnson’s Council staff identified by Gotham Gazette, five are white and male. These include his chief of staff Erik Bottcher, deputy chief of staff for legislation, planning and budget Louis Cholden-Brown, deputy chief of staff and district director Matt Green, director of communications David Moss, and community liaison and scheduler Sean Coughlin. (Johnson’s former chief of staff, Jeffrey LeFrancois, who served him for almost all of 2014, is also a white man.)

A sixth is legislative aide Pat Comerford, who is a woman; and the seventh Johnson aide known to Gotham Gazette is CeCe Scott, an African-American woman who has been chief of district operations for the Chelsea and West Village Council district Johnson represents. A Council spokesperson did not provide full details of Johnson’s government staff composition when repeatedly requested independent of the FOIL submission, which was also reiterated several times.

According to campaign finance records, Johnson’s 2017 reelection campaign paid five individuals, all white men, including campaign manager Kevin Groh, organizing director Wyatt Frank, treasurer Matthew Bergman and campaign workers Ryan O’Neill and Jake Kern. (Johnson’s 2013 campaign was managed by R.J. Jordan, who is also white and male.)

The Manhattan district Johnson represents was home to about 174,000 people in 2010, according to the demographic data from the Census. Of those, 67.2 percent were white non-hispanic, 12.8 percent were of Hispanic origin, 12.4 percent were Asian and Pacific Islanders, and 4.7 percent were black. Gender and race are not the only measures of diversity, of course. The district is known for its rich LGBTQ history. Johnson, who is gay and HIV-positive, was preceded in the Council by former Speaker Christine Quinn, the first openly gay person to lead the Council.

It is unclear how many of Johnson's governmnet or campaign aides identify as LGBTQ. Johnson made history being elected speaker while openly HIV-positive, and while he has also said that while he knows he has experienced privilege being white, he is also from difficult socioeconomic circumstances, having grown up in public housing in Massachusetts in a family that was led by a single mother.

It’s early in Johnson’s transition into the speakership and he has already announced that he will retain some of the top aides at the Council, including people of color, who served under Mark-Viverito.

At a news conference shortly after being elected speaker, when asked about his efforts to ensure diversity, Johnson said he would bring Scott, “an incredible African-American woman,” to City Hall. He will also be keeping Ramon Martinez, the powerful chief of staff to the Council speaker, who is Latino, in his current role. The Council’s finance division director Latonia McKinney, who is African-American, and land use division director Raju Mann, who is of South Asian descent, may also be staying on -- Johnson mentioned and praised each but did not discuss their continued employment in the same definitive terms. The Council's communications director Robin Levine, a white woman, informed Gotham Gazette that she will continue on in her role.

“So I think many of the top jobs are already represented by people of color and women,” Johnson said, while conceding that “we have to do a better job at all levels of government and we have to do a better job here in the Council.”

Over the course of running for speaker, Johnson has promised that he will commit to diversity in staff and leadership positions. At a speaker forum, he pledged that at least 50 percent of his senior team and central staff would be women, transgender and non-conforming individuals. The Council’s Women’s Caucus also extracted numerous promises from all the speaker candidates and intends on holding Johnson to account for his commitments, which include funding a full-time staff person for the caucus. Johnson appears set to name Council Member Laurie Cumbo, an African-American woman, as Majority Leader, and a diverse group of members to top committee chair posts, including Rafael Salamanca to lead the land use committee.

[Related: Women's Caucus Secures Commitments from City Council Speaker Candidates]

A spokesperson for the speaker emphasized that it was too soon to tell what the entire staff composition would look like. Johnson has yet to make any new hires and has just begun the process of meeting and interviewing candidates, the spokesperson said.  

“I think we need to look at our own staff,” Johnson said at the news conference. “It needs to be better, but I actually think that compared to other agencies and bodies in the city of New York, we’re actually more diverse, when it comes to staff positions, than other agencies in the city.”

The Department of Citywide Administrative Services’ latest city workforce report, through Fiscal Year 2016 which ended July 2017, showed promise as far as diversity is concerned. Of the 721 employees of the Council -- 318 full-time and 403 part-time -- 49 percent were female and 57 percent people of color. Members of the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus praised that progress in December, crediting Mark-Viverito for putting in practices that prioritized diverse hiring.

“In order to build a democracy that accurately reflects our City’s diverse communities, we need reflective representation at all levels of government and all forms of public service,” said Council Member Margaret Chin, co-vice chair of the caucus, in a statement issued December 13. “While our work for a more inclusive democracy continues, especially in the efforts to increase language access for immigrant communities, we are more than ready to continue this legacy.”

The BLA Caucus also called in December for the next speaker to be a person of color, insisting that the city should “continue to be served by leaders who reflect our city's values, vision, and demographics.” But, the caucus did not rally around one candidate.

Council Member Jumaane Williams, a member of the BLAC who ran for speaker, did not want to prejudge Johnson’s dedication to diversity but is encouraged by conversations he’s had with the speaker about “equity in government” in the last week. “I’m assuming they’re gonna produce some good results, I have no reason to expect it won’t happen,” he said in a phone interview.

[Related: City Council Speaker Candidates, All Men, Promise Gender Equity if Victorious]

Williams was one of two speaker candidates, the other being Council Member Robert Cornegy, Jr., who initially refused to concede to Johnson when it became apparent that Johnson had the vote locked up. The two protested the county choice of a Council member who was not a person of color. Cornegy went on to concede days before the speaker vote, while Williams did so only the morning of. In the meantime, Council Member Barron jumped into the race, also arguing that it was time the Council had its first black speaker.

“If the City Council wants to be a beacon for progressive government, we obviously have to start here,” Williams said on Tuesday. “Any place there’s diversity, everybody benefits...Without diversity, resources don’t flow equitably to communities.”

Williams seemed reassured by Johnson’s promises to empower members and the body as a whole. “It’s easier to do that when everybody feels represented,” he said. And he had a simple word of caution should the speaker not follow through. “There are a lot of people watching,” he said.

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note: this article has been corrected to reflect that Pat Comerford is a woman, not a man as originally stated. 

Note: this article has been updated to note that Robin Levine will continue to serve as the Council communications director. 

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Now Pursuing Diversity, New City Council Speaker Has Employed Mostly White Men Wed, 10 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
City Council Names New Leadership, Committee Chairs and Members http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7418:city-council-names-new-committee-chairs-and-members http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7418:city-council-names-new-committee-chairs-and-members Corey Johnson Speaker City Council chambers

City Council chambers (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)


New City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a Manhattan Democrat, outlined his leadership team and Council committee chair and membership assignments on Thursday. Johnson named Brooklyn Council Member Laurie Cumbo, a close ally and friend, as Majority Leader. Majority Whip will be Council Member Fernando Cabrera of the Bronx; the Democratic Conference Chair, a new position, will be filled by Brooklyn Council Member Robert Cornegy, Jr.; Brooklyn Council Member Rafael Espinal, Jr. will fill another new role, that of Deputy leader for Digital Communication; and Brooklyn Council Member Brad Lander will keep his role as Deputy Leader for Policy.

There are another roughly dozen members of the leadership team as announced by Johnson. He also announced that Brooklyn Council Member Carlos Menchaca will lead the expansion of participatory budgeting across the Council, where members choose to implement the program.

Staten Island Council Member Steve Matteo was already voted Minority Leader in the three-member Republican conference, with Council Member Joe Borelli, also of Staten Island, as Minority Whip, both reprising roles from last session. Borelli was also named to chair the new Committee on Fire and Emergency Management, which is being broken away from what was the Committee on Criminal Justice and Fire.

Top committee chair posts are going to Johnson allies and members of the Bronx and Queens delegations after those two Democratic county party machines backed him for speaker, decisively helping him attain the position. Johnson had also secured support from nearly a dozen members from Manhattan, Staten Island, and Brooklyn, he has said, to help convince the Bronx and Queens party leaders -- Assemblymember Marcos Crespo and Congressional Rep. Joe Crowley, respectively -- to give him their support and the Council member votes that come with it.

The two most powerful and prestigious Council committees will be chaired by Bronx Council Member Rafael Salamanca, who will lead the Committee on Land Use, and Queens Council Member Danny Dromm, who will lead the Committee on Finance.

Brooklyn Council Member Robert Cornegy, Jr., who previously declared himself the runner-up in the speaker race, will chair the Committee on Housing and Buildings. Johnson named Bronx Council Member Ritchie Torres to lead the Committee on Oversight and Investigations, which Johnson has pledged to beef up in an effort to more acutely hold the mayoral administration accountable.

Other top committee posts include: Queens Council Member Donovan Richards as chair of the Committee on Public Safety; Brooklyn Council Member Mark Treyger as chair of the Committee on Education; Manhattan Council Member Keith Powers as chair of Criminal Justice; and Queens Council Member Rory Lancman as chair of the Committee on the Justice System. Manhattan Council Member Mark Levine, who was in the running for speaker, will chair the Health Committee, previously chaired by Johnson.

Several Council members are retaining committee chair positions, including Manhattan Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez as chair of the Committee on Transportation and Steven Levin as chair of the Committee on General Welfare.

As the crisis of the Council's gender imbalance continues to get more attention -- there are just 11 women in the Council's 51 seats -- Manhattan Council Member Helen Rosenthal will chair the Committee on Women's Issues.

Along with the new fire and emergency services committee, other new committees include a Committee on Hospitals, to be chaired by Manhattan Council Member Carlina Rivera; and the Committee on For-Hire Vehicles, to be chaired by Bronx Council Member Ruben Diaz, Sr.

Notably, Bronx Council Member Fernando Cabrera will chair the Committee on Governmental Operations, taking over from Manhattan Council Member Ben Kallos, who will remain on the committee. Kallos was roundly praised for his leadership of the committee over the prior session, both as a reformer and for holding accountable relevant agencies, like the Board of Elections.

A full list of committee chairs and members, which passed the rules committee and still need to be approved by the full Council:

Aging
Margaret Chin, Chair
Diana Ayala
Chaim Deutsch
Ruben Diaz, Sr.
Danny Dromm
Mathieu Eugene
Debi Rose
Mark Treyger
Paul Vallone

Civil and Human Rights
Matheiu Eugene, Chair
Danny Dromm
Ben Kallos
Brad Lander
Bill Perkins
Ydanis Rodriguez
Helen Rosenthal

Civil Service and Labor
I. Daneek Miller, Chair
Adrienne Adams
Danny Dromm
Andy King
Alan Maisel
Eric Ulrich
Jumaane Williams

Consumer Affairs
Rafael Espinal, Chair
Margaret Chin
Peter Koo
Karen Koslowitz
Brad Lander

Contracts
Justin Brannan, Chair
Inez Barron
Bill Perkins
Helen Rosenthal
Kalman Yeger

Criminal Justice Services
Keith Powers, Chair
Alicka Ampry-Samuel
Robert Holden
Rory Lancman
Carlina Rivera

Cultural Affairs
Jimmy Van Bramer, Chair
Joe Borelli
Laurie Cumbo
Karen Koslowitz
Francisco Moya

Economic Development
Paul Vallone, Chair
Adrienne Adams
Inez Barron
Robert Cornegy, Jr.
Peter Koo
Brad Lander
Mark Levine
Carlos Menchaca
Keith Powers
Donovan Richards
Carlina Rivera
Helen Rosenthal
Jumaane Williams

Education
Mark Treyger, Chair
Alicka Ampry-Samuel
Inez Barron
Joe Borelli
Justin Brannan
Andrew Cohen
Robert Cornegy, Jr.
Chaim Deutsch
Danny Dromm
Barry Grodenchik
Ben Kallos
Andy King
Brad Lander
Steven Levin
Mark Levine
Debi Rose
Rafael Salamanca, Jr.
Eric Ulrich

Environmental Protection
Costa Constantinides, Chair
Rafael Espinal, Jr.
Steven Levin
Carlos Menchaca
Donovan Richards
Eric Ulrich
Kalman Yeger

Finance
Danny Dromm, Chair
Adrienne Adams
Andrew Cohen
Robert Cornegy, Jr.
Laurie Cumbo
Vanessa Gibson
Barry Grodenchik
Rory Lancman
Steven Matteo
Francisco Moya
Keith Powers
Helen Rosenthal
Jimmy Van Bramer

Fire and Emergency Management
Joe Borelli, Chair
Alicka Ampry-Samuel
Justin Brannan
Fernando Cabrera
Alan Maisel

For-Hire Vehicles
Ruben Diaz, Sr., Chair
Joe Borelli
Costa Constantinides
Francisco Moya
Debi Rose
Ydanis Rodriguez
Paul Vallone

General Welfare
Steven Levin, Chair
Adrienne Adams
Diana Ayala
Vanessa Gibson
Mark Gjonaj
Barry Grodenchik
Brad Lander
Antonion Reynoso
Rafael Salamanca, Jr.
Ritchie Torres
Mark Treyger

Governmental Operations
Fernando Cabrera, Chair
Ben Kallos
Alan Maisel
Bill Perkins
Keith Powers
Ydanis Rodriguez
Kalman Yeger

Health
Mark Levine, Chair
Alicka Ampry-Samuel
Inez Barron
Mathieu Eugene
Keith Powers

Higher Education
Inez Barron, Chair
Laurie Cumbo
Robert Holden
Ben Kallos
Ydanis Rodriguez

Hospitals
Carlina Rivera, Chair
Diana Ayala
Mathieu Eugene
Mark Levine
Alan Maisel
Francisco Moya
Antonio Reynoso

Housing and Buildings
Robert Cornegy, Jr., Chair
Fernando Cabrera
Margaret Chin
Rafael Espinal, Jr.
Mark Gjonaj
Barry Grodenchik
Bill Perkins
Carlina Rivera
Helen Rosenthal
Ritchie Torres
Jumaane Williams

Immigration
Carlos Menchaca, Chair
Danny Dromm
Mathieu Eugene
Robert Holden
Mark Gjonaj
I. Daneek Miller
Kalman Yeger

Justice System
Rory Lancman, Chair
Andrew Cohen
Alan Maisel
Debi Rose
Eric Ulrich

Juvenile Justice
Andy King, Chair
Inez Barron
Mark Gjonaj
Robert Holden
Mark Levine
Bill Perkins
Jumaane Williams

Land Use
Rafael Salamanca, Jr., Chair
Adrienne Adams
Inez Barron
Costa Constantinides
Chaim Deutsch
Ruben Diaz, Sr.
Vanessa Gibson
Barry Grodenchik
Ben Kallos
Andy King
Peter Koo
Rory Lancman
Steven Levin
I. Daneek Miller
Francisco Moya
Antonio Reynoso
Donovan Richards
Carlina Rivera
Ritchie Torres
Mark Treyger

Mental Health, Disabilities and Addiction
Diana Ayala, Chair
Alicka Ampry-Samuel
Fernando Cabrera
Robert Holden
Jimmy Van Bramer

Oversight and Investigations
Ritchie Torres, Chair
Ben Kallos
Rory Lancman
Keith Powers
Rafael Salamanca, Jr.
Mark Treyger
Kalman Yeger

Parks and Recreation
Barry Grodenchik, Chair
Joe Borelli
Justin Brannan
Andrew Cohen
Costa Constantinides
Mark Gjonaj
Andy King
Peter Koo
Francisco Moya
Eric Ulrich
Jimmy Van Bramer

Public Housing
Alicka Ampry-Samuel, Chair
Diana Ayala
Laurie Cumbo
Ruben Diaz, Sr.
Mark Gjonaj
Carlos Menchaca
Donovan Richards
Rafael Salamanca, Jr.
Ritchie Torres
Mark Treyger
Jimmy Van Bramer

Public Safety
Donovan Richards, Chair
Justin Brannan
Fernando Cabrera
Andrew Cohen
Chaim Deutsch
Vanessa Gibson
Rory Lancman
Carlos Menchaca
I. Daneek Miller
Keith Powers
Ydanis Rodriguez
Paul Vallone
Jumaane Williams

Rules, Priveleges and Elections
Karen Koslowitz, Chair
Adrienne Adams
Margaret Chin
Robert Cornegy, Jr.
Rafael Espinal, Jr.
Vanessa Gibson
Corey Johnson
Rory Lancman
Steven Matteo
Ritchie Torres
Mark Treyger

Sanitation and Solid Waste Management
Antonio Reynoso, Chair
Fernando Cabrera
Chaim Deutsch
Rafael Espinal, Jr.
Paul Vallone

Small Business
Mark Gjonaj, Chair
Diana Ayala
Steven Levin
Bill Perkins
Carlina Rivera

Standards and Ethics
Steven Matteo, Chair
Margaret Chin
Vanessa Gibson
Karen Koslowitz
Steven Levin

State and Federal Legislation
Andrew Cohen, Chair
Robet Cornegy, Jr.
Rafael Espinal, Jr.
Karen Koslowitz
Ydanis Rodriguez

Technology
Peter Koo, Chair
Robert Holden
Brad Lander
Eric Ulrich
Kalman Yeger

Transportation
Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair
Fernando Cabrera
Costa Constantinides
Chaim Deutsch
Ruben Diaz, Sr.
Rafael Espinal, Jr.
Peter Koo
Steven Levin
Mark Levine
Carlos Menchaca
I. Daneek Miller
Antonio Reynoso
Donovan Richards
Debi Rose
Rafael Salamanca, Jr.

Veterans
Chaim Deutsch, Chair
Justin Brannan
Mathieu Eugene
Alan Maisel
Paul Vallone

Women's Issues
Helen Rosenthal, Chair
Diana Ayala
Laurie Cumbo
Ben Kallos
Brad Lander

Youth Services
Debi Rose, Chair
Justin Brannan
Margaret Chin
Mathieu Eugene
Andy King

SUBCOMMITTEES

Capital Budget
Vanessa Gibson, Chair
Barry Grodenchik
Steven Matteo
Helen Rosenthal
Keith Powers

Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses
Adrienne Adams, Chair
Inez Barron
Peter Koo
I. Daneek Miller
Mark Treyger

Planning, Dispositions and Concessions
Ben Kallos, Chair
Chaim Deutsch
Ruben Diaz, Sr.
Andy King
Vanessa Gibson

Zoning and Franchises
Francisco Moya, Chair
Costa Constantinides
Barry Grodenchik
Rory Lancman
Steven Levin
Antonio Reynoso
Donovan Richards
Carlina Rivera
Ritchie Torres

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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City Council Names New Leadership, Committee Chairs and Members Thu, 11 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Initial Johnson Move Signifies Changing of the Guard at City Council http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7414:initial-johnson-move-signifies-changing-of-the-guard-at-the-city-council http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7414:initial-johnson-move-signifies-changing-of-the-guard-at-the-city-council Speaker Corey Johnson press conference

Council Speaker Corey Johnson, at podium (photos: William Alatriste)


Just after he was elected Speaker of the City Council on January 3, Corey Johnson had some initial business to take care of: naming a temporary rules committee, including a chairperson. And in this first official decision in his new role, Johnson made a relatively small but important move that is emblematic of the broad shift in the City Council and larger city political dynamics at play in Johnson’s election.

Toward the end of an emotional and intense initial meeting of the new City Council class, at which Johnson, a Democrat, won 48 of 49 votes to lead the 51-seat legislative body for the next four years, the new speaker nominated an interim rules committee, including himself, as is customary, to be led by Queens Council Member Rory Lancman.

Johnson had just been elected speaker with the support of the Bronx County Democratic Party and the Queens County Democratic Party, which is led by Congressional Rep. Joe Crowley, whom he thanked profusely from the floor of the Council chambers as Crowley looked down from the balcony. The situation was unlike that of Johnson’s predecessor, Melissa Mark-Viverito, who became speaker in 2014 after winning the support of a unified Council Progressive Caucus, powerful labor unions, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and members of the Brooklyn Democratic County Party. Four years ago, Mark-Viverito named Brooklyn Council Member and Progressive Caucus co-founder Brad Lander as rules chair.

The shift from Mark-Viverito to Johnson can also be seen in the change from Lander to Lancman, a former member of the state Assembly and stalwart player in the Queens County Party. While all four Democrats share political dispositions and most policy positions, the changing of the guard is evident, and other top committee posts appear likely to go to representatives of the county parties and individual members who backed Johnson’s ascension. It appears this will include the Bronx’s Rafael Salamanca as chair of the land use committee and a Queens Council member, possibly Danny Dromm, as chair of the finance committee, according to sources familiar with the process. Last time around Brooklyn's David Greenfield was named land use chair and Progressive Caucus member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland of Queens became chair of finance.

Johnson, himself a member of the Progressive Caucus, has been meeting with his 50 Council member constituents and hearing from other stakeholders like the county party leaders, and is expected to outline committee chair and member nominations within the next ten days.

The rules committee will then take up those nominations, approving the chairs and committee members of all of the Council’s 40-plus committees and subcommittees, including the permanent rules committee, before the full Council gives it approval. It is unclear if Lancman will remain rules chair, or whether he requested the position even on a temporary basis. A request to speak with the Council member was declined by a spokesperson.

City Council Rory LancmanAfter approving committee assignments, the rules committee will then be responsible for considering and passing any changes to the Council’s internal rules -- there is a long proposed rules reform agenda that 33 members, including Johnson and Lancman (pictured), signed on to last month -- and vetting and approving nominees to about a dozen city boards and commissions, like the Board of Corrections and the City Planning Commission.

"The Speaker has already met with almost all of his colleagues and is in active conversations with Council Members, stakeholders, city leaders and advocates to ensure the committee chairs best reflect the priorities of this Council and the diversity of our City," said City Council spokesperson Robin Levine, in an emailed statement. Levine did not directly respond to the question of how Lancman was selected as the initial rules chair. During the prior term Lancman, an attorney and regular critic of Mayor de Blasio, chaired the newly created Committee on Courts and Legal Services.

Four years ago, Lander and Mark-Viverito ushered through landmark rules reforms that significantly altered how the Council functions, including how discretionary funding is allocated to individual members, bringing equity and transparency to a system that had been used by prior speakers to reward and punish.

As he ran for speaker and since being elected, Johnson has championed additional reforms, including to the Council’s bill-drafting protocols. He wants to see changes so that members can no longer put indefinite holds on certain legislation and so that there is more information and awareness around who is working on what bills.

The rules reform package that has the backing of 33 members includes changes to the bill-drafting process but also a beefing up of the Council’s Oversight and Investigation Committee, “with dedicated investigative staff and a willingness to use the Council’s subpoena power when necessary.” It also includes increasing the Council’s budget and staff and staff salaries; and beefing up the land use division specifically, something Johnson has talked about a good deal during his bid for speaker and since being elected.

At one speaker candidate forum Johnson said that he thinks there is room for possibly eliminating some Council committees while also possibly creating new ones -- he said, for example, that the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee should be broken into two. He did not give any examples of committees that should be eliminated. The Council did delete one committee last term, the Committee on Community Development, when its chair resigned from the Council, but most Council members, including Lander, said at the time that there were no plans to look at eliminating any others.

Along with Lancman as chair and Johnson, the other members of the initial rules committee are Council Members Adrienne Adams, Margaret Chin, Robert Cornegy, Jr., Rafael Espinal, Karen Koslowitz, Steven Matteo, Ritchie Torres, and Mark Treyger.

The package of reforms says toward the end that "A hearing should be held in the Rules Committee on these reforms – as well as any others proposed by good government groups or members of the public – in the first quarter of 2018. The reforms should then be converted into a Rules Resolution, and adopted by the Council by March 2018, but no later than June 2018."

[Related: City Council Speaker Candidates Address Power, Reform and Transparency]

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Initial Johnson Move Signifies Changing of the Guard at City Council Tue, 09 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
What’s The [Data] Point? 374, with Laura Nahmias http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7407:what-s-the-data-point-374-with-laura-nahmias http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7407:what-s-the-data-point-374-with-laura-nahmias whats the data point


What's The Data Point? Episode 25 -- 374, with Laura Nahmias [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]

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It's been a very busy start to the New York political year. No better guest to recap and analyze the first week of 2018 in New York politics than Laura Nahmias of Politico New York. Laura joined the podcast to discuss Governor Andrew Cuomo's State of the State agenda and his larger political outlook; Mayor Bill de Blasio's re-inauguration and what's ahead for him; and the new City Council Speaker, Corey Johnson, who will be a key political figure for the next four years. The conversation touches on a variety of policy and political dynamics, as there's no shortage of substance and intrigue to start 2018.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (@TweetBenMax), Maria Doulis of CBC (@MariaDoulis), and guest Laura Nahmias (@nahmias). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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What’s The [Data] Point? 374, with Laura Nahmias Mon, 08 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Big Political News to Start 2018 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7400:max-murphy-big-political-news-to-start-2018 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7400:max-murphy-big-political-news-to-start-2018

Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette


January 3, 2017 - Max & Murphy:  Big Political News to Start 2018

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2018 has started with a bang in New York politics: already this week we've seen the re-inaugrations of Mayor Bill de Blasio, Public Advocate Letitia James, and Comptroller Scott Stringer; the election of new City Council Speaker Corey Johnson; and Governor Cuomo delivering his 2018 State of the State address. For this episode of the podcast we recap and analyze those major political events and talk a bit about what's coming next.

Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @jarrettmurphy. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Big Political News to Start 2018 Wed, 03 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Corey Johnson Elected Speaker of the City Council http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7401:corey-johnson-elected-speaker-of-the-city-council http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7401:corey-johnson-elected-speaker-of-the-city-council corey johnson moments after being elected speaker of the city council cfredit william alatriste

Speaker Corey Johnson (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)


City Council Member Corey Johnson, a Manhattan Democrat, was elected speaker of the New York City Council with near unanimous support on Wednesday, becoming the first leader of the 51-member legislative body who is an openly gay man and openly HIV-positive.

Johnson took the helm at the first charter meeting of the new Council class, after a vote that saw little drama and 48 votes in his favor. Council members, including those who had attempted to run for speaker themselves, took their turns singing Johnson’s praises as prominent elected officials and political influencers from across the five boroughs looked on from the balcony of the Council chambers. Johnson’s mother was there, too, having driven from Massachusetts to see him rise to the Council’s top leadership position.

In an emotional acceptance speech, Johnson spoke about the importance of his mother in his life and some of the tough times they had faced. He spoke fondly of his predecessors and the city’s progress in the last four years under Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. But he warned of challenges of “historic proportions” that lay ahead: an affordability crisis that is pushing out residents of the city, an “overflowing” shelter system with thousands of homeless families, struggling mom and pop businesses, a mass transit crisis owing from years of government neglect, continued racial disparities across the city, and potential funding cuts from the state and federal governments. “These problems are incredibly complex and entrenched,” he said. “But the future of our city depends on our ability to confront them. And confront them we will.”

In alluding to the many thorny issues that plagued the first term of the de Blasio administration, he promised to tackle them with increased independence from the mayor. “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, with an emphasis on the word independent. He pledged unending support to his 50 constituents and promised to lead by consensus.

Johnson emerged at the top of a crowded field of candidates who had sought the speakership but all of whom dropped out of the race and conceded to Johnson in the days leading up to the vote, after it emerged that he had the support of the Queens and Bronx Democratic county organizations, led by Congressional Rep. Joe Crowley and Assembly Member Marcos Crespo, respectively. But, in a city where people of color make a majority and that is already led by a white male mayor, there was some criticism around Johnson’s selection to what is considered the second-most powerful position in city government.

Numerous Council members representing the Black, Asian and Latino Caucus had insisted that the next speaker should be a person of color. That included Council Member Inez Barron, who attempted a last-minute protest candidacy and voted for herself on Wednesday. “It’s time for a paradigm shift and that’s what I’m here to call for,” Barron had said at a news conference on the steps of City Hall shortly before the vote. “We’ve gotta put an end to the system that has deals that arrange for the speaker to be selected on behalf of what it is that county bosses and district leaders and other powerful players and other rich developers want to see happen here.” Her husband, Assembly Member (and former Council Member) Charles Barron, said, “The process is fraudulent, the process is racist, and the process is corrupt and its been that way for a long time.”

Another speaker candidate, Council Member Jumaane Williams, who only conceded the race Wednesday morning, opted for skipping the vote entirely and instead attended Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address in Albany, which was scheduled for around the same time (Williams is toying with a bid for governor or lieutenant governor, saying that Cuomo is not a true progressive). Williams had held out longer than most of the other speaker candidates, saying that the next speaker should be a person of color.

In a Wednesday statement, Williams criticized the lack of diversity in leadership positions in city government even as he looked forward to working with Johnson. “Equity must be an issue of highest priority to the next Speaker of the City Council,” he said. “Having spoken at length with Council Member Johnson, he is acutely aware of those concerns, and has agreed, in a tangible and accountable way, to work alongside me on issues of equity, both in government and citywide, for people of diverse backgrounds across race, gender, sexual orientation, and more.”

Williams and Council Member Debi Rose were the only two absences on Wednesday, meaning Johnson received 48 of the 49 votes cast. In his first remarks from the speaker’s podium on the Council chambers floor, Johnson also nominated members and a chair of the rules committee, which will help establish the new Council’s rules and the chairs and members of the other 40-plus issue committees. Johnson named Council Member Rory Lancman to chair the committee, and the speaker himself will be a member of it, as is customary. Johnson is one of 33 members who had signed on to a draft package of rules reforms that are expected to move ahead in some form.

The newly elected speaker has not expressed any particular legislative priorities yet, though he has had a focus on public health as a Council member who chaired the health committee. He’s focused more of his public comments on bolstering the Council and how he would lead the body. He again said on Wednesday that he wants to add to the Council’s land use staff, recreate an investigations division, and offer Council members the opportunity to pursue their interests and priorities.

Speaking with members of the media during a brief press conference after the formal proceedings, Johnson said he will seek a diverse staff, and said that Council Chief of Staff Ramon Martinez has been asked to stay on. He also said that he will look to female members and members of color to speak and lead on issues that he may not have direct experience with. Johnson said he will be talking with each member to see which committees they are interested in chairing or joining and would do his best to make as much of it work as possible. He is sure to also be guided by Crowley and Crespo, as well as other political heavyweights that helped him win the post, like the leaders of the hotel workers union and the firefighters union.

And though many expect him to adopt a more top-down style of leadership than Mark-Viverito, he has insisted that he will sit down with individual members to gauge the needs of their district while formulating a larger agenda for the Council. On the Council floor, he named each member individually, telling them, “I want you to know that in good times and in bad, through thick and thin, I will always have your back. Those of you who supported me, those who didn’t support me, those who ran for speaker and those who have been here in this body and those who are new, I will have your back.”

[Related: Corey Johnson’s Record and Promises]

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Corey Johnson Elected Speaker of the City Council Wed, 03 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Corey Johnson’s Record and Promises http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7398:corey-johnson-s-record-and-promises http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7398:corey-johnson-s-record-and-promises corey oath of office

Corey Johnson takes the oath of office (photo: The City Council)


City Council Member Corey Johnson is expected to be elected the next speaker of the New York City Council on Wednesday, January 3, and will take the powerful office with a busy first-term legislative record and having made a slew of public promises during the speaker race that are likely to be watched closely by supporters, detractors, and others.

Johnson, a Democrat re-elected for a second term in November, was one of eight Council members running for speaker, but he became the presumptive next speaker when Democratic county party leaders from Queens and the Bronx coalesced around his bid. Johnson was subsequently endorsed by Mayor Bill de Blasio and many other elected officials, while most of the other speaker candidates conceded and congratulated him.

Two of the eight candidates, Council Members Robert Cornegy and Jumaane Williams, remained in the race, until Cornegy conceded on December 29. A ninth candidate, Council Member Inez Barron, announced her late-game and long-shot candidacy, however. All three are black and have expressed concern that the next speaker may not be a person of color and that Johnson would be yet another white man in a major city or state position of power.

Johnson, who has promised a diverse leadership team and argued his own demographics -- he is openly gay and HIV positive -- indicate he will lead inclusively, represents District 3 in Manhattan, which covers a large swathe of the west side from the Holland Tunnel to Columbus Circle. When he was took office in 2014, he replaced outgoing Council Speaker Christine Quinn who, like Johnson, chaired the Committee on Health in her first term. Johnson will become the second openly gay speaker of the Council, after Quinn, and its first openly HIV-positive one.

In his first term, Johnson has seen numerous bills he sponsored passed through the Council. Over four years, he introduced 59 bills, of which 29 have already become law while another 4 were approved by the Council but await action from the mayor as of December 24 (If the mayor fails to sign or veto the bills within 30 days of passage, they automatically become law.)

Serving as chair of the health committee, Johnson sponsored many bills related to public health measures, such as to further regulate the sale of tobacco and electronic cigarettes, requiring the city to conduct air quality surveys, and allowing individuals to choose their sex designation on birth certificates, among other bills. He backed measures regulating shift scheduling for retail and fast food workers and to mandate Department of Education reports on student health services, and he supported the successful extension of the city’s rent stabilization laws.

Johnson headed a high-profile legislative effort, in conjunction with de Blasio, to reduce the number of smokers in the city by 160,000 by the end of 2020. He sponsored two bills, part of a larger package, that increased the minimum price of a pack of cigarettes or cigars, set a price-floor on tobacco products, and doubled the fee to obtain or renew a tobacco retail dealer license. Johnson has spoken passionately about his own battles with alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. He has said he has not had an alcoholic drink in more than eight years.

While Johnson has had a focus on public health, he has not made particularly clear any other areas of deep interest that may inform a policy agenda as speaker of the Council. Outgoing Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito put a great deal of focus on legislation related to helping immigrants and reforming the criminal justice system.

In running for speaker, Johnson has addressed a broad range of issues at numerous community forums and debates, and expressed policy priorities that may form his agenda both for the city and for the Council as an institution. He was one of 33 returning and newly elected Council members to sign on to a rules reform package that aims to improve the Council’s budget and legislative processes while also reforming and enhancing internal culture and workplace conditions. That package could move forward early in the new term at the behest of Johnson, whomever he names to chair the Council’s rules committee, and a majority of members overall.

[Read: Rules Reform Package Supported by 33 Current and Incoming City Council Members]

Separately, Johnson has discussed ways in which he would run the Council and proposed several policies related to government transparency, elections reform, mass transit, land use, public housing, women’s rights, and other issues. At a series of speaker candidate forums, Johnson made clear his stances on a number of policy issues, sometimes in support, as with congestion pricing, at times in opposition, as with reforming the city Board of Elections.

One of the City Council’s principle responsibilities is negotiating the city’s now-$86 billion budget with the mayoral administration. Johnson has insisted that, as speaker, he will only allow a vote on the budget after it has been fully posted online for 48 hours, including the Council’s discretionary funding awards, in an easily searchable format.

“When we adopt our budget every single year, we should adopt it in a way so the public can easily search online and see how their taxpayer dollars are being spent by the Council and by the mayor,” he said at a speaker forum hosted by New York Law School, Citizens Union, and other good government groups in November. Johnson has also separately pledged additional support for Council members who employ participatory budgeting for capital projects in their districts.  

He has also said he would regularly make public his schedules of meetings with lobbyists, as is currently the practice for the mayor’s office, and post his schedule online for people to see. And he supports automatic Council votes on bills that have a supermajority: 34 members in the 51-seat body. “I think these are common-sense, transparency-related reforms that anyone who runs for speaker and hopefully more broadly Council members would be supportive of,” he told the New York Daily News.

At the good government forum, Johnson also expressed support for certain voting and elections reforms. Although he said he is ardently opposed to non-partisan appointments at the scandal-plagued New York City Board of Elections, and does not back BOE reform in general, he came out in favor of noncitizen voting by legal permanent residents (though not undocumented residents of the five boroughs). He also said he supports rank-choice voting, also known as instant runoff voting, which would help prevent costly and labor-intensive runoff elections for the three citywide positions of mayor, public advocate, and comptroller. At a recent Council hearing, a State BOE official urged the city to immediately implement instant runoffs for future elections.

[Related: State Board of Elections Official Says City Must Move to Instant Runoff Voting]

A key challenge and expectation for Johnson will be exhibiting his independence from Mayor de Blasio. Mark-Viverito is a close ally of the mayor and was elected to her post with crucial support from him, at times leading some to question her willingness to advance legislation that he opposed. Johnson, however, is viewed as someone who is likely to take a stronger stand, apparently one of the reasons that the Queens and Bronx county leaders decided to back him, after they were bested in selecting the speaker last time around by a coalition including the Council’s progressive caucus, of which Johnson is a member.

While Johnson is almost certain to take more oppositional stances to de Blasio in the new term, they are largely ideological allies, and have worked closely together on a number of initiatives, like the anti-smoking bills. Johnson has also raised money and campaigned on behalf of de Blasio reelection bid.

One key area where Johnson’s independence might be put to the test is on congestion pricing, a concept that de Blasio has insisted is “regressive” and would hurt outer borough commuters. Johnson instead supports a congestion pricing proposal that has been put forward by Move New York, a transit advocacy coalition, which would apply tolls to the East River bridges while reducing tolls elsewhere, along with variable pricing based on peak traffic hours. Revenue raised would largely go toward the MTA, but also benefit road and bridge repairs.

“I believe we should take the money that would be generated from congestion pricing, put it into a rapid bus service for the outer boroughs, invest in the underfunded capital plan for the MTA and continue to ensure that our mass transit system actually is a world class transit system,” Johnson said at a Crain’s New York Business breakfast forum in November. At the same event, Johnson also came out in favor of a new citywide waste removal plan -- “I think a zoned plan makes sense” -- and supported legislation to regulate commercial leases to help small business owners have a better chance at affording their rent. Separately, he has said the city should increase its subsidy to the state-controlled MTA, a position likely to be at odds with the mayor, who has repeatedly feuded with Governor Andrew Cuomo over MTA capital and operational funding.

Another issue where Johnson breaks from de Blasio is on funding half-priced MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers, commonly known as the Fair Fares proposal that was crafted by the Community Service Society of New York and Riders Alliance. Johnson believes the city should fund Fair Fares through congestion pricing, while de Blasio has proposed a tax on high-income New Yorkers to accomplish the same goal while additionally funding mass transit.

What wasn’t lost to any observer in this speaker race was that all eight original candidates were men, following three consecutive terms of a female speaker (two for Quinn, one for Mark-Viverito). Issues related to women’s rights and opportunities and diverse representation in city government were especially prominent in several speaker forums. Johnson issued numerous pronouncements for which advocates and watchers both within government and outside of it will hold him accountable. At a December 1 debate on NY1, he committed to supporting race and gender audits of city agencies. “The city workforce needs to be representative of the city of New York,” he said. “I would do that as the speaker of the Council.”

Johnson is also said to have agreed to proposals from the Council’s women’s caucus, which did interviews with the eight male candidates and asked them to commit to funding a full-time staff position for the caucus, and to ensure gender balance in their leadership team and top committee chair positions.

[Related: Women’s Caucus Secures Commitments from Council Speaker Candidates]

At a forum hosted by a coalition of advocates for women’s rights and LGBTQ and non-gender conforming New Yorkers, Johnson promised that a majority of his leadership team would comprise women and people of color and that more than half of his staff would be women and LGBTQ people. He said he would continue to support Mark-Viverito’s Young Women’s Initiative, which has a particular focus on young women of color and young cis and trans girls. Besides reiterating his support for women’s reproductive rights and committing to strong funding for Planned Parenthood, Johnson also said he would work with the host coalition on “Solutions out of Struggle and Survival,” a slew of much-needed policies identified by trans and gender non-conforming advocates. He also spoke of implementing a less-punitive model of discipline at city schools, where current practices disproportionately affect students of colors.

Additionally, Johnson recently told The Village Voice that he thinks the city may need to again expand its police form to continue its citywide implementation of neighborhood policing. The Council pushed for and won an expansion of the NYPD by about 1,300 officers under Mark-Viverito, with the argument that the added person-power is necessary to have more cops walking the beat and positively interacting with New Yorkers.

Johnson is expected to be voted in as speaker at the first meeting of the full class of the new Council, on Wednesday, Jan. 3 at noon. He will then be able to name his leadership team of majority leader and deputy leaders, as well as the chairs of each of the Council’s more than 40 issue committees.

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Grace Dixon contributed to this article.

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Corey Johnson’s Record and Promises Tue, 02 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000