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/donald-trump 2017-10-21T03:07:23+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Under Trump, A Potential Silver Lining for NYCHA 2017-08-24T02:36:23+00:00 2017-08-24T02:36:23+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7152:under-trump-a-potential-silver-lining-for-nycha Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/nycha_aerial.jpg" alt="nycha aerial" width="600" height="338" /></p> <p>NYCHA and the city (photo: @ZodetN)</p> <hr /> <p>Since the January inauguration of Donald Trump as president, department heads and administrators throughout New York City government have been bracing for negative reverberations, with many expecting slashed federal spending and harmful policy rollbacks.</p> <p>At least one city agency sees a potential silver lining. Shola Olatoye, the chair and CEO of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) – the authority tasked with running public housing serving about 400,000 city residents – has sent a letter to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) with a list of regulations that the agency finds unnecessarily cumbersome or counterproductive.</p> <p>The letter, dated June 14 of this year, was sent in response to a request for public comment by sent out by HUD as part of its efforts to comply with <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/30/presidential-executive-order-reducing-regulation-and-controlling" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Executive Order 13777</a>, “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs” – Trump’s seventh, signed on January 30 – which is probably best known for requiring that for every new regulation issued by a federal agency, two others must be identified for repeal. The order also requires that, in most cases, agencies cannot issue regulations estimated to increase costs without offsetting that cost with other regulatory savings.</p> <p>Olatoye mentioned that NYCHA was seeking federal regulatory rollbacks when asked about any potential positives for the authority under the Trump administration during <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7119-what-s-the-data-point-17-billion" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an episode of the “What’s the [Data] Point?” podcast</a> from Gotham Gazette and Citizens Budget Commission. “I strongly believe the federal government has an obligation—legal obligation—to continue to fund it, support it, and invest in it. Full stop,” Olatoye said of public housing.</p> <p>“Can we use the, shall we say, bias of this administration towards the private sector, towards deregulation to help us? Absolutely, and we should. We have a three-page list of regulations that would allow us to move faster in the development process,” <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7119-what-s-the-data-point-17-billion" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">she added</a>.</p> <p>The letter, addressed to HUD’s Office of General Counsel, states that NYCHA “believes that many of HUD’s regulations are essential for the federal government to provide safe, quality housing for low-income households,” but adds that “NYCHA believes that through regulatory modifications HUD can increase the effectiveness of [public housing authorities’] core functions.”</p> <p>The rationale is largely that red tape emanating from D.C. needlessly imposes onerous controls that raise costs and slows down NYCHA’s daily operations. For several specific regulations that NYCHA identifies, it states that required processes are either unnecessary or “less effective than local determinations.”</p> <p>The recommendations to HUD encompass three broad categories: to “align with private housing industry practices to increase efficiency and further public-private partnerships”; to “utilize state and local data and knowledge to ensure HUD is responsive to market changes and to increase accuracy of HUD expenditures”; and to “reduce duplicative requirements, simplify approval processes, and increase flexibility to increase [public housing authority] efficiency, shift decision-making to the local level, and reduce HUD’s monitoring.”</p> <p>Each of these is further broken down into particular areas, with lists and brief descriptions of specific active or forthcoming regulations that the agency wants reconsidered.</p> <p>For example, a subsection under the state and local data subheading asks HUD to modify 24 CFR § 888.113 (e) – a reference to <a href="https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?gp=&amp;SID=c2bff2d8a2f7080401e2b15427f96162&amp;mc=true&amp;tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title24/24tab_02.tpl" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Title 24</a> of the Code of Federal Regulations, which delineates HUD regulations. That section deals with allowable data sources to determine what constitutes a fair market rent in an area; NYCHA would like HUD to allow the evaluation to take into account data compiled locally by public housing authorities (PHA) to more accurately gauge market conditions. Current standards call for the usage of the American Community Survey and local survey data collected through mail and phone surveys.</p> <p>Many of the changes proposed by NYCHA would address grievances largely particular to a housing authority of its size and operational complexity (it is the largest PHA in North America, operating over 176,000 apartments in addition to managing the city’s Section 8 rental assistance voucher program). Like the market rent request, several would seek to transfer functions and processes to local control and move certain costs more in line with local standards.</p> <p>In all there are just over 20 different regulatory stipulations and notices that NYCHA is requesting be modified. A review of the public <a href="https://www.regulations.gov/docketBrowser?rpp=25&amp;so=DESC&amp;sb=commentDueDate&amp;po=0&amp;dct=PS&amp;D=HUD-2017-0029" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">database</a> of comments submitted to HUD in relation to assessing regulations shows that the federal agency has received documentation from multiple public housing authorities, including the Philadelphia Housing Authority, San Diego Housing Commission, and the Illinois Housing Development Authority, among multiple others. NYCHA’s submission appears to be one of the longest, at 12 pages.</p> <p>Brian Sullivan, a spokesperson for HUD, said the agency could not comment on whether any particular regulations have yet been identified as priorities for reexamination but that it was currently in the process of going through public comments and determining how to proceed.</p> <p>A recent New York magazine <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/08/ben-carson-hud-secretary.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">article</a> reported that the department under recently appointed HUD Secretary Ben Carson has shown itself willing to tear down much of its administrative apparatus. The department’s Region II, which includes New York and New Jersey, also has a new administrator, Lynne Patton – a longtime confidant of the Trump family and event planner with the Trump organization – though it is not clear what role she would play in the regulatory review.</p> <p>See the full letter below:</p> <p> </p> <p>

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by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/nycha_aerial.jpg" alt="nycha aerial" width="600" height="338" /></p> <p>NYCHA and the city (photo: @ZodetN)</p> <hr /> <p>Since the January inauguration of Donald Trump as president, department heads and administrators throughout New York City government have been bracing for negative reverberations, with many expecting slashed federal spending and harmful policy rollbacks.</p> <p>At least one city agency sees a potential silver lining. Shola Olatoye, the chair and CEO of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) – the authority tasked with running public housing serving about 400,000 city residents – has sent a letter to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) with a list of regulations that the agency finds unnecessarily cumbersome or counterproductive.</p> <p>The letter, dated June 14 of this year, was sent in response to a request for public comment by sent out by HUD as part of its efforts to comply with <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/30/presidential-executive-order-reducing-regulation-and-controlling" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Executive Order 13777</a>, “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs” – Trump’s seventh, signed on January 30 – which is probably best known for requiring that for every new regulation issued by a federal agency, two others must be identified for repeal. The order also requires that, in most cases, agencies cannot issue regulations estimated to increase costs without offsetting that cost with other regulatory savings.</p> <p>Olatoye mentioned that NYCHA was seeking federal regulatory rollbacks when asked about any potential positives for the authority under the Trump administration during <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7119-what-s-the-data-point-17-billion" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an episode of the “What’s the [Data] Point?” podcast</a> from Gotham Gazette and Citizens Budget Commission. “I strongly believe the federal government has an obligation—legal obligation—to continue to fund it, support it, and invest in it. Full stop,” Olatoye said of public housing.</p> <p>“Can we use the, shall we say, bias of this administration towards the private sector, towards deregulation to help us? Absolutely, and we should. We have a three-page list of regulations that would allow us to move faster in the development process,” <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7119-what-s-the-data-point-17-billion" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">she added</a>.</p> <p>The letter, addressed to HUD’s Office of General Counsel, states that NYCHA “believes that many of HUD’s regulations are essential for the federal government to provide safe, quality housing for low-income households,” but adds that “NYCHA believes that through regulatory modifications HUD can increase the effectiveness of [public housing authorities’] core functions.”</p> <p>The rationale is largely that red tape emanating from D.C. needlessly imposes onerous controls that raise costs and slows down NYCHA’s daily operations. For several specific regulations that NYCHA identifies, it states that required processes are either unnecessary or “less effective than local determinations.”</p> <p>The recommendations to HUD encompass three broad categories: to “align with private housing industry practices to increase efficiency and further public-private partnerships”; to “utilize state and local data and knowledge to ensure HUD is responsive to market changes and to increase accuracy of HUD expenditures”; and to “reduce duplicative requirements, simplify approval processes, and increase flexibility to increase [public housing authority] efficiency, shift decision-making to the local level, and reduce HUD’s monitoring.”</p> <p>Each of these is further broken down into particular areas, with lists and brief descriptions of specific active or forthcoming regulations that the agency wants reconsidered.</p> <p>For example, a subsection under the state and local data subheading asks HUD to modify 24 CFR § 888.113 (e) – a reference to <a href="https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?gp=&amp;SID=c2bff2d8a2f7080401e2b15427f96162&amp;mc=true&amp;tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title24/24tab_02.tpl" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Title 24</a> of the Code of Federal Regulations, which delineates HUD regulations. That section deals with allowable data sources to determine what constitutes a fair market rent in an area; NYCHA would like HUD to allow the evaluation to take into account data compiled locally by public housing authorities (PHA) to more accurately gauge market conditions. Current standards call for the usage of the American Community Survey and local survey data collected through mail and phone surveys.</p> <p>Many of the changes proposed by NYCHA would address grievances largely particular to a housing authority of its size and operational complexity (it is the largest PHA in North America, operating over 176,000 apartments in addition to managing the city’s Section 8 rental assistance voucher program). Like the market rent request, several would seek to transfer functions and processes to local control and move certain costs more in line with local standards.</p> <p>In all there are just over 20 different regulatory stipulations and notices that NYCHA is requesting be modified. A review of the public <a href="https://www.regulations.gov/docketBrowser?rpp=25&amp;so=DESC&amp;sb=commentDueDate&amp;po=0&amp;dct=PS&amp;D=HUD-2017-0029" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">database</a> of comments submitted to HUD in relation to assessing regulations shows that the federal agency has received documentation from multiple public housing authorities, including the Philadelphia Housing Authority, San Diego Housing Commission, and the Illinois Housing Development Authority, among multiple others. NYCHA’s submission appears to be one of the longest, at 12 pages.</p> <p>Brian Sullivan, a spokesperson for HUD, said the agency could not comment on whether any particular regulations have yet been identified as priorities for reexamination but that it was currently in the process of going through public comments and determining how to proceed.</p> <p>A recent New York magazine <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/08/ben-carson-hud-secretary.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">article</a> reported that the department under recently appointed HUD Secretary Ben Carson has shown itself willing to tear down much of its administrative apparatus. The department’s Region II, which includes New York and New Jersey, also has a new administrator, Lynne Patton – a longtime confidant of the Trump family and event planner with the Trump organization – though it is not clear what role she would play in the regulatory review.</p> <p>See the full letter below:</p> <p> </p> <p>

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by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Cuomo Refuses to Comply with Trump Election Commission Request 2017-06-30T00:00:00+00:00 2017-06-30T00:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7044:new-york-weighs-response-to-president-s-election-integrity-commission Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/new_yorkers_cast_their_votes_for_president_.jpg" alt="new yorkers cast their votes for president " width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>New Yorkers cast their votes for President (photo:&nbsp;Edwin J. Torres/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p>New York has joined the ranks of states refusing to comply with a request for voter information sent yesterday by Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State and vice chair of the newly-created federal Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.</p> <p>“We will not be complying with this request and I encourage the Election Commission to work on issues of vital importance to voters, including ballot access, rather than focus on debunked theories of voter fraud,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo in a statement on Friday afternoon.</p> <p>The letter, which asks that each state provide the administration with available data including the names, addresses, social security numbers, voter registrations, and voting histories of every voter in the state, immediately prompted concern over voter suppression and privacy.</p> <p>N.Y.U. School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice put out a statement calling on states to carefully review their legal obligations before turning over the data. While voter data is technically public, accessing it generally requires adhering to special protocols and making payments, such as submitting requests in writing for specific data. In New York, accessing public voter data requires mailing a completed form to the state’s Board of Elections, leaving a record of who is requesting the information.</p> <p>In the statement, Mryna Pérez, the center’s deputy director, recommended that secretaries of state have “frank conversations with their lawyers about the privacy and other implications of complying with Kobach’s extensive request.”</p> <p>Several voting rights organizations have also condemned the request, including the League of Women Voters, whose president, Chris Carson, called it a “fishing expedition” and a “distraction from the real issue of voter suppression” in a statement.</p> <p>Activists worry that the data will be used to target voters based on their political affiliations as opposed to the stated purpose of investigating voter fraud. The commission was created by President Donald Trump to investigate non-citizens casting ballots following his widely discredited claim that three to five million people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election.</p> <p>As Kansas Secretary of State, Kobach ran a multi-year campaign and developed new computer systems to crack down on illegal voting, which ultimately resulted in only nine convictions, mostly of older Americans who had voted in two states or otherwise violated procedural laws. Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project once referred to Kobach as the “king of voter suppression” because of his efforts to limit voter registration in Kansas.</p> <p>New York joins California, Kentucky, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut in turning away Kobach’s request, which is not legally binding.</p> <p>

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by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/new_yorkers_cast_their_votes_for_president_.jpg" alt="new yorkers cast their votes for president " width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>New Yorkers cast their votes for President (photo:&nbsp;Edwin J. Torres/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p>New York has joined the ranks of states refusing to comply with a request for voter information sent yesterday by Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State and vice chair of the newly-created federal Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.</p> <p>“We will not be complying with this request and I encourage the Election Commission to work on issues of vital importance to voters, including ballot access, rather than focus on debunked theories of voter fraud,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo in a statement on Friday afternoon.</p> <p>The letter, which asks that each state provide the administration with available data including the names, addresses, social security numbers, voter registrations, and voting histories of every voter in the state, immediately prompted concern over voter suppression and privacy.</p> <p>N.Y.U. School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice put out a statement calling on states to carefully review their legal obligations before turning over the data. While voter data is technically public, accessing it generally requires adhering to special protocols and making payments, such as submitting requests in writing for specific data. In New York, accessing public voter data requires mailing a completed form to the state’s Board of Elections, leaving a record of who is requesting the information.</p> <p>In the statement, Mryna Pérez, the center’s deputy director, recommended that secretaries of state have “frank conversations with their lawyers about the privacy and other implications of complying with Kobach’s extensive request.”</p> <p>Several voting rights organizations have also condemned the request, including the League of Women Voters, whose president, Chris Carson, called it a “fishing expedition” and a “distraction from the real issue of voter suppression” in a statement.</p> <p>Activists worry that the data will be used to target voters based on their political affiliations as opposed to the stated purpose of investigating voter fraud. The commission was created by President Donald Trump to investigate non-citizens casting ballots following his widely discredited claim that three to five million people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election.</p> <p>As Kansas Secretary of State, Kobach ran a multi-year campaign and developed new computer systems to crack down on illegal voting, which ultimately resulted in only nine convictions, mostly of older Americans who had voted in two states or otherwise violated procedural laws. Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project once referred to Kobach as the “king of voter suppression” because of his efforts to limit voter registration in Kansas.</p> <p>New York joins California, Kentucky, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut in turning away Kobach’s request, which is not legally binding.</p> <p>

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by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Focused on Fighting Trump, is Schneiderman Looking Away from Albany Reform? 2017-06-27T04:00:00+00:00 2017-06-27T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7035:focused-on-fighting-trump-schneiderman-looks-away-from-albany-reform Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/ag_schneiderman_via_schneiderman.jpg" alt="ag schneiderman via schneiderman" width="640" height="427" /></p> <p>AG Eric Schneiderman (photo: @Schneiderman)</p> <hr /> <p>New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has quickly become one of President Donald Trump’s leading opponents, using the levers of his office to litigate against Trump’s policies, and has put New York at the forefront of efforts to resist the new Republican administration’s agenda.</p> <p>Speaking at a Tuesday breakfast event hosted by the Association For A Better New York (ABNY), Schneiderman, a second-term Democrat, discussed his role in the Trump era, which has made his focus much more on Washington, D.C. than Albany, New York, the state capital where Schneiderman has worked as a state senator and sought reforms to the state’s election and government ethics laws.</p> <p>The focus of the ABNY event Tuesday morning was Schneiderman’s approach to Trump. The attorney general emphasized New York’s fundamental principle of openness and reiterated his pledge to fight President Trump’s travel ban on people from six Muslim-majority countries. “New York values of mutual respect, pluralism, and common sense are more important than ever,” he said to a room of around 250 people at the Sheraton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. “As long as I am your Attorney General, I promise to do everything I can to stand up for those values and defend all the people I represent &nbsp;in the challenges we face together.”</p> <p>He also described his approach toward the legislation that seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which may soon receive a vote in the U.S. Senate. “If the version of the health care bill proposed last week ever becomes law, I’ve promised to go to court to challenge it – and protect New Yorkers from these wrongheaded and unconstitutional provisions,” he said.</p> <p>In a lighthearted moment, Schneiderman described the experience of quarreling with Trump over the years, even before Trump ran for President. In 2013, Schneiderman filed suit against the real estate mogul for his fraudulent for-profit college Trump University. The president settled in 2016 for $25 million.</p> <p>Schneiderman noted he has learned to ignore Twitter, a favored Trump medium that the president has long-used to attack Schneiderman and others, and how Trump consistently pulls out all the stops against people when he feels threatened by them. Schneiderman read aloud a few insulting <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/482153112279724032" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">tweets</a> that Trump has sent about him over the years. The attorney general also recalled when the New York Observer, owned by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, published a cover depicting Schneiderman as “Clockwork Eric,” likening him to the 1971 movie “A Clockwork Orange” character Alex DeLarge, who is a violent rapist. The paper published an accompanying <a href="http://observer.com/2014/02/the-politics-and-power-of-a-g-schneiderman/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">feature</a> on Schneiderman that accused him of “political opportunism,” “vindictiveness,” and cast doubt on his investigation into Trump.</p> <p>When he did mention more local state affairs, Schneiderman cited passage of legislation to end the so-called gun show loophole and development of a drug tracking system, along with changing his office’s mentality. “Consistent with my goal of keeping New York competitive, we have shifted the culture of our office by making it clear that lawyers on my team don’t just get credit for catching bad guys; they also get credit for helping good guys,” said Schneiderman, who succeeded Governor Andrew Cuomo as attorney general.</p> <p>State government was a distant second to national matters as they relate to New York, in keeping with the event’s intended purpose. The media advisory announcing the event stated Schneiderman was expected to “discuss his work fighting Trump Administration policies that he believes threaten New Yorkers and the rule of law. Attorney General Schneiderman will detail his office’s efforts on both fronts and articulate his priorities for the future in the fight to defend New York.”</p> <p>While it made sense for Schneiderman to omit state government ethics and voting reform from his remarks, the attorney general was holding his first public speaking event since the end of the scheduled legislative session in Albany, which included none of the reforms Schneiderman has proposed. Tuesday’s event was representative of a shift in focus by Schneiderman away from state reforms and toward taking on federal government policies with the aim of fighting for New Yorkers against a new presidential administration and Republican-controlled Congress.&nbsp;</p> <p>A spokesperson for Attorney General Schneiderman disputed this observation. “He can walk and chew gum at the same time, and that’s exactly what he’s been doing,” wrote Amy Spitalnick, the Schneiderman spokesperson, in an email to Gotham Gazette. But, while Schneiderman does oversee a large and busy office, the attorney general has been quiet regarding state reforms in recent months as major decisions are made in the state capital. Schneiderman's office explained that representatives from the AG's office have met with legislative leaders, relevant committee chairs, and advocates about Schneiderman's proposals.</p> <p>A review of Schneiderman’s May and June <a href="https://ag.ny.gov/press-releases" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">press releases</a> show that as the legislative year in Albany headed toward underwhelmingly conclusion, the attorney general spoke out against President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accords; filed suit against Trump regarding energy efficiency standards; challenged the EPA on toxic pesticides; criticized Secretary of Education Betsy Devos over discontinuing student loan forgiveness policies; announced opposition to potential regulatory rollback in Senate legislation; voiced concern over infringement upon New Yorker’s contraceptive rights by Trump administration policies; and reaffirmed New York’s commitment to protecting so-called sanctuary city statuses; along with other pushbacks against policies originating in Washington.</p> <p>Schneiderman’s main public efforts have been to, as he sees it, protect New Yorkers from the new president’s policies, many of which he believes threaten New Yorkers rights and needed services. Schneiderman was the subject of profiles in major outlets such as Politico and New York Magazine, both focused on his efforts against Trump. Meanwhile, Schneiderman hired Revolution Messaging, Senator Bernie Sanders’ digital consulting group in April , to work on his political team -- the AG is expected to seek a third term in 2018, but is also regarded as a certain gubernatorial candidate when Cuomo is no longer in the picture.</p> <p>But the attorney general’s office insists that Schneiderman has been attentive to Albany-related efforts. “Anyone who follows the AG’s work knows he’s been very engaged in the fight for voting and ethics reform, including proposing his own legislative packages on both issues,” the Spitalnick wrote. “That’s in addition to his push to strengthen tenant protections, protect cost-free access to birth control, and more.”</p> <p>While he has been quiet on both recently, Schneiderman has pushed election and government ethics reforms. In February, he introduced the New York Votes Act, a bill that would institute automatic and same-day voting registration along with early voting. On ethics reform for the scandal-plagued state government, in May 2015 Schneiderman introduced legislation that would give investigatory powers to the attorney general to prosecute corruption by officeholders, ban lawmakers from receiving outside income, and make campaign donation laws more restrictive. None of Schneiderman’s proposals on these two fronts have made it into law, opposed at various turns by the powers that be in Albany, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic majority in the Assembly, and the Republican-led majority in the Senate.</p> <p>Asked for recent examples of how Schneiderman has pushed his electoral and ethics proposals, or for any plans to get them moving, the AG’s office pointed to examples in the more distant past. Schneiderman does not appear to have held a public event, issued a press release, or written an op-ed on either voting or ethics reform since February, when he released his electoral reform package. The state budget was passed in early April and the scheduled legislative session ended last week, both without any of these reforms.</p> <p>Speaking with reporters following his Tuesday ABNY speech, the attorney general said the legislative session ending without ethics reform was a missed opportunity. “I think that it is essential that the state government show an ability to, and a willingness to, reform,” he said in response to a question from Gotham Gazette. “Otherwise, we're just going to have more scandals and a further erosion of public confidence.”</p> <p>“The willingness to get it done is there and I think there is an unfortunate tendency to cling to the status quo,” he added, though he did not cite evidence of the existence of any “willingness” and his spokesperson did not explain what he meant when asked in a follow-up email.</p> <p>Corruption has plagued New York’s capital for years, with legislator after legislator removed from office because of ethical scandal. Recently, former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos were convicted separately on public corruption charges. Not long after that, charges were announced against nine associates of and donors to Gov. Cuomo in a massive alleged bid-rigging scandal. In September 2016, Schneiderman’s office <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/23/nyregion/cuomo-former-aides-charges.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">brought charges </a>against two former Cuomo aides along with state official Alain Kaloyeros as part of that scandal. In March, Schneiderman’s office also <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/23/nyregion/robert-ortt-george-maziarz.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">charged</a> state Senator Robert Ortt and former state Senator George Maziarz for embezzling funds, though the charges against Ortt were dismissed by a judge on Tuesday.</p> <p>Despite months of inaction on election and ethics reforms in Albany, Schneiderman said Tuesday he is hopeful. “I do really believe that we are at a point where the public is demanding reform and there are enough legislators who get the need and are willing to get a step towards it,” he said in the gaggle. “So I think that's something which should be coming.”</p> <p> </p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/ag_schneiderman_via_schneiderman.jpg" alt="ag schneiderman via schneiderman" width="640" height="427" /></p> <p>AG Eric Schneiderman (photo: @Schneiderman)</p> <hr /> <p>New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has quickly become one of President Donald Trump’s leading opponents, using the levers of his office to litigate against Trump’s policies, and has put New York at the forefront of efforts to resist the new Republican administration’s agenda.</p> <p>Speaking at a Tuesday breakfast event hosted by the Association For A Better New York (ABNY), Schneiderman, a second-term Democrat, discussed his role in the Trump era, which has made his focus much more on Washington, D.C. than Albany, New York, the state capital where Schneiderman has worked as a state senator and sought reforms to the state’s election and government ethics laws.</p> <p>The focus of the ABNY event Tuesday morning was Schneiderman’s approach to Trump. The attorney general emphasized New York’s fundamental principle of openness and reiterated his pledge to fight President Trump’s travel ban on people from six Muslim-majority countries. “New York values of mutual respect, pluralism, and common sense are more important than ever,” he said to a room of around 250 people at the Sheraton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. “As long as I am your Attorney General, I promise to do everything I can to stand up for those values and defend all the people I represent &nbsp;in the challenges we face together.”</p> <p>He also described his approach toward the legislation that seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which may soon receive a vote in the U.S. Senate. “If the version of the health care bill proposed last week ever becomes law, I’ve promised to go to court to challenge it – and protect New Yorkers from these wrongheaded and unconstitutional provisions,” he said.</p> <p>In a lighthearted moment, Schneiderman described the experience of quarreling with Trump over the years, even before Trump ran for President. In 2013, Schneiderman filed suit against the real estate mogul for his fraudulent for-profit college Trump University. The president settled in 2016 for $25 million.</p> <p>Schneiderman noted he has learned to ignore Twitter, a favored Trump medium that the president has long-used to attack Schneiderman and others, and how Trump consistently pulls out all the stops against people when he feels threatened by them. Schneiderman read aloud a few insulting <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/482153112279724032" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">tweets</a> that Trump has sent about him over the years. The attorney general also recalled when the New York Observer, owned by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, published a cover depicting Schneiderman as “Clockwork Eric,” likening him to the 1971 movie “A Clockwork Orange” character Alex DeLarge, who is a violent rapist. The paper published an accompanying <a href="http://observer.com/2014/02/the-politics-and-power-of-a-g-schneiderman/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">feature</a> on Schneiderman that accused him of “political opportunism,” “vindictiveness,” and cast doubt on his investigation into Trump.</p> <p>When he did mention more local state affairs, Schneiderman cited passage of legislation to end the so-called gun show loophole and development of a drug tracking system, along with changing his office’s mentality. “Consistent with my goal of keeping New York competitive, we have shifted the culture of our office by making it clear that lawyers on my team don’t just get credit for catching bad guys; they also get credit for helping good guys,” said Schneiderman, who succeeded Governor Andrew Cuomo as attorney general.</p> <p>State government was a distant second to national matters as they relate to New York, in keeping with the event’s intended purpose. The media advisory announcing the event stated Schneiderman was expected to “discuss his work fighting Trump Administration policies that he believes threaten New Yorkers and the rule of law. Attorney General Schneiderman will detail his office’s efforts on both fronts and articulate his priorities for the future in the fight to defend New York.”</p> <p>While it made sense for Schneiderman to omit state government ethics and voting reform from his remarks, the attorney general was holding his first public speaking event since the end of the scheduled legislative session in Albany, which included none of the reforms Schneiderman has proposed. Tuesday’s event was representative of a shift in focus by Schneiderman away from state reforms and toward taking on federal government policies with the aim of fighting for New Yorkers against a new presidential administration and Republican-controlled Congress.&nbsp;</p> <p>A spokesperson for Attorney General Schneiderman disputed this observation. “He can walk and chew gum at the same time, and that’s exactly what he’s been doing,” wrote Amy Spitalnick, the Schneiderman spokesperson, in an email to Gotham Gazette. But, while Schneiderman does oversee a large and busy office, the attorney general has been quiet regarding state reforms in recent months as major decisions are made in the state capital. Schneiderman's office explained that representatives from the AG's office have met with legislative leaders, relevant committee chairs, and advocates about Schneiderman's proposals.</p> <p>A review of Schneiderman’s May and June <a href="https://ag.ny.gov/press-releases" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">press releases</a> show that as the legislative year in Albany headed toward underwhelmingly conclusion, the attorney general spoke out against President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accords; filed suit against Trump regarding energy efficiency standards; challenged the EPA on toxic pesticides; criticized Secretary of Education Betsy Devos over discontinuing student loan forgiveness policies; announced opposition to potential regulatory rollback in Senate legislation; voiced concern over infringement upon New Yorker’s contraceptive rights by Trump administration policies; and reaffirmed New York’s commitment to protecting so-called sanctuary city statuses; along with other pushbacks against policies originating in Washington.</p> <p>Schneiderman’s main public efforts have been to, as he sees it, protect New Yorkers from the new president’s policies, many of which he believes threaten New Yorkers rights and needed services. Schneiderman was the subject of profiles in major outlets such as Politico and New York Magazine, both focused on his efforts against Trump. Meanwhile, Schneiderman hired Revolution Messaging, Senator Bernie Sanders’ digital consulting group in April , to work on his political team -- the AG is expected to seek a third term in 2018, but is also regarded as a certain gubernatorial candidate when Cuomo is no longer in the picture.</p> <p>But the attorney general’s office insists that Schneiderman has been attentive to Albany-related efforts. “Anyone who follows the AG’s work knows he’s been very engaged in the fight for voting and ethics reform, including proposing his own legislative packages on both issues,” the Spitalnick wrote. “That’s in addition to his push to strengthen tenant protections, protect cost-free access to birth control, and more.”</p> <p>While he has been quiet on both recently, Schneiderman has pushed election and government ethics reforms. In February, he introduced the New York Votes Act, a bill that would institute automatic and same-day voting registration along with early voting. On ethics reform for the scandal-plagued state government, in May 2015 Schneiderman introduced legislation that would give investigatory powers to the attorney general to prosecute corruption by officeholders, ban lawmakers from receiving outside income, and make campaign donation laws more restrictive. None of Schneiderman’s proposals on these two fronts have made it into law, opposed at various turns by the powers that be in Albany, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic majority in the Assembly, and the Republican-led majority in the Senate.</p> <p>Asked for recent examples of how Schneiderman has pushed his electoral and ethics proposals, or for any plans to get them moving, the AG’s office pointed to examples in the more distant past. Schneiderman does not appear to have held a public event, issued a press release, or written an op-ed on either voting or ethics reform since February, when he released his electoral reform package. The state budget was passed in early April and the scheduled legislative session ended last week, both without any of these reforms.</p> <p>Speaking with reporters following his Tuesday ABNY speech, the attorney general said the legislative session ending without ethics reform was a missed opportunity. “I think that it is essential that the state government show an ability to, and a willingness to, reform,” he said in response to a question from Gotham Gazette. “Otherwise, we're just going to have more scandals and a further erosion of public confidence.”</p> <p>“The willingness to get it done is there and I think there is an unfortunate tendency to cling to the status quo,” he added, though he did not cite evidence of the existence of any “willingness” and his spokesperson did not explain what he meant when asked in a follow-up email.</p> <p>Corruption has plagued New York’s capital for years, with legislator after legislator removed from office because of ethical scandal. Recently, former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos were convicted separately on public corruption charges. Not long after that, charges were announced against nine associates of and donors to Gov. Cuomo in a massive alleged bid-rigging scandal. In September 2016, Schneiderman’s office <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/23/nyregion/cuomo-former-aides-charges.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">brought charges </a>against two former Cuomo aides along with state official Alain Kaloyeros as part of that scandal. In March, Schneiderman’s office also <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/23/nyregion/robert-ortt-george-maziarz.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">charged</a> state Senator Robert Ortt and former state Senator George Maziarz for embezzling funds, though the charges against Ortt were dismissed by a judge on Tuesday.</p> <p>Despite months of inaction on election and ethics reforms in Albany, Schneiderman said Tuesday he is hopeful. “I do really believe that we are at a point where the public is demanding reform and there are enough legislators who get the need and are willing to get a step towards it,” he said in the gaggle. “So I think that's something which should be coming.”</p> <p> </p> New York Must Take Action Against Corporate Backers of Hate 2017-05-21T04:00:00+00:00 2017-05-21T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6945:new-york-must-take-action-against-corporate-backers-of-hate Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/moya_profits_pain.jpg" alt="moya profits pain" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Moya, the author, speaks at a rally (photo: Make The Road New York)</p> <hr /> <p>Make the Road New York and the Center for Popular Democracy recently exposed President Trump’s corporate “<a href="http://www.backersofhate.org/en/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">backers of hate</a>,” companies that stand to profit off an agenda so steeped in hate, prejudice, and greed, you would have to be willfully blind not to see it.</p> <p>Nothing is more dangerous than business as usual when it is conducted in a moral vacuum, and these companies have been more than happy to go along for the ride: Goldman Sachs, Blackstone, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Blackrock, Boeing, IBM, Uber, and Disney all seem eager to cash in on the Trump agenda.</p> <p>Whether it's financing or investing in the detention centers necessary for Trump’s immigration crackdown, bidding on contracts with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement or Customs and Border Protection, supporting Trump’s campaign and inauguration, or spearheading an anti-worker agenda, the corporations share one commonality: they enable the most destructive and hateful policies of this White House.</p> <p>Because Trump is great for business when that business is locking up people of color behind bars for petty crimes, and standing to gain from their imprisonment - as it is for JPMorgan Chase. A Trump White House is great for business when you stand to profit from breaking up unions, rolling back workers’ rights, and squeezing more from the middle-class. As for the overwhelming majority of Americans, those living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to afford their kid’s college education, or bracing for the sharp cuts to their health care, they are on the opposite side of that transaction; their pain is another’s profits.</p> <p><a href="http://www.backersofhate.org/en/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Backers of Hate campaign</a> urges these corporations to reverse course, until they are no longer accessory to the crimes against the disappearing middle class, against the Muslims targeted by Trump’s travel ban, and to the immigrants living in constant anxiety that today will be the last day they’ll see their family.</p> <p>And although these companies may not be swayed by the moral argument, they will listen when it comes to their almighty dollar. The Trump resistance must expand to include resisting his enablers. Consumers will need to apply the pressure where they can until condoning the Trump agenda is no longer a profitable business model.</p> <p>But they don’t need to fight goliath alone.</p> <p>As the finance capital of the world, New York not only has an obligation to pressure these companies, it has leverage. Our state pension fund is the third largest in the United States, with assets totaling $178.6 billion. In the weeks to come, I will introduce legislation in the state Assembly to divest that pension fund from companies guilty of the most egregious corporate complicity.</p> <p>New York needs to lead the effort and draw a line in the sand. If you choose to benefit from the broad net Trump has given immigration enforcement agencies, from the deregulation and right-to-work campaigns that will bleed the middle class, or from the environmental degradation that endangers all of our futures, you’ve chosen to build upon a morally dubious house of cards. If New York is to truly stand in resistance to the Trump agenda, it’s time to put its money where its mouth is and disassociate itself from the backers of hate.</p> <p>***<br />Francisco P. Moya is a New York State Assemblymember representing the 39th District in Queens and is the prime sponsor of the NYS Liberty Act and the NY DREAM Act. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/FranciscoPMoya" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@FranciscoPMoya</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/moya_profits_pain.jpg" alt="moya profits pain" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Moya, the author, speaks at a rally (photo: Make The Road New York)</p> <hr /> <p>Make the Road New York and the Center for Popular Democracy recently exposed President Trump’s corporate “<a href="http://www.backersofhate.org/en/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">backers of hate</a>,” companies that stand to profit off an agenda so steeped in hate, prejudice, and greed, you would have to be willfully blind not to see it.</p> <p>Nothing is more dangerous than business as usual when it is conducted in a moral vacuum, and these companies have been more than happy to go along for the ride: Goldman Sachs, Blackstone, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Blackrock, Boeing, IBM, Uber, and Disney all seem eager to cash in on the Trump agenda.</p> <p>Whether it's financing or investing in the detention centers necessary for Trump’s immigration crackdown, bidding on contracts with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement or Customs and Border Protection, supporting Trump’s campaign and inauguration, or spearheading an anti-worker agenda, the corporations share one commonality: they enable the most destructive and hateful policies of this White House.</p> <p>Because Trump is great for business when that business is locking up people of color behind bars for petty crimes, and standing to gain from their imprisonment - as it is for JPMorgan Chase. A Trump White House is great for business when you stand to profit from breaking up unions, rolling back workers’ rights, and squeezing more from the middle-class. As for the overwhelming majority of Americans, those living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to afford their kid’s college education, or bracing for the sharp cuts to their health care, they are on the opposite side of that transaction; their pain is another’s profits.</p> <p><a href="http://www.backersofhate.org/en/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Backers of Hate campaign</a> urges these corporations to reverse course, until they are no longer accessory to the crimes against the disappearing middle class, against the Muslims targeted by Trump’s travel ban, and to the immigrants living in constant anxiety that today will be the last day they’ll see their family.</p> <p>And although these companies may not be swayed by the moral argument, they will listen when it comes to their almighty dollar. The Trump resistance must expand to include resisting his enablers. Consumers will need to apply the pressure where they can until condoning the Trump agenda is no longer a profitable business model.</p> <p>But they don’t need to fight goliath alone.</p> <p>As the finance capital of the world, New York not only has an obligation to pressure these companies, it has leverage. Our state pension fund is the third largest in the United States, with assets totaling $178.6 billion. In the weeks to come, I will introduce legislation in the state Assembly to divest that pension fund from companies guilty of the most egregious corporate complicity.</p> <p>New York needs to lead the effort and draw a line in the sand. If you choose to benefit from the broad net Trump has given immigration enforcement agencies, from the deregulation and right-to-work campaigns that will bleed the middle class, or from the environmental degradation that endangers all of our futures, you’ve chosen to build upon a morally dubious house of cards. If New York is to truly stand in resistance to the Trump agenda, it’s time to put its money where its mouth is and disassociate itself from the backers of hate.</p> <p>***<br />Francisco P. Moya is a New York State Assemblymember representing the 39th District in Queens and is the prime sponsor of the NYS Liberty Act and the NY DREAM Act. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/FranciscoPMoya" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@FranciscoPMoya</a>.</p> <p>

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Calling Trump’s Big Lie What It Is 2017-05-02T04:00:00+00:00 2017-05-02T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6906:calling-trump-s-big-lie-what-it-is Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/nypd_via_nypdrecruit.jpg" alt="nypd via nypdrecruit" width="600" height="309" /></p> <p>(photo: @NYPDRecruit)</p> <hr /> <p>Upping the immigration deportation ante, a San Francisco federal judge found “irreparable harm” and ordered a national preliminary injunction blocking President Donald Trump’s threat of cutting off law enforcement funds to “sanctuary cities” that defiantly refused to comply with his deportation policy.</p> <p>Under the proposed Trump policy, cities would lose funding if undocumented and even legal immigrants are not reported to federal authorities for deportation after being charged with low-level criminal offenses, such as disorderly conduct, possessing small amounts of marijuana, or a variety of non-violent, “broken windows” offenses.</p> <p>Although federal law mandates deportation of noncitizens convicted of serious crimes, Trump’s executive order promulgates a simplistic view of “let’s kick them out” because all undocumented immigrants, non-citizen Muslims, or anyone overstaying a visa, “present a significant threat to national security and public safety and the presence of such individuals in the United States...are contrary to the national interest...[causing] immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.”</p> <p>This Trumpian misinterpretation of constitutional law is a giant step backward reshaping the country’s immigration policy by diminishing civil liberties, due process, and constitutional protections, which for more than 100 years were guaranteed by our federal courts even to those who are illegally in the U.S.</p> <p>But threats have been elevated to the big lie.</p> <p>Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, in an over-the-top and uninformed response to the court’s decision to block defunding, shouted that it was an “egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge.”</p> <p>Spicer should read the Constitution -- federal judges are appointed pursuant to Article 3, by the President -- as should Trump.</p> <p>He accused “sanctuary cities” such as New York of "putting the well-being of criminal aliens before the safety of our citizens" and says city officials who authored policies protecting people living in the country illegally "have the blood of dead Americans on their hands...a gift to the criminal gang and cartel element in our country" that puts "thousands of innocent lives at risk."</p> <p>This is the big lie, but Spicer is not the only Trump perpetrator.</p> <p>On April 21, Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared in an official DOJ memo that New York City “soft on crime” and it “continues to see gang murder after gang murder,” blaming the city for failing to turn over to federal immigration authorities for deportation a gang member who was released from Rikers Island after a conviction of a non-serious misdemeanor.</p> <p>The truth is New York City is a national success story of driving crime down over the past 20-plus years – especially violent crime. The president, a New Yorker, knows this. However, accepting this fact means superseding political grandstanding, and acknowledging that New York’s fight against violent and especially gang crimes have occurred with great success and has continued during Trump’s first 100 days.</p> <p>Since Trump’s inauguration, the NYPD and the city’s District Attorneys have prosecuted gangs and others violent criminals, refuting Session’s big “soft on crime” lie. (Sessions did walk back some of his criticisms after major blowback from NYPD Commissioner Jimmy O’Neill and others.)</p> <p>March 9, the Queens D.A. and NYPD arrested six members of the ABK street gang for plotting to kill two rival gang members and 11 individuals affiliated with the ABK for selling drugs in Queens neighborhoods.</p> <p>March 15, the Bronx D.A., NYPD, and federal law enforcement officials charged 49 members of two Bronx drug distribution organizations with narcotics, robbery, firearms offenses and murder.</p> <p>March 22, the Manhattan D.A. and NYPD charged six men, ages 19-22, as part of a firearm ring for trafficking 105 guns from South Carolina into New York City.</p> <p>March 28, the Staten Island D.A. and NYPD announced the “takedown” of a heroin distribution ring that operated on the South Shore of Staten Island.</p> <p>April 18, the Brooklyn D.A. announced four gang members were sentenced to 25 years to life for robbery and murder.</p> <p>Although the federal courts sent a clear message to Trump that airport detentions, religious profiling, and now defunding threats are unconstitutional, this president does not accept that our nation’s history of protecting individual freedoms no matter one’s race or religion – or how one entered the United States – that our country was not founded on threats, unlawful, odious executive orders, or the big lie.</p> <p>***<br />Arnold N. Kriss is a Manhattan attorney who formerly served as a Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney and Deputy Commissioner of Trials in the New York Police Department.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/nypd_via_nypdrecruit.jpg" alt="nypd via nypdrecruit" width="600" height="309" /></p> <p>(photo: @NYPDRecruit)</p> <hr /> <p>Upping the immigration deportation ante, a San Francisco federal judge found “irreparable harm” and ordered a national preliminary injunction blocking President Donald Trump’s threat of cutting off law enforcement funds to “sanctuary cities” that defiantly refused to comply with his deportation policy.</p> <p>Under the proposed Trump policy, cities would lose funding if undocumented and even legal immigrants are not reported to federal authorities for deportation after being charged with low-level criminal offenses, such as disorderly conduct, possessing small amounts of marijuana, or a variety of non-violent, “broken windows” offenses.</p> <p>Although federal law mandates deportation of noncitizens convicted of serious crimes, Trump’s executive order promulgates a simplistic view of “let’s kick them out” because all undocumented immigrants, non-citizen Muslims, or anyone overstaying a visa, “present a significant threat to national security and public safety and the presence of such individuals in the United States...are contrary to the national interest...[causing] immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.”</p> <p>This Trumpian misinterpretation of constitutional law is a giant step backward reshaping the country’s immigration policy by diminishing civil liberties, due process, and constitutional protections, which for more than 100 years were guaranteed by our federal courts even to those who are illegally in the U.S.</p> <p>But threats have been elevated to the big lie.</p> <p>Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, in an over-the-top and uninformed response to the court’s decision to block defunding, shouted that it was an “egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge.”</p> <p>Spicer should read the Constitution -- federal judges are appointed pursuant to Article 3, by the President -- as should Trump.</p> <p>He accused “sanctuary cities” such as New York of "putting the well-being of criminal aliens before the safety of our citizens" and says city officials who authored policies protecting people living in the country illegally "have the blood of dead Americans on their hands...a gift to the criminal gang and cartel element in our country" that puts "thousands of innocent lives at risk."</p> <p>This is the big lie, but Spicer is not the only Trump perpetrator.</p> <p>On April 21, Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared in an official DOJ memo that New York City “soft on crime” and it “continues to see gang murder after gang murder,” blaming the city for failing to turn over to federal immigration authorities for deportation a gang member who was released from Rikers Island after a conviction of a non-serious misdemeanor.</p> <p>The truth is New York City is a national success story of driving crime down over the past 20-plus years – especially violent crime. The president, a New Yorker, knows this. However, accepting this fact means superseding political grandstanding, and acknowledging that New York’s fight against violent and especially gang crimes have occurred with great success and has continued during Trump’s first 100 days.</p> <p>Since Trump’s inauguration, the NYPD and the city’s District Attorneys have prosecuted gangs and others violent criminals, refuting Session’s big “soft on crime” lie. (Sessions did walk back some of his criticisms after major blowback from NYPD Commissioner Jimmy O’Neill and others.)</p> <p>March 9, the Queens D.A. and NYPD arrested six members of the ABK street gang for plotting to kill two rival gang members and 11 individuals affiliated with the ABK for selling drugs in Queens neighborhoods.</p> <p>March 15, the Bronx D.A., NYPD, and federal law enforcement officials charged 49 members of two Bronx drug distribution organizations with narcotics, robbery, firearms offenses and murder.</p> <p>March 22, the Manhattan D.A. and NYPD charged six men, ages 19-22, as part of a firearm ring for trafficking 105 guns from South Carolina into New York City.</p> <p>March 28, the Staten Island D.A. and NYPD announced the “takedown” of a heroin distribution ring that operated on the South Shore of Staten Island.</p> <p>April 18, the Brooklyn D.A. announced four gang members were sentenced to 25 years to life for robbery and murder.</p> <p>Although the federal courts sent a clear message to Trump that airport detentions, religious profiling, and now defunding threats are unconstitutional, this president does not accept that our nation’s history of protecting individual freedoms no matter one’s race or religion – or how one entered the United States – that our country was not founded on threats, unlawful, odious executive orders, or the big lie.</p> <p>***<br />Arnold N. Kriss is a Manhattan attorney who formerly served as a Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney and Deputy Commissioner of Trials in the New York Police Department.</p> <p>

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Trump’s Victory, De Blasio’s State of the City 2017-03-07T05:00:00+00:00 2017-03-07T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6794:trump-s-victory-de-blasio-s-state-of-the-city Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/bdb_trump_tower.jpg" alt="bdb trump tower" width="600" height="412" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio at Trump Tower (photo: Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>Perhaps so as not to pour salt in the wound, Mayor Bill de Blasio took a few days to give his assessment of what went wrong for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. But, since he started to explain his take on how the Democrats blew it and the country wound up with Donald Trump as President, de Blasio has laid out in sharp terms what he believes should have been done differently.</p> <p>“I think the campaign became about the wrong thing,” de Blasio said during a February 10 taping of Pod Save America, a podcast hosted by former aides to President Barack Obama, “...[it] focused on what was wrong with Donald Trump -- his character, his personality -- and not what we needed to do for the American people and how we needed to change things, and didn’t reference that extraordinary progressive platform enough.”</p> <p>The mayor’s analysis, which he delivered almost jubilantly on the podcast and has given several times in recent months, appears to further validate his own 2013 victory and his philosophy around how Democrats must campaign throughout the country. It also seems to have served as definitional for him as he prepared his 2017 State of the City address, which he delivered on February 13, three days after taping the podcast in front of a live, friendly audience at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).</p> <p>“In the end,” de Blasio <a href="https://getcrookedmedia.com/here-have-a-podcast-78ee56b5a323#.a1csyyatv" target="_blank">said on Pod Save America</a>, “one thing you learn if you’re sort of listening to people, is everyone needs something to vote for, not just something to vote against.”</p> <p>A few nights later at the Apollo Theater, in front of another supportive crowd, de Blasio headlined his primetime State of the City speech with a pledge to create 100,000 “permanent good-paying jobs” over the next 10 years. These, the mayor promised, will be jobs mostly in growth sectors like life sciences and pay at least $50,000 annually. The mayor framed it as “the next front line in the battle” against inequality and the city’s affordability crisis.</p> <p>De Blasio outlined his approach to delivering on that promise to explain his administration is working to provide opportunity for people and, as he is also seeking re-election, giving them that “something to vote for.”</p> <p>“I'm going to talk to you about the things that we are going to do as a city government, the investments we're going to make, and the impact we expect it to have,” de Blasio said during his State of the City.</p> <p>Reading not from prepared remarks but from notes, de Blasio was at times repetitive, especially in hitting home that his activist, interventionist brand of government is doing what New Yorkers need.</p> <p>He explained his “deeply held belief that the simple role of government is to respond to people's everyday lives, to constantly show that we can be there for people, that we can do something to change their lives.”</p> <p>It was a speech, of course, but at times the mayor fell into the de Blasio pattern of telling instead of showing -- he was sure to say out loud what he wanted the emotional takeaways to be.</p> <p>Directly connecting his analysis of the 2016 presidential election and his mayoralty, de Blasio said, “I have to tell you that so much of what we've seen this last year, so much of what we're talking about in this city and this country honestly stems from the fact that for too long people felt their lives weren't seen, their pain wasn't responded to, their needs weren't met. They felt that here, they felt that all over the country. They felt that when they looked at Washington D.C., and a lot of people voted in 2016 based on a pain that was very economic, very real. Because they hadn't seen answers.”</p> <p>The same type of dissatisfaction with government, de Blasio was saying, propelled him into office in New York and Trump into the presidency.</p> <p>One year after voters chose Trump in a stunning upset, de Blasio will be back on the ballot. He has begun his 2017 campaign by rolling out endorsements from several labor unions and elected officials. At events in which he accepts those endorsements, whether union halls or a Bronx church, de Blasio has showcased what his administration has delivered for New Yorkers -- universal pre-kindergarten, more affordable housing, neighborhood policing along with lower crime, and more. He must now convince voters, at least the Democrats that make up his political base, that he not only heard them, but followed through on his 2013 pledge to create a more equal city.</p> <p>During his State of the City, before he turned to his new jobs push, de Blasio discussed the other side of the affordability coin: housing. He not only extolled the progress of his affordable housing plan, which aims to build or preserve 200,000 units of rent-regulated apartments over ten years and is on track to do so, but explained anti-eviction measures the city is undertaking to keep people in their homes and, in many cases, out of a shelter system that is busting at the seams. (The city’s homelessness crisis is a source of vulnerability for de Blasio.)</p> <p>In the lead up to his speech, de Blasio had announced a deal with the City Council to fund a “right to counsel” in housing court, whereby qualifying tenants would receive free legal guidance or representation from the city.</p> <p>Explaining the policy during his State of the City, de Blasio carefully articulated to New Yorkers that his administration is both fighting for them and giving them that “something to vote for.”</p> <p>Describing the specifics of the policy, he provided the three instances where “you get a lawyer.”</p> <p>When he turned to jobs, he said, “If it's going to be your city, we have to help you keep climbing the economic ladder. We have to help you get more and more opportunity.”</p> <p>In the 2016 election analysis de Blasio had delivered just three nights before, he said that Hillary Clinton “had a working majority in...states that she lost, but people stayed home because it didn’t feel enough it was for them and about them.”</p> <p>During his State of the City, de Blasio read his playbook out loud, saying, “People have to see and feel every single day that their government is working for them, is on their side, find a way to make their lives better.”</p> <p>At a recent press conference, Gotham Gazette asked the mayor when he decided to eschew the traditional State of the City model of running through a lengthy list of proposals, plans, and goals in favor of focusing on one central theme, that of affordability.</p> <p>After saying that the State of the City is worked on year-round and tinkered with until the last minute, de Blasio said, “Really, over the few weeks leading up to this speech, I thought a lot about what I had heard from people all over the city and what I heard at town hall meetings.” Because of how much he hears about affordability, he said, “I felt that it would be smart to focus on it.”</p> <p>The mayor added that he felt he had given much public discussion to his policing and education agendas, among other well-worn topics, and, “When I thought about where we needed to add more to the public’s understanding of the direction we were taking, it seemed to me it was around affordability.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/bdb_trump_tower.jpg" alt="bdb trump tower" width="600" height="412" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio at Trump Tower (photo: Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>Perhaps so as not to pour salt in the wound, Mayor Bill de Blasio took a few days to give his assessment of what went wrong for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. But, since he started to explain his take on how the Democrats blew it and the country wound up with Donald Trump as President, de Blasio has laid out in sharp terms what he believes should have been done differently.</p> <p>“I think the campaign became about the wrong thing,” de Blasio said during a February 10 taping of Pod Save America, a podcast hosted by former aides to President Barack Obama, “...[it] focused on what was wrong with Donald Trump -- his character, his personality -- and not what we needed to do for the American people and how we needed to change things, and didn’t reference that extraordinary progressive platform enough.”</p> <p>The mayor’s analysis, which he delivered almost jubilantly on the podcast and has given several times in recent months, appears to further validate his own 2013 victory and his philosophy around how Democrats must campaign throughout the country. It also seems to have served as definitional for him as he prepared his 2017 State of the City address, which he delivered on February 13, three days after taping the podcast in front of a live, friendly audience at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).</p> <p>“In the end,” de Blasio <a href="https://getcrookedmedia.com/here-have-a-podcast-78ee56b5a323#.a1csyyatv" target="_blank">said on Pod Save America</a>, “one thing you learn if you’re sort of listening to people, is everyone needs something to vote for, not just something to vote against.”</p> <p>A few nights later at the Apollo Theater, in front of another supportive crowd, de Blasio headlined his primetime State of the City speech with a pledge to create 100,000 “permanent good-paying jobs” over the next 10 years. These, the mayor promised, will be jobs mostly in growth sectors like life sciences and pay at least $50,000 annually. The mayor framed it as “the next front line in the battle” against inequality and the city’s affordability crisis.</p> <p>De Blasio outlined his approach to delivering on that promise to explain his administration is working to provide opportunity for people and, as he is also seeking re-election, giving them that “something to vote for.”</p> <p>“I'm going to talk to you about the things that we are going to do as a city government, the investments we're going to make, and the impact we expect it to have,” de Blasio said during his State of the City.</p> <p>Reading not from prepared remarks but from notes, de Blasio was at times repetitive, especially in hitting home that his activist, interventionist brand of government is doing what New Yorkers need.</p> <p>He explained his “deeply held belief that the simple role of government is to respond to people's everyday lives, to constantly show that we can be there for people, that we can do something to change their lives.”</p> <p>It was a speech, of course, but at times the mayor fell into the de Blasio pattern of telling instead of showing -- he was sure to say out loud what he wanted the emotional takeaways to be.</p> <p>Directly connecting his analysis of the 2016 presidential election and his mayoralty, de Blasio said, “I have to tell you that so much of what we've seen this last year, so much of what we're talking about in this city and this country honestly stems from the fact that for too long people felt their lives weren't seen, their pain wasn't responded to, their needs weren't met. They felt that here, they felt that all over the country. They felt that when they looked at Washington D.C., and a lot of people voted in 2016 based on a pain that was very economic, very real. Because they hadn't seen answers.”</p> <p>The same type of dissatisfaction with government, de Blasio was saying, propelled him into office in New York and Trump into the presidency.</p> <p>One year after voters chose Trump in a stunning upset, de Blasio will be back on the ballot. He has begun his 2017 campaign by rolling out endorsements from several labor unions and elected officials. At events in which he accepts those endorsements, whether union halls or a Bronx church, de Blasio has showcased what his administration has delivered for New Yorkers -- universal pre-kindergarten, more affordable housing, neighborhood policing along with lower crime, and more. He must now convince voters, at least the Democrats that make up his political base, that he not only heard them, but followed through on his 2013 pledge to create a more equal city.</p> <p>During his State of the City, before he turned to his new jobs push, de Blasio discussed the other side of the affordability coin: housing. He not only extolled the progress of his affordable housing plan, which aims to build or preserve 200,000 units of rent-regulated apartments over ten years and is on track to do so, but explained anti-eviction measures the city is undertaking to keep people in their homes and, in many cases, out of a shelter system that is busting at the seams. (The city’s homelessness crisis is a source of vulnerability for de Blasio.)</p> <p>In the lead up to his speech, de Blasio had announced a deal with the City Council to fund a “right to counsel” in housing court, whereby qualifying tenants would receive free legal guidance or representation from the city.</p> <p>Explaining the policy during his State of the City, de Blasio carefully articulated to New Yorkers that his administration is both fighting for them and giving them that “something to vote for.”</p> <p>Describing the specifics of the policy, he provided the three instances where “you get a lawyer.”</p> <p>When he turned to jobs, he said, “If it's going to be your city, we have to help you keep climbing the economic ladder. We have to help you get more and more opportunity.”</p> <p>In the 2016 election analysis de Blasio had delivered just three nights before, he said that Hillary Clinton “had a working majority in...states that she lost, but people stayed home because it didn’t feel enough it was for them and about them.”</p> <p>During his State of the City, de Blasio read his playbook out loud, saying, “People have to see and feel every single day that their government is working for them, is on their side, find a way to make their lives better.”</p> <p>At a recent press conference, Gotham Gazette asked the mayor when he decided to eschew the traditional State of the City model of running through a lengthy list of proposals, plans, and goals in favor of focusing on one central theme, that of affordability.</p> <p>After saying that the State of the City is worked on year-round and tinkered with until the last minute, de Blasio said, “Really, over the few weeks leading up to this speech, I thought a lot about what I had heard from people all over the city and what I heard at town hall meetings.” Because of how much he hears about affordability, he said, “I felt that it would be smart to focus on it.”</p> <p>The mayor added that he felt he had given much public discussion to his policing and education agendas, among other well-worn topics, and, “When I thought about where we needed to add more to the public’s understanding of the direction we were taking, it seemed to me it was around affordability.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Federal 'Wait and See' Dominates First City Budget Hearing 2017-03-02T05:00:00+00:00 2017-03-02T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6787:federal-wait-and-see-dominates-first-city-budget-hearing Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/33170124986_07701f4c22_z.jpg" alt="Ferreras-Copeland City Council budget hearing" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Finance Chair Ferreras-Copeland (two photos: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council held its first hearing on Thursday to examine Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $84.7 billion preliminary budget for fiscal year 2018, starting the next phase in a months-long process to determine the city’s spending priorities amid broad uncertainty about its fiscal future.</p> <p>Roughly $7 billion in federal funding to the city is threatened by the proposed policies of the Trump administration and the Republican Congress in Washington D.C., and those threats have cast a pall over the city’s budgeting. The de Blasio administration and the City Council find themselves having to decide agency allocations and long-term spending with one hand tied behind their backs, while also facing a local economic slowdown that has diminished tax revenues and slowed job growth.</p> <p>“It is clear that Republican budget priorities will harm our seniors, our children, our first responders, and those seeking quality public housing, job opportunities and affordable medical care,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, a Democrat, in her opening remarks at Thursday’s hearing. And, as if the federal government were adding salt to the wound, she pointed out that the city is being forced to spend millions in providing security at Trump Tower, with reimbursement uncertain.</p> <p>Mark-Viverito speculated that the federal budget, in which Trump has promised to prioritize defense spending over discretionary programs, could include cuts to Medicaid, education funding, and to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), among other programs that serve the city’s most vulnerable. Trump’s executive order that calls for cutting federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities could, if enforced, hit New York hard, as could a potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which both Trump and Republicans in Congress have promised.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration has taken stock of the situation -- coupled with some proposed cuts in state funding outlined by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his own January budget proposal -- and has been “cautious” in its budgeting, said Dean Fuleihan, director of the Office of Management and Budget, in his testimony on Thursday.</p> <p>Appearing before the Council during his annual budget testimony, Fuleihan sought to assure Council members that the administration is prepared for any blowback from federal cuts and is also actively working to prevent those cuts. “We continue to budget strategically, and we remain focused on critical areas including public safety, education and social services,” he said.</p> <p>Over the course of three hours, Fuleihan took questions from Council members on the city’s savings, reserves, capital appropriations, and on specific policies and programs. Many inquiries related in some way to the fear of federal policies and what budget cuts might mean for the city. But Fuleihan’s testimony seemed light on details, particularly with regards to the mayor’s homelessness plan announced the day before. He explained to the Council that the administration had few cost estimates for the new approach to homelessness -- which focuses on creating new shelters while shutting down the use of cluster sites and hotels -- because much of the plan is predicated on the “reallocation of existing resources” and will require, as with each budget cycle, adjustments and enhancements.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/32367359194_5d03da6381_z.jpg" alt="Dean Fuleihan budget hearing" width="300" height="200" style="margin-right: 8px; float: left;" /></p> <p>On numerous occasions, when asked for specifics of city programs, Fuleihan (pictured) gave little clarity but promised to follow up, saying, “I’ll be happy to work with you on that.”</p> <p>Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, a key figure in budget negotiations as chair of the Council’s finance committee, was disappointed in what she heard. “The uncertainty of Trump and what that’ll mean for New York City is something that I think is very real and very valid,” she told reporters after Fuleihan’s testimony. “So I would’ve expected more commitments and more clarity on certain things, especially on the homeless proposal, but now we will have to wait and continue to push, and I’m going to hold his feet to the fire.”</p> <p>In her own opening, Ferreras-Copeland pressed the administration to create more savings through agency efficiencies, rather than through spending re-estimates, funding shifts and one-time reductions. She had apprehensions about the administration’s ability to handle the crisis looming on the horizon, particularly after hearing Fuleihan’s testimony. “We get the most details in this process from the commissioners,” she told reporters. “But what we will probably hear from commissioners is, ‘I don’t know. Ask OMB.’ That’s the process that unfortunately we will have to face and push back, and push back hard on.”</p> <p>Fuleihan didn’t agree with Ferreras-Copeland’s assessment, telling reporters outside the Council chambers that he was “surprised” by the reaction. “In terms of preparing for the future, when the mayor made the presentation in the preliminary budget, he was very clear that this was a cautious budget,” he said. “It is a cautious budget. It was cautious on our revenue forecast and our view of the economy. It was cautious on how we presented and how we looked forward on debt service. It was cautious in maintaining historic levels of reserves that the city has never achieved by any measure.”</p> <p>Fuleihan argued that the city has adequate savings and rainy day funds. The city found $1 billion in savings in the November adjustment to the fiscal year 2017 budget, identified about $1.1 billion in the fiscal year 2018 preliminary budget, and the mayor has promised his administration will find another $500 million by the time the executive budget is released early this spring. Another $1.3 billion will come from healthcare savings in fiscal year 2018, the administration has guaranteed.</p> <p>There is also $5.2 billion in reserve funds, including $1 billion in the general reserve, $250 million annually for each of four years in the Capital Stabilization Reserve, and $4 billion in the Retiree Health Benefits Fund. “Those dont sound like we don’t know the numbers,” Fuleihan said, “they sound very much like we know the numbers.”</p> <p>After Thursday’s initial hearing on the overall spending plan in front of the Council finance committee and whichever Council members chose to attend, the Council will now hold weeks of hearings one or two committees at a time, calling before it the relevant city agencies -- the Council health committee will hear from the Department of Health, for example. Friday will see the higher education committee’s preliminary budget hearing.</p> <p>Besides projected expenditure in the next fiscal year, Thursday’s hearing also focused on the city’s $89.6 billion preliminary ten-year capital strategy. This is the city’s plan for infrastructure spending that is separate from its annual operating budget. A new ten-year capital plan is due every other year.</p> <p>Council Member Ferreras-Copeland expressed concern that capital appropriations made in excess for the current fiscal year diminish the Council’s oversight authority. “Because of the excess appropriations, the administration can add capital projects during the Fiscal Year without Council input or approval,” she said, promising to make this a central issue in budget discussions.</p> <p>Other Council members touched on <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6779-with-city-budget-hearings-set-to-begin-several-points-of-funding-contention" target="_blank">a broad range of budget items</a>, specifically issues that related to committees which they chair or are members of.</p> <p>Council Member Helen Rosenthal, chair of the contracts committee, raised concerns that the city must to do more to fund nonprofit human services providers contracted by the city. Fuleihan, in response, pointed to wage raises provided by the city in the past few years, as well as the 6.12 percent salary increase over three years proposed in the new preliminary budget for fiscal year 2018.</p> <p>Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who chairs the cultural affairs committee, asked if the administration had taken into account the tax revenue impact of the city’s projected decrease in tourism attributed to Trump administration policies. A recent report by the city foresees a drop of 300,000 tourists this year, meaning $600 million in lost business. “We had assumed that there would be some slowing, if not in the actual numbers then in the amount of spending that may be occurring,” Fuleihan said, promising a fuller analysis in coming weeks. “So we will be very cautious in our revenue estimates.”</p> <p>As chair of the health committee, Council Member Corey Johnson naturally inquired about how the city’s struggling municipal hospital system, New York City Health + Hospitals, could remain fiscally sound without support from the state, particularly with the Affordable Care Act under attack at the national level. “We’re very comfortable that the current fiscal year, Health and Hospitals is within their budget,” Fuleihan said, noting that the system had actually seen revenue improvements. Like the city’s housing authority, NYCHA, the public hospital system has seen an overhaul of its financial planning under de Blasio, but is still in dire straits, and may be in worse shape based on decisions out of Washington, D.C.</p> <p>Although Fuleihan promised close collaboration with all the Council members on their budget asks, he didn’t provide in-depth responses. Later, after his testimony, he dismissed the idea that he had little to offer to individual Council members. “There are a series of budget hearings with experts, with commissioners who actually know their areas much better than I do,” he said. “I want to be careful...Any of the general budget questions I answered, and I answered very specifically...and I’m fine answering those. But if somebody’s asking me specific details about an individual project, I want to be careful that I’m giving the accurate information. So that’s all that was.”</p> <p>Fuleihan’s testimony was followed by that of representatives from the Department of Finance, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and the city’s Independent Budget Office, as each gave their analysis of the city’s fiscal situation and next year’s budget needs.</p> <p>State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli also <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6786-major-risks-threaten-nyc-budget-state-comptroller-says" target="_blank">released his report on the city’s fiscal health on Thursday</a>, noting the “external threats” that pose a risk to the city’s budget, including potential federal and state funding cuts.</p> <p>Stringer reiterated what he said two weeks ago when he first presented <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6760-comptroller-hits-mayor-on-out-of-control-homelessness-spending-paltry-agency-savings" target="_blank">his analysis of de Blasio’s preliminary budget</a>, calling on the mayor to add another $1.7 billion to reserves to increase the city’s budget cushion from the current 10 percent to the optimal range between 12 and 18 percent. De Blasio has repeatedly said he is very comfortable with the city’s savings and does plan to keep adding, but he has dismissed Stringer’s calls for a fluffier budget cushion several years running.</p> <p>The IBO had a somewhat different view of the economy, at least relative to city projections, predicting $262 million more in tax revenues than the administration’s forecast but also projecting $308 million in additional expenditure needs for homeless services and education. The IBO’s report, released Thursday morning, also stated that budget reserves may not be sufficient for long. “Although these reserve funds would enable the city to weather a small budgetary storm they would not buttress against a much longer budgetary event,” it reads. “Nor could the existing reserve funds replace the loss of all current federal funding.”</p> <p>The next city fiscal year starts July 1.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6779-with-city-budget-hearings-set-to-begin-several-points-of-funding-contention" target="_blank">Several Specific Funding Debates&nbsp;as City Budget Season Begins</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/33170124986_07701f4c22_z.jpg" alt="Ferreras-Copeland City Council budget hearing" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Finance Chair Ferreras-Copeland (two photos: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council held its first hearing on Thursday to examine Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $84.7 billion preliminary budget for fiscal year 2018, starting the next phase in a months-long process to determine the city’s spending priorities amid broad uncertainty about its fiscal future.</p> <p>Roughly $7 billion in federal funding to the city is threatened by the proposed policies of the Trump administration and the Republican Congress in Washington D.C., and those threats have cast a pall over the city’s budgeting. The de Blasio administration and the City Council find themselves having to decide agency allocations and long-term spending with one hand tied behind their backs, while also facing a local economic slowdown that has diminished tax revenues and slowed job growth.</p> <p>“It is clear that Republican budget priorities will harm our seniors, our children, our first responders, and those seeking quality public housing, job opportunities and affordable medical care,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, a Democrat, in her opening remarks at Thursday’s hearing. And, as if the federal government were adding salt to the wound, she pointed out that the city is being forced to spend millions in providing security at Trump Tower, with reimbursement uncertain.</p> <p>Mark-Viverito speculated that the federal budget, in which Trump has promised to prioritize defense spending over discretionary programs, could include cuts to Medicaid, education funding, and to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), among other programs that serve the city’s most vulnerable. Trump’s executive order that calls for cutting federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities could, if enforced, hit New York hard, as could a potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which both Trump and Republicans in Congress have promised.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration has taken stock of the situation -- coupled with some proposed cuts in state funding outlined by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his own January budget proposal -- and has been “cautious” in its budgeting, said Dean Fuleihan, director of the Office of Management and Budget, in his testimony on Thursday.</p> <p>Appearing before the Council during his annual budget testimony, Fuleihan sought to assure Council members that the administration is prepared for any blowback from federal cuts and is also actively working to prevent those cuts. “We continue to budget strategically, and we remain focused on critical areas including public safety, education and social services,” he said.</p> <p>Over the course of three hours, Fuleihan took questions from Council members on the city’s savings, reserves, capital appropriations, and on specific policies and programs. Many inquiries related in some way to the fear of federal policies and what budget cuts might mean for the city. But Fuleihan’s testimony seemed light on details, particularly with regards to the mayor’s homelessness plan announced the day before. He explained to the Council that the administration had few cost estimates for the new approach to homelessness -- which focuses on creating new shelters while shutting down the use of cluster sites and hotels -- because much of the plan is predicated on the “reallocation of existing resources” and will require, as with each budget cycle, adjustments and enhancements.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/32367359194_5d03da6381_z.jpg" alt="Dean Fuleihan budget hearing" width="300" height="200" style="margin-right: 8px; float: left;" /></p> <p>On numerous occasions, when asked for specifics of city programs, Fuleihan (pictured) gave little clarity but promised to follow up, saying, “I’ll be happy to work with you on that.”</p> <p>Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, a key figure in budget negotiations as chair of the Council’s finance committee, was disappointed in what she heard. “The uncertainty of Trump and what that’ll mean for New York City is something that I think is very real and very valid,” she told reporters after Fuleihan’s testimony. “So I would’ve expected more commitments and more clarity on certain things, especially on the homeless proposal, but now we will have to wait and continue to push, and I’m going to hold his feet to the fire.”</p> <p>In her own opening, Ferreras-Copeland pressed the administration to create more savings through agency efficiencies, rather than through spending re-estimates, funding shifts and one-time reductions. She had apprehensions about the administration’s ability to handle the crisis looming on the horizon, particularly after hearing Fuleihan’s testimony. “We get the most details in this process from the commissioners,” she told reporters. “But what we will probably hear from commissioners is, ‘I don’t know. Ask OMB.’ That’s the process that unfortunately we will have to face and push back, and push back hard on.”</p> <p>Fuleihan didn’t agree with Ferreras-Copeland’s assessment, telling reporters outside the Council chambers that he was “surprised” by the reaction. “In terms of preparing for the future, when the mayor made the presentation in the preliminary budget, he was very clear that this was a cautious budget,” he said. “It is a cautious budget. It was cautious on our revenue forecast and our view of the economy. It was cautious on how we presented and how we looked forward on debt service. It was cautious in maintaining historic levels of reserves that the city has never achieved by any measure.”</p> <p>Fuleihan argued that the city has adequate savings and rainy day funds. The city found $1 billion in savings in the November adjustment to the fiscal year 2017 budget, identified about $1.1 billion in the fiscal year 2018 preliminary budget, and the mayor has promised his administration will find another $500 million by the time the executive budget is released early this spring. Another $1.3 billion will come from healthcare savings in fiscal year 2018, the administration has guaranteed.</p> <p>There is also $5.2 billion in reserve funds, including $1 billion in the general reserve, $250 million annually for each of four years in the Capital Stabilization Reserve, and $4 billion in the Retiree Health Benefits Fund. “Those dont sound like we don’t know the numbers,” Fuleihan said, “they sound very much like we know the numbers.”</p> <p>After Thursday’s initial hearing on the overall spending plan in front of the Council finance committee and whichever Council members chose to attend, the Council will now hold weeks of hearings one or two committees at a time, calling before it the relevant city agencies -- the Council health committee will hear from the Department of Health, for example. Friday will see the higher education committee’s preliminary budget hearing.</p> <p>Besides projected expenditure in the next fiscal year, Thursday’s hearing also focused on the city’s $89.6 billion preliminary ten-year capital strategy. This is the city’s plan for infrastructure spending that is separate from its annual operating budget. A new ten-year capital plan is due every other year.</p> <p>Council Member Ferreras-Copeland expressed concern that capital appropriations made in excess for the current fiscal year diminish the Council’s oversight authority. “Because of the excess appropriations, the administration can add capital projects during the Fiscal Year without Council input or approval,” she said, promising to make this a central issue in budget discussions.</p> <p>Other Council members touched on <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6779-with-city-budget-hearings-set-to-begin-several-points-of-funding-contention" target="_blank">a broad range of budget items</a>, specifically issues that related to committees which they chair or are members of.</p> <p>Council Member Helen Rosenthal, chair of the contracts committee, raised concerns that the city must to do more to fund nonprofit human services providers contracted by the city. Fuleihan, in response, pointed to wage raises provided by the city in the past few years, as well as the 6.12 percent salary increase over three years proposed in the new preliminary budget for fiscal year 2018.</p> <p>Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who chairs the cultural affairs committee, asked if the administration had taken into account the tax revenue impact of the city’s projected decrease in tourism attributed to Trump administration policies. A recent report by the city foresees a drop of 300,000 tourists this year, meaning $600 million in lost business. “We had assumed that there would be some slowing, if not in the actual numbers then in the amount of spending that may be occurring,” Fuleihan said, promising a fuller analysis in coming weeks. “So we will be very cautious in our revenue estimates.”</p> <p>As chair of the health committee, Council Member Corey Johnson naturally inquired about how the city’s struggling municipal hospital system, New York City Health + Hospitals, could remain fiscally sound without support from the state, particularly with the Affordable Care Act under attack at the national level. “We’re very comfortable that the current fiscal year, Health and Hospitals is within their budget,” Fuleihan said, noting that the system had actually seen revenue improvements. Like the city’s housing authority, NYCHA, the public hospital system has seen an overhaul of its financial planning under de Blasio, but is still in dire straits, and may be in worse shape based on decisions out of Washington, D.C.</p> <p>Although Fuleihan promised close collaboration with all the Council members on their budget asks, he didn’t provide in-depth responses. Later, after his testimony, he dismissed the idea that he had little to offer to individual Council members. “There are a series of budget hearings with experts, with commissioners who actually know their areas much better than I do,” he said. “I want to be careful...Any of the general budget questions I answered, and I answered very specifically...and I’m fine answering those. But if somebody’s asking me specific details about an individual project, I want to be careful that I’m giving the accurate information. So that’s all that was.”</p> <p>Fuleihan’s testimony was followed by that of representatives from the Department of Finance, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and the city’s Independent Budget Office, as each gave their analysis of the city’s fiscal situation and next year’s budget needs.</p> <p>State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli also <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6786-major-risks-threaten-nyc-budget-state-comptroller-says" target="_blank">released his report on the city’s fiscal health on Thursday</a>, noting the “external threats” that pose a risk to the city’s budget, including potential federal and state funding cuts.</p> <p>Stringer reiterated what he said two weeks ago when he first presented <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6760-comptroller-hits-mayor-on-out-of-control-homelessness-spending-paltry-agency-savings" target="_blank">his analysis of de Blasio’s preliminary budget</a>, calling on the mayor to add another $1.7 billion to reserves to increase the city’s budget cushion from the current 10 percent to the optimal range between 12 and 18 percent. De Blasio has repeatedly said he is very comfortable with the city’s savings and does plan to keep adding, but he has dismissed Stringer’s calls for a fluffier budget cushion several years running.</p> <p>The IBO had a somewhat different view of the economy, at least relative to city projections, predicting $262 million more in tax revenues than the administration’s forecast but also projecting $308 million in additional expenditure needs for homeless services and education. The IBO’s report, released Thursday morning, also stated that budget reserves may not be sufficient for long. “Although these reserve funds would enable the city to weather a small budgetary storm they would not buttress against a much longer budgetary event,” it reads. “Nor could the existing reserve funds replace the loss of all current federal funding.”</p> <p>The next city fiscal year starts July 1.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6779-with-city-budget-hearings-set-to-begin-several-points-of-funding-contention" target="_blank">Several Specific Funding Debates&nbsp;as City Budget Season Begins</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Trump's Speech, a Nightmare for Democrats 2017-03-01T05:00:00+00:00 2017-03-01T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6783:trump-s-speech-a-nightmare-for-democrats Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/trump_military.jpg" alt="trump military" width="600" height="404" /></p> <p>President Donald Trump (photo: @POTUS)</p> <hr /> <p>In the weeks before Donald Trump’s address to Congress, the main topic of conversation among Democrats was not how to make the president look incompetent and unfit—it was how to best exploit the fact that he so clearly is.</p> <p>We underestimated him.</p> <p>In the biggest political rope-a-dope of all time, after setting the bar as low as he could during 40 days of tumultuous terribleness and a chaotic campaign, Trump delivered a well-crafted, coherent and populist-yet-serious speech on Tuesday night. His presidency re-started today, powered by its success.</p> <p>In other words, this is the Democrats’ worst nightmare.</p> <p>As unpopular a president as Trump is, a high percentage of American voters approve of his policies when they put aside their personal feelings about Trump himself. That means he may still be able to be a well-thought-of president—if he can just act, well, presidential.</p> <p>And that’s what he did last night.</p> <p>Trump will now undoubtedly get a bump up in polls. He may even get a bit of a honeymoon period here similar to what presidents normally receive when they are first elected. It’s even possible most of the country will temporarily forget just how badly he and his people bungled the beginning of his presidency.</p> <p>But the really scary thing for Democrats isn’t the speech; it’s what was in it. Though there were plenty of the same divisive ideas that are sure to enrage the liberal base, there was also plenty of bi-partisan policy and sentiment that is tough to argue with.</p> <p>Ironically, that was the same strategy as another Comeback Kid, who just happens to be the husband of the Democratic candidate Trump beat in November. Yes, in addition to the red meat he threw his base, President Trump attempted to triangulate his way out of trouble on Tuesday, using Bill Clinton’s method of marginalizing dissent by siding with the opposition party.</p> <p>A few examples of Trump tacking left include:</p> <p>--Immigration. The president seemed to indicate he would accept legal status for some undocumented immigrants, saying “I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible.”</p> <p>--Paid maternity leave. The president went way left on a favorite policy of liberals, declaring, “My administration wants to work with members of both parties to make child care accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents that they have paid family leave.”</p> <p>--Lowering the cost of prescription drugs. Traditionally an issue for Democrats, Trump announced (for the umpteenth time) that he would “work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs.”</p> <p>Trump also made plenty of inarguable - and stereotypically presidential - statements in his speech. He decried hate crimes. He called for unity. He laid praise on the military. Sure, some of it sounded hollow and pandering. But he didn’t smirk or flub or appear indifferent. In fact, he delivered the lines believably.</p> <p>You’d have to remember that he has said racist things, divided Americans for his own benefit, and criticized a war hero for getting caught by the enemy to be offended by his duplicity. A lot of Americans won’t.</p> <p>And to be turned off by his false statements, of which there were plenty, you’d have to know they were false. For the record, these included the claims that Americans live in “lawless chaos” (American crime rates are near all-time lows), “Obamacare is collapsing” (20 million more Americans have health insurance now who didn’t before the health plan was passed), and our country is undergoing the “worst financial recovery in 65 years” (75 months of straight job creation and historically low unemployment).</p> <p>And, by God, it was great TV.</p> <p>Maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, Trump is the producer of a top-rated show. But maybe you would think that a Trump-produced address of Congress would be too over the top to be convincingly earnest. It wasn’t.</p> <p>The most memorable moment of the evening – or of any presidential address of Congress in recent memory – was the moving memorial for Senior Chief William Ryan Owens, a Navy SEAL killed in a counter-terror operation in Yemen. His wife, Carryn, appeared to be speaking skyward to her late husband as the chamber stood and applauded. The applause lasted for several minutes. Then, the president quoted the Bible in eulogy.</p> <p>Perhaps Trump’s communications team was thinking more about the effect that moment would have on its principal’s approval rating than the importance of it for the widow and the appreciation of the ultimate sacrifice of a soldier. Perhaps not. It doesn’t matter. It made the president look presidential.</p> <p>But the Democrats do have one thing going for them: this was just a speech. Today may be a brighter day for Republicans and the White House—but sunlight is the best disinfectant, and only progress on the president’s promises will allow him to maintain his momentum.</p> <p>Plus: Trump is Trump. If history is any guide, he does not have the discipline to stay on message for more than a short time.</p> <p>So chalk one up for Team Trump. And Democrats beware. But leading a divided nation, convincing a cantankerous Congress and advancing a bi-partisan agenda is a lot harder than reading off of a Teleprompter.</p> <p>***<br />Evan Thies is the co-founder of Pythia Public Affairs. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/EvanRThies" target="_blank">@EvanRThies</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/trump_military.jpg" alt="trump military" width="600" height="404" /></p> <p>President Donald Trump (photo: @POTUS)</p> <hr /> <p>In the weeks before Donald Trump’s address to Congress, the main topic of conversation among Democrats was not how to make the president look incompetent and unfit—it was how to best exploit the fact that he so clearly is.</p> <p>We underestimated him.</p> <p>In the biggest political rope-a-dope of all time, after setting the bar as low as he could during 40 days of tumultuous terribleness and a chaotic campaign, Trump delivered a well-crafted, coherent and populist-yet-serious speech on Tuesday night. His presidency re-started today, powered by its success.</p> <p>In other words, this is the Democrats’ worst nightmare.</p> <p>As unpopular a president as Trump is, a high percentage of American voters approve of his policies when they put aside their personal feelings about Trump himself. That means he may still be able to be a well-thought-of president—if he can just act, well, presidential.</p> <p>And that’s what he did last night.</p> <p>Trump will now undoubtedly get a bump up in polls. He may even get a bit of a honeymoon period here similar to what presidents normally receive when they are first elected. It’s even possible most of the country will temporarily forget just how badly he and his people bungled the beginning of his presidency.</p> <p>But the really scary thing for Democrats isn’t the speech; it’s what was in it. Though there were plenty of the same divisive ideas that are sure to enrage the liberal base, there was also plenty of bi-partisan policy and sentiment that is tough to argue with.</p> <p>Ironically, that was the same strategy as another Comeback Kid, who just happens to be the husband of the Democratic candidate Trump beat in November. Yes, in addition to the red meat he threw his base, President Trump attempted to triangulate his way out of trouble on Tuesday, using Bill Clinton’s method of marginalizing dissent by siding with the opposition party.</p> <p>A few examples of Trump tacking left include:</p> <p>--Immigration. The president seemed to indicate he would accept legal status for some undocumented immigrants, saying “I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible.”</p> <p>--Paid maternity leave. The president went way left on a favorite policy of liberals, declaring, “My administration wants to work with members of both parties to make child care accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents that they have paid family leave.”</p> <p>--Lowering the cost of prescription drugs. Traditionally an issue for Democrats, Trump announced (for the umpteenth time) that he would “work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs.”</p> <p>Trump also made plenty of inarguable - and stereotypically presidential - statements in his speech. He decried hate crimes. He called for unity. He laid praise on the military. Sure, some of it sounded hollow and pandering. But he didn’t smirk or flub or appear indifferent. In fact, he delivered the lines believably.</p> <p>You’d have to remember that he has said racist things, divided Americans for his own benefit, and criticized a war hero for getting caught by the enemy to be offended by his duplicity. A lot of Americans won’t.</p> <p>And to be turned off by his false statements, of which there were plenty, you’d have to know they were false. For the record, these included the claims that Americans live in “lawless chaos” (American crime rates are near all-time lows), “Obamacare is collapsing” (20 million more Americans have health insurance now who didn’t before the health plan was passed), and our country is undergoing the “worst financial recovery in 65 years” (75 months of straight job creation and historically low unemployment).</p> <p>And, by God, it was great TV.</p> <p>Maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, Trump is the producer of a top-rated show. But maybe you would think that a Trump-produced address of Congress would be too over the top to be convincingly earnest. It wasn’t.</p> <p>The most memorable moment of the evening – or of any presidential address of Congress in recent memory – was the moving memorial for Senior Chief William Ryan Owens, a Navy SEAL killed in a counter-terror operation in Yemen. His wife, Carryn, appeared to be speaking skyward to her late husband as the chamber stood and applauded. The applause lasted for several minutes. Then, the president quoted the Bible in eulogy.</p> <p>Perhaps Trump’s communications team was thinking more about the effect that moment would have on its principal’s approval rating than the importance of it for the widow and the appreciation of the ultimate sacrifice of a soldier. Perhaps not. It doesn’t matter. It made the president look presidential.</p> <p>But the Democrats do have one thing going for them: this was just a speech. Today may be a brighter day for Republicans and the White House—but sunlight is the best disinfectant, and only progress on the president’s promises will allow him to maintain his momentum.</p> <p>Plus: Trump is Trump. If history is any guide, he does not have the discipline to stay on message for more than a short time.</p> <p>So chalk one up for Team Trump. And Democrats beware. But leading a divided nation, convincing a cantankerous Congress and advancing a bi-partisan agenda is a lot harder than reading off of a Teleprompter.</p> <p>***<br />Evan Thies is the co-founder of Pythia Public Affairs. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/EvanRThies" target="_blank">@EvanRThies</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
Broken Windows Policing Will Fuel the Trump Deportation Machine 2017-02-23T05:00:00+00:00 2017-02-23T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6774:broken-windows-policing-will-fuel-the-trump-deportation-machine Ben Max <p>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/rory-lancman-presser-city-hall.jpg" alt="rory lancman presser city hall" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>City Council Member Rory Lancman, the author (photo: @RoryLancman)</p> <hr /> <p>We’re now more than 30 days into Donald Trump’s presidency, and it is already crystal clear that the hostile and offensive rhetoric he used toward immigrants on the campaign trail will be put into practice by his administration.</p> <p>It was just this week that Trump’s Department of Homeland Security issued <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/21/us/politics/dhs-immigration-trump.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;clickSource=story-heading&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">new rules</a> that make clear Trump’s plan to deport millions of immigrants from our country, while tearing apart families and communities in the process.</p> <p>With thousands, if not tens of thousands, of immigrant New Yorkers now at risk of deportation, it is urgent that Mayor Bill de Blasio take real action to protect immigrant New Yorkers from possible deportation under Trump.</p> <p>The mayor has had no problem in recent weeks talking about opposing Trump and his policies, but when it comes down to it, talk is cheap. Real leadership requires bold action, and immigrant New Yorkers deserve action.</p> <p>But, here is the reality facing New York City today: Mayor de Blasio’s broken windows policing will now be the fuel for Donald Trump’s deportation machine.</p> <p>Without important and necessary action from the mayor, New Yorkers who are arrested for minor, nonviolent offenses could now be subject to deportation. That is inhumane and completely contrary to our values.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio has the authority to take action immediately to protect immigrant New Yorkers -- without having to wait for the City Council, the State Legislature, or Congress. On his own, the mayor can direct the NYPD to stop arresting people, including immigrant New Yorkers, for low-level, nonviolent, quality-of-life crimes where a civil alternative is already readily available.</p> <p>Take fare evasion, for example. In 2015, more than 100,000 New Yorkers were stopped by the NYPD for fare evasion. Nearly 30,000 New Yorkers were arrested for “theft of services,” a misdemeanor under the state penal law. The remaining individuals were issued a civil summons for violating the MTA rule against fare evasion, which is not subject to any kind of criminal sanction.</p> <p>The difference between an arrest and a civil violation for fare evasion is monumental. A conviction for fare evasion could result in jail time, appear on an individual’s criminal record, and staggeringly enough, result in deportation for even documented immigrants like legal permanent residents of New York.</p> <p>On the other hand, a civil violation is heard by the MTA’s Transit Adjudication Bureau, not a criminal court, and cannot result in jail time or deportation.</p> <p>As Mayor de Blasio’s broken windows policing continues in this city, it is clear who is being targeted -- 92% of the arrests for fare evasion in 2015 were people of color. Oftentimes, too, if an individual cannot immediately produce an ID, the NYPD will choose to make an arrest, instead of issuing a civil violation.</p> <p>All told the risk of arrest for immigrant New Yorkers for fare evasion is all too real. And for undocumented immigrants, any interaction with the criminal justice system, even for a minor offense like fare evasion, can result in deportation.</p> <p>With the stakes so high for so many in our city, it is up to the mayor to determine if he is going to use his authority to protect people, or silently feed into Trump’s deportation machine. Talking about standing up to Donald Trump is one thing, but actually taking action is far more important.</p> <p>New Yorkers are counting on the mayor to do what’s right and take a real, actionable stand for our values against Trump.</p> <p>***<br />City Council Member Rory Lancman represents parts of Queens and chairs the Council's Committee on Courts and Legal Services. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/RoryLancman" target="_blank">@RoryLancman</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/rory-lancman-presser-city-hall.jpg" alt="rory lancman presser city hall" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>City Council Member Rory Lancman, the author (photo: @RoryLancman)</p> <hr /> <p>We’re now more than 30 days into Donald Trump’s presidency, and it is already crystal clear that the hostile and offensive rhetoric he used toward immigrants on the campaign trail will be put into practice by his administration.</p> <p>It was just this week that Trump’s Department of Homeland Security issued <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/21/us/politics/dhs-immigration-trump.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;clickSource=story-heading&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">new rules</a> that make clear Trump’s plan to deport millions of immigrants from our country, while tearing apart families and communities in the process.</p> <p>With thousands, if not tens of thousands, of immigrant New Yorkers now at risk of deportation, it is urgent that Mayor Bill de Blasio take real action to protect immigrant New Yorkers from possible deportation under Trump.</p> <p>The mayor has had no problem in recent weeks talking about opposing Trump and his policies, but when it comes down to it, talk is cheap. Real leadership requires bold action, and immigrant New Yorkers deserve action.</p> <p>But, here is the reality facing New York City today: Mayor de Blasio’s broken windows policing will now be the fuel for Donald Trump’s deportation machine.</p> <p>Without important and necessary action from the mayor, New Yorkers who are arrested for minor, nonviolent offenses could now be subject to deportation. That is inhumane and completely contrary to our values.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio has the authority to take action immediately to protect immigrant New Yorkers -- without having to wait for the City Council, the State Legislature, or Congress. On his own, the mayor can direct the NYPD to stop arresting people, including immigrant New Yorkers, for low-level, nonviolent, quality-of-life crimes where a civil alternative is already readily available.</p> <p>Take fare evasion, for example. In 2015, more than 100,000 New Yorkers were stopped by the NYPD for fare evasion. Nearly 30,000 New Yorkers were arrested for “theft of services,” a misdemeanor under the state penal law. The remaining individuals were issued a civil summons for violating the MTA rule against fare evasion, which is not subject to any kind of criminal sanction.</p> <p>The difference between an arrest and a civil violation for fare evasion is monumental. A conviction for fare evasion could result in jail time, appear on an individual’s criminal record, and staggeringly enough, result in deportation for even documented immigrants like legal permanent residents of New York.</p> <p>On the other hand, a civil violation is heard by the MTA’s Transit Adjudication Bureau, not a criminal court, and cannot result in jail time or deportation.</p> <p>As Mayor de Blasio’s broken windows policing continues in this city, it is clear who is being targeted -- 92% of the arrests for fare evasion in 2015 were people of color. Oftentimes, too, if an individual cannot immediately produce an ID, the NYPD will choose to make an arrest, instead of issuing a civil violation.</p> <p>All told the risk of arrest for immigrant New Yorkers for fare evasion is all too real. And for undocumented immigrants, any interaction with the criminal justice system, even for a minor offense like fare evasion, can result in deportation.</p> <p>With the stakes so high for so many in our city, it is up to the mayor to determine if he is going to use his authority to protect people, or silently feed into Trump’s deportation machine. Talking about standing up to Donald Trump is one thing, but actually taking action is far more important.</p> <p>New Yorkers are counting on the mayor to do what’s right and take a real, actionable stand for our values against Trump.</p> <p>***<br />City Council Member Rory Lancman represents parts of Queens and chairs the Council's Committee on Courts and Legal Services. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/RoryLancman" target="_blank">@RoryLancman</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
Schneiderman: ‘Not one single substantiated claim of voter fraud in New York last year’ 2017-02-22T05:00:00+00:00 2017-02-22T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6770:schneiderman-not-one-single-substantiated-claim-of-voter-fraud-in-new-york-last-year Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/voting_AG_april_2016.jpg" alt="Schneiderman voting" width="600" height="554" /></p> <p>AG Eric Schneiderman voting</p> <hr /> <p>New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman responded to a congressional inquiry Wednesday, making clear that there was “not one single substantiated claim of voter fraud in New York last year.”</p> <p>In a letter, addressed to Reps. Elijah Cummings, Robert Brady, and James Clyburn, Schneiderman emphasized the real voting challenges in New York are those that disenfranchise potential voters, rather than the “imaginary problem of voter fraud.”</p> <p>“New York’s voting system faces many challenges,” Schneiderman wrote, with restrictive laws, rules and procedures, as well as administrative errors, that both legally and illegally disenfranchise New Yorkers seeking to exercise their right to vote.</p> <p>Schneiderman’s letter came, he wrote, in response to an inquiry from the three members of Congress, all of whom are fellow Democrats, that came in the wake of President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/01/23/at-white-house-trump-tells-congressional-leaders-3-5-million-illegal-ballots-cost-him-the-popular-vote/" target="_blank">claim</a> that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally, costing him the popular vote during the presidential election. Cummings is the top Democrat on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; Brady is ranking member, Committee on House Administration; and Clyburn is Assistant Democratic Leader.</p> <p>In a letter to election officials and attorneys general in all 50 states, <a href="https://democrats-oversight.house.gov/news/press-releases/cummings-launches-investigation-of-true-the-vote-raises-questions-about" target="_blank">the representatives asked</a> for details like the identity of individuals who cast a prohibited vote, the date of the vote, the polling place where the vote was cast, the legal reason for the vote being prohibited, and whether the individual was prosecuted.</p> <p>Out of the thousands of calls fielded by the Attorney General’s office during the four elections that took place in New York during 2016 (three primary days and one general election day), just two callers alleged voter fraud, according to Schneiderman. The Attorney General’s office investigated one claim and determined the charge was unfounded. The second caller did not provide sufficient information to warrant an investigation in that case.</p> <p>Furthermore, the New York State Board of Elections has not referred a single allegation related to fraudulent voting during the 2016 elections to the Attorney General for investigation or prosecution, according to Schneiderman. “The lack of such complaints made directly to my office, as well as the absence of referrals from other agencies, leads me to conclude that voter fraud—the act of an ineligible individual casting a vote in an election—is a non-issue, at least in New York State,” he wrote in the letter.</p> <p>Unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud have <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6572-election-commissioner-s-rant-prompts-dispute-over-idnyc-and-voter-id-in-new-york" target="_blank">erupted on the local</a> and national stages in the past year. In October 2016, Manhattan Board of Elections Commissioner Alan Schulkin came under fire after he was secretly filmed alleging that rampant voter fraud exists in New York City, enabled, in part, by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s municipal identification program (which has no relationship with voting given that New York does not have voter identification laws). Schulkin, a Democrat, also claimed organizations in certain neighborhoods bus voters around between districts to fraudulently win seats, apparently making the case for Republican-backed voter ID laws.</p> <p>At the time, City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito blasted Schulkin’s claims as “uninformed opinions” with “no basis in fact” while Mayor Bill de Blasio <a href="http://nypost.com/2016/10/11/assemblyman-demands-elections-official-resign-for-linking-minorities-to-voter-fraud/" target="_blank">called for</a> his resignation. Democratic Party leaders <a href="http://nypost.com/2016/11/16/elections-official-resigns-after-video-blasting-de-blasios-id-program/" target="_blank">decided</a> not to reappoint Schulkin after his term ended in December 31, 2016 -- he continues to serve, though, until a replacement is named and confirmed through the City Council.</p> <p>Trump’s more recent theory that thousands of voters were “bussed in” from Massachusetts to New Hampshire during the presidential election have since been discredited <a href="http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/320361-lewandowski-says-he-didnt-see-evidence-of-trumps-voter-fraud-claims" target="_blank">even by</a> the president’s closest aides.</p> <p>Voter access continues to be a problem given New York’s antiquated electoral system, which has drawn the scorn of many elected officials, advocates, and everyday New Yorkers. In December, the Office of the Attorney General released a comprehensive report detailing the many issues voters faced at the polls during the April 2016 presidential primary election.</p> <p>Last year, Mayor de Blasio outlined a series of voting reforms he wants to see, including early voting and same-day voter registration.</p> <p>As he has before, Governor Andrew Cuomo included <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6724-cuomo-embraces-voting-reform-agenda-but-implementation-poses-challenges" target="_blank">those measures and others</a> in his 2017 State of the State policy agenda.</p> <p>Attorney General Schneiderman recently <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6752-attorney-general-unveils-sweeping-voting-reforms-package" target="_blank">introduced the New York Votes Act</a>, which seeks to address many of these ongoing issues by updating the state’s voting systems through early voting, automatic and same-day registration, consolidated primaries, shortened party registration deadlines, and more. Schneiderman also recently filed suit against the New York City Board of Elections for widespread violations that illegally purged over 200,000 New Yorkers from the voter rolls.</p> <p>Republicans in the state Senate <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6724-cuomo-embraces-voting-reform-agenda-but-implementation-poses-challenges" target="_blank">continue to form</a> the most obvious and entrenched blockade to most of the voting reforms being sought by Cuomo, Schneiderman, and others.</p> <p>“Our democracy is ailing, with too few eligible citizens registered to vote, too few of those who are registered exercising this fundamental right, and too many states devising methods to suppress the vote, rather than encourage participation in our nation’s elections,” <a href="https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/2017.02.22_ltr_to_cummings_brady_clyburn_re_voter_fraud.pdf" target="_blank">Schneiderman wrote</a> to members of Congress. “We would be happy to work with Congress to solve these problems – many of which persist not only in New York but also in states across the country – rather than seek to address the imaginary problem of voter fraud.”</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/voting_AG_april_2016.jpg" alt="Schneiderman voting" width="600" height="554" /></p> <p>AG Eric Schneiderman voting</p> <hr /> <p>New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman responded to a congressional inquiry Wednesday, making clear that there was “not one single substantiated claim of voter fraud in New York last year.”</p> <p>In a letter, addressed to Reps. Elijah Cummings, Robert Brady, and James Clyburn, Schneiderman emphasized the real voting challenges in New York are those that disenfranchise potential voters, rather than the “imaginary problem of voter fraud.”</p> <p>“New York’s voting system faces many challenges,” Schneiderman wrote, with restrictive laws, rules and procedures, as well as administrative errors, that both legally and illegally disenfranchise New Yorkers seeking to exercise their right to vote.</p> <p>Schneiderman’s letter came, he wrote, in response to an inquiry from the three members of Congress, all of whom are fellow Democrats, that came in the wake of President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/01/23/at-white-house-trump-tells-congressional-leaders-3-5-million-illegal-ballots-cost-him-the-popular-vote/" target="_blank">claim</a> that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally, costing him the popular vote during the presidential election. Cummings is the top Democrat on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; Brady is ranking member, Committee on House Administration; and Clyburn is Assistant Democratic Leader.</p> <p>In a letter to election officials and attorneys general in all 50 states, <a href="https://democrats-oversight.house.gov/news/press-releases/cummings-launches-investigation-of-true-the-vote-raises-questions-about" target="_blank">the representatives asked</a> for details like the identity of individuals who cast a prohibited vote, the date of the vote, the polling place where the vote was cast, the legal reason for the vote being prohibited, and whether the individual was prosecuted.</p> <p>Out of the thousands of calls fielded by the Attorney General’s office during the four elections that took place in New York during 2016 (three primary days and one general election day), just two callers alleged voter fraud, according to Schneiderman. The Attorney General’s office investigated one claim and determined the charge was unfounded. The second caller did not provide sufficient information to warrant an investigation in that case.</p> <p>Furthermore, the New York State Board of Elections has not referred a single allegation related to fraudulent voting during the 2016 elections to the Attorney General for investigation or prosecution, according to Schneiderman. “The lack of such complaints made directly to my office, as well as the absence of referrals from other agencies, leads me to conclude that voter fraud—the act of an ineligible individual casting a vote in an election—is a non-issue, at least in New York State,” he wrote in the letter.</p> <p>Unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud have <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6572-election-commissioner-s-rant-prompts-dispute-over-idnyc-and-voter-id-in-new-york" target="_blank">erupted on the local</a> and national stages in the past year. In October 2016, Manhattan Board of Elections Commissioner Alan Schulkin came under fire after he was secretly filmed alleging that rampant voter fraud exists in New York City, enabled, in part, by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s municipal identification program (which has no relationship with voting given that New York does not have voter identification laws). Schulkin, a Democrat, also claimed organizations in certain neighborhoods bus voters around between districts to fraudulently win seats, apparently making the case for Republican-backed voter ID laws.</p> <p>At the time, City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito blasted Schulkin’s claims as “uninformed opinions” with “no basis in fact” while Mayor Bill de Blasio <a href="http://nypost.com/2016/10/11/assemblyman-demands-elections-official-resign-for-linking-minorities-to-voter-fraud/" target="_blank">called for</a> his resignation. Democratic Party leaders <a href="http://nypost.com/2016/11/16/elections-official-resigns-after-video-blasting-de-blasios-id-program/" target="_blank">decided</a> not to reappoint Schulkin after his term ended in December 31, 2016 -- he continues to serve, though, until a replacement is named and confirmed through the City Council.</p> <p>Trump’s more recent theory that thousands of voters were “bussed in” from Massachusetts to New Hampshire during the presidential election have since been discredited <a href="http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/320361-lewandowski-says-he-didnt-see-evidence-of-trumps-voter-fraud-claims" target="_blank">even by</a> the president’s closest aides.</p> <p>Voter access continues to be a problem given New York’s antiquated electoral system, which has drawn the scorn of many elected officials, advocates, and everyday New Yorkers. In December, the Office of the Attorney General released a comprehensive report detailing the many issues voters faced at the polls during the April 2016 presidential primary election.</p> <p>Last year, Mayor de Blasio outlined a series of voting reforms he wants to see, including early voting and same-day voter registration.</p> <p>As he has before, Governor Andrew Cuomo included <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6724-cuomo-embraces-voting-reform-agenda-but-implementation-poses-challenges" target="_blank">those measures and others</a> in his 2017 State of the State policy agenda.</p> <p>Attorney General Schneiderman recently <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6752-attorney-general-unveils-sweeping-voting-reforms-package" target="_blank">introduced the New York Votes Act</a>, which seeks to address many of these ongoing issues by updating the state’s voting systems through early voting, automatic and same-day registration, consolidated primaries, shortened party registration deadlines, and more. Schneiderman also recently filed suit against the New York City Board of Elections for widespread violations that illegally purged over 200,000 New Yorkers from the voter rolls.</p> <p>Republicans in the state Senate <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6724-cuomo-embraces-voting-reform-agenda-but-implementation-poses-challenges" target="_blank">continue to form</a> the most obvious and entrenched blockade to most of the voting reforms being sought by Cuomo, Schneiderman, and others.</p> <p>“Our democracy is ailing, with too few eligible citizens registered to vote, too few of those who are registered exercising this fundamental right, and too many states devising methods to suppress the vote, rather than encourage participation in our nation’s elections,” <a href="https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/2017.02.22_ltr_to_cummings_brady_clyburn_re_voter_fraud.pdf" target="_blank">Schneiderman wrote</a> to members of Congress. “We would be happy to work with Congress to solve these problems – many of which persist not only in New York but also in states across the country – rather than seek to address the imaginary problem of voter fraud.”</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>