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/daniel-squadron 2017-10-18T03:42:34+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com 'Placeholder' Must Temporarily Take Squadron's Seat 2017-09-12T22:20:38+00:00 2017-09-12T22:20:38+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7191:placeholder-must-temporarily-take-squadron-s-seat Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/squadron_speedy_trial.jpg" alt="squadron speedy trial" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Former State Senator Daniel Squadrion (@DanielSquadron)</p> <hr /> <p id="docs-internal-guid-f6c4c955-780a-3d25-109d-0db37e1979a0" dir="ltr">The unexpected resignation of New York State Senator Daniel Squadron threatens to diminish the fundamental democratic right of the people to choose our representatives. What is needed now is a temporary “placeholder” who pledges to protect that threatened right by only serving out the rest of the current term and allowing a regular, open election to take place next year.</p> <p>By way of background, Sen. Squadron was first elected nearly a decade ago and represented the 26th state Senate district, which includes the Brooklyn waterfront and lower Manhattan. He resigned in mid-August to undertake an initiative with Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs to help Democrats win seats in state legislatures nationwide. While Sen. Squadron left elected office to pursue an admirable goal, the timing of his decision has led to the immediate problem of subverting democracy in our city.</p> <p>That’s because the window to hold a special primary election already passed by the time he stepped down. As a result, party bosses in Brooklyn and Manhattan now have the power to hand-select the Democratic nominee for a special general election, someone who would inevitably win in November in the heavily Democratic district. With the power of incumbency, the designee would likely win reelection over and over again, beginning with 2018’s regularly scheduled state legislative elections.</p> <p>The Kings County (Brooklyn) and New York County (Manhattan) Democratic committees must explicitly reject this undemocratic result. Instead, members of both county committees should rally behind a consensus “placeholder” candidate who pledges not to run for reelection in 2018.</p> <p>The placeholder candidate option would allow the constituents of the 26th Senate district to have a full, robust discussion during next year’s primary race about the values and capabilities of those hoping to fill the seat. Informed choice is the key to meaningful elections. &nbsp;</p> <p>An ideal placeholder would be an elder statesperson with experience in public service, preferably some in Albany. Armed with that wisdom, he or she could make the most of a truncated term.</p> <p>Some may argue that finding a politician willing only to serve for such a short period of time would prove too challenging. They may even ask how we can be assured that the placeholder would keep his or her word and not run again in 2018.</p> <p>First, as a practical matter, a placeholder who broke his or her word and ran for reelection in 2018 would be taking a huge gamble in so cavalierly lying to constituents. But more importantly, the placeholder alternative is the only solution that would restore true democratic choice to the people. It’s simply the best shot we have.</p> <p>It was heartening to see Brooklyn Democratic boss Frank Seddio <a href="http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/40/37/dtg-seddio-pushing-for-connor-to-fill-squadron-seat-2017-09-15-bk.html/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">express support</a> for the notion of a placeholder senator.</p> <p>Responsible government begins at home. We, the citizens of New York City and New York State, must demand a government accountable to the people. That means, at a minimum, insisting on a thorough and complete election process for choosing our representatives.</p> <p>What we need now are leaders willing to make sure that process takes place.</p> <p>***<br /> Steve Wagner is a Brooklyn-based activist and personal injury trial lawyer. He is a member of Independent Neighborhood Democrats and a steering committee member of Indivisible Nation BK. He blogs at <a href="http://brooklynresists.nyc/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">brooklynresists.nyc</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/squadron_speedy_trial.jpg" alt="squadron speedy trial" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Former State Senator Daniel Squadrion (@DanielSquadron)</p> <hr /> <p id="docs-internal-guid-f6c4c955-780a-3d25-109d-0db37e1979a0" dir="ltr">The unexpected resignation of New York State Senator Daniel Squadron threatens to diminish the fundamental democratic right of the people to choose our representatives. What is needed now is a temporary “placeholder” who pledges to protect that threatened right by only serving out the rest of the current term and allowing a regular, open election to take place next year.</p> <p>By way of background, Sen. Squadron was first elected nearly a decade ago and represented the 26th state Senate district, which includes the Brooklyn waterfront and lower Manhattan. He resigned in mid-August to undertake an initiative with Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs to help Democrats win seats in state legislatures nationwide. While Sen. Squadron left elected office to pursue an admirable goal, the timing of his decision has led to the immediate problem of subverting democracy in our city.</p> <p>That’s because the window to hold a special primary election already passed by the time he stepped down. As a result, party bosses in Brooklyn and Manhattan now have the power to hand-select the Democratic nominee for a special general election, someone who would inevitably win in November in the heavily Democratic district. With the power of incumbency, the designee would likely win reelection over and over again, beginning with 2018’s regularly scheduled state legislative elections.</p> <p>The Kings County (Brooklyn) and New York County (Manhattan) Democratic committees must explicitly reject this undemocratic result. Instead, members of both county committees should rally behind a consensus “placeholder” candidate who pledges not to run for reelection in 2018.</p> <p>The placeholder candidate option would allow the constituents of the 26th Senate district to have a full, robust discussion during next year’s primary race about the values and capabilities of those hoping to fill the seat. Informed choice is the key to meaningful elections. &nbsp;</p> <p>An ideal placeholder would be an elder statesperson with experience in public service, preferably some in Albany. Armed with that wisdom, he or she could make the most of a truncated term.</p> <p>Some may argue that finding a politician willing only to serve for such a short period of time would prove too challenging. They may even ask how we can be assured that the placeholder would keep his or her word and not run again in 2018.</p> <p>First, as a practical matter, a placeholder who broke his or her word and ran for reelection in 2018 would be taking a huge gamble in so cavalierly lying to constituents. But more importantly, the placeholder alternative is the only solution that would restore true democratic choice to the people. It’s simply the best shot we have.</p> <p>It was heartening to see Brooklyn Democratic boss Frank Seddio <a href="http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/40/37/dtg-seddio-pushing-for-connor-to-fill-squadron-seat-2017-09-15-bk.html/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">express support</a> for the notion of a placeholder senator.</p> <p>Responsible government begins at home. We, the citizens of New York City and New York State, must demand a government accountable to the people. That means, at a minimum, insisting on a thorough and complete election process for choosing our representatives.</p> <p>What we need now are leaders willing to make sure that process takes place.</p> <p>***<br /> Steve Wagner is a Brooklyn-based activist and personal injury trial lawyer. He is a member of Independent Neighborhood Democrats and a steering committee member of Indivisible Nation BK. He blogs at <a href="http://brooklynresists.nyc/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">brooklynresists.nyc</a>.</p> <p>

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10 Great NYC Debate Moments 2017-08-20T04:00:00+00:00 2017-08-20T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7139:10-great-moments-in-nyc-debates Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/quinn_liu_de_blasio_albanese.png" alt="quinn liu de blasio albanese" width="600" height="333" /></p> <p>Quinn, Liu, de Blasio, Albanese (from 2013)</p> <hr /> <p>Debates have been an invaluable part of political discourse and elections for centuries. The face-to-face interactions between candidates reveal a lot about their character, policies, and ability to perform under pressure.</p> <p>Debates for citywide races in New York -- for Mayor, Comptroller, and Public Advocate -- have played no small part in helping New Yorkers decide which candidates best represent their interests. Ahead of the 2017 debates, which begin Wednesday with the first Democratic mayoral primary debate between Mayor Bill de Blasio and former City Council Member Sal Albanese, Gotham Gazette presents 10 great moments from New York City debates of the last few decades.</p> <p><strong>1. Giuliani declines debate, spurs matching funds/must debate law</strong><br />1993 General Mayoral Debate; 10/17/93<br />Candidates: David Dinkins (D); Rudy Giuliani (R); George Marlin (Conservative)</p> <p>A non-debate on a debate list belongs because of the importance of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1993/10/30/opinion/make-debates-mandatory.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the decision</a>, both during the contentious 1993 rematch between Dinkins and Giuliani, which Giuliani would win, and the long-term implications of the subsequent change in law.</p> <p>Mayor Dinkins wanted to include the Conservative Party candidate in any debate between himself and Giuliani, but Giuliani would only agree to a one-on-one debate, and so the two major party candidates did not have a single debate before the election that year. In response, the City Council voted on legislation that forced any candidate taking public matching funds (as both Giuliani and Dinkins did) to participate in two debates before both the primary and general elections, given certain criteria.</p> <p>At the debate that Dinkins and Marlin did have, they both attacked Giuliani for not participating, and on other grounds. In his closing statement, Dinkins, who had bested Giuliani in 1989, said, “It takes a certain kind of temperament and personality to deal with the various legislative bodies in order to achieve [my accomplishments], I suggest to you that Rudolph Giuliani does not have the temperament to get the kind of consensus necessary to achieve the things that we’ve done.”</p> <p>For his part, Giuliani explained, “I have a letter from April of this year, where I had a firm commitment for a one-on-one debate with Mayor Dinkins, which NBC has now allowed him to sneak out of, because he rolled over for them. He shouldn’t do that, it’s wrong. And I know why David Dinkins won’t face me. On 12 occasions in 1989, he ducked out of one-on-one debates with me. On 7 occasions, he has ducked out of one-on-one debates with me in this election. They shouldn’t allow him to do it, because I’ll ask him the questions that some of you won’t ask him about how he’s cheating.”</p> <p><em>Watch the October 17, 1993 debate between Dinkins and Marlin <a href="https://www.c-span.org/video/?51563-1/new-york-mayoral-debate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.</em></p> <p><strong>2. Mayor Bloomberg tries to speak Spanish</strong><br />2009 General Mayoral Debate; 10/13/2009<br />Candidates: Michael Bloomberg (i); Bill Thompson (D)</p> <p>Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempts to speak Spanish are <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/07/nyregion/bloomberg-says-critics-of-his-spanish-should-get-a-life.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">well-known</a> and much-skewered, most famously by the <a href="https://twitter.com/ElBloombito?lang=en" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@ElBloombito</a> Twitter account. Bloomberg used to end each news conference by summarizing his statements in Spanish, and he occasionally gave entire interviews in his second tongue. In a 2009 general election mayoral debate, Bloomberg tried responding to a question about diversity in his cabinet from Juan Manuel Benitez, host of Pura Política on NY1 Noticias, in Spanish. Although the mayor received applause, the moderator had to ask him to repeat his answer in English, as many in the room and at home had no idea what he had said.</p> <p><em>Watch the moment <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcqlaIsIdB0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a> and watch the entire October 13, 2009 debate between Bloomberg and Democrat Bill Thompson <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CtTEqkLdr4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.</em></p> <p><strong>3. David Yassky sings Beyonce</strong><br />2009 Comptroller Debate, Democratic Primary; 9/10/2009<br />Candidates: David Yassky (D); Melinda Katz (D); John Liu (D); David Weprin (D)</p> <p>A crowded Democratic primary for Comptroller in 2009 included a lightning round of questions during the September 10 debate. When candidates were asked if they had listened to Beyoncé, all candidates said yes, and Melinda Katz even quietly said, “To the left.” But only David Yassky actually sang, to the amusement of the audience, especially the moderators. Yassky sang the chorus to Beyonce’s 2006 mega-hit, “Irreplaceable.”</p> <p>Yassky’s singing prowess did not carry him to victory, however, as John Liu won the primary and became Comptroller.</p> <p><em>Watch the moment <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfREQSTSXIM&amp;list=PL0B0b34dC_h_hmk-GJGwCLF1XoIgLi6Ra&amp;index=12" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>, and watch the entire September 10, 2009 Democratic Primary Comptroller debate <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipulFFK8ots" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.</em></p> <p><strong>4. Giuliani calls out Henry Hewes for not even being his party’s official candidate</strong><br />1989 General Mayoral Debate; 11/5/89<br />Candidates: David Dinkins (D); Rudy Giuliani (R); Henry Hewes (Right to Life)</p> <p>Before he refused to debate with a third-party candidate present in 1993, Republican mayoral candidate Rudy Giuliani showed his distaste for them in this surreal moment from the second of two general election debates that took place the week before the 1989 election, which Giuliani narrowly lost to Dinkins. Eight minutes into the hour-long debate, Giuliani claimed that Right to Life candidate Henry Hewes didn’t deserve to be there. He then explained Hewes was not even the officially registered candidate of the Right to Life Party, as he pulled out a letter from the Board of Elections confirming that, indeed, Henry Hewes was a registered Republican and had not filed any declaration of his candidacy on the Right to Life ticket.</p> <p><em>Watch the November 5, 1989 debate <a href="https://www.c-span.org/video/?9803-1/new-york-city-mayoral-debate">here</a>. The moment is at 7:50.</em></p> <p><strong>5. Donald Trump’s influence on New York City</strong><br />2005 General Mayoral Debate; 10/6/05<br />Candidates: Fernando Ferrer (D); Thomas V. Ognibene (Conservative)</p> <p>During the lightning round of this 2005 general mayoral debate, the moderator asked Democrat Fernando Ferrer and Conservative Thomas Ognibene (Mayor Michael Bloomberg did not attend as he was addressing a potential threat in the city), “Is Donald Trump a positive influence on the city?”</p> <p>At the time, this was a throwaway question about an infamous New York celebrity. Before Twitter, before the presidential run, Trump was a local tabloid legend, real estate baron, and TV personality to most New Yorkers. The candidates agreed in their initial response: “I could care less.”</p> <p><em>Listen to the lightning round that included the question <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/22766-revisiting-new-york-history/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>, or watch the entire October 6, 2005 debate <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDKI1prWOvo" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.</em></p> <p><strong>6. Scott Stringer goes for Spitzer's jugular</strong><br />2013 Democratic Primary Comptroller Debate; 8/12/13<br />Candidates: Eliot Spitzer (D); Scott Stringer (D)</p> <p>The 2013 Democratic primary for Comptroller was defined by consistent antagonism between the two candidates, then-Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and former Governor Eliot Spitzer.</p> <p>Five years earlier, Spitzer had resigned while under federal investigation, and during a section of the debate in which the candidates could ask each other a question, Stringer seized. “So Eliot, if you were the chairman of a large company, and you hired a CEO, and they engaged in money laundering, illegal wiring of funds to shell corporations, and if the CEO was under federal investigation - criminal investigation - and that CEO was fired, would you hire that CEO again?”</p> <p><em>Listen to highlights from the debate, including this moment, <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/312090-spitzer-stringer-debate-nypd-monitor-txtng-while-driving/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>, or watch the entire August 12, 2013 debate <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKpErvgtG4o" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.</em></p> <p><strong>7. Democrats try to tie each other to Mayor Bloomberg</strong><br />2013 Public Advocate Democratic Primary Run-off Debate; 9/24/13<br />Candidates: Letitia James (D); Daniel Squadron (D)</p> <p>The end of Mayor Bloomberg’s third term was a time when many New Yorkers were seeking change in city leadership. Candidates capitalized on this desire, and in few places was this more apparent than the 2013 Public Advocate Democratic primary. Candidates Letitia James and Daniel Squadron -- locked in a run-off for the nomination -- traded the usual barbs about each other’s backgrounds, but they often simply used any kind of tie the other candidate had to Bloomberg as an attack.</p> <p>James stated that Squadron had stayed silent when Bloomberg’s third term was being debated, while Squadron claimed that it was not right that James had “stood with the mayor over 98 percent of the time.”</p> <p><em>Listen to highlights from the debate, including this moment, <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/one-day-until-public-advocate-election-day/">here</a>, or watch the entire September 24, 2013 debate <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZcSUV8H7ww" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.</em></p> <p><strong>8. Bloomberg pressed by moderator and opponent about book of jokes he allegedly made</strong><br />2001 Republican Primary for Mayor; 9/9/01<br />Candidates: Michael Bloomberg (R); Herman Badillo (R)</p> <p>During his initial run for mayor, Michael Bloomberg was repeatedly questioned at a primary debate about an <a href="http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/media/columns/medialife/5163/">article in New York Magazine</a> in which columnist Michael Wolff described a gift given to the future mayor at a company party in 1990. The gift was a booklet of quotations supposedly said by Bloomberg, some of which were blatantly misogynistic and homophobic.</p> <p>During one of the 2001 Republican primary debates, both moderator Gabe Pressman and rival Herman Badillo pressed Bloomberg on whether or not he said what was written in the booklet. Bloomberg repeatedly claimed he did not remember saying any of those things, and in the end, he attempted to move the debate along, claiming, “It was in a book written by somebody else. Let's go on to the issues. Come on…”</p> <p><em>Read a transcript of debate highlights, including this moment, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/10/nyregion/campaigning-for-mayor-confronting-the-economy-s-future-and-media-rumors.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>, or watch the entire September 9, 2001 debate <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxNhq7cpGEk">here</a>.</em></p> <p><strong>9. Candidates debate prevalence of racial profiling in NYPD</strong><br />2001 Mayoral General Election Debate; 11/1/2001<br />Candidates: Michael Bloomberg (R); Mark Green (D)&nbsp;</p> <p>Michael Bloomberg’s implementation of widespread “stop-and-frisk,” a police tactic criticized for disproportionately targeting African-American and Hispanic men, is perhaps the least popular aspect of his legacy. During a 2001 general election mayoral debate between first-time candidate Bloomberg and Democrat Mark Green, one exchange reveals Bloomberg’s early views on racial profiling in the NYPD. When asked, Bloomberg agreed that racial profiling must be combated because “the perception is widespread.”</p> <p><em>Watch the moment <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjVzv8nF8Ds&amp;index=2&amp;list=PL0B0b34dC_h_hmk-GJGwCLF1XoIgLi6Ra" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>, or watch the entire November 1, 2001 debate <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gf8uLxdTy-E" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.</em></p> <p><strong>10. Bill de Blasio targeted as Democratic frontrunner</strong><br />2013 Democratic Primary Debates; 8/14/13 &amp; 8/21/2013<br />Candidates: 8/14/13:&nbsp;Christine Quinn (D); Bill de Blasio (D); John Liu (D); Anthony Weiner (D); Bill Thompson (D)<br />Candidates 8/21/13: Sal Albanese (D), Christine Quinn (D); Bill de Blasio (D); John Liu (D); Anthony Weiner (D); Bill Thompson (D), Erik Salgado (D)</p> <p>As the fast-moving 2013 Democratic primary moved to within a month of a vote, Bill de Blasio made a surprise leap into the lead of the polls. Just after a new poll showed de Blasio in the lead for the first time, the leading Democratic candidates showed for a debate, and the other candidates clearly recognized the new order by attacking de Blasio more than they previously had, when it appeared that Christine Quinn, Anthony Weiner and Bill Thompson were all likelier nominees.</p> <p>Quinn said de Blasio “was in the Council for eight years, he didn’t pass one bill to create a good paying job, not one bill to help our schools, not one bill to keep our city safe. That’s not a record of results,” <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/election/christine-quinn-targeted-democrats-debate-article-1.1426201" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to The Daily News</a>.</p> <p>“The only difference between Speaker Quinn and Bill de Blasio is Speaker Quinn has been more successful. They made the same promises to the same people. She got elected speaker and he’s never gotten over it,” Weiner said.</p> <p>A week later, for the first of two official, Campaign Finance Board-sanctioned primary debates, those same leading Democrats, along with Sal Albanese and Erik Salgado, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cv579n-z8zg&amp;t=956s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">took the stage in prime-time</a>. De Blasio was again the focus of many attacks. He would go on to win the primary less three weeks later, even securing the 40 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff.</p> <p>***<br />by Thomas Duda<br />with reporting by Ben Weiss<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/quinn_liu_de_blasio_albanese.png" alt="quinn liu de blasio albanese" width="600" height="333" /></p> <p>Quinn, Liu, de Blasio, Albanese (from 2013)</p> <hr /> <p>Debates have been an invaluable part of political discourse and elections for centuries. The face-to-face interactions between candidates reveal a lot about their character, policies, and ability to perform under pressure.</p> <p>Debates for citywide races in New York -- for Mayor, Comptroller, and Public Advocate -- have played no small part in helping New Yorkers decide which candidates best represent their interests. Ahead of the 2017 debates, which begin Wednesday with the first Democratic mayoral primary debate between Mayor Bill de Blasio and former City Council Member Sal Albanese, Gotham Gazette presents 10 great moments from New York City debates of the last few decades.</p> <p><strong>1. Giuliani declines debate, spurs matching funds/must debate law</strong><br />1993 General Mayoral Debate; 10/17/93<br />Candidates: David Dinkins (D); Rudy Giuliani (R); George Marlin (Conservative)</p> <p>A non-debate on a debate list belongs because of the importance of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1993/10/30/opinion/make-debates-mandatory.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the decision</a>, both during the contentious 1993 rematch between Dinkins and Giuliani, which Giuliani would win, and the long-term implications of the subsequent change in law.</p> <p>Mayor Dinkins wanted to include the Conservative Party candidate in any debate between himself and Giuliani, but Giuliani would only agree to a one-on-one debate, and so the two major party candidates did not have a single debate before the election that year. In response, the City Council voted on legislation that forced any candidate taking public matching funds (as both Giuliani and Dinkins did) to participate in two debates before both the primary and general elections, given certain criteria.</p> <p>At the debate that Dinkins and Marlin did have, they both attacked Giuliani for not participating, and on other grounds. In his closing statement, Dinkins, who had bested Giuliani in 1989, said, “It takes a certain kind of temperament and personality to deal with the various legislative bodies in order to achieve [my accomplishments], I suggest to you that Rudolph Giuliani does not have the temperament to get the kind of consensus necessary to achieve the things that we’ve done.”</p> <p>For his part, Giuliani explained, “I have a letter from April of this year, where I had a firm commitment for a one-on-one debate with Mayor Dinkins, which NBC has now allowed him to sneak out of, because he rolled over for them. He shouldn’t do that, it’s wrong. And I know why David Dinkins won’t face me. On 12 occasions in 1989, he ducked out of one-on-one debates with me. On 7 occasions, he has ducked out of one-on-one debates with me in this election. They shouldn’t allow him to do it, because I’ll ask him the questions that some of you won’t ask him about how he’s cheating.”</p> <p><em>Watch the October 17, 1993 debate between Dinkins and Marlin <a href="https://www.c-span.org/video/?51563-1/new-york-mayoral-debate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.</em></p> <p><strong>2. Mayor Bloomberg tries to speak Spanish</strong><br />2009 General Mayoral Debate; 10/13/2009<br />Candidates: Michael Bloomberg (i); Bill Thompson (D)</p> <p>Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempts to speak Spanish are <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/07/nyregion/bloomberg-says-critics-of-his-spanish-should-get-a-life.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">well-known</a> and much-skewered, most famously by the <a href="https://twitter.com/ElBloombito?lang=en" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@ElBloombito</a> Twitter account. Bloomberg used to end each news conference by summarizing his statements in Spanish, and he occasionally gave entire interviews in his second tongue. In a 2009 general election mayoral debate, Bloomberg tried responding to a question about diversity in his cabinet from Juan Manuel Benitez, host of Pura Política on NY1 Noticias, in Spanish. Although the mayor received applause, the moderator had to ask him to repeat his answer in English, as many in the room and at home had no idea what he had said.</p> <p><em>Watch the moment <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcqlaIsIdB0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a> and watch the entire October 13, 2009 debate between Bloomberg and Democrat Bill Thompson <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CtTEqkLdr4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.</em></p> <p><strong>3. David Yassky sings Beyonce</strong><br />2009 Comptroller Debate, Democratic Primary; 9/10/2009<br />Candidates: David Yassky (D); Melinda Katz (D); John Liu (D); David Weprin (D)</p> <p>A crowded Democratic primary for Comptroller in 2009 included a lightning round of questions during the September 10 debate. When candidates were asked if they had listened to Beyoncé, all candidates said yes, and Melinda Katz even quietly said, “To the left.” But only David Yassky actually sang, to the amusement of the audience, especially the moderators. Yassky sang the chorus to Beyonce’s 2006 mega-hit, “Irreplaceable.”</p> <p>Yassky’s singing prowess did not carry him to victory, however, as John Liu won the primary and became Comptroller.</p> <p><em>Watch the moment <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfREQSTSXIM&amp;list=PL0B0b34dC_h_hmk-GJGwCLF1XoIgLi6Ra&amp;index=12" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>, and watch the entire September 10, 2009 Democratic Primary Comptroller debate <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipulFFK8ots" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.</em></p> <p><strong>4. Giuliani calls out Henry Hewes for not even being his party’s official candidate</strong><br />1989 General Mayoral Debate; 11/5/89<br />Candidates: David Dinkins (D); Rudy Giuliani (R); Henry Hewes (Right to Life)</p> <p>Before he refused to debate with a third-party candidate present in 1993, Republican mayoral candidate Rudy Giuliani showed his distaste for them in this surreal moment from the second of two general election debates that took place the week before the 1989 election, which Giuliani narrowly lost to Dinkins. Eight minutes into the hour-long debate, Giuliani claimed that Right to Life candidate Henry Hewes didn’t deserve to be there. He then explained Hewes was not even the officially registered candidate of the Right to Life Party, as he pulled out a letter from the Board of Elections confirming that, indeed, Henry Hewes was a registered Republican and had not filed any declaration of his candidacy on the Right to Life ticket.</p> <p><em>Watch the November 5, 1989 debate <a href="https://www.c-span.org/video/?9803-1/new-york-city-mayoral-debate">here</a>. The moment is at 7:50.</em></p> <p><strong>5. Donald Trump’s influence on New York City</strong><br />2005 General Mayoral Debate; 10/6/05<br />Candidates: Fernando Ferrer (D); Thomas V. Ognibene (Conservative)</p> <p>During the lightning round of this 2005 general mayoral debate, the moderator asked Democrat Fernando Ferrer and Conservative Thomas Ognibene (Mayor Michael Bloomberg did not attend as he was addressing a potential threat in the city), “Is Donald Trump a positive influence on the city?”</p> <p>At the time, this was a throwaway question about an infamous New York celebrity. Before Twitter, before the presidential run, Trump was a local tabloid legend, real estate baron, and TV personality to most New Yorkers. The candidates agreed in their initial response: “I could care less.”</p> <p><em>Listen to the lightning round that included the question <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/22766-revisiting-new-york-history/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>, or watch the entire October 6, 2005 debate <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDKI1prWOvo" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.</em></p> <p><strong>6. Scott Stringer goes for Spitzer's jugular</strong><br />2013 Democratic Primary Comptroller Debate; 8/12/13<br />Candidates: Eliot Spitzer (D); Scott Stringer (D)</p> <p>The 2013 Democratic primary for Comptroller was defined by consistent antagonism between the two candidates, then-Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and former Governor Eliot Spitzer.</p> <p>Five years earlier, Spitzer had resigned while under federal investigation, and during a section of the debate in which the candidates could ask each other a question, Stringer seized. “So Eliot, if you were the chairman of a large company, and you hired a CEO, and they engaged in money laundering, illegal wiring of funds to shell corporations, and if the CEO was under federal investigation - criminal investigation - and that CEO was fired, would you hire that CEO again?”</p> <p><em>Listen to highlights from the debate, including this moment, <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/312090-spitzer-stringer-debate-nypd-monitor-txtng-while-driving/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>, or watch the entire August 12, 2013 debate <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKpErvgtG4o" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.</em></p> <p><strong>7. Democrats try to tie each other to Mayor Bloomberg</strong><br />2013 Public Advocate Democratic Primary Run-off Debate; 9/24/13<br />Candidates: Letitia James (D); Daniel Squadron (D)</p> <p>The end of Mayor Bloomberg’s third term was a time when many New Yorkers were seeking change in city leadership. Candidates capitalized on this desire, and in few places was this more apparent than the 2013 Public Advocate Democratic primary. Candidates Letitia James and Daniel Squadron -- locked in a run-off for the nomination -- traded the usual barbs about each other’s backgrounds, but they often simply used any kind of tie the other candidate had to Bloomberg as an attack.</p> <p>James stated that Squadron had stayed silent when Bloomberg’s third term was being debated, while Squadron claimed that it was not right that James had “stood with the mayor over 98 percent of the time.”</p> <p><em>Listen to highlights from the debate, including this moment, <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/one-day-until-public-advocate-election-day/">here</a>, or watch the entire September 24, 2013 debate <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZcSUV8H7ww" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.</em></p> <p><strong>8. Bloomberg pressed by moderator and opponent about book of jokes he allegedly made</strong><br />2001 Republican Primary for Mayor; 9/9/01<br />Candidates: Michael Bloomberg (R); Herman Badillo (R)</p> <p>During his initial run for mayor, Michael Bloomberg was repeatedly questioned at a primary debate about an <a href="http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/media/columns/medialife/5163/">article in New York Magazine</a> in which columnist Michael Wolff described a gift given to the future mayor at a company party in 1990. The gift was a booklet of quotations supposedly said by Bloomberg, some of which were blatantly misogynistic and homophobic.</p> <p>During one of the 2001 Republican primary debates, both moderator Gabe Pressman and rival Herman Badillo pressed Bloomberg on whether or not he said what was written in the booklet. Bloomberg repeatedly claimed he did not remember saying any of those things, and in the end, he attempted to move the debate along, claiming, “It was in a book written by somebody else. Let's go on to the issues. Come on…”</p> <p><em>Read a transcript of debate highlights, including this moment, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/10/nyregion/campaigning-for-mayor-confronting-the-economy-s-future-and-media-rumors.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>, or watch the entire September 9, 2001 debate <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxNhq7cpGEk">here</a>.</em></p> <p><strong>9. Candidates debate prevalence of racial profiling in NYPD</strong><br />2001 Mayoral General Election Debate; 11/1/2001<br />Candidates: Michael Bloomberg (R); Mark Green (D)&nbsp;</p> <p>Michael Bloomberg’s implementation of widespread “stop-and-frisk,” a police tactic criticized for disproportionately targeting African-American and Hispanic men, is perhaps the least popular aspect of his legacy. During a 2001 general election mayoral debate between first-time candidate Bloomberg and Democrat Mark Green, one exchange reveals Bloomberg’s early views on racial profiling in the NYPD. When asked, Bloomberg agreed that racial profiling must be combated because “the perception is widespread.”</p> <p><em>Watch the moment <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjVzv8nF8Ds&amp;index=2&amp;list=PL0B0b34dC_h_hmk-GJGwCLF1XoIgLi6Ra" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>, or watch the entire November 1, 2001 debate <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gf8uLxdTy-E" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.</em></p> <p><strong>10. Bill de Blasio targeted as Democratic frontrunner</strong><br />2013 Democratic Primary Debates; 8/14/13 &amp; 8/21/2013<br />Candidates: 8/14/13:&nbsp;Christine Quinn (D); Bill de Blasio (D); John Liu (D); Anthony Weiner (D); Bill Thompson (D)<br />Candidates 8/21/13: Sal Albanese (D), Christine Quinn (D); Bill de Blasio (D); John Liu (D); Anthony Weiner (D); Bill Thompson (D), Erik Salgado (D)</p> <p>As the fast-moving 2013 Democratic primary moved to within a month of a vote, Bill de Blasio made a surprise leap into the lead of the polls. Just after a new poll showed de Blasio in the lead for the first time, the leading Democratic candidates showed for a debate, and the other candidates clearly recognized the new order by attacking de Blasio more than they previously had, when it appeared that Christine Quinn, Anthony Weiner and Bill Thompson were all likelier nominees.</p> <p>Quinn said de Blasio “was in the Council for eight years, he didn’t pass one bill to create a good paying job, not one bill to help our schools, not one bill to keep our city safe. That’s not a record of results,” <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/election/christine-quinn-targeted-democrats-debate-article-1.1426201" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to The Daily News</a>.</p> <p>“The only difference between Speaker Quinn and Bill de Blasio is Speaker Quinn has been more successful. They made the same promises to the same people. She got elected speaker and he’s never gotten over it,” Weiner said.</p> <p>A week later, for the first of two official, Campaign Finance Board-sanctioned primary debates, those same leading Democrats, along with Sal Albanese and Erik Salgado, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cv579n-z8zg&amp;t=956s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">took the stage in prime-time</a>. De Blasio was again the focus of many attacks. He would go on to win the primary less three weeks later, even securing the 40 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff.</p> <p>***<br />by Thomas Duda<br />with reporting by Ben Weiss<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@GothamGazette</a></p> Squadron Departure Spotlights Importance of County Committee 2017-08-14T04:00:00+00:00 2017-08-14T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7128:squadron-departure-spotlights-importance-of-county-committee Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/squadron-auditorium-crop.png" alt="squadron auditorium crop" /></p> <p>Former state Sen. Daniel Squadron (photo: @DanielSquadron)</p> <hr /> <p>Since Daniel Squadron announced his resignation from the New York State Senate last week, there has been a lot of conversation about “County Committee.” The vacancy in Squadron’s seat will be filled in a special election in November, and state law requires that the Democratic nominee for the seat be selected by the Democratic Party, as opposed to being decided in a primary election.</p> <p>This means that, in all likelihood, the next State Senator for the 26th District, which includes parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan, will be chosen by a group of fewer than 500 people, since the Democratic nominee is so heavily favored in a general election.</p> <p>This situation has a lot of people asking, “wait, what is the county committee and why do they get to decide?”</p> <p>Each Election District in Manhattan (about one city block) elects two to four county committee members. These members are unpaid, political party posts, and have no official government role. They are expected to attend one meeting every two years to elect the County Party Chair and other leadership positions. Beyond this one biennial meeting, county committee members are generally only called upon when there is a vacancy.</p> <p>In 2011, Assembly Member Jonathan Bing resigned from the State Assembly to take a job within the Cuomo administration. A special election was called and the County Committee members from the 73rd Assembly District were convened to choose the Democratic nominee. Dan Quart was selected, and he went on to win the special election with 63 percent of the vote.</p> <p>More recently, Bill Perkins' victory in a City Council special election created a vacancy in the State Senate, which was filled by Brian Benjamin, who won the Democratic nomination by virtue of a county committee vote.</p> <p>Adding to the confusion over county committee is that each county committee seat does not hold equal weight. The value of a county committee seat is determined by a formula based on how well the Democratic candidate for Governor performed in that particular election district. You may want to read that bit of random-seeming trivia one more time -- and think about how that weighted system can then affect the election of new state senators and Assembly members.</p> <p>If this whole process seems onerous and confusing, that's because it is. There is no question that it benefits insiders and folks who have learned how to work the system. But it is the process we currently have, and the one in which we need to work to ensure that we elect the best candidates (while we also work to change election laws to make them more small-d democratic).</p> <p>This year, the Four Freedoms Democratic Club, of which I am a member, aggressively recruited local Democrats to run for New York (Manhattan) County Committee. We reached out to community activists, local Indivisible chapters, and longtime Democratic club members. Our pitch was simple: if you’re frustrated with politics, or with the Democratic Party, then the best way to create change is at the grassroots level.</p> <p>Anyone who is a registered Democrat in Manhattan can run for New York County Committee. To get on the ballot you simply need to collect signatures: five percent of the active registered Democrats in that particular election district, or anywhere from 15 to 50 signatures. This year, in Manhattan alone, there are over 40 contested county committee races, which means voters will have the chance to decide who represents them to the New York County Party.</p> <p>There are those who believe it’s time to do away county committee votes for party nominees for state level seats, perhaps by shifting to the New York City system, which requires non-partisan special elections to fill vacancies. While that type of system seems preferable in theory, these types of special elections have absurdly low turnout. In that Harlem special election in which Bill Perkins was elected, for example, less than 10 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot. There is currently a bill in the New York State Senate that would implement such a system, sponsored somewhat ironically by now former Senator Squadron. In our current legislative culture, however, the chances of enacting any kind of meaningful election reform are slim to none.</p> <p>In the meantime, we must continue to contend with the current system, and that means working to ensure that we are electing good people to county committee. I encourage anyone who is interested in this process to get involved in your local Democratic club. You can find more information about the Manhattan County Committee on the Manhattan Democrats’ <a href="http://manhattandemocrats.org/about/manhattan-democratic-clubs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">website</a>.</p> <p>***<br /> Kim Moscaritolo is a District Leader in the 76th Assembly District on Manhattan’s East Side. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/kimmosc" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@kimmosc</a>.</p> <p>

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&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/squadron-auditorium-crop.png" alt="squadron auditorium crop" /></p> <p>Former state Sen. Daniel Squadron (photo: @DanielSquadron)</p> <hr /> <p>Since Daniel Squadron announced his resignation from the New York State Senate last week, there has been a lot of conversation about “County Committee.” The vacancy in Squadron’s seat will be filled in a special election in November, and state law requires that the Democratic nominee for the seat be selected by the Democratic Party, as opposed to being decided in a primary election.</p> <p>This means that, in all likelihood, the next State Senator for the 26th District, which includes parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan, will be chosen by a group of fewer than 500 people, since the Democratic nominee is so heavily favored in a general election.</p> <p>This situation has a lot of people asking, “wait, what is the county committee and why do they get to decide?”</p> <p>Each Election District in Manhattan (about one city block) elects two to four county committee members. These members are unpaid, political party posts, and have no official government role. They are expected to attend one meeting every two years to elect the County Party Chair and other leadership positions. Beyond this one biennial meeting, county committee members are generally only called upon when there is a vacancy.</p> <p>In 2011, Assembly Member Jonathan Bing resigned from the State Assembly to take a job within the Cuomo administration. A special election was called and the County Committee members from the 73rd Assembly District were convened to choose the Democratic nominee. Dan Quart was selected, and he went on to win the special election with 63 percent of the vote.</p> <p>More recently, Bill Perkins' victory in a City Council special election created a vacancy in the State Senate, which was filled by Brian Benjamin, who won the Democratic nomination by virtue of a county committee vote.</p> <p>Adding to the confusion over county committee is that each county committee seat does not hold equal weight. The value of a county committee seat is determined by a formula based on how well the Democratic candidate for Governor performed in that particular election district. You may want to read that bit of random-seeming trivia one more time -- and think about how that weighted system can then affect the election of new state senators and Assembly members.</p> <p>If this whole process seems onerous and confusing, that's because it is. There is no question that it benefits insiders and folks who have learned how to work the system. But it is the process we currently have, and the one in which we need to work to ensure that we elect the best candidates (while we also work to change election laws to make them more small-d democratic).</p> <p>This year, the Four Freedoms Democratic Club, of which I am a member, aggressively recruited local Democrats to run for New York (Manhattan) County Committee. We reached out to community activists, local Indivisible chapters, and longtime Democratic club members. Our pitch was simple: if you’re frustrated with politics, or with the Democratic Party, then the best way to create change is at the grassroots level.</p> <p>Anyone who is a registered Democrat in Manhattan can run for New York County Committee. To get on the ballot you simply need to collect signatures: five percent of the active registered Democrats in that particular election district, or anywhere from 15 to 50 signatures. This year, in Manhattan alone, there are over 40 contested county committee races, which means voters will have the chance to decide who represents them to the New York County Party.</p> <p>There are those who believe it’s time to do away county committee votes for party nominees for state level seats, perhaps by shifting to the New York City system, which requires non-partisan special elections to fill vacancies. While that type of system seems preferable in theory, these types of special elections have absurdly low turnout. In that Harlem special election in which Bill Perkins was elected, for example, less than 10 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot. There is currently a bill in the New York State Senate that would implement such a system, sponsored somewhat ironically by now former Senator Squadron. In our current legislative culture, however, the chances of enacting any kind of meaningful election reform are slim to none.</p> <p>In the meantime, we must continue to contend with the current system, and that means working to ensure that we are electing good people to county committee. I encourage anyone who is interested in this process to get involved in your local Democratic club. You can find more information about the Manhattan County Committee on the Manhattan Democrats’ <a href="http://manhattandemocrats.org/about/manhattan-democratic-clubs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">website</a>.</p> <p>***<br /> Kim Moscaritolo is a District Leader in the 76th Assembly District on Manhattan’s East Side. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/kimmosc" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@kimmosc</a>.</p> <p>

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Special Elections Deserve Democratic Deliberation, Not Backroom Deals 2017-08-14T02:06:55+00:00 2017-08-14T02:06:55+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7126:special-elections-deserve-democratic-deliberation-not-backroom-deals Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/squadron_ltgovhochulny.jpg" alt="squadron ltgovhochulny" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>former State Sen. Dan Squadron, right, with other officials (photo:&nbsp;@LtGovHochulNY)</p> <hr /> <p>When Daniel Squadron released his statement resigning as a New York State Senator, many of us were surprised and disappointed to see a legislator committed to progressive reforms go. In particular, Sen. Squadron fought the LLC loophole allowing corporations to exceed donation limits by contributing through multiple entities treated as individuals, and Squadron cited the dysfunction of Albany as one cause for his decision to step down.</p> <p>With a district that spans the Brooklyn waterfront and lower Manhattan, the voters who elected a reformer deserve a fair, transparent process for selecting his successor. As Squadron himself has acknowledged, that may very well not transpire.</p> <p><strong>What happens now?</strong><br />Because 2017 is not a state election year, a special election will have to be called. Squadron stated that he timed his announcement with the intention the seat being filled, and thereby ensuring district representation, as soon as possible. Governor Cuomo will need to set the date for the special election, which is anticipated to be the same as the general election on November 7.</p> <p><a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov/nysboe/download/law/2013nyelectionlaw.pdf">State election law </a>states that “[p]arty nominations for an office to be filled at a special election shall be made in the manner prescribed by the rules of the Party.”</p> <p>The <a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/58efcafa20099e952ff83c6b/t/5936cb17c534a54eef41fc75/1496763160580/NYSDC-party-rules-9-19-16.pdf">rules of the State Democratic Party</a> provide for a system of filling vacancies in political subdivisions (such as Assembly or Senate districts) through election by members of the county committee representing that area. County committee members from that particular political subdivision (such as Senate or Assembly district) come together and vote, in accordance with the county party rules, on a replacement candidate for a special election. The candidate elected by the Democratic county committee then appears on the ballot as the Democratic nominee in the special election.</p> <p>In Manhattan earlier this year, for instance, the party used the New York County Committee to select the nominee to fill the State Senate seat vacated by Bill Perkins, with a special election held in May that saw Sen. Brian Benjamin elected.</p> <p>This is one of the few substantive powers that county committee members are empowered to exercise. County committee members, in Kings County (Brooklyn) especially, are afforded few other meaningful roles, and quite often act as a rubber stamp for the party leaders. It is the closest to democracy that we have for special elections, especially since county committee seats are open to any Party member who can collect the necessary petition signatures.</p> <p>However, when a vacancy occurs in a political subdivision that spans more than one county, such as Squadron’s Senate District 26, the rules of the Democratic Party of New York State permit the chairs of the respective county committees to select the candidate who will appear on the special election ballot. Though Frank Seddio and Keith Wright are the party bosses for Brooklyn and Manhattan, respectively, the county committee chairs are actually Charles Ragusa for Kings County and Nico Minerva for New York County.</p> <p><strong>So what?</strong><br />There are several problems with this system. Two Democratic Party insiders will alone choose who will be the Democratic nominee for this State Senate seat in the general election this year. There will be no primaries.</p> <p>Because Senate District 26 is vastly Democratic, the nomination process will likely decide who the future State Senator will be. Once elected, on average across the state, two-thirds of incumbents don’t have challengers in their party primaries -- meaning that the nominee is likely to be State Senator for quite a while (there are no term limits in the state Legislature). In other words, two people have the power to pick a Democratic candidate who could stay in office the rest of their life.</p> <p>The county chairs are under no obligation to state their criteria or rationale for selecting a candidate, nor are they required to consider the opinion of voters or even county committee members. Doing as little as is required would be not transparent to voters and not fair to candidates, and it would also further reduce the power of rank-and-file Democratic county committee members to influence who represents them and their neighbors. This would be disempowering to county committee members who would be stripped of the one important role they would otherwise have.</p> <p>Whomever is chosen for the Senate position will essentially be handed a seat for as long as they would like to keep it, or, as Squadron decided, they are tired of dealing with the inaction and corruption of Albany and move on to greener pastures.</p> <p>Citizens deserve to have a say in who represents them in government, lest we want to cast away our democratic principles.</p> <p><strong>What should the process be?</strong><br />In his letter to the party leaders, Squadron called on Seddio and Wright to permit the county committee members from both New York (Manhattan) and Kings (Brooklyn) Counties to come together to pick the candidate, and we at New Kings Democrats echo this call. County party leaders have the ethical responsibility to conduct the process with a commitment to transparency and inclusion.</p> <p>The county committee chairs should defer their votes to the county committee members in a meeting open to the general public to observe.</p> <p>The parties involved should disclose the weighting of each county committee member’s vote in an accessible and timely manner to ensure that the vote is in compliance with State Election Law. The parties should be diligent and timely in all of their notifications regarding this meeting, including by taking steps to notify committee members by using multiple means of communication (snail mail and email, if not phone calls as well) and identifying the candidates under consideration.</p> <p>The parties should also work to ensure that the people living in Senate District 26 are aware of the chance to vote in an even more important general election in November. Allowing the party leaders to handpick a candidate with no public participation or communication would be unacceptable.</p> <p>This instance also impels us to consider whether the rules of the game need to be changed. Reformers from across the state are paying closer attention to Democratic Party rules -- and realizing they are not as democratic as they ought to be.</p> <p>Just two weeks ago, New Kings Democrats and fellow Brooklyn reform clubs Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Southern Brooklyn Democrats, and Prospect Heights Democrats for Reform were able to get the Democratic Party of Kings County to <a href="http://www.brooklyndems.com/report_of_the_special_committee_on_rules" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pass some key reforms</a>. For instance, the Party may no longer endorse or support a candidate who has been convicted of a felony related to corruption or malfeasance in public office or their party position. Modest changes were also made to the notorious proxy system, which enables the party boss to hold undue power in the county committee, by making it easier for county committee members to designate their proxies to someone else by filling in a blank space following the executive committee chair’s name.</p> <p>Reformers outside New York City are organizing as well. Ulster County Democratic State Committeewoman Kelleigh McKenzie<a href="https://www.grassrootsdemsny.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> introduced a set of reforms to the State Democratic Party</a>. Two of those reforms were passed a few weeks ago, and make some much-needed steps toward improving communication with and cultivating participation from Democratic State Committee members.</p> <p>While both sets of reformers have proposals that did not pass or have not passed yet, the openness of establishment Democrats to accept criticism and work together to form a more functional and democratic Democratic Party is critical at this moment in time.</p> <p>At a minimum, we hope that the chairs of both relevant counties agree to convene their county committee members within Squadron’s district and fairly endorse a candidate. This is in the best interest of democracy, and of the Democratic Party. We can’t cry foul at the Republican Party’s attempt to forgo democratic processes across the country, and be caught doing the same here in New York.</p> <p>***<br />Brandon West and Anusha Venkataraman are on the executive committee of New Kings Democrats, a progressive Democratic club in Brooklyn. On Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/newkingsdems?ref_src=twsrc^google|twcamp^serp|twgr^author" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@NewKingsDems</a>.</p> <p>

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/squadron_ltgovhochulny.jpg" alt="squadron ltgovhochulny" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>former State Sen. Dan Squadron, right, with other officials (photo:&nbsp;@LtGovHochulNY)</p> <hr /> <p>When Daniel Squadron released his statement resigning as a New York State Senator, many of us were surprised and disappointed to see a legislator committed to progressive reforms go. In particular, Sen. Squadron fought the LLC loophole allowing corporations to exceed donation limits by contributing through multiple entities treated as individuals, and Squadron cited the dysfunction of Albany as one cause for his decision to step down.</p> <p>With a district that spans the Brooklyn waterfront and lower Manhattan, the voters who elected a reformer deserve a fair, transparent process for selecting his successor. As Squadron himself has acknowledged, that may very well not transpire.</p> <p><strong>What happens now?</strong><br />Because 2017 is not a state election year, a special election will have to be called. Squadron stated that he timed his announcement with the intention the seat being filled, and thereby ensuring district representation, as soon as possible. Governor Cuomo will need to set the date for the special election, which is anticipated to be the same as the general election on November 7.</p> <p><a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov/nysboe/download/law/2013nyelectionlaw.pdf">State election law </a>states that “[p]arty nominations for an office to be filled at a special election shall be made in the manner prescribed by the rules of the Party.”</p> <p>The <a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/58efcafa20099e952ff83c6b/t/5936cb17c534a54eef41fc75/1496763160580/NYSDC-party-rules-9-19-16.pdf">rules of the State Democratic Party</a> provide for a system of filling vacancies in political subdivisions (such as Assembly or Senate districts) through election by members of the county committee representing that area. County committee members from that particular political subdivision (such as Senate or Assembly district) come together and vote, in accordance with the county party rules, on a replacement candidate for a special election. The candidate elected by the Democratic county committee then appears on the ballot as the Democratic nominee in the special election.</p> <p>In Manhattan earlier this year, for instance, the party used the New York County Committee to select the nominee to fill the State Senate seat vacated by Bill Perkins, with a special election held in May that saw Sen. Brian Benjamin elected.</p> <p>This is one of the few substantive powers that county committee members are empowered to exercise. County committee members, in Kings County (Brooklyn) especially, are afforded few other meaningful roles, and quite often act as a rubber stamp for the party leaders. It is the closest to democracy that we have for special elections, especially since county committee seats are open to any Party member who can collect the necessary petition signatures.</p> <p>However, when a vacancy occurs in a political subdivision that spans more than one county, such as Squadron’s Senate District 26, the rules of the Democratic Party of New York State permit the chairs of the respective county committees to select the candidate who will appear on the special election ballot. Though Frank Seddio and Keith Wright are the party bosses for Brooklyn and Manhattan, respectively, the county committee chairs are actually Charles Ragusa for Kings County and Nico Minerva for New York County.</p> <p><strong>So what?</strong><br />There are several problems with this system. Two Democratic Party insiders will alone choose who will be the Democratic nominee for this State Senate seat in the general election this year. There will be no primaries.</p> <p>Because Senate District 26 is vastly Democratic, the nomination process will likely decide who the future State Senator will be. Once elected, on average across the state, two-thirds of incumbents don’t have challengers in their party primaries -- meaning that the nominee is likely to be State Senator for quite a while (there are no term limits in the state Legislature). In other words, two people have the power to pick a Democratic candidate who could stay in office the rest of their life.</p> <p>The county chairs are under no obligation to state their criteria or rationale for selecting a candidate, nor are they required to consider the opinion of voters or even county committee members. Doing as little as is required would be not transparent to voters and not fair to candidates, and it would also further reduce the power of rank-and-file Democratic county committee members to influence who represents them and their neighbors. This would be disempowering to county committee members who would be stripped of the one important role they would otherwise have.</p> <p>Whomever is chosen for the Senate position will essentially be handed a seat for as long as they would like to keep it, or, as Squadron decided, they are tired of dealing with the inaction and corruption of Albany and move on to greener pastures.</p> <p>Citizens deserve to have a say in who represents them in government, lest we want to cast away our democratic principles.</p> <p><strong>What should the process be?</strong><br />In his letter to the party leaders, Squadron called on Seddio and Wright to permit the county committee members from both New York (Manhattan) and Kings (Brooklyn) Counties to come together to pick the candidate, and we at New Kings Democrats echo this call. County party leaders have the ethical responsibility to conduct the process with a commitment to transparency and inclusion.</p> <p>The county committee chairs should defer their votes to the county committee members in a meeting open to the general public to observe.</p> <p>The parties involved should disclose the weighting of each county committee member’s vote in an accessible and timely manner to ensure that the vote is in compliance with State Election Law. The parties should be diligent and timely in all of their notifications regarding this meeting, including by taking steps to notify committee members by using multiple means of communication (snail mail and email, if not phone calls as well) and identifying the candidates under consideration.</p> <p>The parties should also work to ensure that the people living in Senate District 26 are aware of the chance to vote in an even more important general election in November. Allowing the party leaders to handpick a candidate with no public participation or communication would be unacceptable.</p> <p>This instance also impels us to consider whether the rules of the game need to be changed. Reformers from across the state are paying closer attention to Democratic Party rules -- and realizing they are not as democratic as they ought to be.</p> <p>Just two weeks ago, New Kings Democrats and fellow Brooklyn reform clubs Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Southern Brooklyn Democrats, and Prospect Heights Democrats for Reform were able to get the Democratic Party of Kings County to <a href="http://www.brooklyndems.com/report_of_the_special_committee_on_rules" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pass some key reforms</a>. For instance, the Party may no longer endorse or support a candidate who has been convicted of a felony related to corruption or malfeasance in public office or their party position. Modest changes were also made to the notorious proxy system, which enables the party boss to hold undue power in the county committee, by making it easier for county committee members to designate their proxies to someone else by filling in a blank space following the executive committee chair’s name.</p> <p>Reformers outside New York City are organizing as well. Ulster County Democratic State Committeewoman Kelleigh McKenzie<a href="https://www.grassrootsdemsny.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> introduced a set of reforms to the State Democratic Party</a>. Two of those reforms were passed a few weeks ago, and make some much-needed steps toward improving communication with and cultivating participation from Democratic State Committee members.</p> <p>While both sets of reformers have proposals that did not pass or have not passed yet, the openness of establishment Democrats to accept criticism and work together to form a more functional and democratic Democratic Party is critical at this moment in time.</p> <p>At a minimum, we hope that the chairs of both relevant counties agree to convene their county committee members within Squadron’s district and fairly endorse a candidate. This is in the best interest of democracy, and of the Democratic Party. We can’t cry foul at the Republican Party’s attempt to forgo democratic processes across the country, and be caught doing the same here in New York.</p> <p>***<br />Brandon West and Anusha Venkataraman are on the executive committee of New Kings Democrats, a progressive Democratic club in Brooklyn. On Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/newkingsdems?ref_src=twsrc^google|twcamp^serp|twgr^author" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@NewKingsDems</a>.</p> <p>

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Dan Squadron Fought the LLC Loophole and the Loophole Won 2017-08-11T20:26:10+00:00 2017-08-11T20:26:10+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7122:dan-squadron-fought-the-llc-loophole-and-the-loophole-won Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/8675391217_6a4e836d65_z.jpg" alt="8675391217 6a4e836d65 z" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>State Senator Daniel Squadron (photo: Daniel Squadron/Flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>In early April, during the final throes of state budget negotiations, state Senator Daniel Squadron introduced a hostile amendment on the Senate floor to the Public Protection and General Government state budget bill. The amendment was intended to close the so-called “LLC loophole” in the state’s campaign finance law, which allows limited liability companies, often with hidden owners, to pour virtually unlimited money into political campaigns.</p> <p>It was hardly the first time Squadron and his fellow minority Democrats tried to force the chamber to consider the bill, which, despite broad support from the public, had never been brought to the Senate floor.</p> <p>"Year after year, indictment after indictment, conviction after conviction, the Senate Majority has refused to take action to close an indefensible loophole,” said Squadron on the Senate floor, echoing his remarks from previous sessions. It would also be his last effort as a senator to close the notorious loophole, which factored in the corruption convictions of both state legislative leaders Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos in 2015.</p> <p>On Wednesday, Squadron, who was first elected in 2008, abruptly announced his resignation from the Senate. He signed off with an <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/leaving-n-y-senate-article-1.3394774" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">op-ed in the New York Daily News</a>, describing how he had grown disillusioned by the dysfunction in Albany.</p> <p>“Over the years,” Squadron wrote, he watched the government’s potential “thwarted by a sliver of heavily invested special interests.”</p> <p>“In the state Senate, for example, Democrats have repeatedly been denied control of the chamber by cynical political deals, despite winning an electoral majority — including in 2016,” he added, referring to the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference, which has a power sharing agreement with the Senate GOP, and Senator Simcha Felder, a nominal Democrat who conferences with Republicans to control the chamber.</p> <p>Squadron also decried the “structural barriers” faced by rank-and-file legislators, “including ‘three men in a room’ decisionmaking, loophole-riddled campaign finance rules and a governor-controlled budget process.”</p> <p>Squadron’s white whale, the LLC loophole, was created by the Board of Elections in 1996 and treats limited liability companies like individuals, allowing them to donate $60,800 in a year to political campaigns at the state level. Corporations, in comparison, are only allowed to contribute a maximum of $5,000. Elected officials, both Democrats and Republicans, have benefited from the loophole.</p> <p>In 2015, Squadron joined Democrats Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and the Brennan Center for Justice as co-plaintiffs on <a href="https://www.brennancenter.org/press-release/brennan-center-co-plaintiffs-file-lawsuit-close-nys-llc-loophole" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a lawsuit</a> filed against the state Board of Elections in 2015 to end the loophole. The case, though initially dismissed,<a href="https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/legal-work/Final%20Filed%20MOL%20i-s-o%20Appeal%20--%202016%20Decision%20%2800290265x9CCC2%29.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> was appealed </a>on June 27.&nbsp;</p> <p>Over the last two decades, New York’s lax campaign finance laws have resulted in statewide candidate and party coffers being flooded with millions in LLC dollars. LLCs donated $54.2 million to candidates, parties, and traditional PACs between 2011 and 2014, and more than $118.6 million between 1999 and 2014, according to a 2015 Board of Elections <a href="http://hedgeclippers.org/hedge-clippers-presents-the-llc-files/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">analysis</a> by the Hedge Clippers, an activist organization backed by a coalition of unions and progressive groups that highlights the corrosive effect of big money in politics. A 2013 report by the now defunct Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption identified one group that had “utilized 25 separate LLCs and subsidiary entities to make 147 separate political contributions totaling more than $3.1 million since 2008.”</p> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo, a second-term Democrat, has been possibly the biggest beneficiary of the LLC loophole while at the same time calling for a cap on LLC donations. In the most recent campaign finance filings, Cuomo raised $5.1 million in contributions between January and June, with more than $500,000 from LLCs.</p> <p>Squadron, in addition to pushing for closure of the LLC loophole, defined himself as a voice for other good governance measures, championing the enactment of term limits and restrictions on outside income. His persistent but respectful questioning of his Republican colleagues on the lack of movement on the bills marked each session, to no avail. This year’s hostile amendment, like other attempts that had come before it, failed.</p> <p>“And the status quo has proven extraordinarily durable: It barely shuddered when the leaders of both legislative chambers were convicted of corruption,” Squadron wrote in the Daily News, referring to Silver and Skelos.</p> <p>Alarmed by the nationwide shift towards “Trumpism,” Squadron said in an interview that he was presented in July with the opportunity he couldn’t refuse: to join entrepreneur Adam Pritzker and Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University on a national campaign effort. He said the timing of his resignation was to ensure that his seat, which is safely Democratic, would be filled on November 7, Election Day. It is a city election cycle; state legislative elections are slated for next year, so the process for replacing Squadron is different from a typical election.</p> <p>But despite his frustration with the “cynical dealmaking” he witnessed in Albany, when asked about supporting a constitutional convention, which many reformers say is the only way to move these issues, Squadron was lukewarm.</p> <p>Once every 20 years, New Yorkers have the opportunity through a ballot referendum to vote to call a constitutional convention, including this Election Day. If called, delegates <a href="http://gothamist.com/2017/08/09/squadron_albany_machine_politics.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">will be chosen</a> from each Senate district, and the following year a convention aimed at modernizing and updating New York’s lengthy and arcane constitution will commence. Any changes produced by the convention will return to voters the following year.</p> <p>"I think there is a lot of promise in a constitutional convention, if it’s done in the right way,” Squadron said. “[T]he Con Con and gaining a Democratic majority are two ways to push the fundamental reform."</p> <p>Many have taken note of the abrupt nature of Squadron’s departure, which triggers a special election without a competitive primary -- the Democratic nominee will be chosen by party insiders, not voters.</p> <p>The rebuke was swift and harsh, including from the paper Squadron chose to place his farewell. “Last month we rapped Councilman David Greenfield for leaving office to take a new job after claiming a spot on the reelection ballot — putting sole power to pick a successor in his own hands,” wrote the <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/dan-squadron-voters-article-1.3397978" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New York Daily News editorial board</a>. “State Sen. Daniel Squadron just made a similar move that will arrogantly deprive some 300,000 people in his Brooklyn and Manhattan district of a chance to decide who serves them. And deprive who knows how many would-be public servants of the chance to make their case to the voters.” The move, the board noted, was particularly “rich” considering Squadron had built a reputation as a reformer.</p> <p>Squadron, in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette, defended the timing of his decision noting that even if the opportunity had presented itself earlier, it would have been unfair to leave his constituents without representation for part of the legislative session. Had he resigned following the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7042-mayoral-control-extended-in-special-session-with-usual-albany-process" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">extended session</a> that ended in late June, the move would have allowed Senate hopefuls just a week to collect 1,000 petitions required to get on the ballot -- hardly a more democratic option, he said.</p> <p>Squadron represents the 26th Senate District, which includes neighborhoods along the Brooklyn waterfront, from Greenpoint to Carroll Gardens, and a significant chunk of lower Manhattan, reaching as far as Washington Square Park. According to state election law, when an intercounty special election is called, the party nominee is decided by leaders of both counties, in this case chair of Brooklyn Democrats Frank Seddio and Manhattan Democratic Party boss Keith Wright, according to spokespersons for both organizations. If Democratic leaders decide on a “weighted vote,” then Squadron’s successor will effectively be decided by the Manhattan party, since Brooklyn only accounts for one-third of the district.</p> <p>A spokesperson for the Manhattan Democrats said that the organization's internal policy is to include its own committee members in choosing nominees, and that a convention will likely be called for early September -- a nominee must be selected by September 21. How the outcome of that vote will be reconciled with the wishes of the Brooklyn’s Democratic leadership remains unclear.</p> <p>“Frank [Seddio] and Keith [Wright] have spoken and are going to get together to decide on a process for replacing Squadron,” said George Arzt, a spokesperson for the Brooklyn Democrats, noting that Seddio was mourning the recent death of his brother.</p> <p>Squadron has acknowledged that the intercounty special election process is inherently flawed, allowing the Democratic county chairs to effectively choose his successor (since a Republican nominee has no chance of winning the seat), and has written a letter to both party bosses, requesting that county committee members, representatives selected from each election district, be included in the process.</p> <p>“To disenfranchise Brooklynites would be unfair and undemocratic. I strongly urge you to make this process as democratic as possible: to allow a full vote of the County Committee across both Manhattan and Brooklyn, and to be bound by its result,” he wrote in the letter, indicating that because more of his district is in Manhattan, that county machine may have been able to dominate the process.</p> <p>Assembly Member Kavanagh, a fellow reformer whose district overlaps with a small part of Squadron's Senate district, quickly <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/08/sd-26-kavanagh-launches-bid-for-squadrons-senate-seat/?mc_cid=2abacb8f6e&amp;mc_eid=7ede0c8078" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">announced</a> his candidacy for the seat. Other names being floated include Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou, who indicated she is exploring a bid, and Lincoln Restler, an aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has led anti-machine reform efforts in Brooklyn.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/8675391217_6a4e836d65_z.jpg" alt="8675391217 6a4e836d65 z" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>State Senator Daniel Squadron (photo: Daniel Squadron/Flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>In early April, during the final throes of state budget negotiations, state Senator Daniel Squadron introduced a hostile amendment on the Senate floor to the Public Protection and General Government state budget bill. The amendment was intended to close the so-called “LLC loophole” in the state’s campaign finance law, which allows limited liability companies, often with hidden owners, to pour virtually unlimited money into political campaigns.</p> <p>It was hardly the first time Squadron and his fellow minority Democrats tried to force the chamber to consider the bill, which, despite broad support from the public, had never been brought to the Senate floor.</p> <p>"Year after year, indictment after indictment, conviction after conviction, the Senate Majority has refused to take action to close an indefensible loophole,” said Squadron on the Senate floor, echoing his remarks from previous sessions. It would also be his last effort as a senator to close the notorious loophole, which factored in the corruption convictions of both state legislative leaders Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos in 2015.</p> <p>On Wednesday, Squadron, who was first elected in 2008, abruptly announced his resignation from the Senate. He signed off with an <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/leaving-n-y-senate-article-1.3394774" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">op-ed in the New York Daily News</a>, describing how he had grown disillusioned by the dysfunction in Albany.</p> <p>“Over the years,” Squadron wrote, he watched the government’s potential “thwarted by a sliver of heavily invested special interests.”</p> <p>“In the state Senate, for example, Democrats have repeatedly been denied control of the chamber by cynical political deals, despite winning an electoral majority — including in 2016,” he added, referring to the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference, which has a power sharing agreement with the Senate GOP, and Senator Simcha Felder, a nominal Democrat who conferences with Republicans to control the chamber.</p> <p>Squadron also decried the “structural barriers” faced by rank-and-file legislators, “including ‘three men in a room’ decisionmaking, loophole-riddled campaign finance rules and a governor-controlled budget process.”</p> <p>Squadron’s white whale, the LLC loophole, was created by the Board of Elections in 1996 and treats limited liability companies like individuals, allowing them to donate $60,800 in a year to political campaigns at the state level. Corporations, in comparison, are only allowed to contribute a maximum of $5,000. Elected officials, both Democrats and Republicans, have benefited from the loophole.</p> <p>In 2015, Squadron joined Democrats Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and the Brennan Center for Justice as co-plaintiffs on <a href="https://www.brennancenter.org/press-release/brennan-center-co-plaintiffs-file-lawsuit-close-nys-llc-loophole" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a lawsuit</a> filed against the state Board of Elections in 2015 to end the loophole. The case, though initially dismissed,<a href="https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/legal-work/Final%20Filed%20MOL%20i-s-o%20Appeal%20--%202016%20Decision%20%2800290265x9CCC2%29.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> was appealed </a>on June 27.&nbsp;</p> <p>Over the last two decades, New York’s lax campaign finance laws have resulted in statewide candidate and party coffers being flooded with millions in LLC dollars. LLCs donated $54.2 million to candidates, parties, and traditional PACs between 2011 and 2014, and more than $118.6 million between 1999 and 2014, according to a 2015 Board of Elections <a href="http://hedgeclippers.org/hedge-clippers-presents-the-llc-files/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">analysis</a> by the Hedge Clippers, an activist organization backed by a coalition of unions and progressive groups that highlights the corrosive effect of big money in politics. A 2013 report by the now defunct Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption identified one group that had “utilized 25 separate LLCs and subsidiary entities to make 147 separate political contributions totaling more than $3.1 million since 2008.”</p> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo, a second-term Democrat, has been possibly the biggest beneficiary of the LLC loophole while at the same time calling for a cap on LLC donations. In the most recent campaign finance filings, Cuomo raised $5.1 million in contributions between January and June, with more than $500,000 from LLCs.</p> <p>Squadron, in addition to pushing for closure of the LLC loophole, defined himself as a voice for other good governance measures, championing the enactment of term limits and restrictions on outside income. His persistent but respectful questioning of his Republican colleagues on the lack of movement on the bills marked each session, to no avail. This year’s hostile amendment, like other attempts that had come before it, failed.</p> <p>“And the status quo has proven extraordinarily durable: It barely shuddered when the leaders of both legislative chambers were convicted of corruption,” Squadron wrote in the Daily News, referring to Silver and Skelos.</p> <p>Alarmed by the nationwide shift towards “Trumpism,” Squadron said in an interview that he was presented in July with the opportunity he couldn’t refuse: to join entrepreneur Adam Pritzker and Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University on a national campaign effort. He said the timing of his resignation was to ensure that his seat, which is safely Democratic, would be filled on November 7, Election Day. It is a city election cycle; state legislative elections are slated for next year, so the process for replacing Squadron is different from a typical election.</p> <p>But despite his frustration with the “cynical dealmaking” he witnessed in Albany, when asked about supporting a constitutional convention, which many reformers say is the only way to move these issues, Squadron was lukewarm.</p> <p>Once every 20 years, New Yorkers have the opportunity through a ballot referendum to vote to call a constitutional convention, including this Election Day. If called, delegates <a href="http://gothamist.com/2017/08/09/squadron_albany_machine_politics.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">will be chosen</a> from each Senate district, and the following year a convention aimed at modernizing and updating New York’s lengthy and arcane constitution will commence. Any changes produced by the convention will return to voters the following year.</p> <p>"I think there is a lot of promise in a constitutional convention, if it’s done in the right way,” Squadron said. “[T]he Con Con and gaining a Democratic majority are two ways to push the fundamental reform."</p> <p>Many have taken note of the abrupt nature of Squadron’s departure, which triggers a special election without a competitive primary -- the Democratic nominee will be chosen by party insiders, not voters.</p> <p>The rebuke was swift and harsh, including from the paper Squadron chose to place his farewell. “Last month we rapped Councilman David Greenfield for leaving office to take a new job after claiming a spot on the reelection ballot — putting sole power to pick a successor in his own hands,” wrote the <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/dan-squadron-voters-article-1.3397978" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New York Daily News editorial board</a>. “State Sen. Daniel Squadron just made a similar move that will arrogantly deprive some 300,000 people in his Brooklyn and Manhattan district of a chance to decide who serves them. And deprive who knows how many would-be public servants of the chance to make their case to the voters.” The move, the board noted, was particularly “rich” considering Squadron had built a reputation as a reformer.</p> <p>Squadron, in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette, defended the timing of his decision noting that even if the opportunity had presented itself earlier, it would have been unfair to leave his constituents without representation for part of the legislative session. Had he resigned following the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7042-mayoral-control-extended-in-special-session-with-usual-albany-process" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">extended session</a> that ended in late June, the move would have allowed Senate hopefuls just a week to collect 1,000 petitions required to get on the ballot -- hardly a more democratic option, he said.</p> <p>Squadron represents the 26th Senate District, which includes neighborhoods along the Brooklyn waterfront, from Greenpoint to Carroll Gardens, and a significant chunk of lower Manhattan, reaching as far as Washington Square Park. According to state election law, when an intercounty special election is called, the party nominee is decided by leaders of both counties, in this case chair of Brooklyn Democrats Frank Seddio and Manhattan Democratic Party boss Keith Wright, according to spokespersons for both organizations. If Democratic leaders decide on a “weighted vote,” then Squadron’s successor will effectively be decided by the Manhattan party, since Brooklyn only accounts for one-third of the district.</p> <p>A spokesperson for the Manhattan Democrats said that the organization's internal policy is to include its own committee members in choosing nominees, and that a convention will likely be called for early September -- a nominee must be selected by September 21. How the outcome of that vote will be reconciled with the wishes of the Brooklyn’s Democratic leadership remains unclear.</p> <p>“Frank [Seddio] and Keith [Wright] have spoken and are going to get together to decide on a process for replacing Squadron,” said George Arzt, a spokesperson for the Brooklyn Democrats, noting that Seddio was mourning the recent death of his brother.</p> <p>Squadron has acknowledged that the intercounty special election process is inherently flawed, allowing the Democratic county chairs to effectively choose his successor (since a Republican nominee has no chance of winning the seat), and has written a letter to both party bosses, requesting that county committee members, representatives selected from each election district, be included in the process.</p> <p>“To disenfranchise Brooklynites would be unfair and undemocratic. I strongly urge you to make this process as democratic as possible: to allow a full vote of the County Committee across both Manhattan and Brooklyn, and to be bound by its result,” he wrote in the letter, indicating that because more of his district is in Manhattan, that county machine may have been able to dominate the process.</p> <p>Assembly Member Kavanagh, a fellow reformer whose district overlaps with a small part of Squadron's Senate district, quickly <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/08/sd-26-kavanagh-launches-bid-for-squadrons-senate-seat/?mc_cid=2abacb8f6e&amp;mc_eid=7ede0c8078" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">announced</a> his candidacy for the seat. Other names being floated include Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou, who indicated she is exploring a bid, and Lincoln Restler, an aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has led anti-machine reform efforts in Brooklyn.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
The Smart Path Forward in Early Childhood Education 2017-06-07T04:00:00+00:00 2017-06-07T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6979:the-smart-path-forward-in-early-childhood-education Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/adams_squadron_crop.jpg.png" alt="adams squadron crop.jpg" width="600" height="390" /></p> <p>the authors: Eric Adams, at podium, &amp; Daniel Squadron, to his right (Erica Sherman/Brooklyn BP's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In April, Mayor de Blasio announced a new initiative aimed at closing the gap in early childhood education, 3-K for All. The rollout, beginning in historically under-resourced communities like Brownsville and the South Bronx, is projected to provide a seat for every three-year-old living in those parts of the city by fall 2018 – some 1,800 kids. This big step on the road to expanding early childhood development programming across the city is a culmination of years of research and advocacy from civic organizations, community leaders, and think tanks.</p> <p>Our city is and always has been a place of immense opportunities for academic enrichment, personal fulfillment, and prosperity. But for too long, and for too many, those possibilities have remained out of reach. Unfortunately, disparities begin early in life – and often even before birth.</p> <p>Research has shown that 90 percent of physical brain development occurs in the first three years of life, and cognitive studies demonstrate the lasting impact of sustained investment in infants’ emotional, mental, and social development. There is also strong evidence that children in home visiting and early childhood programs have decreased criminal justice system involvement, teenage pregnancy rates, special education needs, and social safety net service utilization; with increased high school success and college attendance, as well as maternal employment rates and income. Not only can early childhood investments lead to decreased public expenditure on social services -- they can actually result in increased tax revenues later in life too.</p> <p>In 2015, we jointly launched the Early Childhood Development Task Force. The Task Force comprised a broad coalition of advocates, community stakeholders, and local hospitals, with an aim to promote the healthy growth of Brooklyn’s youngest, along with their families, as well as help expand existing evidence-based development programs. Partners such as Healthy Families New York (HFNY), Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), Parents-as-Teachers (PAT), and the Parent-Child Home Program (PCHP) shared crucial information, including difficulties in sharing service information and increasing utilization, especially in many target neighborhoods.</p> <p>Our findings, <a href="http://www.brooklyn-usa.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/EarlyChildhoodDev16_web.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">released in February of this year</a>, demonstrate the impact of early life interventions on school readiness, emotional and social development, family health, economic growth, and public safety. The evidence is clear: engaging mothers before they give birth through the most formative years results in positive impacts on children’s lives. But to realize the litany of benefits, increased investment and information sharing is critical.</p> <p>It is crucial that all parents receive information on the availability of resources in their own communities. A multilingual campaign to empower communities with increased information, including resource guides of early childhood services available for parents and guardians and online maps and tools to provide data on nursery and pre-K seat availability in communities where there are an abundance of seats but low participation rates would all be important steps.</p> <p>In addition, targeted workshops for community leaders including local clergy can help engage and inform hard-to-reach communities about resources available to parents. And, the truth is, this is one area where increased investment should be an easy sell -- since it will more than pay for itself, in lives improved and dollars saved.</p> <p>3-K for All moves us in the right direction, but we must be even more ambitious about delivering comprehensive early childhood development. We must offer universal services to eligible families before a child is born -- and then continue them from birth to 3-K and onward. This is how we will make the biggest difference for families, not just in their first years of school, but all the way to college, career and beyond.</p> <p>***<br />Eric Adams currently serves as Brooklyn’s Borough President. Daniel Squadron currently serves as State Senator for the 26th District covering the Brooklyn Waterfront and Lower Manhattan. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/BPEricAdams" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@BPEricAdams</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/DanielSquadron" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@DanielSquadron</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/adams_squadron_crop.jpg.png" alt="adams squadron crop.jpg" width="600" height="390" /></p> <p>the authors: Eric Adams, at podium, &amp; Daniel Squadron, to his right (Erica Sherman/Brooklyn BP's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In April, Mayor de Blasio announced a new initiative aimed at closing the gap in early childhood education, 3-K for All. The rollout, beginning in historically under-resourced communities like Brownsville and the South Bronx, is projected to provide a seat for every three-year-old living in those parts of the city by fall 2018 – some 1,800 kids. This big step on the road to expanding early childhood development programming across the city is a culmination of years of research and advocacy from civic organizations, community leaders, and think tanks.</p> <p>Our city is and always has been a place of immense opportunities for academic enrichment, personal fulfillment, and prosperity. But for too long, and for too many, those possibilities have remained out of reach. Unfortunately, disparities begin early in life – and often even before birth.</p> <p>Research has shown that 90 percent of physical brain development occurs in the first three years of life, and cognitive studies demonstrate the lasting impact of sustained investment in infants’ emotional, mental, and social development. There is also strong evidence that children in home visiting and early childhood programs have decreased criminal justice system involvement, teenage pregnancy rates, special education needs, and social safety net service utilization; with increased high school success and college attendance, as well as maternal employment rates and income. Not only can early childhood investments lead to decreased public expenditure on social services -- they can actually result in increased tax revenues later in life too.</p> <p>In 2015, we jointly launched the Early Childhood Development Task Force. The Task Force comprised a broad coalition of advocates, community stakeholders, and local hospitals, with an aim to promote the healthy growth of Brooklyn’s youngest, along with their families, as well as help expand existing evidence-based development programs. Partners such as Healthy Families New York (HFNY), Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), Parents-as-Teachers (PAT), and the Parent-Child Home Program (PCHP) shared crucial information, including difficulties in sharing service information and increasing utilization, especially in many target neighborhoods.</p> <p>Our findings, <a href="http://www.brooklyn-usa.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/EarlyChildhoodDev16_web.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">released in February of this year</a>, demonstrate the impact of early life interventions on school readiness, emotional and social development, family health, economic growth, and public safety. The evidence is clear: engaging mothers before they give birth through the most formative years results in positive impacts on children’s lives. But to realize the litany of benefits, increased investment and information sharing is critical.</p> <p>It is crucial that all parents receive information on the availability of resources in their own communities. A multilingual campaign to empower communities with increased information, including resource guides of early childhood services available for parents and guardians and online maps and tools to provide data on nursery and pre-K seat availability in communities where there are an abundance of seats but low participation rates would all be important steps.</p> <p>In addition, targeted workshops for community leaders including local clergy can help engage and inform hard-to-reach communities about resources available to parents. And, the truth is, this is one area where increased investment should be an easy sell -- since it will more than pay for itself, in lives improved and dollars saved.</p> <p>3-K for All moves us in the right direction, but we must be even more ambitious about delivering comprehensive early childhood development. We must offer universal services to eligible families before a child is born -- and then continue them from birth to 3-K and onward. This is how we will make the biggest difference for families, not just in their first years of school, but all the way to college, career and beyond.</p> <p>***<br />Eric Adams currently serves as Brooklyn’s Borough President. Daniel Squadron currently serves as State Senator for the 26th District covering the Brooklyn Waterfront and Lower Manhattan. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/BPEricAdams" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@BPEricAdams</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/DanielSquadron" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@DanielSquadron</a>.</p> <p>

***
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</p>
One-House Budgets Show Little Indication Ethics, Voting & Campaign Finance Reforms Will Advance in Albany 2017-03-15T04:00:00+00:00 2017-03-15T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6811:one-house-budgets-show-little-indication-ethics-voting-campaign-finance-reforms-will-advance-in-albany Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/19093862735_58ab30eb75_z.jpg" alt="heastie cuomo flanagan" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Heastie, Cuomo, Flanagan (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In one-house budgets passed this week, the state Legislature showed little evidence that new government ethics, voting, and campaign finance reform measures will be passed in Albany any time soon. This, despite persistent issues with public corruption, antiquated election laws, and the ongoing ability for wealthy interests to donate virtually unlimited sums to politicians.</p> <p>Through his January State of the State tour, 2017 policy book, and executive budget, Governor Andrew Cuomo laid out his proposals for such measures -- <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6711-acknowledging-pervasive-corruption-cuomo-releases-10-point-government-ethics-agenda" target="_blank">an ambitious reform agenda</a>, but one that the governor has done little to promote publicly since January.</p> <p>On Wednesday, the Democrat-led Assembly aligned itself with Cuomo, a second-term Democrat, on measures like voting and campaign finance reform, while separating on other items related to transparency and budget control. The Republican majority in the Senate, on the other hand, rejected virtually all of Cuomo’s “good government and ethics” proposals.</p> <p>The one-house budgets are statements of priority from the majorities of the two legislative houses, and set the stage for the final weeks of negotiation before a new state budget is agreed upon before the April 1 start to the new fiscal year. Government ethics, voting, and campaign finance reform do not appear to be particularly high on the list of priorities for Cuomo, the Assembly majority, the Senate majority, or the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (a group of eight breakaway Democrats that has a coalition agreement with Senate Republicans but nevertheless put forward its own conference budget resolution on Wednesday).</p> <p>Both the Senate and Assembly majorities pushed back on Cuomo’s move to secure more control of the budget, specifically a provision Cuomo had outlined that would allow the governor to slash funding mid-year in the event of federal cuts without consulting the Legislature. The legislative majorities also both rejected Cuomo’s call for the creation of new inspectors general appointed by the governor’s office to oversee the Port Authority and the State Education Department. They also indicated that they oppose proposals that expand the powers of the state Inspector General and extend the state’s freedom of information law (FOIL) to the Legislature.</p> <p>However, a major difference between the two chambers is the status of the infamous “LLC loophole,” which permits politicians to benefit from virtually unlimited corporate campaign contributions -- its closure, good government groups say, is essential to stemming pay-to-play politics and corruption.</p> <p><a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/a1926/amendment/original" target="_blank">An Assembly bill</a> to close the loophole, sponsored by Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, has passed multiple times with bipartisan support, and Cuomo has indicated he would sign the legislation if passed by both houses. Yet, the Senate has not brought such legislation to the floor for a vote, despite a companion bill existing for years.</p> <p>Both Cuomo’s executive budget proposal and <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/Reports/WAM/20170313/" target="_blank">the Assembly’s one-house</a> resolution recommend that LLCs be subject to the same campaign contribution limitations as other corporations and require that the owners of each limited liability company be disclosed, but the Senate GOP’s resolution makes no mention of the legislation. It vaguely indicates that the Senate will “consider modifications” to the governor’s ethics and good governance proposals. “Any ethics reform requires balanced and measured actions to ensure New Yorkers are best served by their public officials,” the Senate document states.</p> <p>Senator Daniel Squadron, who sponsors <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/s496" target="_blank">the Senate bill</a> to close the LLC Loophole, criticized the Senate Majority's removal of a measure from the budget resolution in a statement referencing the recent firing of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who has famously crusaded against corrupt Albany lawmakers, including the former leaders of both legislative houses. "The vacancy in the Southern District of New York is a reminder that the Senate Majority must no longer be vacant on real ethics reform,” Squadron, a New York City Democrat, said in a statement. "There's a clear step to help get big money out of New York politics: closing the LLC Loophole. Taking that step will begin to reduce corruption and restore faith in government.”</p> <p>On the Senate floor Wednesday, Squadron asked Senator Catharine Young, a Republican from Chautauqua and Allegany Counties who chairs the Senate finance committee, for confirmation that the Senate Majority will not block closure of the LLC loophole in the final budget.</p> <p>“Under the Article XII bill that we introduced, we did not make any modification to the governor’s proposal, however in the resolution we say we are open to making modifications to the governor’s proposal,” responded Young.</p> <p>Cuomo's wide-ranging, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6711-acknowledging-pervasive-corruption-cuomo-releases-10-point-government-ethics-agenda" target="_blank">10-point ethics reform agenda</a> advocates for a public campaign financing system, early voting, and several additional measures that reform-minded advocates and legislators have been calling for, as well as others of his own.</p> <p>One of the governor’s proposals would require lawmakers consult the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee regarding any outside income, but stops short of banning such income. Cuomo also wants to significantly cap the outside income legislators can make. Legislators addressed the proposal in February, when the Senate and Assembly passed a joint resolution requiring any legislator earning more than $5,000 in outside income to seek an advisory opinion from the Legislative Ethics Commission as to whether the employment is consistent with the Public Officers Law.</p> <p>In their budget resolutions, the Assembly and Senate both call for increased disclosure and transparency requirements for the members of Cuomo’s 10 Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs), which have been accused by lawmakers of self-dealing. The Legislature want to require council members to file annual financial disclosure statements, adhere to the Code of Ethics and FOIL requirements in the Public Officers Law, and abide by the open meetings law.</p> <p>Cuomo and his allies have pushed back on the idea of these disclosure requirements, saying that the regulations would make it difficult to recruit new members, who are volunteers and typically successful businesspeople.</p> <p>“Now several members want to derail the REDCs by requiring their members to disclose personal financial information to a degree that is inappropriate for a private citizen volunteer,’’ Virginia Horvath and Jeff Belt, co-chairs of the governor's Western New York regional economic development council, wrote in a Feb. 27 letter to Western New York legislators, <a href="http://buffalonews.com/2017/03/01/cuomo-economic-development-appointees-blast-lawmakers/" target="_blank">according to the Buffalo News</a>.</p> <p>Meanwhile, in campaign finance reform, the Assembly is proposing new legislation to “prohibit housekeeping monies from being transferred or contributed out of the account to another segregated housekeeping account” or to be used “for political communications referencing a candidate.” An Assembly spokesperson confirmed to Gotham Gazette that this proposal is in response to tactics used by both Senate Republicans and the Independent Democratic Conference during recent election cycles.</p> <p>While both Cuomo and Assembly Democrats favor creating a system of public campaign financing, perhaps similar to New York City’s, the Assembly did not specifically include that in its one-house and Senate Republicans in their one-house budget resolution again expressed opposition to taxpayer-funded campaigns. Senate Republicans also stated that they do not believe a full-time professional Legislature best represents the state -- meaning they do not want to see strict limits placed on legislators’ outside income.</p> <p><a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/resolutions/2017/r1050" target="_blank">The Senate majority also stated</a> its objection to Cuomo’s proposal that the Legislature and the Legislative Ethics Commission become subject to the same freedom of information law provisions to which executive agencies are subject.</p> <p>“The legislative process is inherently open to the public for input, scrutiny and review. In contrast, the public is made aware of many Executive agency activities only after they occur. As such, for purposes of freedom of information law, these branches are treated differently,” the Senate’s one-house resolution states.</p> <p>The resolution notes that confidentiality is necessary with respect to the legislative ethics commission in order to encourage individuals to seek ethics guidance.</p> <p>As for voting reform, the Assembly voted to agree with Cuomo’s calls for automatic registration and early voting, but recommends a period of early voting commencing eight days before an election rather than the 12-day window proposed by the governor. Like the rest of Cuomo’s reform proposals, the Senate did not give indication of support to voting reforms.</p> <p>As usual, there was little drama in the Assembly, where Democrats hold a wide majority margin. But, in the Senate proceedings grew contentious Wednesday when mainline Democrats were forced, with little notice, to vote on two one-house resolutions, one for the Senate Majority and one for the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC). This, while Senate Democrats were blocked from submitting their own resolution for a vote. In a headed session on the Senate floor, Democratic conference members, led by Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, objected to the unprecedented change in procedure, and expressed dismay that most of their policies were not represented in either the majority or IDC budget proposal.</p> <p>Senator Michael Gianaris, deputy leader of the mainline Democrats, asked for his conference to have a chance to put forth its own resolution, a request that was denied by a chamber vote.</p> <p><a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/resolutions/2017/r1051" target="_blank">The IDC’s resolution</a>, written in broader strokes than the Republican majority’s, suggests that its members are on board with all of the governor’s proposed ethics reforms, including closure of the LLC loophole. While the IDC has some influence with Senate Republicans given that the breakaway conference helps bolster the GOP’s razor thin majority, it is unlikely that influence will extend to significant ethics, voting, or campaign finance reform this year.</p> <p>“The Governor has included comprehensive ethics reform in his Executive Budget proposal just as he has every other year," said Cuomo spokesperson Abbey Fashouer. "We strongly urge the Legislature to join us in this effort and pass these proposals this year.”</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/19093862735_58ab30eb75_z.jpg" alt="heastie cuomo flanagan" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Heastie, Cuomo, Flanagan (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In one-house budgets passed this week, the state Legislature showed little evidence that new government ethics, voting, and campaign finance reform measures will be passed in Albany any time soon. This, despite persistent issues with public corruption, antiquated election laws, and the ongoing ability for wealthy interests to donate virtually unlimited sums to politicians.</p> <p>Through his January State of the State tour, 2017 policy book, and executive budget, Governor Andrew Cuomo laid out his proposals for such measures -- <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6711-acknowledging-pervasive-corruption-cuomo-releases-10-point-government-ethics-agenda" target="_blank">an ambitious reform agenda</a>, but one that the governor has done little to promote publicly since January.</p> <p>On Wednesday, the Democrat-led Assembly aligned itself with Cuomo, a second-term Democrat, on measures like voting and campaign finance reform, while separating on other items related to transparency and budget control. The Republican majority in the Senate, on the other hand, rejected virtually all of Cuomo’s “good government and ethics” proposals.</p> <p>The one-house budgets are statements of priority from the majorities of the two legislative houses, and set the stage for the final weeks of negotiation before a new state budget is agreed upon before the April 1 start to the new fiscal year. Government ethics, voting, and campaign finance reform do not appear to be particularly high on the list of priorities for Cuomo, the Assembly majority, the Senate majority, or the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (a group of eight breakaway Democrats that has a coalition agreement with Senate Republicans but nevertheless put forward its own conference budget resolution on Wednesday).</p> <p>Both the Senate and Assembly majorities pushed back on Cuomo’s move to secure more control of the budget, specifically a provision Cuomo had outlined that would allow the governor to slash funding mid-year in the event of federal cuts without consulting the Legislature. The legislative majorities also both rejected Cuomo’s call for the creation of new inspectors general appointed by the governor’s office to oversee the Port Authority and the State Education Department. They also indicated that they oppose proposals that expand the powers of the state Inspector General and extend the state’s freedom of information law (FOIL) to the Legislature.</p> <p>However, a major difference between the two chambers is the status of the infamous “LLC loophole,” which permits politicians to benefit from virtually unlimited corporate campaign contributions -- its closure, good government groups say, is essential to stemming pay-to-play politics and corruption.</p> <p><a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/a1926/amendment/original" target="_blank">An Assembly bill</a> to close the loophole, sponsored by Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, has passed multiple times with bipartisan support, and Cuomo has indicated he would sign the legislation if passed by both houses. Yet, the Senate has not brought such legislation to the floor for a vote, despite a companion bill existing for years.</p> <p>Both Cuomo’s executive budget proposal and <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/Reports/WAM/20170313/" target="_blank">the Assembly’s one-house</a> resolution recommend that LLCs be subject to the same campaign contribution limitations as other corporations and require that the owners of each limited liability company be disclosed, but the Senate GOP’s resolution makes no mention of the legislation. It vaguely indicates that the Senate will “consider modifications” to the governor’s ethics and good governance proposals. “Any ethics reform requires balanced and measured actions to ensure New Yorkers are best served by their public officials,” the Senate document states.</p> <p>Senator Daniel Squadron, who sponsors <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/s496" target="_blank">the Senate bill</a> to close the LLC Loophole, criticized the Senate Majority's removal of a measure from the budget resolution in a statement referencing the recent firing of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who has famously crusaded against corrupt Albany lawmakers, including the former leaders of both legislative houses. "The vacancy in the Southern District of New York is a reminder that the Senate Majority must no longer be vacant on real ethics reform,” Squadron, a New York City Democrat, said in a statement. "There's a clear step to help get big money out of New York politics: closing the LLC Loophole. Taking that step will begin to reduce corruption and restore faith in government.”</p> <p>On the Senate floor Wednesday, Squadron asked Senator Catharine Young, a Republican from Chautauqua and Allegany Counties who chairs the Senate finance committee, for confirmation that the Senate Majority will not block closure of the LLC loophole in the final budget.</p> <p>“Under the Article XII bill that we introduced, we did not make any modification to the governor’s proposal, however in the resolution we say we are open to making modifications to the governor’s proposal,” responded Young.</p> <p>Cuomo's wide-ranging, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6711-acknowledging-pervasive-corruption-cuomo-releases-10-point-government-ethics-agenda" target="_blank">10-point ethics reform agenda</a> advocates for a public campaign financing system, early voting, and several additional measures that reform-minded advocates and legislators have been calling for, as well as others of his own.</p> <p>One of the governor’s proposals would require lawmakers consult the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee regarding any outside income, but stops short of banning such income. Cuomo also wants to significantly cap the outside income legislators can make. Legislators addressed the proposal in February, when the Senate and Assembly passed a joint resolution requiring any legislator earning more than $5,000 in outside income to seek an advisory opinion from the Legislative Ethics Commission as to whether the employment is consistent with the Public Officers Law.</p> <p>In their budget resolutions, the Assembly and Senate both call for increased disclosure and transparency requirements for the members of Cuomo’s 10 Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs), which have been accused by lawmakers of self-dealing. The Legislature want to require council members to file annual financial disclosure statements, adhere to the Code of Ethics and FOIL requirements in the Public Officers Law, and abide by the open meetings law.</p> <p>Cuomo and his allies have pushed back on the idea of these disclosure requirements, saying that the regulations would make it difficult to recruit new members, who are volunteers and typically successful businesspeople.</p> <p>“Now several members want to derail the REDCs by requiring their members to disclose personal financial information to a degree that is inappropriate for a private citizen volunteer,’’ Virginia Horvath and Jeff Belt, co-chairs of the governor's Western New York regional economic development council, wrote in a Feb. 27 letter to Western New York legislators, <a href="http://buffalonews.com/2017/03/01/cuomo-economic-development-appointees-blast-lawmakers/" target="_blank">according to the Buffalo News</a>.</p> <p>Meanwhile, in campaign finance reform, the Assembly is proposing new legislation to “prohibit housekeeping monies from being transferred or contributed out of the account to another segregated housekeeping account” or to be used “for political communications referencing a candidate.” An Assembly spokesperson confirmed to Gotham Gazette that this proposal is in response to tactics used by both Senate Republicans and the Independent Democratic Conference during recent election cycles.</p> <p>While both Cuomo and Assembly Democrats favor creating a system of public campaign financing, perhaps similar to New York City’s, the Assembly did not specifically include that in its one-house and Senate Republicans in their one-house budget resolution again expressed opposition to taxpayer-funded campaigns. Senate Republicans also stated that they do not believe a full-time professional Legislature best represents the state -- meaning they do not want to see strict limits placed on legislators’ outside income.</p> <p><a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/resolutions/2017/r1050" target="_blank">The Senate majority also stated</a> its objection to Cuomo’s proposal that the Legislature and the Legislative Ethics Commission become subject to the same freedom of information law provisions to which executive agencies are subject.</p> <p>“The legislative process is inherently open to the public for input, scrutiny and review. In contrast, the public is made aware of many Executive agency activities only after they occur. As such, for purposes of freedom of information law, these branches are treated differently,” the Senate’s one-house resolution states.</p> <p>The resolution notes that confidentiality is necessary with respect to the legislative ethics commission in order to encourage individuals to seek ethics guidance.</p> <p>As for voting reform, the Assembly voted to agree with Cuomo’s calls for automatic registration and early voting, but recommends a period of early voting commencing eight days before an election rather than the 12-day window proposed by the governor. Like the rest of Cuomo’s reform proposals, the Senate did not give indication of support to voting reforms.</p> <p>As usual, there was little drama in the Assembly, where Democrats hold a wide majority margin. But, in the Senate proceedings grew contentious Wednesday when mainline Democrats were forced, with little notice, to vote on two one-house resolutions, one for the Senate Majority and one for the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC). This, while Senate Democrats were blocked from submitting their own resolution for a vote. In a headed session on the Senate floor, Democratic conference members, led by Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, objected to the unprecedented change in procedure, and expressed dismay that most of their policies were not represented in either the majority or IDC budget proposal.</p> <p>Senator Michael Gianaris, deputy leader of the mainline Democrats, asked for his conference to have a chance to put forth its own resolution, a request that was denied by a chamber vote.</p> <p><a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/resolutions/2017/r1051" target="_blank">The IDC’s resolution</a>, written in broader strokes than the Republican majority’s, suggests that its members are on board with all of the governor’s proposed ethics reforms, including closure of the LLC loophole. While the IDC has some influence with Senate Republicans given that the breakaway conference helps bolster the GOP’s razor thin majority, it is unlikely that influence will extend to significant ethics, voting, or campaign finance reform this year.</p> <p>“The Governor has included comprehensive ethics reform in his Executive Budget proposal just as he has every other year," said Cuomo spokesperson Abbey Fashouer. "We strongly urge the Legislature to join us in this effort and pass these proposals this year.”</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
New York Becomes 17th State to Call for Constitutional Overturn of Citizens United 2016-06-16T04:00:00+00:00 2016-06-16T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6400:new-york-becomes-17th-state-to-call-for-constitutional-overturn-of-citizens-united Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/squadron_et_al_demand_democracy.jpg" width="600" height="450" alt="squadron et al demand democracy" /></p> <p>Sen. Squadron and "Demand Democracy" ralliers (photo: @DanielSquadron)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Amid increasing calls for New York to pass bold government ethics reform and minimize the role of money in elections, a bipartisan majority of state lawmakers has taken a symbolic but somewhat significant step in calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution overturning the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the Citizens United case.</p> <p dir="ltr">In <em>Citizens United&nbsp;v. Federal Election Commission</em>, the Supreme Court ruled&nbsp;that corporations and unions can be considered individuals as far as their political contributions are concerned and that restricting their ability to donate to candidates amounted to a violation of their First Amendment right of free speech. That decision opened the floodgates to unlimited amounts of money in elections, including through outside groups supportive of candidates that must not coordinate with official campaigns but can raise and spend unlimited sums. Nearly 80 percent of Americans <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-09-28/bloomberg-poll-americans-want-supreme-court-to-turn-off-political-spending-spigot" target="_blank">agree that</a> the decision needs to be overturned. As of Wednesday, so do 76 New York State Assembly members (of 150 seats) and 32 State Senators (of 63 seats), a bare majority in each house.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lawmakers and advocates announced at a news conference at the Capitol Building in Albany on Wednesday that a majority of members had signed letters to Congress calling for an amendment. The declaration came barely a week after Governor Andrew Cuomo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6384-cuomo-launches-end-of-session-addition-to-stagnant-ethics-agenda" target="_blank">proposed legislation</a> to blunt the effects of Citizens United. In his announcement, the governor called the decision of the Supreme Court’s worst and said, “This decision ignited the equivalent of a campaign nuclear arms race and created a shadow industry in New York — maligning the integrity of the electoral process and drowning out the voice of the people. Citizens United must be reversed.” This week, he said one of his six priorities for the remaining legislative session is moving forward with his legislation to combat Citizens United that further restricts coordination between candidates and supportive “independent” committees, known as Super PACs.</p> <p dir="ltr">New York is the first state with a Republican-controlled chamber to call for an amendment, though only two Republicans supported it. (The last vote that gave the Senate effort a majority came from Democratic Sen. Todd Kaminsky, who was recently elected to the chamber, replacing Republican Dean Skelos, who was removed from office upon a felony corruption conviction.) New York now joins the ranks of 16 other states which have done so through resolutions and ballot initiatives. More than 700 municipalities across the country have also passed resolutions, including 21 in New York.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Wednesday, Assemblymember James Brennan, who led the effort in his chamber, said in a statement, “When we think about the intent behind campaign finance laws, they are supposed to protect our democracy from corruption while preserving the integrity of our elections. Citizens United has done the opposite. By allowing corporations the same rights as individuals, campaigns across the country are being fueled by obscene amounts of money. This has to stop. I call on Congress to do the right thing and pass a constitutional amendment to right this wrong.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In the Senate, there were four letters with largely the same language. Twenty-four Democrats signed one letter. The five-member Independent Democratic Conference signed the same letter, albeit separately. Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins signed one independently. The Republicans, Sen. Phil Boyle and Sen. Kemp Hannon, signed their own version with slightly different language.</p> <p dir="ltr">“There is motion now in Republican-controlled legislatures to support an amendment,” said Jonah Minkoff-Zern, co-director of the Democracy Is For People campaign at Public Citizen, a nonprofit group that led a coalition of advocates calling on state lawmakers to support an amendment. “The state legislature also needs to follow through and pass state reform,” he added.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lawmakers more than agree. “It’s great news that a bipartisan majority of State Senators and Assemblymembers support closing the corporate contribution floodgate Citizens United opened,” said Senator Daniel Squadron, in an emailed statement. Squadron led his colleagues in the Democrats’ letter. “It's critical that legislation also move forward to show New York’s strong support for the voice of everyday Americans in the political process.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Squadron has been one of the leading proponents for closing New York’s infamous “LLC loophole,” which ostensibly allows wealthy individuals and corporations to give unlimited funds to political candidate campaigns through a variety of limited liability companies. Cuomo, a Democrat, has called for closing the loophole and Assembly Democrats have passed such a measure - but the Republican-controlled Senate has balked, defeating the efforts of Squadron and his allies. Good government groups have been calling for closure of the LLC loophole for years, along with a slew of other government ethics and campaign finance reforms in New York, most of which have gone nowhere.</p> <p dir="ltr">Sen. Boyle, a Long Island Republican, echoed the call for reform in the final legislative package of the year, insisting that his Republican colleagues were equally concerned about the influence of big money on elections both at the state and national level. He said it was important that the same restrictions on campaign contributions apply to corporations, unions, and individuals, hitting one of the key sticking points for Republicans: that unions are treated similarly to corporations. Boyle recognizes that signing a letter to Congress is a symbolic move, but one that can have a strong impact. “I think it’s going to energize the debate and hopefully draw the attentions of our federal legislators,” he said in a phone interview. “As much pressure on Washington D.C. as we can exert, the better.”</p> <p>Sen. Stewart-Cousins was also encouraged by two Republicans signing on to the petition and called for additional action on legislative reform. “Addressing the negative impact that the Citizens United decision has had on our democracy is important,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement to Gotham Gazette, “but also we must take action to fix our own glaring campaign finance and ethics issues in New York State such as closing the LLC Loophole which also allows special interests to contribute endless amounts of money. The people of New York deserve an electoral system and government that they can trust.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/squadron_et_al_demand_democracy.jpg" width="600" height="450" alt="squadron et al demand democracy" /></p> <p>Sen. Squadron and "Demand Democracy" ralliers (photo: @DanielSquadron)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Amid increasing calls for New York to pass bold government ethics reform and minimize the role of money in elections, a bipartisan majority of state lawmakers has taken a symbolic but somewhat significant step in calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution overturning the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the Citizens United case.</p> <p dir="ltr">In <em>Citizens United&nbsp;v. Federal Election Commission</em>, the Supreme Court ruled&nbsp;that corporations and unions can be considered individuals as far as their political contributions are concerned and that restricting their ability to donate to candidates amounted to a violation of their First Amendment right of free speech. That decision opened the floodgates to unlimited amounts of money in elections, including through outside groups supportive of candidates that must not coordinate with official campaigns but can raise and spend unlimited sums. Nearly 80 percent of Americans <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-09-28/bloomberg-poll-americans-want-supreme-court-to-turn-off-political-spending-spigot" target="_blank">agree that</a> the decision needs to be overturned. As of Wednesday, so do 76 New York State Assembly members (of 150 seats) and 32 State Senators (of 63 seats), a bare majority in each house.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lawmakers and advocates announced at a news conference at the Capitol Building in Albany on Wednesday that a majority of members had signed letters to Congress calling for an amendment. The declaration came barely a week after Governor Andrew Cuomo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6384-cuomo-launches-end-of-session-addition-to-stagnant-ethics-agenda" target="_blank">proposed legislation</a> to blunt the effects of Citizens United. In his announcement, the governor called the decision of the Supreme Court’s worst and said, “This decision ignited the equivalent of a campaign nuclear arms race and created a shadow industry in New York — maligning the integrity of the electoral process and drowning out the voice of the people. Citizens United must be reversed.” This week, he said one of his six priorities for the remaining legislative session is moving forward with his legislation to combat Citizens United that further restricts coordination between candidates and supportive “independent” committees, known as Super PACs.</p> <p dir="ltr">New York is the first state with a Republican-controlled chamber to call for an amendment, though only two Republicans supported it. (The last vote that gave the Senate effort a majority came from Democratic Sen. Todd Kaminsky, who was recently elected to the chamber, replacing Republican Dean Skelos, who was removed from office upon a felony corruption conviction.) New York now joins the ranks of 16 other states which have done so through resolutions and ballot initiatives. More than 700 municipalities across the country have also passed resolutions, including 21 in New York.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Wednesday, Assemblymember James Brennan, who led the effort in his chamber, said in a statement, “When we think about the intent behind campaign finance laws, they are supposed to protect our democracy from corruption while preserving the integrity of our elections. Citizens United has done the opposite. By allowing corporations the same rights as individuals, campaigns across the country are being fueled by obscene amounts of money. This has to stop. I call on Congress to do the right thing and pass a constitutional amendment to right this wrong.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In the Senate, there were four letters with largely the same language. Twenty-four Democrats signed one letter. The five-member Independent Democratic Conference signed the same letter, albeit separately. Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins signed one independently. The Republicans, Sen. Phil Boyle and Sen. Kemp Hannon, signed their own version with slightly different language.</p> <p dir="ltr">“There is motion now in Republican-controlled legislatures to support an amendment,” said Jonah Minkoff-Zern, co-director of the Democracy Is For People campaign at Public Citizen, a nonprofit group that led a coalition of advocates calling on state lawmakers to support an amendment. “The state legislature also needs to follow through and pass state reform,” he added.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lawmakers more than agree. “It’s great news that a bipartisan majority of State Senators and Assemblymembers support closing the corporate contribution floodgate Citizens United opened,” said Senator Daniel Squadron, in an emailed statement. Squadron led his colleagues in the Democrats’ letter. “It's critical that legislation also move forward to show New York’s strong support for the voice of everyday Americans in the political process.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Squadron has been one of the leading proponents for closing New York’s infamous “LLC loophole,” which ostensibly allows wealthy individuals and corporations to give unlimited funds to political candidate campaigns through a variety of limited liability companies. Cuomo, a Democrat, has called for closing the loophole and Assembly Democrats have passed such a measure - but the Republican-controlled Senate has balked, defeating the efforts of Squadron and his allies. Good government groups have been calling for closure of the LLC loophole for years, along with a slew of other government ethics and campaign finance reforms in New York, most of which have gone nowhere.</p> <p dir="ltr">Sen. Boyle, a Long Island Republican, echoed the call for reform in the final legislative package of the year, insisting that his Republican colleagues were equally concerned about the influence of big money on elections both at the state and national level. He said it was important that the same restrictions on campaign contributions apply to corporations, unions, and individuals, hitting one of the key sticking points for Republicans: that unions are treated similarly to corporations. Boyle recognizes that signing a letter to Congress is a symbolic move, but one that can have a strong impact. “I think it’s going to energize the debate and hopefully draw the attentions of our federal legislators,” he said in a phone interview. “As much pressure on Washington D.C. as we can exert, the better.”</p> <p>Sen. Stewart-Cousins was also encouraged by two Republicans signing on to the petition and called for additional action on legislative reform. “Addressing the negative impact that the Citizens United decision has had on our democracy is important,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement to Gotham Gazette, “but also we must take action to fix our own glaring campaign finance and ethics issues in New York State such as closing the LLC Loophole which also allows special interests to contribute endless amounts of money. The people of New York deserve an electoral system and government that they can trust.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
New York One Signature Away from Calling for Overturn of Citizens United 2016-01-11T18:11:32+00:00 2016-01-11T18:11:32+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6080:new-york-one-signature-away-from-calling-for-overturn-of-citizens-united kfan <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/nys.jpg" alt="nys" height="298" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">(photo: nysenate.gov)</p> <hr /> <p>In a landmark year for corruption in the state legislature, 2015 saw the arrest and conviction of two of the most powerful political leaders in New York. A crescendo of voices across the state -- from good government watchdogs to lawmakers -- expressed outrage and demanded stronger ethics laws and campaign finance reforms. In one sense, Albany now has the opportunity to put its money where its mouth is -- and all it needs is one signature. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">New York is one signatory away from becoming the 17th state in the country to call for a constitutional amendment to negate the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the Citizens United case, which gave entities such as corporations and unions the same rights as individuals in contributing to electoral campaigns.</p> <p dir="ltr">A successful bipartisan appeal for a federal constitutional amendment in the State Assembly has yet to be replicated by the State Senate, where 31 senators -- one short of a majority -- support overturning Citizens United to minimize the role of money in politics. While agreement by a majority of each house from New York would only be advisory, like the other states that have reached consensus, a groundswell for negating Citizens United could influence Congress.</p> <p dir="ltr">"As we've seen again and again, Citizens United has opened the floodgate to unchecked and often opaque corporate political contributions, muscling real people out of the political process,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron, a Brooklyn Democrat, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. Squadron is leading the effort among the Senate Democratic Conference and has 23 co-signers on <a href="http://www.ny4democracy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/NY-Senate-Citizens-United-Constitutional-Amendment-Letter-to-Congress.pdf" target="_blank">a letter</a> addressed to the United States Congress which calls for the constitutional amendment.</p> <p dir="ltr">(Squadron also said that the state legislature should support his Corporate Political Activity Accountability to Shareholders Act, which would increase transparency and accountability.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Senators Ruben Diaz Sr. and Simcha Felder are the only Democrats who have not joined their colleagues on the letter. The five members of the Independent Democratic Conference together signed an identical version of Squadron’s letter while Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins independently wrote to members of Congress. (Felder is elected as a Democrat but caucuses with Republicans in the Senate, and Diaz Sr. is often difficult to pin down ideologically.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Sen. Stewart-Cousins, in her missive, said that the independent contributions made possible by Citizens United “represent a deliberate effort to unfairly influence the electorate and empower a small group of individuals and corporations. Elected officials are becoming more beholden to the interests facilitating these outside funds while the public’s trust in our democracy erodes.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Stewart-Cousins is adamant about reforming the state’s campaign finance system and believes that Senate Democrats have led the fight on many fronts. She lays blame with the members on the other side of the aisle. “We need to restore the public’s trust in state government and that will only happen when the Senate Republicans agree to listen to the voters and take meaningful steps to clean up Albany,” she said in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the Democrats who support overturning Citizens United total 29 votes, only 2 Republican state senators have supported the effort -- Senators Phil Boyle and Kemp Hannon, albeit in language different from the Democrats’ letters (it, for example, <a href="http://www.citizen.org/documents/citizens-united-senator-boyle-sign-on-letter.pdf" target="_blank">decries</a> the massive potential outside spending to support Hillary Clinton's presidential bid). Sen. Boyle, who circulated his letter among his colleagues, refused to comment for this article.</p> <p dir="ltr">Reluctance of New York Republicans to join the effort comes as a growing number of voters, including Republicans, oppose Citizens United. In a <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-09-28/bloomberg-poll-americans-want-supreme-court-to-turn-off-political-spending-spigot">Bloomberg poll</a> from September, 78 percent of respondents said they wanted the decision overturned.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We’re at a crossroads in the movement where Democrats who hadn’t signed on are signing on, and where Republican voters are strongly in favor of a constitutional amendment, but we’re working to make that transition with Republican legislators,” said Jonah Minkoff-Zern, co-director of the Democracy Is For People campaign at Public Citizen, a nonprofit advocacy group that has been garnering a coalition to lobby state legislators for their support in the matter.</p> <p dir="ltr">Senior attorney Gene Russianoff, from the New York Public Interest Research Group, is not surprised by the Republican legislators’ lack of support. Some of these state senators, he said, “feel teflon-proofed” and he applauded those who signed the petition. “Citizens United is the right target to fight the influence of money and political interests,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">For good government groups like NYPIRG and Citizens Union of the City of New York, the Supreme Court’s decision to treat corporations as individuals in campaign finance has wreaked untold havoc on elections.</p> <p dir="ltr">“New York State is severely hampered by federal court decisions in terms of how it can address the corrosive role of money in politics,” said Rachael Fauss, director of public policy, Citizens Union. “Action by the New York State Legislature would help drive attention to this national problem, and put New York on the record as being against campaign money being considered free speech.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whom many reformers look to be more of a leader on campaign finance reform in New York, recently made clear he thinks that as long Citizens United is around, his hands are largely tied. In an <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/governor-cuomo-says-its-time-pardon-one-time-youth-offenders/">interview</a> with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer on Dec. 21, the governor promised that he will advocate for campaign finance reform in 2016, but conceded that he could only do so much.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If you say, 'Well, money influences,' then forget it, because [with] Citizens United you're not going to get the money out of the system until the federal government changes the court or the law or both,” he said. He was also dismissive of New York City’s public campaign financing system, calling it a “mockery” that independent committees can donate large sums of money to candidates as a result of Citizens United.</p> <p dir="ltr">Advocates and reform-minded legislators continue to push Cuomo to call for a statewide public campaign finance system, which he has given lukewarm support for in the past.</p> <p dir="ltr">Just a few hours after Cuomo’s Dec. 21 WNYC remarks, Mayor Bill de Blasio held a <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/966-15/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-hosts-media-roundtable-discuss-mid-term-accomplishments" target="_blank">roundtable</a> with members &nbsp;of the news media at which he also said passing a constitutional amendment was an “imperative” without which “we’re in an environment where a lot of very wealthy, powerful people will use their money to reinforce the status quo.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In an <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/opinion/who-will-heed-the-call/34136/" target="_blank">editorial</a> on Dec. 22, a day after Cuomo’s remarks on WNYC, the Albany Times Union called on the remaining state senators to take the bold step and join the growing call for an amendment. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">On the surface, New York calling for a constitutional amendment may be symbolic in the absence of Congressional action. But, according to Common Cause NY executive director Susan Lerner, “In this instance, symbolism is especially potent.” She believes that owing to New York’s large congressional delegation, even symbolic measures carry significant weight.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Remember, New York is a donor state,” she said, referring to New York’s influence on elections all over the country. “Everybody running for office comes to New York for campaign contributions. When New York elected officials say the system has gotten out of control, it’s particularly applicable.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/samarkhurshid" target="_blank">@samarkhurshid</a> &nbsp; &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p>Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/nys.jpg" alt="nys" height="298" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">(photo: nysenate.gov)</p> <hr /> <p>In a landmark year for corruption in the state legislature, 2015 saw the arrest and conviction of two of the most powerful political leaders in New York. A crescendo of voices across the state -- from good government watchdogs to lawmakers -- expressed outrage and demanded stronger ethics laws and campaign finance reforms. In one sense, Albany now has the opportunity to put its money where its mouth is -- and all it needs is one signature. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">New York is one signatory away from becoming the 17th state in the country to call for a constitutional amendment to negate the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the Citizens United case, which gave entities such as corporations and unions the same rights as individuals in contributing to electoral campaigns.</p> <p dir="ltr">A successful bipartisan appeal for a federal constitutional amendment in the State Assembly has yet to be replicated by the State Senate, where 31 senators -- one short of a majority -- support overturning Citizens United to minimize the role of money in politics. While agreement by a majority of each house from New York would only be advisory, like the other states that have reached consensus, a groundswell for negating Citizens United could influence Congress.</p> <p dir="ltr">"As we've seen again and again, Citizens United has opened the floodgate to unchecked and often opaque corporate political contributions, muscling real people out of the political process,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron, a Brooklyn Democrat, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. Squadron is leading the effort among the Senate Democratic Conference and has 23 co-signers on <a href="http://www.ny4democracy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/NY-Senate-Citizens-United-Constitutional-Amendment-Letter-to-Congress.pdf" target="_blank">a letter</a> addressed to the United States Congress which calls for the constitutional amendment.</p> <p dir="ltr">(Squadron also said that the state legislature should support his Corporate Political Activity Accountability to Shareholders Act, which would increase transparency and accountability.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Senators Ruben Diaz Sr. and Simcha Felder are the only Democrats who have not joined their colleagues on the letter. The five members of the Independent Democratic Conference together signed an identical version of Squadron’s letter while Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins independently wrote to members of Congress. (Felder is elected as a Democrat but caucuses with Republicans in the Senate, and Diaz Sr. is often difficult to pin down ideologically.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Sen. Stewart-Cousins, in her missive, said that the independent contributions made possible by Citizens United “represent a deliberate effort to unfairly influence the electorate and empower a small group of individuals and corporations. Elected officials are becoming more beholden to the interests facilitating these outside funds while the public’s trust in our democracy erodes.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Stewart-Cousins is adamant about reforming the state’s campaign finance system and believes that Senate Democrats have led the fight on many fronts. She lays blame with the members on the other side of the aisle. “We need to restore the public’s trust in state government and that will only happen when the Senate Republicans agree to listen to the voters and take meaningful steps to clean up Albany,” she said in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the Democrats who support overturning Citizens United total 29 votes, only 2 Republican state senators have supported the effort -- Senators Phil Boyle and Kemp Hannon, albeit in language different from the Democrats’ letters (it, for example, <a href="http://www.citizen.org/documents/citizens-united-senator-boyle-sign-on-letter.pdf" target="_blank">decries</a> the massive potential outside spending to support Hillary Clinton's presidential bid). Sen. Boyle, who circulated his letter among his colleagues, refused to comment for this article.</p> <p dir="ltr">Reluctance of New York Republicans to join the effort comes as a growing number of voters, including Republicans, oppose Citizens United. In a <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-09-28/bloomberg-poll-americans-want-supreme-court-to-turn-off-political-spending-spigot">Bloomberg poll</a> from September, 78 percent of respondents said they wanted the decision overturned.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We’re at a crossroads in the movement where Democrats who hadn’t signed on are signing on, and where Republican voters are strongly in favor of a constitutional amendment, but we’re working to make that transition with Republican legislators,” said Jonah Minkoff-Zern, co-director of the Democracy Is For People campaign at Public Citizen, a nonprofit advocacy group that has been garnering a coalition to lobby state legislators for their support in the matter.</p> <p dir="ltr">Senior attorney Gene Russianoff, from the New York Public Interest Research Group, is not surprised by the Republican legislators’ lack of support. Some of these state senators, he said, “feel teflon-proofed” and he applauded those who signed the petition. “Citizens United is the right target to fight the influence of money and political interests,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">For good government groups like NYPIRG and Citizens Union of the City of New York, the Supreme Court’s decision to treat corporations as individuals in campaign finance has wreaked untold havoc on elections.</p> <p dir="ltr">“New York State is severely hampered by federal court decisions in terms of how it can address the corrosive role of money in politics,” said Rachael Fauss, director of public policy, Citizens Union. “Action by the New York State Legislature would help drive attention to this national problem, and put New York on the record as being against campaign money being considered free speech.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whom many reformers look to be more of a leader on campaign finance reform in New York, recently made clear he thinks that as long Citizens United is around, his hands are largely tied. In an <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/governor-cuomo-says-its-time-pardon-one-time-youth-offenders/">interview</a> with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer on Dec. 21, the governor promised that he will advocate for campaign finance reform in 2016, but conceded that he could only do so much.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If you say, 'Well, money influences,' then forget it, because [with] Citizens United you're not going to get the money out of the system until the federal government changes the court or the law or both,” he said. He was also dismissive of New York City’s public campaign financing system, calling it a “mockery” that independent committees can donate large sums of money to candidates as a result of Citizens United.</p> <p dir="ltr">Advocates and reform-minded legislators continue to push Cuomo to call for a statewide public campaign finance system, which he has given lukewarm support for in the past.</p> <p dir="ltr">Just a few hours after Cuomo’s Dec. 21 WNYC remarks, Mayor Bill de Blasio held a <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/966-15/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-hosts-media-roundtable-discuss-mid-term-accomplishments" target="_blank">roundtable</a> with members &nbsp;of the news media at which he also said passing a constitutional amendment was an “imperative” without which “we’re in an environment where a lot of very wealthy, powerful people will use their money to reinforce the status quo.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In an <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/opinion/who-will-heed-the-call/34136/" target="_blank">editorial</a> on Dec. 22, a day after Cuomo’s remarks on WNYC, the Albany Times Union called on the remaining state senators to take the bold step and join the growing call for an amendment. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">On the surface, New York calling for a constitutional amendment may be symbolic in the absence of Congressional action. But, according to Common Cause NY executive director Susan Lerner, “In this instance, symbolism is especially potent.” She believes that owing to New York’s large congressional delegation, even symbolic measures carry significant weight.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Remember, New York is a donor state,” she said, referring to New York’s influence on elections all over the country. “Everybody running for office comes to New York for campaign contributions. When New York elected officials say the system has gotten out of control, it’s particularly applicable.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/samarkhurshid" target="_blank">@samarkhurshid</a> &nbsp; &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p>Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union.</p> Brooklyn Neighborhoods Look to Address School Overcrowding, Avoid Rezoning Issues Seen Elsewhere 2015-10-26T19:12:03+00:00 2015-10-26T19:12:03+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5951:brooklyn-neighborhoods-look-to-address-school-overcrowding-avoid-rezoning-issues-seen-elsewhere Super User <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/bk_overcrowding_forum.jpg" alt="bk overcrowding forum" height="338" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">The community school forum (<a href="https://twitter.com/JoAnneSimonBK52/status/657302873550794752" target="_blank">photo</a>: @JoAnneSimonBK52)&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>As rezoning problems plague some city school districts, leaders in one area of Brooklyn are looking to avoid similar pitfalls while reducing overcrowding.</p> <p dir="ltr">In Carroll Gardens last week, local officials and parents gathered in the PS 58 auditorium to discuss overcrowding issues facing three elementary schools. Like others across the city, District 15 - which includes the schools at hand, PS 58, PS 32, and PS 29 - is facing challenges around booming development and school-aged populations, school crowding and zoning.</p> <p dir="ltr">Wednesday’s forum, featuring several area elected officials, school leaders, and moderated by Professor David Bloomfield of CUNY, was an attempt to get ahead of these issues.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Often when we’re dealing with overcrowding, we’re not able to address it until it’s a full-blown crisis,” said Paige Bellenbaum, a local district leader. A parent of second- and third-graders at PS 58, Bellenbaum noted that since 2005, the school’s enrollment has more than doubled.</p> <p dir="ltr">Bellenbaum and other concerned residents heard from and spoke to a panel of elected and appointed decision-makers. The panel included local lawmakers, Department of Education (DOE) planning officials, the School Construction Authority (SCA) external affairs director, PTA parents with rezoning experience, and others.</p> <p dir="ltr">Amid unprecedented growth and development in District 15 - which contains Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, and Sunset Park schools - those who spoke cited the need to “work together in advance to get ahead of the curve,” as Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon put it. City Council Member Brad Lander and State Senator Daniel Squadron, also co-organizers of the event, expressed a similar point.</p> <p dir="ltr">As the district looks to the DOE and SCA to add capacity and rezone neighborhoods, anxiety is high. Local officials organized the forum to begin a dialogue earlier than has occurred in other places facing similar issues.</p> <p dir="ltr">In District 15, the average utilization rate for classrooms is already 111.5 percent. PS 58, its principal explained, has been forced to cap entry into third and fourth grades. “In 2005, enrollment was about 400 students. In 2015, it was 996,” Bellenbaum said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Recently, overcrowding-caused rezonings of <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20141028/windsor-terrace/parents-say-proposed-district-15-rezoning-forces-students-travel-too-far" target="_blank">four district schools last year</a> and the 2012 rezoning of two <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/30/nyregion/at-an-overcrowded-school-in-park-slope-no-one-wants-to-leave.html?_r=0" target="_blank">Park Slope schools</a> have caused controversy. Perhaps compounding anxiety about rezonings are the current uproars concerning PS 8 and PS 307 in downtown Brooklyn and <a href="http://ny.chalkbeat.org/2015/10/19/for-two-sharply-divided-manhattan-schools-an-uncertain-path-to-integration/" target="_blank">PS 191 and PS 199</a> on the Upper West Side. PTA parents from other public schools that had experienced the rezoning process gave advice to parents from District 15 at last week’s forum.</p> <p dir="ltr">Kim Glickman, co-president of the PS 8 PTA, offered her advice to District 15 parents on participating in school rezoning processes. “As leaders of your own schools, you need to be able to understand what the triggers causing the school to be overcrowded are and to be able to speak to them clearly,” Glickman said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Because race and class lines are not as sharply drawn around the three District 15 schools as they are in the other aforementioned school pairings, it is unlikely that a rezoning dispute in the neighborhoods will be the kind of <a href="http://insideschools.org/blog/item/1001036-how-not-to-turn-schools-into-gentrification-battlefields" target="_blank">“gentrification battle”</a> seen elsewhere. <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/OA/SchoolReports/2013-14/School_Quality_Guide_2014_EMS_K058.pdf" target="_blank">PS 58</a>, <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/OA/SchoolReports/2013-14/School_Quality_Guide_2014_EMS_K032.pdf" target="_blank">PS 32</a>, and <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/OA/SchoolReports/2013-14/School_Quality_Guide_2014_EMS_K029.pdf" target="_blank">PS 29</a> were also all deemed either “good standing” or “reward” status by the DOE in its assessment after the 2013-2014 school year.</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, school district rezonings almost always leave some parents frustrated as their home zones are changed and their children are assigned to different elementary schools than they had planned.</p> <p dir="ltr">Although overcrowding has not yet reached a crisis level in District 15, it has had a corrosive effect on its schools, speakers at the forum said. And, given the scale of development happening in the district - the Lightstone Group’s 700-unit residential complex is being built in the PS 32 zone, for example - the creation of many more school seats will be necessary to accommodate all of the students it will likely receive. Already, PS 32 has been using trailers in its rear yard for about fifteen years because of overcrowding.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Lightstone building students (“200-ish” of whom will eventually go to PS 32, according to Council Member Lander) will get seats in the school. A 436-seat annex will be added to the school, Lander and CSA officials recently announced.</p> <p dir="ltr">“So, it’s good that we’re building 400-plus seats,” Lander told community stakeholders. “But it does speak to the fact that it won’t create enough new capacity to solve our problems collectively.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The annex is also not slated to be completed for a few more years, at which time the rezoning conversation will be at the forefront as officials determine which students are assigned to the new seats.</p> <p dir="ltr">As Community Education Council 15 President Naila Rosario explained with a powerpoint, overcrowding is already having negative effects, including the elimination of enrichment programs, worse building maintenance, and the loss of rooms for art, music, and special services.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though overcrowding appears in many ways as an inevitable result of more people moving into a neighborhood, it is perfectly preventable, according to Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters, a nonprofit advocacy group. Haimson, who was at last week’s forum and frequently speaks to school capacity issues, says policymakers can take concrete steps to keep overcrowding from happening.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The median utilization rate for elementary schools is over a hundred percent across the city,” Haimson told Gotham Gazette. The problem, she said, is fixable, though there has been a lack of political will. The DOE’s five-year capital plan includes 38,754 new seats for students, a figure that Haimson and her allies believe should be at least doubled.</p> <p dir="ltr">The PS 32 annex is part of that capital plan, and while it will add seats in District 15, it is clear the district will need even more capacity to serve all of the students in the area.</p> <p dir="ltr">A 2014 <a href="http://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/7E13_123A.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> from City Comptroller Scott Stringer found that one third of elementary schools in New York City registered at least 138 percent of their capacity in 2012. During February of last year, schools chancellor Carmen Fariña created the Blue Book Working Group, which was tasked to review the space utilization formulas of the DOE’s “Blue Book” and recommend reforms to it.</p> <p dir="ltr">After the group gave <a href="https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/2183985/blue-book-working-group-recommendations.pdf" target="_blank">its recommendations</a> to the DOE last December, the department did not publish them until July, when <a href="http://ny.chalkbeat.org/2015/07/28/city-to-tweak-how-it-calculates-school-space-needs/" target="_blank">it announced</a> that some of them would be adopted. But it rejected the recommendation to shrink class sizes to those outlined by the Contracts for Excellence Law: on average, 19.9 students for kindergarten through third grade, 22.9 for grades 4-8 and 24.5 for grades 9-12. As <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150729/sunset-park/de-blasio-not-doing-enough-fix-school-overcrowding-critics-say" target="_blank">DNAinfo recently pointed out</a>, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to abide by these sizes during his mayoral campaign.</p> <p dir="ltr">City school officials were criticized several times at the forum last week in Carroll Gardens.</p> <p dir="ltr">The DOE has not built schools in Sunset Park, which has District 15 schools, where money was allocated to do so in order to ease overcrowding. “Sunset Park has been slotted to have schools for at least the last ten years,” one audience member said. “It’s not a budget issue.”</p> <p dir="ltr">One parent, to enthusiastic applause, asked the panel why schools weren't included in new residential developments. When in response, SCA External Affairs Director Michael Mirisola said that his organization is not able to force the creation of schools, an audience member angrily interrupted, “Why not?”</p> <p dir="ltr">It is up to local elected officials and the de Blasio administration to require public benefits like school seats in development deals. Officials are really only able to do so when developers are utilizing rezonings and other public incentives when they build. The administration and local officials in District 15 are currently negotiating a possible deal with the developer of the former Long Island College Hospital (LICH) site, where a rezoning may be allowed so that a larger development can be built in exchange for public benefits including school seats.</p> <p dir="ltr">Haimson touched on another overcrowding issue, though not one at play in District 15 per se, decrying the state ensuring in law that any newly approved charter school is guaranteed space. “Here, we have this massive overcrowding problem in New York City where there are communities that have waited 20 years for a school, and yet any charter school can snap its fingers and the city has to give them space or pay for their rent,” Haimson told Gotham Gazette before the forum (she also spoke briefly as an audience member during the Q&amp;A).</p> <p dir="ltr">The DOE has faced criticism from Brooklyn residents for its handling of the PS 8/PS 307 District 13 rezoning, among others. Early talks with the department could prevent District 15 from having an adversarial relationship with the DOE when its rezoning process begins in earnest. The purpose of last week’s forum was to get dialogue started so that the lines of communication are open and community input is front and center.</p> <p dir="ltr">“By coming together here with no specific group of so-called winners or so-called losers or people who want one thing and others who have a different goal, it is a really important step,” Sen. Squadron said in his remarks. “But it does not end here, because we have also seen that early engagement alone does not force the Department of Education to do what they're supposed to.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Ryan Brady, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p dir="ltr">Note: this article has been corrected to indicate the schools at the center of rezoning talks on the Upper West Side - they are 191 and 199, not 32 and 29 as initially indicated</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/bk_overcrowding_forum.jpg" alt="bk overcrowding forum" height="338" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">The community school forum (<a href="https://twitter.com/JoAnneSimonBK52/status/657302873550794752" target="_blank">photo</a>: @JoAnneSimonBK52)&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>As rezoning problems plague some city school districts, leaders in one area of Brooklyn are looking to avoid similar pitfalls while reducing overcrowding.</p> <p dir="ltr">In Carroll Gardens last week, local officials and parents gathered in the PS 58 auditorium to discuss overcrowding issues facing three elementary schools. Like others across the city, District 15 - which includes the schools at hand, PS 58, PS 32, and PS 29 - is facing challenges around booming development and school-aged populations, school crowding and zoning.</p> <p dir="ltr">Wednesday’s forum, featuring several area elected officials, school leaders, and moderated by Professor David Bloomfield of CUNY, was an attempt to get ahead of these issues.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Often when we’re dealing with overcrowding, we’re not able to address it until it’s a full-blown crisis,” said Paige Bellenbaum, a local district leader. A parent of second- and third-graders at PS 58, Bellenbaum noted that since 2005, the school’s enrollment has more than doubled.</p> <p dir="ltr">Bellenbaum and other concerned residents heard from and spoke to a panel of elected and appointed decision-makers. The panel included local lawmakers, Department of Education (DOE) planning officials, the School Construction Authority (SCA) external affairs director, PTA parents with rezoning experience, and others.</p> <p dir="ltr">Amid unprecedented growth and development in District 15 - which contains Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, and Sunset Park schools - those who spoke cited the need to “work together in advance to get ahead of the curve,” as Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon put it. City Council Member Brad Lander and State Senator Daniel Squadron, also co-organizers of the event, expressed a similar point.</p> <p dir="ltr">As the district looks to the DOE and SCA to add capacity and rezone neighborhoods, anxiety is high. Local officials organized the forum to begin a dialogue earlier than has occurred in other places facing similar issues.</p> <p dir="ltr">In District 15, the average utilization rate for classrooms is already 111.5 percent. PS 58, its principal explained, has been forced to cap entry into third and fourth grades. “In 2005, enrollment was about 400 students. In 2015, it was 996,” Bellenbaum said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Recently, overcrowding-caused rezonings of <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20141028/windsor-terrace/parents-say-proposed-district-15-rezoning-forces-students-travel-too-far" target="_blank">four district schools last year</a> and the 2012 rezoning of two <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/30/nyregion/at-an-overcrowded-school-in-park-slope-no-one-wants-to-leave.html?_r=0" target="_blank">Park Slope schools</a> have caused controversy. Perhaps compounding anxiety about rezonings are the current uproars concerning PS 8 and PS 307 in downtown Brooklyn and <a href="http://ny.chalkbeat.org/2015/10/19/for-two-sharply-divided-manhattan-schools-an-uncertain-path-to-integration/" target="_blank">PS 191 and PS 199</a> on the Upper West Side. PTA parents from other public schools that had experienced the rezoning process gave advice to parents from District 15 at last week’s forum.</p> <p dir="ltr">Kim Glickman, co-president of the PS 8 PTA, offered her advice to District 15 parents on participating in school rezoning processes. “As leaders of your own schools, you need to be able to understand what the triggers causing the school to be overcrowded are and to be able to speak to them clearly,” Glickman said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Because race and class lines are not as sharply drawn around the three District 15 schools as they are in the other aforementioned school pairings, it is unlikely that a rezoning dispute in the neighborhoods will be the kind of <a href="http://insideschools.org/blog/item/1001036-how-not-to-turn-schools-into-gentrification-battlefields" target="_blank">“gentrification battle”</a> seen elsewhere. <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/OA/SchoolReports/2013-14/School_Quality_Guide_2014_EMS_K058.pdf" target="_blank">PS 58</a>, <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/OA/SchoolReports/2013-14/School_Quality_Guide_2014_EMS_K032.pdf" target="_blank">PS 32</a>, and <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/OA/SchoolReports/2013-14/School_Quality_Guide_2014_EMS_K029.pdf" target="_blank">PS 29</a> were also all deemed either “good standing” or “reward” status by the DOE in its assessment after the 2013-2014 school year.</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, school district rezonings almost always leave some parents frustrated as their home zones are changed and their children are assigned to different elementary schools than they had planned.</p> <p dir="ltr">Although overcrowding has not yet reached a crisis level in District 15, it has had a corrosive effect on its schools, speakers at the forum said. And, given the scale of development happening in the district - the Lightstone Group’s 700-unit residential complex is being built in the PS 32 zone, for example - the creation of many more school seats will be necessary to accommodate all of the students it will likely receive. Already, PS 32 has been using trailers in its rear yard for about fifteen years because of overcrowding.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Lightstone building students (“200-ish” of whom will eventually go to PS 32, according to Council Member Lander) will get seats in the school. A 436-seat annex will be added to the school, Lander and CSA officials recently announced.</p> <p dir="ltr">“So, it’s good that we’re building 400-plus seats,” Lander told community stakeholders. “But it does speak to the fact that it won’t create enough new capacity to solve our problems collectively.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The annex is also not slated to be completed for a few more years, at which time the rezoning conversation will be at the forefront as officials determine which students are assigned to the new seats.</p> <p dir="ltr">As Community Education Council 15 President Naila Rosario explained with a powerpoint, overcrowding is already having negative effects, including the elimination of enrichment programs, worse building maintenance, and the loss of rooms for art, music, and special services.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though overcrowding appears in many ways as an inevitable result of more people moving into a neighborhood, it is perfectly preventable, according to Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters, a nonprofit advocacy group. Haimson, who was at last week’s forum and frequently speaks to school capacity issues, says policymakers can take concrete steps to keep overcrowding from happening.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The median utilization rate for elementary schools is over a hundred percent across the city,” Haimson told Gotham Gazette. The problem, she said, is fixable, though there has been a lack of political will. The DOE’s five-year capital plan includes 38,754 new seats for students, a figure that Haimson and her allies believe should be at least doubled.</p> <p dir="ltr">The PS 32 annex is part of that capital plan, and while it will add seats in District 15, it is clear the district will need even more capacity to serve all of the students in the area.</p> <p dir="ltr">A 2014 <a href="http://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/7E13_123A.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> from City Comptroller Scott Stringer found that one third of elementary schools in New York City registered at least 138 percent of their capacity in 2012. During February of last year, schools chancellor Carmen Fariña created the Blue Book Working Group, which was tasked to review the space utilization formulas of the DOE’s “Blue Book” and recommend reforms to it.</p> <p dir="ltr">After the group gave <a href="https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/2183985/blue-book-working-group-recommendations.pdf" target="_blank">its recommendations</a> to the DOE last December, the department did not publish them until July, when <a href="http://ny.chalkbeat.org/2015/07/28/city-to-tweak-how-it-calculates-school-space-needs/" target="_blank">it announced</a> that some of them would be adopted. But it rejected the recommendation to shrink class sizes to those outlined by the Contracts for Excellence Law: on average, 19.9 students for kindergarten through third grade, 22.9 for grades 4-8 and 24.5 for grades 9-12. As <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150729/sunset-park/de-blasio-not-doing-enough-fix-school-overcrowding-critics-say" target="_blank">DNAinfo recently pointed out</a>, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to abide by these sizes during his mayoral campaign.</p> <p dir="ltr">City school officials were criticized several times at the forum last week in Carroll Gardens.</p> <p dir="ltr">The DOE has not built schools in Sunset Park, which has District 15 schools, where money was allocated to do so in order to ease overcrowding. “Sunset Park has been slotted to have schools for at least the last ten years,” one audience member said. “It’s not a budget issue.”</p> <p dir="ltr">One parent, to enthusiastic applause, asked the panel why schools weren't included in new residential developments. When in response, SCA External Affairs Director Michael Mirisola said that his organization is not able to force the creation of schools, an audience member angrily interrupted, “Why not?”</p> <p dir="ltr">It is up to local elected officials and the de Blasio administration to require public benefits like school seats in development deals. Officials are really only able to do so when developers are utilizing rezonings and other public incentives when they build. The administration and local officials in District 15 are currently negotiating a possible deal with the developer of the former Long Island College Hospital (LICH) site, where a rezoning may be allowed so that a larger development can be built in exchange for public benefits including school seats.</p> <p dir="ltr">Haimson touched on another overcrowding issue, though not one at play in District 15 per se, decrying the state ensuring in law that any newly approved charter school is guaranteed space. “Here, we have this massive overcrowding problem in New York City where there are communities that have waited 20 years for a school, and yet any charter school can snap its fingers and the city has to give them space or pay for their rent,” Haimson told Gotham Gazette before the forum (she also spoke briefly as an audience member during the Q&amp;A).</p> <p dir="ltr">The DOE has faced criticism from Brooklyn residents for its handling of the PS 8/PS 307 District 13 rezoning, among others. Early talks with the department could prevent District 15 from having an adversarial relationship with the DOE when its rezoning process begins in earnest. The purpose of last week’s forum was to get dialogue started so that the lines of communication are open and community input is front and center.</p> <p dir="ltr">“By coming together here with no specific group of so-called winners or so-called losers or people who want one thing and others who have a different goal, it is a really important step,” Sen. Squadron said in his remarks. “But it does not end here, because we have also seen that early engagement alone does not force the Department of Education to do what they're supposed to.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Ryan Brady, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p dir="ltr">Note: this article has been corrected to indicate the schools at the center of rezoning talks on the Upper West Side - they are 191 and 199, not 32 and 29 as initially indicated</p>