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/eric-ulrich 2017-10-23T06:11:42+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com An End-of-Term Agenda for the City Council Veterans Committee 2017-10-05T04:00:00+00:00 2017-10-05T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7238:an-end-of-term-agenda-for-the-city-council-veterans-committee Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/ulrich_hearing.jpg" alt="City Council Ulrich hearing" width="600" height="427" /></p> <p>Council Member Ulrich (photo: John McCarten)</p> <hr /> <p>In early 2014, City Council Member Eric Ulrich was appointed chair the veterans committee by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. At that time I wrote that no one within the veterans community knew what to expect, and as one of a few Republicans in a largely Democratic City Council, there were some who opposed Ulrich’s selection.</p> <p>Fast forward nearly four years and the majority of the veterans community agrees that without his leadership and guidance, there would not have been a renewed conversation and there certainly wouldn’t have been many legislative accomplishments, particularly the creation of the Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS). &nbsp;I dare say that Ulrich’s record of accomplishments, along with Council Member Paul Vallone and the other veterans committee members, has been the greatest within the Council since I started as an advocate back in 1995.</p> <p>With the general election coming next month and the race for the next Speaker already hot, there are some who believe that if re-elected, Ulrich may be moved to chair a new committee by the next Speaker. There are many moving part to this equation, but given the final three months of this Council’s term are upon us, there is some important veterans business to take care of.</p> <p>The veterans committee held a hearing earlier this week, and with that and the ticking clock in mind, there are several topics the committee should consider holding hearings on over the coming months.</p> <p><strong>Department of Veterans’ Services:</strong>&nbsp;This week the veterans committee held an oversight hearing on DVS. This hearing focused on the growth and accomplishments of the agency since it came online in April 2016.</p> <p>Overall, many agree that there have been a number of successes, but growing pains and confounding issues as well. While DVS leadership touted the department’s work and successes, particularly with its integrative health model (VetsThriveNYC), its work regarding housing homeless veterans, its Public Artist in Resident program, and its information and technology, many items remain.</p> <p>Procurement of its VetsConnectNYC program, an online platform that will connect veterans with service providers, is still being negotiated. Veterans are concerned about information missing on DVS’ website, its lack of inclusion in the Mayor’s Management Report (MMR), which DVS reps acknowledged will be in the next report, and the functions and actual outreach of the Community Outreach Specialists.</p> <p>Lastly, many veteran organizations receiving money from the City through the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) have stated that DVS needs to have autonomous control over contracts to speed up the contracting processing and disbursement of funds, particularly for those veteran organizations that have unique contracting situations. This issue should be considered for a separate hearing with the Council’s finance committee.</p> <p><strong>Veteran Treatment Courts:</strong>&nbsp;Almost two years ago the committee held a hearing regarding Veteran Treatment Courts throughout the city; as well as Council Member Rory Lancman’s proposed legislation calling for the creation of a Veterans Legal Task Force to study veterans’ access to legal services and resources within the city’s criminal justice system. Unfortunately, that bill, Intro. 793, didn’t make it out of committee, however with Congressional Rep. Dan Donovan’s recent <a href="https://donovan.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/donovan-announces-federal-grants-drug-court-veterans-treatment-court" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">announcement of grants for Veteran Treatment Courts</a>; and the Manhattan veterans court up and running, the time is right to revisit this issue to see what the courts are doing, learning, learning from each other, and how they have evolved in helping veterans from all eras.</p> <p><strong>Veteran Homelessness:</strong>&nbsp;In 2009 there were roughly 3,700 homeless veterans in New York City. &nbsp;At the end of 2015 the federal government announced that New York City had ended chronic veteran homelessness, meaning veterans homeless for long periods of time or repeatedly. That is a major accomplish that could not have taken place without a coordinated approach from federal, state and city agencies.</p> <p>In November 2015, the Council’s veterans committee, in conjunction with the general welfare committee held a hearing on what the city was doing to provide services to veterans, especially those experiencing homelessness. With the recent announced reductions of SSVF providers last month, along with the city not reaching “functional zero” and the federal VA dropping that goal recently, an update is needed in regards to what the veterans homeless population looks like, where the dity is in maintaining the end of “chronic homelessness” for veterans and what the plans are to address any future changes that may come from the federal government. This hearing also needs to solicit input from non-profits that are working on the ground with this population.</p> <p><strong>Veteran Small Business and Entrepreneurship:</strong> Almost three years ago, the veterans committee, along with the small business committee, held a hearing on supporting veteran-owned businesses. This was based on Local Law 144 of 2013, which required the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) to study veteran-owned business enterprises and determine the need for a city veteran-procurement program.</p> <p>In December 2014, SBS, the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services (MOCS), and the then-Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA) published a report of their findings, which the committees examined at a January 2015 hearing. The report contained seven recommendations, which included increasing outreach to veterans, better training veteran business owners (VBOs) on how to do business with the city, and creating a designation for VBOs who wish to be potential vendors with the city.</p> <p>There was also discussion of supporting the development of a veterans business enterprise program (VEB) through executive fiat (as a pilot program) or by working with the City Council to create legislation for the program. With the rise of veteran entrepreneurs over the last couple of years, there needs to be a hearing to update what has changed and where DVS and SBS are with this issue. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Lastly</strong>, the committee should also consider follow-up hearings regarding the City University of New York (CUNY); as well as from DVS regarding its new public-private partnership “<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/354-17/nyc-creates-college-veterans-consortium-veterans-campus-nyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Veterans on Campus-NYC</a>.” &nbsp;The committee should consider holding a hearing on the overall veterans population in New York City and should hold a hearing in the Bronx, as Council Member Ulrich promised to Council Member Fernando Cabrera earlier this year.</p> <p>This is a fairly hefty agenda and some issues will certainly get left off the table. However, if Council Member Ulrich and the committee members continue to approach veterans’ issues with the diligence they’ve shown over the past three and a half years, they will have a busy and productive next few months, and leave the committee in a much better place for whoever follows.</p> <p>***<br />Joe Bello served 11 years in the U.S. Navy/Naval Reserve and has been a veterans advocate in New York City for over two decades. He is a member of the City’s Veterans Advisory Board and the founder of <a href="https://www.facebook.com/NYMetroVets" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NY MetroVets</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/reset_1/ulrich_hearing.jpg" alt="City Council Ulrich hearing" width="600" height="427" /></p> <p>Council Member Ulrich (photo: John McCarten)</p> <hr /> <p>In early 2014, City Council Member Eric Ulrich was appointed chair the veterans committee by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. At that time I wrote that no one within the veterans community knew what to expect, and as one of a few Republicans in a largely Democratic City Council, there were some who opposed Ulrich’s selection.</p> <p>Fast forward nearly four years and the majority of the veterans community agrees that without his leadership and guidance, there would not have been a renewed conversation and there certainly wouldn’t have been many legislative accomplishments, particularly the creation of the Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS). &nbsp;I dare say that Ulrich’s record of accomplishments, along with Council Member Paul Vallone and the other veterans committee members, has been the greatest within the Council since I started as an advocate back in 1995.</p> <p>With the general election coming next month and the race for the next Speaker already hot, there are some who believe that if re-elected, Ulrich may be moved to chair a new committee by the next Speaker. There are many moving part to this equation, but given the final three months of this Council’s term are upon us, there is some important veterans business to take care of.</p> <p>The veterans committee held a hearing earlier this week, and with that and the ticking clock in mind, there are several topics the committee should consider holding hearings on over the coming months.</p> <p><strong>Department of Veterans’ Services:</strong>&nbsp;This week the veterans committee held an oversight hearing on DVS. This hearing focused on the growth and accomplishments of the agency since it came online in April 2016.</p> <p>Overall, many agree that there have been a number of successes, but growing pains and confounding issues as well. While DVS leadership touted the department’s work and successes, particularly with its integrative health model (VetsThriveNYC), its work regarding housing homeless veterans, its Public Artist in Resident program, and its information and technology, many items remain.</p> <p>Procurement of its VetsConnectNYC program, an online platform that will connect veterans with service providers, is still being negotiated. Veterans are concerned about information missing on DVS’ website, its lack of inclusion in the Mayor’s Management Report (MMR), which DVS reps acknowledged will be in the next report, and the functions and actual outreach of the Community Outreach Specialists.</p> <p>Lastly, many veteran organizations receiving money from the City through the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) have stated that DVS needs to have autonomous control over contracts to speed up the contracting processing and disbursement of funds, particularly for those veteran organizations that have unique contracting situations. This issue should be considered for a separate hearing with the Council’s finance committee.</p> <p><strong>Veteran Treatment Courts:</strong>&nbsp;Almost two years ago the committee held a hearing regarding Veteran Treatment Courts throughout the city; as well as Council Member Rory Lancman’s proposed legislation calling for the creation of a Veterans Legal Task Force to study veterans’ access to legal services and resources within the city’s criminal justice system. Unfortunately, that bill, Intro. 793, didn’t make it out of committee, however with Congressional Rep. Dan Donovan’s recent <a href="https://donovan.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/donovan-announces-federal-grants-drug-court-veterans-treatment-court" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">announcement of grants for Veteran Treatment Courts</a>; and the Manhattan veterans court up and running, the time is right to revisit this issue to see what the courts are doing, learning, learning from each other, and how they have evolved in helping veterans from all eras.</p> <p><strong>Veteran Homelessness:</strong>&nbsp;In 2009 there were roughly 3,700 homeless veterans in New York City. &nbsp;At the end of 2015 the federal government announced that New York City had ended chronic veteran homelessness, meaning veterans homeless for long periods of time or repeatedly. That is a major accomplish that could not have taken place without a coordinated approach from federal, state and city agencies.</p> <p>In November 2015, the Council’s veterans committee, in conjunction with the general welfare committee held a hearing on what the city was doing to provide services to veterans, especially those experiencing homelessness. With the recent announced reductions of SSVF providers last month, along with the city not reaching “functional zero” and the federal VA dropping that goal recently, an update is needed in regards to what the veterans homeless population looks like, where the dity is in maintaining the end of “chronic homelessness” for veterans and what the plans are to address any future changes that may come from the federal government. This hearing also needs to solicit input from non-profits that are working on the ground with this population.</p> <p><strong>Veteran Small Business and Entrepreneurship:</strong> Almost three years ago, the veterans committee, along with the small business committee, held a hearing on supporting veteran-owned businesses. This was based on Local Law 144 of 2013, which required the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) to study veteran-owned business enterprises and determine the need for a city veteran-procurement program.</p> <p>In December 2014, SBS, the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services (MOCS), and the then-Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA) published a report of their findings, which the committees examined at a January 2015 hearing. The report contained seven recommendations, which included increasing outreach to veterans, better training veteran business owners (VBOs) on how to do business with the city, and creating a designation for VBOs who wish to be potential vendors with the city.</p> <p>There was also discussion of supporting the development of a veterans business enterprise program (VEB) through executive fiat (as a pilot program) or by working with the City Council to create legislation for the program. With the rise of veteran entrepreneurs over the last couple of years, there needs to be a hearing to update what has changed and where DVS and SBS are with this issue. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Lastly</strong>, the committee should also consider follow-up hearings regarding the City University of New York (CUNY); as well as from DVS regarding its new public-private partnership “<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/354-17/nyc-creates-college-veterans-consortium-veterans-campus-nyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Veterans on Campus-NYC</a>.” &nbsp;The committee should consider holding a hearing on the overall veterans population in New York City and should hold a hearing in the Bronx, as Council Member Ulrich promised to Council Member Fernando Cabrera earlier this year.</p> <p>This is a fairly hefty agenda and some issues will certainly get left off the table. However, if Council Member Ulrich and the committee members continue to approach veterans’ issues with the diligence they’ve shown over the past three and a half years, they will have a busy and productive next few months, and leave the committee in a much better place for whoever follows.</p> <p>***<br />Joe Bello served 11 years in the U.S. Navy/Naval Reserve and has been a veterans advocate in New York City for over two decades. He is a member of the City’s Veterans Advisory Board and the founder of <a href="https://www.facebook.com/NYMetroVets" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NY MetroVets</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
4 Interesting Participatory Budgeting Project Winners 2017-05-23T04:00:00+00:00 2017-05-23T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6949:4-interesting-participatory-budgeting-project-winners Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/pb_vote_via_lander.jpg" alt="pb vote via lander" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>(photo: Council Member Lander's office)</p> <hr /> <p>After an 11-day window in which over 100,000 residents of pertinent districts cast ballots, the City Council recently announced the winners of the 2016-17 participatory budgeting cycle. Thirty-one of 51 Council districts participated this year, leading to $34 million in capital funds going towards hyper-local projects chosen directly by the districts’ voters.</p> <p>A total of 138 projects received funding in this cycle, with most districts backing three to five projects. Some districts awarded funding for many more projects -- District 38, which includes Sunset Park, Red Hook, and Windsor Terrace in Brooklyn and is represented by Democrat Carlos Menchaca, is funding 10 projects. Many project proposals were represented in multiple districts, such as laptops or air conditioning in schools and security cameras for places such as parks, schools, and police precincts, but many were more unique to the respective districts. While participatory budgeting funds are all for capital projects, like equipment or some kind of small construction work, and often show a lot of similarity to each other and to those funded in past cycles, a handful of winning projects stand out this year.</p> <p>The participatory budgeting movement, which began in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989 as a means of decentralizing budgetary authority and handing power to the people, has since spread to numerous municipalities worldwide. It reached New York City in 2011, when City Council Members Brad Lander, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Eric Ulrich, and Jumaane Williams launched participatory budgeting projects in their respective districts, dedicating about $1 million of the funds at their disposal to a community process.</p> <p>While it’s not required of all Council districts, and it hasn’t been implemented citywide, the movement is clearly growing at a rapid pace in the city. Districts participating in participatory budgeting set aside, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/government/5946-participatory-budgeting-grows-in-nyc-why-isnt-every-council-member-doing-it" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at minimum</a>, $1 million of their capital budget allocation for public determination.</p> <p>Participatory budgeting allows issues unique to each community to gain both attention and funding from a city budget process that may have overlooked them without direct citizen input. For instance, one out of four public school classrooms in the city lack air conditioning, which can become not only a health hazard for both students and teachers, but also an impediment to effective learning in the later months of the school term, which ends on June 28 this year.</p> <p>Several districts voted to allocate participatory budgeting funds toward putting air conditioning in classrooms devoid of it. As it turns out, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that his executive budget proposal, unveiled last month, includes almost $29 million to put air conditioning in every public school classroom in the city within five years. Another long-requested but never-delivered service, bus countdown clocks, also won funding in numerous districts. The countdown clocks have a lurid history, with the MTA removing physical clocks from some stops upon the development of a BusTime app by the Authority, which can alienate low-income New Yorkers who don’t possess smartphones.</p> <p>“This is democracy in action,” City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito said in a statement announcing the results of the cycle, getting at the essence of participatory budgeting, at least for its proponents.</p> <p>While those like Mark-Viverito, dozens of other Council members, a variety of community groups, and many residents are pleased with participatory budgeting, some critics say that it is a waste of time and Council staff resources (it is a labor heavy program for aides to Council members) and that the projects funded are ones that should really be taken into consideration in the regular budget process. Critics say that Council members are supposed to be gauging their constituents’ needs year-round anyway and influencing the larger budget process and allocating their member item funding accordingly.</p> <p>The City Council won the Roy and Lila Ash Innovation Award for Public Engagement for participatory budgeting in 2015 from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, winning $100,000 as a means of “<a href="https://ash.harvard.edu/news/new-york-san-francisco-named-winners-harvards-2015-innovation-american-government-award" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">replication and dissemination of their innovations</a>.”</p> <p>This year’s participatory budgeting winners include many typical projects, but a few others stand out.</p> <p>The highest number of votes for any project in the city went to a proposal in District 39, represented by Democrat Brad Lander, who has been a vocal proponent of PB since he was one of the original four to pilot it in the city. The votes were for providing mobile showers for homeless people. The project received 5,293 votes. The program is administered by CHiPS, a homeless services non-profit that runs a soup kitchen and a residency program, and will be stationed in front of its soup kitchen in Park Slope.</p> <p>District 39, which includes parts of Park Slope and Gowanus, has a relatively low number of homeless shelter beds. It is one of 18 City Council districts without any family shelter units, but does have nearly 300 adult single shelter beds.&nbsp;Mayor Bill de Blasio may soon change these numbers given that his new homeless shelter plan includes opening 90 new shelters of various types across the city. He has promised more beds for Park Slope, where he used to live and was the City Council member before being elected Public Advocate, then Mayor.</p> <p>Another winning project is the addition of a courtroom for Benjamin Cardozo High School in District 23, represented by Barry Grodenchik; the school is known for its Mentor Law and Humanities program. All students in the program must participate in either mock trial or model UN in their sophomore year. The courtroom will not be the first in a Queens high school; Maspeth High School opened a student courtroom in February of last year.</p> <p>In District 22, represented by Democrat Costa Constantinides, the Steinway Branch of the Queens Library will be fitted with solar panels after receiving over 1,000 votes in the district’s cycle. The library will join several other public library branches in the city that have adopted solar energy.</p> <p>The total votes in Constantinides’ district more than doubled since last year. Constantinides said this shows “that neighborhood residents care about our public and community spaces.”</p> <p>And in District 32, represented by Republican Eric Ulrich (the only one of three Republican Council districts participating in the program), Shore Front Parkway will be the site of new adult exercise equipment “adjacent to the boardwalk” as well as a “labyrinth/yoga/meditation area.” Projects in Ulrich’s district received the fewest votes of any district participating in the program this year; only 858 votes were cast in total.</p> <p>The full list of winners of New York City’s 2016-17 Participatory Budgeting Cycle can be found <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/press/2017/05/15/1414/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: the article has been clarified to better explain the homeless shelter beds currently in District 39.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/pb_vote_via_lander.jpg" alt="pb vote via lander" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>(photo: Council Member Lander's office)</p> <hr /> <p>After an 11-day window in which over 100,000 residents of pertinent districts cast ballots, the City Council recently announced the winners of the 2016-17 participatory budgeting cycle. Thirty-one of 51 Council districts participated this year, leading to $34 million in capital funds going towards hyper-local projects chosen directly by the districts’ voters.</p> <p>A total of 138 projects received funding in this cycle, with most districts backing three to five projects. Some districts awarded funding for many more projects -- District 38, which includes Sunset Park, Red Hook, and Windsor Terrace in Brooklyn and is represented by Democrat Carlos Menchaca, is funding 10 projects. Many project proposals were represented in multiple districts, such as laptops or air conditioning in schools and security cameras for places such as parks, schools, and police precincts, but many were more unique to the respective districts. While participatory budgeting funds are all for capital projects, like equipment or some kind of small construction work, and often show a lot of similarity to each other and to those funded in past cycles, a handful of winning projects stand out this year.</p> <p>The participatory budgeting movement, which began in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989 as a means of decentralizing budgetary authority and handing power to the people, has since spread to numerous municipalities worldwide. It reached New York City in 2011, when City Council Members Brad Lander, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Eric Ulrich, and Jumaane Williams launched participatory budgeting projects in their respective districts, dedicating about $1 million of the funds at their disposal to a community process.</p> <p>While it’s not required of all Council districts, and it hasn’t been implemented citywide, the movement is clearly growing at a rapid pace in the city. Districts participating in participatory budgeting set aside, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/government/5946-participatory-budgeting-grows-in-nyc-why-isnt-every-council-member-doing-it" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at minimum</a>, $1 million of their capital budget allocation for public determination.</p> <p>Participatory budgeting allows issues unique to each community to gain both attention and funding from a city budget process that may have overlooked them without direct citizen input. For instance, one out of four public school classrooms in the city lack air conditioning, which can become not only a health hazard for both students and teachers, but also an impediment to effective learning in the later months of the school term, which ends on June 28 this year.</p> <p>Several districts voted to allocate participatory budgeting funds toward putting air conditioning in classrooms devoid of it. As it turns out, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that his executive budget proposal, unveiled last month, includes almost $29 million to put air conditioning in every public school classroom in the city within five years. Another long-requested but never-delivered service, bus countdown clocks, also won funding in numerous districts. The countdown clocks have a lurid history, with the MTA removing physical clocks from some stops upon the development of a BusTime app by the Authority, which can alienate low-income New Yorkers who don’t possess smartphones.</p> <p>“This is democracy in action,” City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito said in a statement announcing the results of the cycle, getting at the essence of participatory budgeting, at least for its proponents.</p> <p>While those like Mark-Viverito, dozens of other Council members, a variety of community groups, and many residents are pleased with participatory budgeting, some critics say that it is a waste of time and Council staff resources (it is a labor heavy program for aides to Council members) and that the projects funded are ones that should really be taken into consideration in the regular budget process. Critics say that Council members are supposed to be gauging their constituents’ needs year-round anyway and influencing the larger budget process and allocating their member item funding accordingly.</p> <p>The City Council won the Roy and Lila Ash Innovation Award for Public Engagement for participatory budgeting in 2015 from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, winning $100,000 as a means of “<a href="https://ash.harvard.edu/news/new-york-san-francisco-named-winners-harvards-2015-innovation-american-government-award" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">replication and dissemination of their innovations</a>.”</p> <p>This year’s participatory budgeting winners include many typical projects, but a few others stand out.</p> <p>The highest number of votes for any project in the city went to a proposal in District 39, represented by Democrat Brad Lander, who has been a vocal proponent of PB since he was one of the original four to pilot it in the city. The votes were for providing mobile showers for homeless people. The project received 5,293 votes. The program is administered by CHiPS, a homeless services non-profit that runs a soup kitchen and a residency program, and will be stationed in front of its soup kitchen in Park Slope.</p> <p>District 39, which includes parts of Park Slope and Gowanus, has a relatively low number of homeless shelter beds. It is one of 18 City Council districts without any family shelter units, but does have nearly 300 adult single shelter beds.&nbsp;Mayor Bill de Blasio may soon change these numbers given that his new homeless shelter plan includes opening 90 new shelters of various types across the city. He has promised more beds for Park Slope, where he used to live and was the City Council member before being elected Public Advocate, then Mayor.</p> <p>Another winning project is the addition of a courtroom for Benjamin Cardozo High School in District 23, represented by Barry Grodenchik; the school is known for its Mentor Law and Humanities program. All students in the program must participate in either mock trial or model UN in their sophomore year. The courtroom will not be the first in a Queens high school; Maspeth High School opened a student courtroom in February of last year.</p> <p>In District 22, represented by Democrat Costa Constantinides, the Steinway Branch of the Queens Library will be fitted with solar panels after receiving over 1,000 votes in the district’s cycle. The library will join several other public library branches in the city that have adopted solar energy.</p> <p>The total votes in Constantinides’ district more than doubled since last year. Constantinides said this shows “that neighborhood residents care about our public and community spaces.”</p> <p>And in District 32, represented by Republican Eric Ulrich (the only one of three Republican Council districts participating in the program), Shore Front Parkway will be the site of new adult exercise equipment “adjacent to the boardwalk” as well as a “labyrinth/yoga/meditation area.” Projects in Ulrich’s district received the fewest votes of any district participating in the program this year; only 858 votes were cast in total.</p> <p>The full list of winners of New York City’s 2016-17 Participatory Budgeting Cycle can be found <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/press/2017/05/15/1414/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: the article has been clarified to better explain the homeless shelter beds currently in District 39.</p>
In GOP Mayoral Primary, Lopsided Fundraising Numbers & One Big Question 2017-03-16T04:00:00+00:00 2017-03-16T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6813:in-the-gop-mayoral-primary-lopsided-fundraising-numbers-one-big-question Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/32191061044_5572c34d4a_z.jpg" alt="Massey city hall " width="600" height="400" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Paul Massey (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">With just six months until the primaries in this year’s city elections, declared candidates for the Republican mayoral nomination have begun to step up fundraising and campaigning. Meanwhile, two potential GOP mayoral candidates are still exploring a run, and the entrance of one or both could shake up a race that is off to a seemingly lopsided start.</p> <p dir="ltr">Midnight on Wednesday was the deadline for the latest round of campaign finance disclosures, covering a two-month period from January to March. Three candidates have officially declared their runs for the Republican nomination -- real estate executive Paul Massey; Harlem pastor Michel Faulkner; and disability rights activist Darren Aquino.</p> <p dir="ltr">Two others have also been flirting with the idea of running -- Queens City Council Member Eric Ulrich, one of three Republicans in the legislative body; and billionaire supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis, who lost in the GOP mayoral primary in 2013. While Ulrich’s fundraising picture may prevent him from launching a campaign -- plus he could run for another term in the Council; Catsimatidis would self-fund if he runs and has the resources to mount a robust campaign.</p> <p dir="ltr">Massey is far ahead of the fundraising pack, having raised $865,000 in the last two months from 983 contributions. But, he also spent about $1.09 million in the same period. His campaign’s contributions to date total $2.48 million and his expenditure is about $3.3 million. He has also personally loaned his campaign about $1.97 million, leaving a balance of $1.16 million in his campaign account as of this week’s mid-March filing with the city’s Campaign Finance Board.</p> <p dir="ltr">In an email blast on Wednesday, Massey touted his recent “fundraising record” which was more than double Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $394,000 raised in the last two months. “This is a significant indicator of what we have known all along – de Blasio is vulnerable and beatable,” the email read. De Blasio, however, has raised much more overall and spent far less, and has $2.32 million in his own campaign coffers. Unlike Massey, the mayor is also participating in the city’s public matching program.</p> <p dir="ltr">At this point, fundraising comparisons between Massey and de Blasio are limited in value considering that each much emerge from their party primary before they would face off in the general as the two major party candidates. (Massey has secured the Independence Party line, so he is already assured a place in the general election.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Massey, who officially launched his campaign in Queens on Monday, has emphasized the mayor’s vulnerability based on the two corruption investigations into the administration. He continued to harp on the controversy, even after federal and state prosecutors announced Thursday that they would not be bringing criminal charges against the mayor or his aides.</p> <p dir="ltr">Massey is also not participating in the city’s public matching funds program -- which gives candidates 6-to-1 matching funds for every qualifying contribution up to $175 -- but boasted the strength of small dollar donors to his campaign. “[W]e almost doubled our donor base and almost half of that was from donors under $175, which proves the other thing we’ve known all along -- the more voters hear our message of integrity and leadership, the more they want to get involved,” the Wednesday campaign email read.</p> <p dir="ltr">Faulkner’s fundraising haul pales in comparison. He has raised a total of $64,514 in contributions and has loans to his campaign worth $152,875, most of which was his own money. His campaign spending, about $268,000 outpaces his total fundraising, putting him just over $50,000 in the red. Between January and March, he raised $13,300 but spent $82,177.</p> <p dir="ltr">Faulkner fashions himself as a candidate who will appeal broadly to Republicans and moderate Democrats, but that is at odds with his vocal support for President Donald Trump, who was soundly rejected by New York City voters in the presidential election. Faulkner has echoed some Trump policies, and opposes New York’s “sanctuary city” status. Like other Republicans, he has criticized the mayor for presiding over a decline in the quality of life in the city, citing an explosion in homelessness and the perception that the streets are unsafe, even though crime is at historic lows.</p> <p dir="ltr">Darren Aquino’s fundraising and presence in the campaign has been almost negligible. He has raised just $1,800 total, and spent half of it. He has also made no media appearances other than participating in a March 9 <a href="http://observer.com/2017/03/queens-gop-councilman-mayor-race/" target="_blank">mayoral candidate forum</a> alongside Massey and Faulkner at Columbia University.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Ulrich was also on stage at that forum, organized by the Columbia University College Republicans, but not as a declared candidate. Ulrich has been hesitant to jump into the race and may be even more so now that the mayor has been cleared in the two investigations. His fundraising numbers also don’t indicate that he’s readying a run. He has raised just over $57,000 and spent about $16,000, leaving him $41,000 in his campaign account. In the last two months, he raised $5,455 and spent $791.</p> <p dir="ltr">The second-term Council member, who recently became the subject of a reality television show pilot, said after the forum last week, “I haven’t made a decision yet. I’m very close to making a decision and I should have an announcement soon, but I’m still considering a run for mayor because I’m concerned about the future of the city and because I do believe that Bill de Blasio can be beaten.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/councilman-ulrich-state-city" target="_blank">Appearing on</a> WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show on Tuesday, Ulrich criticized Mayor de Blasio while also putting on display his anti-Trump bonafides. Ulrich supported Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the Republican presidential primary last year, and Kasich has fundraised for Ulrich’s potential mayoral candidacy. When Ulrich began exploring a mayoral campaign last year, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6590-ulrich-starts-raising-funds-on-message-of-beating-de-blasio-in-2017" target="_blank">he told Gotham Gazette</a> in October that he would not run if he was going to be embarrassed, and that a key piece of running a viable campaign is fundraising.</p> <p dir="ltr">Then there is Catsimatidis, who lost the 2013 Republican nomination to Joe Lhota and wants to run one more time, he has said. Catsimatidis has been noncommittal and has not even registered a committee with the campaign finance board. But, he can rely on his deep pockets to self-fund his campaign, and poses potentially the biggest threat to the fundraising frontrunner Massey. At the very least, Catsimatidis may force Massey to spend even more money during the primary.</p> <p dir="ltr">At a St. Patrick’s Day event on March 11, <a href="http://observer.com/2017/03/gop-billionaire-mayor-bill-de-blasio/" target="_blank">the Observer reported</a>, Catsimatidis dropped hints about a mayoral run while appealing to his own Democratic side.&nbsp;“Look, Bill de Blasio’s a friend of mine and it’s all about—it’s not running as a Democrat or Republican, it’s running as a New Yorker,” he said.&nbsp;“About running for mayor,” he said later, “we haven’t made up our mind.”</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/32191061044_5572c34d4a_z.jpg" alt="Massey city hall " width="600" height="400" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Paul Massey (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">With just six months until the primaries in this year’s city elections, declared candidates for the Republican mayoral nomination have begun to step up fundraising and campaigning. Meanwhile, two potential GOP mayoral candidates are still exploring a run, and the entrance of one or both could shake up a race that is off to a seemingly lopsided start.</p> <p dir="ltr">Midnight on Wednesday was the deadline for the latest round of campaign finance disclosures, covering a two-month period from January to March. Three candidates have officially declared their runs for the Republican nomination -- real estate executive Paul Massey; Harlem pastor Michel Faulkner; and disability rights activist Darren Aquino.</p> <p dir="ltr">Two others have also been flirting with the idea of running -- Queens City Council Member Eric Ulrich, one of three Republicans in the legislative body; and billionaire supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis, who lost in the GOP mayoral primary in 2013. While Ulrich’s fundraising picture may prevent him from launching a campaign -- plus he could run for another term in the Council; Catsimatidis would self-fund if he runs and has the resources to mount a robust campaign.</p> <p dir="ltr">Massey is far ahead of the fundraising pack, having raised $865,000 in the last two months from 983 contributions. But, he also spent about $1.09 million in the same period. His campaign’s contributions to date total $2.48 million and his expenditure is about $3.3 million. He has also personally loaned his campaign about $1.97 million, leaving a balance of $1.16 million in his campaign account as of this week’s mid-March filing with the city’s Campaign Finance Board.</p> <p dir="ltr">In an email blast on Wednesday, Massey touted his recent “fundraising record” which was more than double Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $394,000 raised in the last two months. “This is a significant indicator of what we have known all along – de Blasio is vulnerable and beatable,” the email read. De Blasio, however, has raised much more overall and spent far less, and has $2.32 million in his own campaign coffers. Unlike Massey, the mayor is also participating in the city’s public matching program.</p> <p dir="ltr">At this point, fundraising comparisons between Massey and de Blasio are limited in value considering that each much emerge from their party primary before they would face off in the general as the two major party candidates. (Massey has secured the Independence Party line, so he is already assured a place in the general election.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Massey, who officially launched his campaign in Queens on Monday, has emphasized the mayor’s vulnerability based on the two corruption investigations into the administration. He continued to harp on the controversy, even after federal and state prosecutors announced Thursday that they would not be bringing criminal charges against the mayor or his aides.</p> <p dir="ltr">Massey is also not participating in the city’s public matching funds program -- which gives candidates 6-to-1 matching funds for every qualifying contribution up to $175 -- but boasted the strength of small dollar donors to his campaign. “[W]e almost doubled our donor base and almost half of that was from donors under $175, which proves the other thing we’ve known all along -- the more voters hear our message of integrity and leadership, the more they want to get involved,” the Wednesday campaign email read.</p> <p dir="ltr">Faulkner’s fundraising haul pales in comparison. He has raised a total of $64,514 in contributions and has loans to his campaign worth $152,875, most of which was his own money. His campaign spending, about $268,000 outpaces his total fundraising, putting him just over $50,000 in the red. Between January and March, he raised $13,300 but spent $82,177.</p> <p dir="ltr">Faulkner fashions himself as a candidate who will appeal broadly to Republicans and moderate Democrats, but that is at odds with his vocal support for President Donald Trump, who was soundly rejected by New York City voters in the presidential election. Faulkner has echoed some Trump policies, and opposes New York’s “sanctuary city” status. Like other Republicans, he has criticized the mayor for presiding over a decline in the quality of life in the city, citing an explosion in homelessness and the perception that the streets are unsafe, even though crime is at historic lows.</p> <p dir="ltr">Darren Aquino’s fundraising and presence in the campaign has been almost negligible. He has raised just $1,800 total, and spent half of it. He has also made no media appearances other than participating in a March 9 <a href="http://observer.com/2017/03/queens-gop-councilman-mayor-race/" target="_blank">mayoral candidate forum</a> alongside Massey and Faulkner at Columbia University.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Ulrich was also on stage at that forum, organized by the Columbia University College Republicans, but not as a declared candidate. Ulrich has been hesitant to jump into the race and may be even more so now that the mayor has been cleared in the two investigations. His fundraising numbers also don’t indicate that he’s readying a run. He has raised just over $57,000 and spent about $16,000, leaving him $41,000 in his campaign account. In the last two months, he raised $5,455 and spent $791.</p> <p dir="ltr">The second-term Council member, who recently became the subject of a reality television show pilot, said after the forum last week, “I haven’t made a decision yet. I’m very close to making a decision and I should have an announcement soon, but I’m still considering a run for mayor because I’m concerned about the future of the city and because I do believe that Bill de Blasio can be beaten.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/councilman-ulrich-state-city" target="_blank">Appearing on</a> WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show on Tuesday, Ulrich criticized Mayor de Blasio while also putting on display his anti-Trump bonafides. Ulrich supported Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the Republican presidential primary last year, and Kasich has fundraised for Ulrich’s potential mayoral candidacy. When Ulrich began exploring a mayoral campaign last year, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6590-ulrich-starts-raising-funds-on-message-of-beating-de-blasio-in-2017" target="_blank">he told Gotham Gazette</a> in October that he would not run if he was going to be embarrassed, and that a key piece of running a viable campaign is fundraising.</p> <p dir="ltr">Then there is Catsimatidis, who lost the 2013 Republican nomination to Joe Lhota and wants to run one more time, he has said. Catsimatidis has been noncommittal and has not even registered a committee with the campaign finance board. But, he can rely on his deep pockets to self-fund his campaign, and poses potentially the biggest threat to the fundraising frontrunner Massey. At the very least, Catsimatidis may force Massey to spend even more money during the primary.</p> <p dir="ltr">At a St. Patrick’s Day event on March 11, <a href="http://observer.com/2017/03/gop-billionaire-mayor-bill-de-blasio/" target="_blank">the Observer reported</a>, Catsimatidis dropped hints about a mayoral run while appealing to his own Democratic side.&nbsp;“Look, Bill de Blasio’s a friend of mine and it’s all about—it’s not running as a Democrat or Republican, it’s running as a New Yorker,” he said.&nbsp;“About running for mayor,” he said later, “we haven’t made up our mind.”</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Budget Hearing Shows Veterans Department Settling into Agency Status 2017-03-06T05:00:00+00:00 2017-03-06T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6793:budget-hearing-shows-veterans-department-settling-into-agency-status Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/ulrich_flags.jpg" alt="ulrich flags" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Ulrich (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council Committee on Veterans held a preliminary budget hearing Monday, hearing testimony from the Department of Veterans Services and advocates for military veterans in New York City.</p> <p>Council members, led by committee Chair Eric Ulrich, heard from Loree Sutton, the commissioner of the Department of Veterans Services, and others in assessing the department’s budgetary needs for the upcoming 2018 fiscal year, which begins July 1.</p> <p>Formerly the Mayor’s Office of Veteran’s Affairs, DVS was established as a stand-alone agency in 2015 to provide more support for the city’s military veteran community. This includes more staff and a bigger budget, as well as more oversight from the Council.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio’s <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6729-with-no-trump-specific-adjustment-de-blasio-unveils-84-7-billion-budget" target="_blank">$84.67 billion preliminary budget</a>, unveiled January 24, surprised some veterans advocates with its $318,000 funding decrease for DVS from the current fiscal year’s adopted budget. As <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6739-proposed-budget-cut-to-veterans-department-causes-stir" target="_blank">previously reported by Gotham Gazette</a>, this proposal was initially met with outrage from members of the Council’s veterans committee and other elected officials, who joined veterans advocates to protest the proposed reduction outside City Hall last month.</p> <p>A few days later, the mayor’s office announced it was adding money to the DVS budget for fiscal 2018 to keep one position that had been federally funded and was not slated to be kept and for other services.</p> <p>Thus, outrage was largely absent from Monday’s hearing. Despite DVS receiving $3.84 million in the adopted budget for the current fiscal year, Commissioner Sutton and Council Member Ulrich seemed at peace with the $3.63 million (plus the to-be-seen additions) in proposed funding for DVS in fiscal year 2018. The city's November budget modification had the DVS budget at $3.95 million, but projected $3.63 million for the next fiscal year, and that is what de Blasio wound up budgeting. State and federal funding may also play a role in the next adopted DVS budget, though.</p> <p>In her testimony, Sutton framed the decrease as a natural reduction for a second-year agency. Referring to DVS as “truly a ‘start-up’ entity,” Sutton explained that the budget decrease is due to one-time costs associated with forming a new agency that were included for the current year and are unnecessary next year. “Part of the inaugural agency budget was assigned to staffing, as well as certain non-recurring start-up costs such as the purchase of computers, office equipment, supplies, and furniture.”</p> <p>Following Sutton’s testimony, Ulrich praised Sutton for keeping operational costs down. “Commissioner Sutton is probably one of the few agency heads who doesn’t come to the City Council saying ‘we need more money,’ so I’m very impressed with her level of austerity - she’s doing so much with the limited resources she has. If she needed more money I’m sure she would ask for it and the Council would be obliged to give it to [DVS].”</p> <p>Sutton’s testimony also provided an overview of DVS operations. She outlined the progress made on housing, health services, and employment programs for the city’s 210,000 military veterans. According to Sutton, DVS “led the nation in its response to homelessness by connecting 1,600 homeless veterans with permanent, affordable housing this past year.” Sutton also reported that, in an effort to increase accessibility, DVS is establishing satellite offices in all five boroughs “to serve as a direct link between the community in each borough and DVS.”</p> <p>A DVS spokesperson, Alexis Wichowski, had <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6739-proposed-budget-cut-to-veterans-department-causes-stir" target="_blank">previously told Gotham Gazette</a> that the agency had hired 33 of its 35-person budgeted staff. “We are almost at full capacity, that’s a huge milestone,” she said. “Getting people on board and getting them trained has been the focus for the last few months.”</p> <p>Though neither Sutton nor Ulrich called the mayor’s preliminary budget lacking in DVS funding, that position was not unanimous Monday. The committee also heard from the NYC Veterans Alliance, represented by Kristen Rouse, who testified to the need for an increase in DVS funding, arguing that her organization is still overwhelmed with the number of requests it receives from veterans and their families.</p> <p>“I would love for a day when we don’t get phone calls and emails from distressed people saying ‘we need help,’” Rouse said, before officially calling on the administration to increase DVS funding. “DVS was created because of the enormity of the need and the urgency of helping veterans and their families in New York City...Funding must go up, not be reduced,” Rouse told the committee.</p> <p>Though Ulrich could not commit to securing such an increase in the final budget - the deadline for which is June 30 - he did conclude the hearing by remarking that DVS represents a vast improvement to the city’s former veteran care and policy-making process. It was a push by Ulrich and groundswell in the Council that led to the creation of the department over the initial objections of de Blasio. “Prior to DVS...The budget [for veterans affairs] was whatever the Mayor wanted it to be and the Council really had no formal role it that process...I think it was incredibly important that people feel a sense of accountability. Now we have that and we’re very grateful for that.”</p> <p>

***
by Luke Foley, Gotham Gazette

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated with additional information.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/ulrich_flags.jpg" alt="ulrich flags" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Ulrich (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council Committee on Veterans held a preliminary budget hearing Monday, hearing testimony from the Department of Veterans Services and advocates for military veterans in New York City.</p> <p>Council members, led by committee Chair Eric Ulrich, heard from Loree Sutton, the commissioner of the Department of Veterans Services, and others in assessing the department’s budgetary needs for the upcoming 2018 fiscal year, which begins July 1.</p> <p>Formerly the Mayor’s Office of Veteran’s Affairs, DVS was established as a stand-alone agency in 2015 to provide more support for the city’s military veteran community. This includes more staff and a bigger budget, as well as more oversight from the Council.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio’s <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6729-with-no-trump-specific-adjustment-de-blasio-unveils-84-7-billion-budget" target="_blank">$84.67 billion preliminary budget</a>, unveiled January 24, surprised some veterans advocates with its $318,000 funding decrease for DVS from the current fiscal year’s adopted budget. As <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6739-proposed-budget-cut-to-veterans-department-causes-stir" target="_blank">previously reported by Gotham Gazette</a>, this proposal was initially met with outrage from members of the Council’s veterans committee and other elected officials, who joined veterans advocates to protest the proposed reduction outside City Hall last month.</p> <p>A few days later, the mayor’s office announced it was adding money to the DVS budget for fiscal 2018 to keep one position that had been federally funded and was not slated to be kept and for other services.</p> <p>Thus, outrage was largely absent from Monday’s hearing. Despite DVS receiving $3.84 million in the adopted budget for the current fiscal year, Commissioner Sutton and Council Member Ulrich seemed at peace with the $3.63 million (plus the to-be-seen additions) in proposed funding for DVS in fiscal year 2018. The city's November budget modification had the DVS budget at $3.95 million, but projected $3.63 million for the next fiscal year, and that is what de Blasio wound up budgeting. State and federal funding may also play a role in the next adopted DVS budget, though.</p> <p>In her testimony, Sutton framed the decrease as a natural reduction for a second-year agency. Referring to DVS as “truly a ‘start-up’ entity,” Sutton explained that the budget decrease is due to one-time costs associated with forming a new agency that were included for the current year and are unnecessary next year. “Part of the inaugural agency budget was assigned to staffing, as well as certain non-recurring start-up costs such as the purchase of computers, office equipment, supplies, and furniture.”</p> <p>Following Sutton’s testimony, Ulrich praised Sutton for keeping operational costs down. “Commissioner Sutton is probably one of the few agency heads who doesn’t come to the City Council saying ‘we need more money,’ so I’m very impressed with her level of austerity - she’s doing so much with the limited resources she has. If she needed more money I’m sure she would ask for it and the Council would be obliged to give it to [DVS].”</p> <p>Sutton’s testimony also provided an overview of DVS operations. She outlined the progress made on housing, health services, and employment programs for the city’s 210,000 military veterans. According to Sutton, DVS “led the nation in its response to homelessness by connecting 1,600 homeless veterans with permanent, affordable housing this past year.” Sutton also reported that, in an effort to increase accessibility, DVS is establishing satellite offices in all five boroughs “to serve as a direct link between the community in each borough and DVS.”</p> <p>A DVS spokesperson, Alexis Wichowski, had <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6739-proposed-budget-cut-to-veterans-department-causes-stir" target="_blank">previously told Gotham Gazette</a> that the agency had hired 33 of its 35-person budgeted staff. “We are almost at full capacity, that’s a huge milestone,” she said. “Getting people on board and getting them trained has been the focus for the last few months.”</p> <p>Though neither Sutton nor Ulrich called the mayor’s preliminary budget lacking in DVS funding, that position was not unanimous Monday. The committee also heard from the NYC Veterans Alliance, represented by Kristen Rouse, who testified to the need for an increase in DVS funding, arguing that her organization is still overwhelmed with the number of requests it receives from veterans and their families.</p> <p>“I would love for a day when we don’t get phone calls and emails from distressed people saying ‘we need help,’” Rouse said, before officially calling on the administration to increase DVS funding. “DVS was created because of the enormity of the need and the urgency of helping veterans and their families in New York City...Funding must go up, not be reduced,” Rouse told the committee.</p> <p>Though Ulrich could not commit to securing such an increase in the final budget - the deadline for which is June 30 - he did conclude the hearing by remarking that DVS represents a vast improvement to the city’s former veteran care and policy-making process. It was a push by Ulrich and groundswell in the Council that led to the creation of the department over the initial objections of de Blasio. “Prior to DVS...The budget [for veterans affairs] was whatever the Mayor wanted it to be and the Council really had no formal role it that process...I think it was incredibly important that people feel a sense of accountability. Now we have that and we’re very grateful for that.”</p> <p>

***
by Luke Foley, Gotham Gazette

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated with additional information.</p>
Planned Change to Veterans Department Budget Causes Stir 2017-01-31T05:00:00+00:00 2017-01-31T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6739:proposed-budget-cut-to-veterans-department-causes-stir Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/bdb_vets_via_nycveterans.jpg" alt="bdb vets via nycveterans" width="600" height="398" /></p> <p dir="ltr">photo: @nycveterans</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Mayor Bill de Blasio’s preliminary budget, released January 24, proposes nearly $1 billion in increased spending for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. But a conspicuous, albeit infinitesimal, reduction for one agency has irked elected officials and advocates.</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor’s spending plan, which will be evaluated by and negotiated with the City Council, includes a $318,000 decrease in the budget for the newly-minted Department of Veterans Services, which was created last year as an agency outside of the Mayor’s Office and given a significant budget boost. The DVS budget for the current fiscal year is $3.95 million, but de Blasio has $3.63 million budgeted for fiscal year 2018.</p> <p dir="ltr">While it is a tiny fraction of the $84.7 billion preliminary budget plan, stakeholders argue that it is a step back for an administration that just last year made the major commitment to expanding veteran services by establishing a stand-alone agency after much lobbying by City Council members and advocates. The city, however, explains that the budget reduction is because one-time department start-up costs are coming off the books.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It’s pretty sad that the Mayor of the city of New York decided to cut the department’s budget,” said state Senator Marty Golden, a Republican who represents Bay Ridge and sits on the Senate’s Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs. “It’s cutting case management for veterans, it’s cutting healthcare for veterans, it’s cutting homelessness services for veterans.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Golden has organized <a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/743165375835259/" target="_blank">a rally</a> outside City Hall on Wednesday afternoon to protest the budget change as well as call for additional tax relief for veterans. He’ll be joined by the City Council’s three Republican members -- Steven Matteo, Joe Borelli and Eric Ulrich, who chairs the council’s veterans committee -- &nbsp;as well as mayoral candidates Michel Faulkner, Paul Massey, and Richard "Bo" Dietl, and veterans advocates. Council Member Ulrich, the leading governmental force behind the creation of the Department of Veterans Services, did not respond to requests for comment.</p> <p dir="ltr">“This is a bad signal to send to veterans and to the homeless,” Golden said of the budget change. “I’m hoping [Mayor de Blasio] reevaluates and he redirects that money.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayoral spokesperson Freddi Goldstein explained in an email that the funding decrease is primarily due to one-time costs incurred in setting up the new agency last year, including fees paid to a consultant, costs for office equipment, and the non-renewal of a one-year position funded by a private grant. That funding runs through the end of the 2017 calendar year and is not reflected in the fiscal 2018 budget, according to a DVS spokesperson. A spokesperson for the mayor said that like other funding elements, the position could be negotiated back in over the course of the coming months.</p> <p dir="ltr">In an office of about 30, the loss of that one position, related to homelessness prevention, would be “significant,” said Kristen Rouse, an Army veteran and president and founding director of NYC Veterans Alliance, an advocacy organization. The group will hold its own rally on February 14. “I completely understand that there were one-time costs, but they should be expanding regardless,” she said. “The trajectory needs to be an upward motion, not a downward one. Funding directly reflects that.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Rouse pointed out that homelessness prevention is the biggest challenge for the department and said it should be part of a broader strategy of ensuring access to affordable housing for veterans. “There’s hundreds of veterans in shelter,” she said. “That’s important progress but that’s not a victory.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The city ended chronic veteran homelessness by the end of 2015 and has set up an effective pipeline for getting veterans off the street. According to DVS spokesperson Alexis Wichowski, the latest count from January showed about 35 military veterans remain homeless and not in shelter. She also pointed out that the median stay for veterans in homeless shelters is about 79 days, compared to 355 for single adults, per the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/operations/downloads/pdf/mmr2016/dhs.pdf" target="_blank">Mayor’s Management Report</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Wichowski said the budget changes were not a matter of concern and were always part of the plan in setting up the agency. “We are almost at full capacity, that’s a huge milestone,” she said. The agency has hired 33 of its 35-person budgeted staff and is set to embark on a number of projects and programs. “Getting people on board and getting them trained has been the focus for the last few months,” Wichowski said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Under the direction of Commissioner Loree Sutton, the department now also has satellite offices in the Bronx and Queens and two on Staten Island, and is in the process of establishing agreements for offices in Manhattan and Brooklyn. DVS primarily offers help so that the 210,000 military veterans living in New York City can access services and benefits available to them.</p> <p dir="ltr">City Council Member Borelli, a member of the veterans committee, was surprised and disappointed by the budget reduction. “It’s a question of the mayor’s long-term commitment to supporting the veterans agency,” he said. He critiqued the mayor for funding other items at comparable levels of the cuts, particularly $500,000 for speed cameras. “We can’t be blinded by the desire to see certain policy goals met while we abandon commitments we’ve already made,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">At Wednesday’s rally, Borelli said the budget shift wouldn’t be the only item they will push. A key proposal, one promoted by veteran advocacy organizations for years, is the expansion of an alternative property tax exemption for veterans, which the NYC Veterans Alliance <a href="http://www.nycveteransalliance.org/deblasio_cuts" target="_blank">estimates</a> would cost the city about $40 million at a time when the city’s assessed property tax value increased by $17.6 billion. It is a measure of much-needed housing affordability, several advocates and elected officials agree.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The budget is about outlining priorities through a document,” Borelli said. “This is just saying that [DVS is] less pressing than other priorities.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Next month, the City Council will begin to examine the mayor’s budget and issue its formal response, after which the mayor will release his executive budget, a revised spending plan. Following another round of Council hearings, the Council and mayor will move to closed-door negotiations before agreeing to a final budget for the next fiscal year by the June 30 deadline.</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/bdb_vets_via_nycveterans.jpg" alt="bdb vets via nycveterans" width="600" height="398" /></p> <p dir="ltr">photo: @nycveterans</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Mayor Bill de Blasio’s preliminary budget, released January 24, proposes nearly $1 billion in increased spending for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. But a conspicuous, albeit infinitesimal, reduction for one agency has irked elected officials and advocates.</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor’s spending plan, which will be evaluated by and negotiated with the City Council, includes a $318,000 decrease in the budget for the newly-minted Department of Veterans Services, which was created last year as an agency outside of the Mayor’s Office and given a significant budget boost. The DVS budget for the current fiscal year is $3.95 million, but de Blasio has $3.63 million budgeted for fiscal year 2018.</p> <p dir="ltr">While it is a tiny fraction of the $84.7 billion preliminary budget plan, stakeholders argue that it is a step back for an administration that just last year made the major commitment to expanding veteran services by establishing a stand-alone agency after much lobbying by City Council members and advocates. The city, however, explains that the budget reduction is because one-time department start-up costs are coming off the books.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It’s pretty sad that the Mayor of the city of New York decided to cut the department’s budget,” said state Senator Marty Golden, a Republican who represents Bay Ridge and sits on the Senate’s Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs. “It’s cutting case management for veterans, it’s cutting healthcare for veterans, it’s cutting homelessness services for veterans.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Golden has organized <a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/743165375835259/" target="_blank">a rally</a> outside City Hall on Wednesday afternoon to protest the budget change as well as call for additional tax relief for veterans. He’ll be joined by the City Council’s three Republican members -- Steven Matteo, Joe Borelli and Eric Ulrich, who chairs the council’s veterans committee -- &nbsp;as well as mayoral candidates Michel Faulkner, Paul Massey, and Richard "Bo" Dietl, and veterans advocates. Council Member Ulrich, the leading governmental force behind the creation of the Department of Veterans Services, did not respond to requests for comment.</p> <p dir="ltr">“This is a bad signal to send to veterans and to the homeless,” Golden said of the budget change. “I’m hoping [Mayor de Blasio] reevaluates and he redirects that money.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayoral spokesperson Freddi Goldstein explained in an email that the funding decrease is primarily due to one-time costs incurred in setting up the new agency last year, including fees paid to a consultant, costs for office equipment, and the non-renewal of a one-year position funded by a private grant. That funding runs through the end of the 2017 calendar year and is not reflected in the fiscal 2018 budget, according to a DVS spokesperson. A spokesperson for the mayor said that like other funding elements, the position could be negotiated back in over the course of the coming months.</p> <p dir="ltr">In an office of about 30, the loss of that one position, related to homelessness prevention, would be “significant,” said Kristen Rouse, an Army veteran and president and founding director of NYC Veterans Alliance, an advocacy organization. The group will hold its own rally on February 14. “I completely understand that there were one-time costs, but they should be expanding regardless,” she said. “The trajectory needs to be an upward motion, not a downward one. Funding directly reflects that.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Rouse pointed out that homelessness prevention is the biggest challenge for the department and said it should be part of a broader strategy of ensuring access to affordable housing for veterans. “There’s hundreds of veterans in shelter,” she said. “That’s important progress but that’s not a victory.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The city ended chronic veteran homelessness by the end of 2015 and has set up an effective pipeline for getting veterans off the street. According to DVS spokesperson Alexis Wichowski, the latest count from January showed about 35 military veterans remain homeless and not in shelter. She also pointed out that the median stay for veterans in homeless shelters is about 79 days, compared to 355 for single adults, per the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/operations/downloads/pdf/mmr2016/dhs.pdf" target="_blank">Mayor’s Management Report</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Wichowski said the budget changes were not a matter of concern and were always part of the plan in setting up the agency. “We are almost at full capacity, that’s a huge milestone,” she said. The agency has hired 33 of its 35-person budgeted staff and is set to embark on a number of projects and programs. “Getting people on board and getting them trained has been the focus for the last few months,” Wichowski said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Under the direction of Commissioner Loree Sutton, the department now also has satellite offices in the Bronx and Queens and two on Staten Island, and is in the process of establishing agreements for offices in Manhattan and Brooklyn. DVS primarily offers help so that the 210,000 military veterans living in New York City can access services and benefits available to them.</p> <p dir="ltr">City Council Member Borelli, a member of the veterans committee, was surprised and disappointed by the budget reduction. “It’s a question of the mayor’s long-term commitment to supporting the veterans agency,” he said. He critiqued the mayor for funding other items at comparable levels of the cuts, particularly $500,000 for speed cameras. “We can’t be blinded by the desire to see certain policy goals met while we abandon commitments we’ve already made,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">At Wednesday’s rally, Borelli said the budget shift wouldn’t be the only item they will push. A key proposal, one promoted by veteran advocacy organizations for years, is the expansion of an alternative property tax exemption for veterans, which the NYC Veterans Alliance <a href="http://www.nycveteransalliance.org/deblasio_cuts" target="_blank">estimates</a> would cost the city about $40 million at a time when the city’s assessed property tax value increased by $17.6 billion. It is a measure of much-needed housing affordability, several advocates and elected officials agree.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The budget is about outlining priorities through a document,” Borelli said. “This is just saying that [DVS is] less pressing than other priorities.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Next month, the City Council will begin to examine the mayor’s budget and issue its formal response, after which the mayor will release his executive budget, a revised spending plan. Following another round of Council hearings, the Council and mayor will move to closed-door negotiations before agreeing to a final budget for the next fiscal year by the June 30 deadline.</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
To Defeat De Blasio, Republicans Attempt Early Rally Behind One Candidate 2017-01-29T05:00:00+00:00 2017-01-29T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6735:to-defeat-de-blasio-republicans-look-for-early-rally-behind-one-candidate Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/massey_mayor.jpg" alt="massey mayor" width="600" height="453" /></p> <p dir="ltr">GOP mayoral candidate Paul Massey, right (photo: @MasseyforMayor)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">In hopes of denying Mayor Bill de Blasio a second term, some New York City Republican leaders intend to rally around a single candidate to avoid a contentious primary and present a stronger challenge in the general election.</p> <p dir="ltr">Starting this week, Republican Party leaders and members will begin the process of vetting candidates who have declared their intention to run for mayor or are exploring a mayoral bid. Party organizations will host public meetings where each candidate will have the opportunity to present their ideas to party voters and functionaries. When it fielded Joe Lhota in 2013 after a primary battle, the GOP lost in a landslide to de Blasio, but with the mayor’s poll numbers showing some vulnerability ahead of this fall’s vote, Republicans hope to identify one candidate to throw their weight behind.</p> <p dir="ltr">One issue with the strategy at this point, though, is that at least two potential Republican mayoral candidates have not decided whether they will run or not: Queens City Council Member Eric Ulrich and businessman John Catsimatidis, who lost in the 2013 primary to Lhota.</p> <p dir="ltr">So far, two Republicans have officially filed papers to run: real estate developer Paul Massey and Harlem pastor Michel Faulkner. Massey, who has raised and spent well over a million dollars in his campaign so far and is contributing some of his own vast wealth to the effort, is seen as the frontrunner at this point. He’s also been endorsed by the state Independence Party, which backed Mayor Michael Bloomberg twice for reelection. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Massey is scheduled to speak on Monday evening at the Manhattan Republican Party headquarters, a building which holds about 200 people. An e-blast advertising the event told Manhattan GOP subscribers, “We need to unite this year in the mission of making Bill de Blasio a one term Mayor...We plan to endorse a candidate around April 1 and we hope to prevent a primary by working with the other Republican county chairs in that effort.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Also scheduled to speak at Manhattan GOP headquarters next week, on Thursday, is Council Member Ulrich, one of three Republicans on the Council, who has been exploring a mayoral run but has yet to officially declare his candidacy.</p> <p dir="ltr">Republican county leaders say they will weigh each candidate’s platform and the strength of their campaign before they make their decision in the next few months. “We’re going to screen all the candidates,” said Adele Malpass, chair of the Manhattan Republican Party. “We’d like to hear everyone’s vision for New York.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Malpass said the general intent is to back a single candidate after an open and transparent process that involves all stakeholders -- voters, district leaders, county committee members. “It’s evolving, but I think all five [county chairs] are in agreement that if we can avoid a primary, we’ll go into the general much stronger,” she told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the 2013 mayoral election, Lhota, former chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and a deputy mayor under Rudolph Giuliani, lost to then-Public Advocate de Blasio, receiving just 24.3 percent of vote to de Blasio’s 73.3 percent. Lhota, currently senior vice president and chief of staff at NYU Langone Medical Center, declined to comment for this article through a spokesperson.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lhota’s grasp of the 2013 Republican nomination did come at a price. This, with the electoral deck already stacked against him due to New York City’s heavy Democratic enrollment. Lhota was pitted against Catsimatidis, a billionaire who spent heavily in mounting his campaign, leading to an at-times acrimonious primary battle accented by attack ads. After he won the nomination, Lhota <a href="http://observer.com/2013/09/joe-lhota-vows-to-unify-our-party-after-bruising-primary/" target="_blank">promised</a>, “It is time to unify our party, strengthen it and prepare it for victory in November.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The September to November general election campaign never really took off for Lhota and the GOP, with polls quickly showing de Blasio at a significant advantage, lackluster debates, and no significant outside spending to damage de Blasio and promote Lhota.</p> <p dir="ltr">This time around, the party may be taking Lhota’s 2013 call for unity to heart. “After seeing the results in 2013, most Republicans realized that a joint effort would lead to more favorable results,” said City Council Member Joe Borelli, the newest Republican to join the Council. “But it’s easier said than done.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Borelli, who represents part of Staten Island -- the lone borough that went for Lhota -- and was a prominent Donald Trump supporter in the presidential race, hasn’t yet endorsed a candidate, but looks forward to doing so when the party rallies around one.</p> <p dir="ltr">So far, Borelli said, the only candidates that could prove to be effective are Massey and Ulrich. “I think Paul Massey’s substantial haul of $1.6 million sent the right kind of message to the GOP leaders and potential candidates that it’s time to start campaigning and raising money or time to get out of the race,” Borelli said, referring to Massey’s campaign fundraising from the last six months that he declared this month. “With the exception of a sitting elected official like Eric Ulrich, it would be difficult for another candidate to enter the race...Eric has a much better built media platform and ability to generate anti-de Blasio press. I can’t see other candidates generating much buzz.”</p> <p dir="ltr">And although Borelli said Faulkner is “such a genuine guy,” he added, “I just think it’s such an uphill fight for him, lacking the infrastructure and funding.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Ulrich has started speaking out against de Blasio more, has held meetings with key political figures, and has done some fundraising on the message of taking on the incumbent, but his exploration of a run has remained fairly quiet. Lhota, though not seemingly active in party politics, has encouraged Ulrich to run. The Council member has also started filming a possible reality show following his mayoral campaign.</p> <p dir="ltr">In part by default, Massey is currently the frontrunner in the race, having <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/VSApps/CandidateSummary.aspx?as_cand_id=1958&amp;as_election_cycle=2017&amp;cand_name=Massey,%20Jr.,%20Paul%20J&amp;office=Mayor&amp;report=summ" target="_blank">raised</a> the $1.6 million and having also personally loaned his campaign another $1.2 million, per the latest disclosures filed with the Campaign Finance Board. His expenditures of $1.8 million through early January and a few outstanding liabilities leave him with a current balance of about $937,000. Among several consultancies, Massey has retained the November Team, a firm that handled Lhota’s 2013 campaign communications and also represents the State Republican Party.</p> <p dir="ltr">Faulkner and Ulrich are far behind in money. Faulkner had <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/VSApps/CandidateSummary.aspx?as_cand_id=1883&amp;as_election_cycle=2017&amp;cand_name=Faulkner,%20Michel%20J&amp;office=Mayor&amp;report=summ" target="_blank">contributions</a> of $206,000, including about $152,000 in loans, for his campaign. But his expenditures of $213,000 surpassed that, leaving him with a negative balance of $6,900. Ulrich has raised $48,396 and spent $15,027, leaving $33,369 in his <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/VSApps/CandidateSummary.aspx?as_cand_id=1068&amp;as_election_cycle=2017&amp;cand_name=Ulrich,%20Eric%20A&amp;office=Undeclared&amp;report=summ" target="_blank">campaign account</a>. He is eligible to run for another term on the Council, and may do so -- he said he’ll only run for mayor if he can run a viable campaign, which in large part starts with fundraising.</p> <p dir="ltr">As Borelli said, the choice may not be as simple as picking the candidate with the most funds, though. Meanwhile, the Republican primary is more complex than relying on the choices of county leaders. Each borough of the city represents a different county and each county committee has dozens of members. Then there are district leaders whose opinions must be sought, and any candidate who can get the petition signatures to appear on the ballot can run.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I think we’re all going in the same direction but we haven’t put all the pieces together yet,” said Robert Turner, former U.S. Representative and chair of the Queens County Republican Party. “The plan would be to look at the candidates and their positions and if someone has a clear lead, we would like to coalesce around that candidate,” he added.</p> <p dir="ltr">Although he admitted that a primary “is not a disaster” and may help with drumming up recognition for unknown candidates, in general, he said, “Life would be easier without a primary.” Lamenting the lack of organization in 2013, he hopes this cycle will be different. “We had a very capable candidate,” Turner said of Lhota. “The organization was not as cohesive and thought-out as it needed to be and I’m hoping it can be a lot better.”</p> <p dir="ltr">There’s wide agreement that primary infighting among Republicans would serve to strengthen de Blasio, who Republicans believe is beatable with the right combination of candidate, message, spending, and strategy. The oft-repeated stand taken by the party and candidates is that quality of life in the city has declined, especially with regard to the city’s homelessness crisis; income inequality has remained relatively unchanged; and crime is on the rise (though statistics show that, overall, crime has declined under de Blasio).</p> <p dir="ltr">There are also the state and federal investigations into the mayor, his administration and allies, which have given fodder to his opponents, even in his own party. De Blasio is facing a few primary challengers himself, though none appears to be mounting a formidable campaign at this point. Other potential Democratic challengers, like Scott Stringer and Ruben Diaz Jr., are waiting to see the results of the investigations. De Blasio maintains that he and his associates did nothing wrong, and no one has been charged with a crime.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We want to rally around a candidate and take on Bill de Blasio, and Paul Massey is that candidate,” said Evan Siegfried, a Republican consultant who is unaffiliated with Massey’s campaign. “What we have to avoid is a long drawn-out primary process, which only helps Bill de Blasio’s reelection chances.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Brooklyn Republican Chair Ted Ghorra <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2017/01/republicans-eager-to-pounce-on-de-blasio-first-have-a-primary-on-their-hands-108651" target="_blank">told Politico New York</a>, "If there is a primary, I don’t think it would be in anyone’s interest to have the kind of primary that was conducted in 2013." Ulrich told Politico that there are strong potential candidates and, in apparent acknowledgement that h expects a tough GOP nominating contest, "I’m confident the party will unite behind our candidate after the primary."</p> <p dir="ltr">Siegfried said that Massey’s lack of name recognition would not be an issue, and that he could do better if he actually avoided a primary battle and instead focused on reaching out to voters. &nbsp;“And when he does that in conjunction with highlighting de Blasio’s utter inability to manage the city -- his presiding over the reduction in quality of life and explosion in homelessness, which [de Blasio] ignores -- then New Yorkers of all stripes will be willing to meet Massey and give him a fair hearing,” Siegfried said. “Many New Yorkers including liberal Democrats are very upset that Bill de Blasio did not continue the 20 years of progress that preceded his taking office.”</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio is the first Democratic mayor of New York City to face a reelection since David Dinkins, who lost to Rudy Giuliani in 1993. But de Blasio doesn’t face the same obstacles. Under Dinkins, unemployment was skyrocketing and people felt unsafe. Under de Blasio, crime has largely decreased and employment has grown for the last three years. It’s a refrain of his campaign, one that spokesperson Dan Levitan repeated when asked about the Republican Party’s effort to avoid a primary. “Under Mayor de Blasio, crime just hit another all-time low, jobs are at record highs, the city is building and preserving affordable housing at a record pace, while graduation rates and test scores continue to improve,” Levitan wrote in an email. “We are happy to match that record against anyone.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The most recent <a href="https://poll.qu.edu/new-york-city/release-detail?ReleaseID=2418" target="_blank">Quinnipiac University public opinion poll</a>, from January 18, shows support for the mayor almost split down the middle. Overall, 45 percent of respondents said they approve of the way de Blasio is handling his job while 46 percent disapproved. As can be expected, his support comes overwhelmingly from Democrats, 59 percent of whom gave him a thumbs up while only 17 percent of Republicans felt the same. His reelection numbers are marginally lower than his approval ratings, however. Only 42 percent said he deserves to be reelected while 48 percent said he doesn’t. Thirteen percent of Republicans want to see him get a second term compared to 52 percent of Democrats.</p> <p dir="ltr">At this point, de Blasio is quite likely to win in the Democratic primary and would go into the general election a heavy favorite, especially due to New York City’s significant Democratic voter enrollment advantage. But, anything can happen, and the primary is still more than seven months away.</p> <p>Not all the potential or declared Republican candidates have said whether they’ll support the party’s final decision and avoid a primary. Requests for comment to Ulrich and to Massey’s campaign went unanswered. Faulkner, however, believes “it’s a great idea.” “I understand that it’s in the best interest of the party,” he said. When Gotham Gazette asked what he would do if the chosen candidate isn’t him, he said, “I have supported every Republican candidate that has run in New York City. I’ve been loyal to the Republican Party for nearly 30 years and I don’t think that will change.”</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/massey_mayor.jpg" alt="massey mayor" width="600" height="453" /></p> <p dir="ltr">GOP mayoral candidate Paul Massey, right (photo: @MasseyforMayor)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">In hopes of denying Mayor Bill de Blasio a second term, some New York City Republican leaders intend to rally around a single candidate to avoid a contentious primary and present a stronger challenge in the general election.</p> <p dir="ltr">Starting this week, Republican Party leaders and members will begin the process of vetting candidates who have declared their intention to run for mayor or are exploring a mayoral bid. Party organizations will host public meetings where each candidate will have the opportunity to present their ideas to party voters and functionaries. When it fielded Joe Lhota in 2013 after a primary battle, the GOP lost in a landslide to de Blasio, but with the mayor’s poll numbers showing some vulnerability ahead of this fall’s vote, Republicans hope to identify one candidate to throw their weight behind.</p> <p dir="ltr">One issue with the strategy at this point, though, is that at least two potential Republican mayoral candidates have not decided whether they will run or not: Queens City Council Member Eric Ulrich and businessman John Catsimatidis, who lost in the 2013 primary to Lhota.</p> <p dir="ltr">So far, two Republicans have officially filed papers to run: real estate developer Paul Massey and Harlem pastor Michel Faulkner. Massey, who has raised and spent well over a million dollars in his campaign so far and is contributing some of his own vast wealth to the effort, is seen as the frontrunner at this point. He’s also been endorsed by the state Independence Party, which backed Mayor Michael Bloomberg twice for reelection. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Massey is scheduled to speak on Monday evening at the Manhattan Republican Party headquarters, a building which holds about 200 people. An e-blast advertising the event told Manhattan GOP subscribers, “We need to unite this year in the mission of making Bill de Blasio a one term Mayor...We plan to endorse a candidate around April 1 and we hope to prevent a primary by working with the other Republican county chairs in that effort.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Also scheduled to speak at Manhattan GOP headquarters next week, on Thursday, is Council Member Ulrich, one of three Republicans on the Council, who has been exploring a mayoral run but has yet to officially declare his candidacy.</p> <p dir="ltr">Republican county leaders say they will weigh each candidate’s platform and the strength of their campaign before they make their decision in the next few months. “We’re going to screen all the candidates,” said Adele Malpass, chair of the Manhattan Republican Party. “We’d like to hear everyone’s vision for New York.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Malpass said the general intent is to back a single candidate after an open and transparent process that involves all stakeholders -- voters, district leaders, county committee members. “It’s evolving, but I think all five [county chairs] are in agreement that if we can avoid a primary, we’ll go into the general much stronger,” she told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the 2013 mayoral election, Lhota, former chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and a deputy mayor under Rudolph Giuliani, lost to then-Public Advocate de Blasio, receiving just 24.3 percent of vote to de Blasio’s 73.3 percent. Lhota, currently senior vice president and chief of staff at NYU Langone Medical Center, declined to comment for this article through a spokesperson.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lhota’s grasp of the 2013 Republican nomination did come at a price. This, with the electoral deck already stacked against him due to New York City’s heavy Democratic enrollment. Lhota was pitted against Catsimatidis, a billionaire who spent heavily in mounting his campaign, leading to an at-times acrimonious primary battle accented by attack ads. After he won the nomination, Lhota <a href="http://observer.com/2013/09/joe-lhota-vows-to-unify-our-party-after-bruising-primary/" target="_blank">promised</a>, “It is time to unify our party, strengthen it and prepare it for victory in November.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The September to November general election campaign never really took off for Lhota and the GOP, with polls quickly showing de Blasio at a significant advantage, lackluster debates, and no significant outside spending to damage de Blasio and promote Lhota.</p> <p dir="ltr">This time around, the party may be taking Lhota’s 2013 call for unity to heart. “After seeing the results in 2013, most Republicans realized that a joint effort would lead to more favorable results,” said City Council Member Joe Borelli, the newest Republican to join the Council. “But it’s easier said than done.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Borelli, who represents part of Staten Island -- the lone borough that went for Lhota -- and was a prominent Donald Trump supporter in the presidential race, hasn’t yet endorsed a candidate, but looks forward to doing so when the party rallies around one.</p> <p dir="ltr">So far, Borelli said, the only candidates that could prove to be effective are Massey and Ulrich. “I think Paul Massey’s substantial haul of $1.6 million sent the right kind of message to the GOP leaders and potential candidates that it’s time to start campaigning and raising money or time to get out of the race,” Borelli said, referring to Massey’s campaign fundraising from the last six months that he declared this month. “With the exception of a sitting elected official like Eric Ulrich, it would be difficult for another candidate to enter the race...Eric has a much better built media platform and ability to generate anti-de Blasio press. I can’t see other candidates generating much buzz.”</p> <p dir="ltr">And although Borelli said Faulkner is “such a genuine guy,” he added, “I just think it’s such an uphill fight for him, lacking the infrastructure and funding.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Ulrich has started speaking out against de Blasio more, has held meetings with key political figures, and has done some fundraising on the message of taking on the incumbent, but his exploration of a run has remained fairly quiet. Lhota, though not seemingly active in party politics, has encouraged Ulrich to run. The Council member has also started filming a possible reality show following his mayoral campaign.</p> <p dir="ltr">In part by default, Massey is currently the frontrunner in the race, having <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/VSApps/CandidateSummary.aspx?as_cand_id=1958&amp;as_election_cycle=2017&amp;cand_name=Massey,%20Jr.,%20Paul%20J&amp;office=Mayor&amp;report=summ" target="_blank">raised</a> the $1.6 million and having also personally loaned his campaign another $1.2 million, per the latest disclosures filed with the Campaign Finance Board. His expenditures of $1.8 million through early January and a few outstanding liabilities leave him with a current balance of about $937,000. Among several consultancies, Massey has retained the November Team, a firm that handled Lhota’s 2013 campaign communications and also represents the State Republican Party.</p> <p dir="ltr">Faulkner and Ulrich are far behind in money. Faulkner had <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/VSApps/CandidateSummary.aspx?as_cand_id=1883&amp;as_election_cycle=2017&amp;cand_name=Faulkner,%20Michel%20J&amp;office=Mayor&amp;report=summ" target="_blank">contributions</a> of $206,000, including about $152,000 in loans, for his campaign. But his expenditures of $213,000 surpassed that, leaving him with a negative balance of $6,900. Ulrich has raised $48,396 and spent $15,027, leaving $33,369 in his <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/VSApps/CandidateSummary.aspx?as_cand_id=1068&amp;as_election_cycle=2017&amp;cand_name=Ulrich,%20Eric%20A&amp;office=Undeclared&amp;report=summ" target="_blank">campaign account</a>. He is eligible to run for another term on the Council, and may do so -- he said he’ll only run for mayor if he can run a viable campaign, which in large part starts with fundraising.</p> <p dir="ltr">As Borelli said, the choice may not be as simple as picking the candidate with the most funds, though. Meanwhile, the Republican primary is more complex than relying on the choices of county leaders. Each borough of the city represents a different county and each county committee has dozens of members. Then there are district leaders whose opinions must be sought, and any candidate who can get the petition signatures to appear on the ballot can run.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I think we’re all going in the same direction but we haven’t put all the pieces together yet,” said Robert Turner, former U.S. Representative and chair of the Queens County Republican Party. “The plan would be to look at the candidates and their positions and if someone has a clear lead, we would like to coalesce around that candidate,” he added.</p> <p dir="ltr">Although he admitted that a primary “is not a disaster” and may help with drumming up recognition for unknown candidates, in general, he said, “Life would be easier without a primary.” Lamenting the lack of organization in 2013, he hopes this cycle will be different. “We had a very capable candidate,” Turner said of Lhota. “The organization was not as cohesive and thought-out as it needed to be and I’m hoping it can be a lot better.”</p> <p dir="ltr">There’s wide agreement that primary infighting among Republicans would serve to strengthen de Blasio, who Republicans believe is beatable with the right combination of candidate, message, spending, and strategy. The oft-repeated stand taken by the party and candidates is that quality of life in the city has declined, especially with regard to the city’s homelessness crisis; income inequality has remained relatively unchanged; and crime is on the rise (though statistics show that, overall, crime has declined under de Blasio).</p> <p dir="ltr">There are also the state and federal investigations into the mayor, his administration and allies, which have given fodder to his opponents, even in his own party. De Blasio is facing a few primary challengers himself, though none appears to be mounting a formidable campaign at this point. Other potential Democratic challengers, like Scott Stringer and Ruben Diaz Jr., are waiting to see the results of the investigations. De Blasio maintains that he and his associates did nothing wrong, and no one has been charged with a crime.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We want to rally around a candidate and take on Bill de Blasio, and Paul Massey is that candidate,” said Evan Siegfried, a Republican consultant who is unaffiliated with Massey’s campaign. “What we have to avoid is a long drawn-out primary process, which only helps Bill de Blasio’s reelection chances.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Brooklyn Republican Chair Ted Ghorra <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2017/01/republicans-eager-to-pounce-on-de-blasio-first-have-a-primary-on-their-hands-108651" target="_blank">told Politico New York</a>, "If there is a primary, I don’t think it would be in anyone’s interest to have the kind of primary that was conducted in 2013." Ulrich told Politico that there are strong potential candidates and, in apparent acknowledgement that h expects a tough GOP nominating contest, "I’m confident the party will unite behind our candidate after the primary."</p> <p dir="ltr">Siegfried said that Massey’s lack of name recognition would not be an issue, and that he could do better if he actually avoided a primary battle and instead focused on reaching out to voters. &nbsp;“And when he does that in conjunction with highlighting de Blasio’s utter inability to manage the city -- his presiding over the reduction in quality of life and explosion in homelessness, which [de Blasio] ignores -- then New Yorkers of all stripes will be willing to meet Massey and give him a fair hearing,” Siegfried said. “Many New Yorkers including liberal Democrats are very upset that Bill de Blasio did not continue the 20 years of progress that preceded his taking office.”</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio is the first Democratic mayor of New York City to face a reelection since David Dinkins, who lost to Rudy Giuliani in 1993. But de Blasio doesn’t face the same obstacles. Under Dinkins, unemployment was skyrocketing and people felt unsafe. Under de Blasio, crime has largely decreased and employment has grown for the last three years. It’s a refrain of his campaign, one that spokesperson Dan Levitan repeated when asked about the Republican Party’s effort to avoid a primary. “Under Mayor de Blasio, crime just hit another all-time low, jobs are at record highs, the city is building and preserving affordable housing at a record pace, while graduation rates and test scores continue to improve,” Levitan wrote in an email. “We are happy to match that record against anyone.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The most recent <a href="https://poll.qu.edu/new-york-city/release-detail?ReleaseID=2418" target="_blank">Quinnipiac University public opinion poll</a>, from January 18, shows support for the mayor almost split down the middle. Overall, 45 percent of respondents said they approve of the way de Blasio is handling his job while 46 percent disapproved. As can be expected, his support comes overwhelmingly from Democrats, 59 percent of whom gave him a thumbs up while only 17 percent of Republicans felt the same. His reelection numbers are marginally lower than his approval ratings, however. Only 42 percent said he deserves to be reelected while 48 percent said he doesn’t. Thirteen percent of Republicans want to see him get a second term compared to 52 percent of Democrats.</p> <p dir="ltr">At this point, de Blasio is quite likely to win in the Democratic primary and would go into the general election a heavy favorite, especially due to New York City’s significant Democratic voter enrollment advantage. But, anything can happen, and the primary is still more than seven months away.</p> <p>Not all the potential or declared Republican candidates have said whether they’ll support the party’s final decision and avoid a primary. Requests for comment to Ulrich and to Massey’s campaign went unanswered. Faulkner, however, believes “it’s a great idea.” “I understand that it’s in the best interest of the party,” he said. When Gotham Gazette asked what he would do if the chosen candidate isn’t him, he said, “I have supported every Republican candidate that has run in New York City. I’ve been loyal to the Republican Party for nearly 30 years and I don’t think that will change.”</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Long-Awaited, City's New Approach to Veterans Services Moves Ahead 2016-11-06T04:00:00+00:00 2016-11-06T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6613:long-awaited-city-s-new-approach-to-veterans-services-moves-ahead Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/sutton_buery_veterans_city_hall.jpg" alt="sutton buery veterans city hall" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Commissioner Sutton, left, at a City Hall ceremony (photo: @RichardBuery)</p> <hr /> <p>With Veterans Day approaching, veterans advocates in New York say they want to see the long-term vision of the newly created city Department of Veterans’ Services and how its Commissioner plans to tackle the most significant, persistent issues affecting the city’s military veterans.</p> <p>More than 210,000 veterans live in New York City, making it one of the largest veteran populations in the nation, more so than some entire states. The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, has committed additional resources and funding to address veterans’ concerns and challenges. The City Council has been actively pursuing veteran-friendly policy, including the legislation that elevated the Mayor’s Office of Veteran Affairs into the new Department of Veterans’ Services (after initial objections from de Blasio).</p> <p>The Department of Veterans’ Services launched in April and has been operating with its expanded budget since the July start of the new fiscal year, boosting its staff and ramping up operations. The department is well on its way to full deployment in the next few months, said Commissioner Loree Sutton in an interview with Gotham Gazette at the agency’s main office at One Center Street, across from City Hall.</p> <p>Sutton laid out her priorities and the “non-negotiable core services” that the department is focused on: housing and support services, an integrative healthcare program, and the E3 initiative (education, employment and entrepreneurship). “For the first time, we’ll finally have the capacity to not only establish a citywide presence but be able to engage in these three lines of action,” she said.</p> <p>The department now has 24 employees, up from four in June of 2015, and will add another ten by the start of 2017. With an eye towards having a presence in all five boroughs, it now has a satellite office in Queens and will set up offices in all the boroughs within the next three months. “We have been very dedicated to the process of designing a new agency,” said Sutton, “And really taking the time that we needed not just to fill slots but really build a team. We’re also creating a culture, a culture that honors the aspirations and the dreams of so many veterans here in New York City from years and years.”</p> <p>The department’s priorities align with what veteran advocates have long demanded, and they praise Sutton’s leadership for it. Recognizing that the department is young, advocates do say they would like to see a clear articulation of those priorities through outreach to the veteran community. “It takes time to build out so of course some of the veterans in the outer boroughs are wondering, ‘Where is it?’, but it’s growing,” said Joe Bello, a Navy veteran and member of the city’s Veterans Advisory Board, shortly after a recent hearing of the City Council’s Committee on Veterans.</p> <p>“There needs to be something about what the city is actually offering vets,” he added, saying the department should consider creating a resource guide to its services in order to reach out to veterans and their families.</p> <p>Kristen Rouse, an Army veteran and president and founding director of NYC Veterans Alliance, an advocacy group, said the new department needs to be “responsive” to veterans’ needs. “They have to not only build the plan and execute the plan, they have to build trust in the community,” she said. “This is a community that has been underserved for a very long time and so they have to be responsive, they have to build that word-of-mouth trust.”</p> <p>Rouse acknowledges, as a former city employee, that government can work slowly, but she’s encouraged by the staff the Sutton has hired, many of whom are veterans themselves. “It’s going to take some weeks and months for them to really gel as a team and to craft a plan that says, ‘Here’s what we’re doing,’” Rouse said. She stressed that the department should not lose focus, however, of issues that go ignored, like affordable housing for student veterans and discrimination faced by veterans.</p> <p>“There are so many other different programs that need to be fostered,” she said, “to promote community, promote good quality of living, a sense of purpose for veterans in New York City so ultimately we’re a city that attracts veterans in the same way we attract artists, entrepreneurs.”</p> <p>Sutton, a retired Army brigadier general, explained that the department is already doing much along these lines through coordination with different city agencies and setting up a network of local service providers under its VetConnect NYC initiative, which will roll out next year. “The number one challenge that veterans and their families point to is difficulty navigating,” she said, “to find the right services, to ensure that they’re quality services, to make sure they qualify for them, that the services are even available. That’s what this network really is designed to do.”</p> <p>After the October 28 City Council veterans committee hearing, Council Member Eric Ulrich, a Queens Republican who chairs the committee, told Gotham Gazette he was optimistic about the new department’s execution, but hasn’t yet seen a long-term plan for veterans from the de Blasio administration.</p> <p>“I don’t think it’s even on their radar right now,” he said. He did praise the city for ending chronic veteran homelessness and emphasized the need for connecting veterans with permanent affordable housing. But Ulrich said one area where the city is failing is in providing adequate employment for veterans, “and good paying jobs, not low paying menial jobs, but jobs that reflect their skills and abilities and their talents and the things that they’ve learned in the military,” he said.</p> <p>What’s also important to consider, according to Ulrich, is the roughly 20,000 future veterans, soldiers currently in active service who will return to the city in the next five years. “I think the temptation is, on the part of the New York City government, to just supply a band-aid sometimes and treat how things are now, but we really have to come up with a long-term solution,” he said, “to make New York City a more veteran-friendly city.”</p> <p>As Sutton tells it, that long-term vision is coming together, efforts that will be highlighted this week leading up to Friday’s Veterans Day and its annual parade. “We’re in the very early stages of what will absolutely continue to be a full-court press to improve the lives of our veterans and their families,” she said. “This is what I view as an essential municipal investment.”</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/sutton_buery_veterans_city_hall.jpg" alt="sutton buery veterans city hall" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Commissioner Sutton, left, at a City Hall ceremony (photo: @RichardBuery)</p> <hr /> <p>With Veterans Day approaching, veterans advocates in New York say they want to see the long-term vision of the newly created city Department of Veterans’ Services and how its Commissioner plans to tackle the most significant, persistent issues affecting the city’s military veterans.</p> <p>More than 210,000 veterans live in New York City, making it one of the largest veteran populations in the nation, more so than some entire states. The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, has committed additional resources and funding to address veterans’ concerns and challenges. The City Council has been actively pursuing veteran-friendly policy, including the legislation that elevated the Mayor’s Office of Veteran Affairs into the new Department of Veterans’ Services (after initial objections from de Blasio).</p> <p>The Department of Veterans’ Services launched in April and has been operating with its expanded budget since the July start of the new fiscal year, boosting its staff and ramping up operations. The department is well on its way to full deployment in the next few months, said Commissioner Loree Sutton in an interview with Gotham Gazette at the agency’s main office at One Center Street, across from City Hall.</p> <p>Sutton laid out her priorities and the “non-negotiable core services” that the department is focused on: housing and support services, an integrative healthcare program, and the E3 initiative (education, employment and entrepreneurship). “For the first time, we’ll finally have the capacity to not only establish a citywide presence but be able to engage in these three lines of action,” she said.</p> <p>The department now has 24 employees, up from four in June of 2015, and will add another ten by the start of 2017. With an eye towards having a presence in all five boroughs, it now has a satellite office in Queens and will set up offices in all the boroughs within the next three months. “We have been very dedicated to the process of designing a new agency,” said Sutton, “And really taking the time that we needed not just to fill slots but really build a team. We’re also creating a culture, a culture that honors the aspirations and the dreams of so many veterans here in New York City from years and years.”</p> <p>The department’s priorities align with what veteran advocates have long demanded, and they praise Sutton’s leadership for it. Recognizing that the department is young, advocates do say they would like to see a clear articulation of those priorities through outreach to the veteran community. “It takes time to build out so of course some of the veterans in the outer boroughs are wondering, ‘Where is it?’, but it’s growing,” said Joe Bello, a Navy veteran and member of the city’s Veterans Advisory Board, shortly after a recent hearing of the City Council’s Committee on Veterans.</p> <p>“There needs to be something about what the city is actually offering vets,” he added, saying the department should consider creating a resource guide to its services in order to reach out to veterans and their families.</p> <p>Kristen Rouse, an Army veteran and president and founding director of NYC Veterans Alliance, an advocacy group, said the new department needs to be “responsive” to veterans’ needs. “They have to not only build the plan and execute the plan, they have to build trust in the community,” she said. “This is a community that has been underserved for a very long time and so they have to be responsive, they have to build that word-of-mouth trust.”</p> <p>Rouse acknowledges, as a former city employee, that government can work slowly, but she’s encouraged by the staff the Sutton has hired, many of whom are veterans themselves. “It’s going to take some weeks and months for them to really gel as a team and to craft a plan that says, ‘Here’s what we’re doing,’” Rouse said. She stressed that the department should not lose focus, however, of issues that go ignored, like affordable housing for student veterans and discrimination faced by veterans.</p> <p>“There are so many other different programs that need to be fostered,” she said, “to promote community, promote good quality of living, a sense of purpose for veterans in New York City so ultimately we’re a city that attracts veterans in the same way we attract artists, entrepreneurs.”</p> <p>Sutton, a retired Army brigadier general, explained that the department is already doing much along these lines through coordination with different city agencies and setting up a network of local service providers under its VetConnect NYC initiative, which will roll out next year. “The number one challenge that veterans and their families point to is difficulty navigating,” she said, “to find the right services, to ensure that they’re quality services, to make sure they qualify for them, that the services are even available. That’s what this network really is designed to do.”</p> <p>After the October 28 City Council veterans committee hearing, Council Member Eric Ulrich, a Queens Republican who chairs the committee, told Gotham Gazette he was optimistic about the new department’s execution, but hasn’t yet seen a long-term plan for veterans from the de Blasio administration.</p> <p>“I don’t think it’s even on their radar right now,” he said. He did praise the city for ending chronic veteran homelessness and emphasized the need for connecting veterans with permanent affordable housing. But Ulrich said one area where the city is failing is in providing adequate employment for veterans, “and good paying jobs, not low paying menial jobs, but jobs that reflect their skills and abilities and their talents and the things that they’ve learned in the military,” he said.</p> <p>What’s also important to consider, according to Ulrich, is the roughly 20,000 future veterans, soldiers currently in active service who will return to the city in the next five years. “I think the temptation is, on the part of the New York City government, to just supply a band-aid sometimes and treat how things are now, but we really have to come up with a long-term solution,” he said, “to make New York City a more veteran-friendly city.”</p> <p>As Sutton tells it, that long-term vision is coming together, efforts that will be highlighted this week leading up to Friday’s Veterans Day and its annual parade. “We’re in the very early stages of what will absolutely continue to be a full-court press to improve the lives of our veterans and their families,” she said. “This is what I view as an essential municipal investment.”</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Ulrich Starts Raising Funds on Message of Beating De Blasio in 2017 2016-10-24T04:00:00+00:00 2016-10-24T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6590:ulrich-starts-raising-funds-on-message-of-beating-de-blasio-in-2017 Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/23596859421_e7373a68b5_z.jpg" alt="ulrich de blasio 2017" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>de Blasio, seated, &amp; Ulrich, to his right (photo: Ed Reed, Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>He’s not sure he’ll take the plunge, but City Council Member Eric Ulrich is beginning to raise money and test the waters for a possible 2017 mayoral run. The key motivator for Ulrich, a Queens Republican, is his belief that “Mayor de Blasio is destroying and dividing our beloved city.”</p> <p>That is how Ulrich is framing a fundraiser he is holding Tuesday evening, adding of Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, “I believe he can be beat in 2017 but I need your help” on the Facebook <a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/1331034403581469/" target="_blank">event page</a>. For the fundraiser, a $1,000 donation puts you on the “dump de Blasio” level.</p> <p>Ulrich, who calls himself a “moderate Republican,” supported Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the Republican presidential primary and readily talks about working across the aisle. He’s holding Tuesday’s event “to raise some money and have a discussion with my supporters and my friends about running next year,” he said during a Monday interview. “I’m seriously considering a run for Mayor,” he said.</p> <p>Explaining that he wants to launch a campaign that is both “a referendum on the mayor” and an opportunity to put forward a different vision from current city leadership, Ulrich said he would model himself after former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s “bipartisan, independent” approach. Ulrich heaped prasie on Bloomberg during the interview, calling the former mayor “a friend,” and said, “I should hope that I would be half as good as Mike Bloomberg was.”</p> <p>In that vein, Ulrich said he has met with Howard Wolfson, a top Bloomberg aide, and other Bloomberg administration veterans, and that he plans to meet with Bradley Tusk, Bloomberg’s 2009 campaign manager who has launched an independent effort, “NYC Deserves Better,” to find the right candidate to defeat de Blasio.</p> <p>While Tusk has declared he’s looking to back a Democrat in 2017 because he thinks the best path to defeat de Blasio is through the primary, Ulrich said he hopes to get him “to change his theory” and explained what he sees as his wide-ranging appeal: he is fiscally conservative, but also pro-choice, pro-marriage equality, pro-labor, and always ready to work with people of all viewpoints and party affiliations, he said.</p> <p>“I’ve met with Howard Wolfson privately,” Ulrich said of Bloomberg’s top political advisor. “I’m not going to divulge everything we discussed. We talked about next year’s race, and I was very encouraged by the conversation.”</p> <p>Ulrich <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/d32/html/members/home.shtml" target="_blank">represents</a> neighborhoods including Breezy Point, Ozone Park, and Rockaway Beach, and is the chair of the Council’s veterans affairs committee. He said Monday his plan is to bring in several hundred donors and launch a significant fundraising haul with a series of events between now and the next Campaign Finance Board filing in January. Admitting he has hurdles to clear before declaring a run for Mayor and an uphill battle if he does run, Ulrich said he wants to test the waters and, hopefully, take on de Blasio, who is mostly seen as a heavy favorite to win re-election. A key, Ulrich acknowledged, is raising solid early money and showing he can qualify for the city’s public matching funds program.</p> <p>He’s been meeting with political, civic, business, and faith leaders across the city, Ulrich said, “on my own time” (as opposed to when he’s performing his City Council duties). Democrats, Republicans, and independents included, the 31-year-old Council member said, many of whom are supportive, though interested in what kind of campaign he can begin moving before endorsing him or offering concrete help. Ulrich said he hasn’t hired a political consultancy yet, but has had several show interest.</p> <p>Ulrich acknowledges the steep challenge for a Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic city, but also believes that a strong enough candidate could convince the city’s Republicans, most of its unaffiliated voters, and some of its Democrats to change course from de Blasio. He predicts a good likelihood of major independent expenditure money flooding the race in order to remove de Blasio from office.</p> <p>“Some of the people rumored to run for Mayor, both on the Democratic side and the Republican side, have missed the mark,” Ulrich said. “It’s going to be a referendum on de Blasio -- whether or not people want Bill de Blasio to be a one-term mayor. If you like the direction of the city...vote for Bill de Blasio. If you want to put the city on a different direction...then you’ve got to vote for somebody else.”</p> <p>While he said that “The big albatross around the mayor’s neck is the homeless crisis -- this is an issue that he’s failed to address,” Ulrich listed a few specific issues that he thinks the mayor has not performed on, but appears more focus on pointing to something less tangible, but important.</p> <p>“I think that we’re facing a crisis of confidence,” Ulrich said. “I believe people simply don’t have confidence in the mayor’s ability to do a good job...People just don’t like the guy, and that’s important to being in public office.” Ulrich referenced the investigations into the mayor’s fundraising practices.</p> <p>Allies of the mayor are quick to point out that Ulrich doesn’t have the resume, gravitas, name recognition, or money that Bloomberg had when he won three citywide elections as a Republican or independent.</p> <p>Dan Levitan, a spokesperson for de Blasio’s re-election campaign, said in a statement, “Under Mayor de Blasio, crime just hit another all-time low, jobs are at record highs, the City is building and preserving affordable housing at a record pace, while graduation rates and test scores continue to improve. We are happy to match that record against anyone.”</p> <p>Speaking on Monday, Ulrich gave de Blasio credit for his universal pre-kindergarten program, but said state funding made it possible and that he otherwise doesn’t have anything positive to say for the mayor. He pointed to questions around de Blasio’s education agenda, his mismanagement of the city’s Build It Back Sandy recovery program; said there is low morale in the NYPD, and criticized the mayor for “his combative relationship with the press and the governor.”</p> <p>Ulrich admitted he has big questions to answer, with the fundraising near or at the top. “I’m not going to run to get embarrassed,” he said. “Am I going to give up my seat on the City Council, where I could run for reelection one more time...do I want to give that up to run for Mayor? Only if I really thought there was a path to victory and I could get the support that I needed.”</p> <p>Most experts believe de Blasio has a very strong chance of winning another term. He is popular among Democrats and has many advantages of incumbency. But, he is much <a href="https://poll.qu.edu/new-york-city/release-detail?ReleaseID=2369" target="_blank">less popular </a>among Republicans and unaffiliated voters, and he is deeply unpopular among white New Yorkers, polls show. One question for any de Blasio general election challenger is whether there are enough votes out there to be captured in a city that is heavily Democratic and increasingly made up of people of color.</p> <p><a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/enrollment/county/county_apr16.pdf" target="_blank">According to</a> the state Board of Elections, as of April 1, there were just over 4 million active registered voters in New York City: 2.76 million of them Democrats; 460,000 Republicans; 785,700 unaffiliated; and about 162,000 registered with other parties, like the Independence, Green, Working Families, and Conservative parties.</p> <p>Short of viability against de Blasio, unknown for Ulrich is what the Republican primary field will look like. Real estate executive Paul Massey has declared a run, and there are other rumored candidates, but it’s not clear what the city and state GOP leadership are doing in terms of cultivating candidates. Ulrich said he’s had some encouraging conversations with county and club leaders; some people have told him he’d give de Blasio “the best fight,” he said.</p> <p>Ulrich added, “Some of have said, ‘Eric’s a good guy, but we want another rich white guy...a billionaire.’” But, Ulrich said he’s not sure that Bloomberg-like figure is out there -- a strong candidate who can also self-finance. “If we’re tied with CFB funds,” Ulrich said of himself and de Blasio, “I can’t imagine powerful business and civic folks not getting involved” with independent expenditures.</p> <p>“Eric has a lot of talent,” said City Council Member Joseph Borelli, a Staten Island Republican. “The mayor is unpopular in many parts of the city where Eric’s voice could resonate, but it’s early in the process and there are a number of Republicans who’ve expressed interest, and we should be careful with who we nominate.”</p> <p>Borelli and Ulrich come from different wings of the GOP -- Borelli has been a major supporter of Donald Trump’s candidacy, while Ulrich has been in the “never Trump” category and backed Kasich. Ulrich has regularly voted for City Council bills that Borelli and the third Republican in the City Council, Minority Leader Steven Matteo, vote against. Still, if Ulrich is the Republican nominee for Mayor in 2017, it’s all-but-certain that Borelli and other Republicans back him. The question is how much money and enthusiasm Ulrich or any Republican nominee for Mayor can attract -- de Blasio’s 2013 opponent, Joe Lhota, was not the beneficiary of a major rallying of the troops. De Blasio won in a landslide.</p> <p>One place Ulrich could be looking for support is through Tusk and his ambition to unseat de Blasio, who he has called corrupt and incompetent. Asked about the prospect of meeting with and supporting Ulrich, Patrick Muncie, who works at Tusk Strategies and is a spokesperson for NYC Deserves Better, sent Gotham Gazette a statement saying, “While we like and respect Council Member Ulrich, and are happy to meet with him to discuss our shared belief that New Yorkers deserve honest, competent leadership in City Hall, we’re confident the most realistic path [to defeating de Blasio] is through the Democratic primary.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/23596859421_e7373a68b5_z.jpg" alt="ulrich de blasio 2017" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>de Blasio, seated, &amp; Ulrich, to his right (photo: Ed Reed, Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>He’s not sure he’ll take the plunge, but City Council Member Eric Ulrich is beginning to raise money and test the waters for a possible 2017 mayoral run. The key motivator for Ulrich, a Queens Republican, is his belief that “Mayor de Blasio is destroying and dividing our beloved city.”</p> <p>That is how Ulrich is framing a fundraiser he is holding Tuesday evening, adding of Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, “I believe he can be beat in 2017 but I need your help” on the Facebook <a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/1331034403581469/" target="_blank">event page</a>. For the fundraiser, a $1,000 donation puts you on the “dump de Blasio” level.</p> <p>Ulrich, who calls himself a “moderate Republican,” supported Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the Republican presidential primary and readily talks about working across the aisle. He’s holding Tuesday’s event “to raise some money and have a discussion with my supporters and my friends about running next year,” he said during a Monday interview. “I’m seriously considering a run for Mayor,” he said.</p> <p>Explaining that he wants to launch a campaign that is both “a referendum on the mayor” and an opportunity to put forward a different vision from current city leadership, Ulrich said he would model himself after former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s “bipartisan, independent” approach. Ulrich heaped prasie on Bloomberg during the interview, calling the former mayor “a friend,” and said, “I should hope that I would be half as good as Mike Bloomberg was.”</p> <p>In that vein, Ulrich said he has met with Howard Wolfson, a top Bloomberg aide, and other Bloomberg administration veterans, and that he plans to meet with Bradley Tusk, Bloomberg’s 2009 campaign manager who has launched an independent effort, “NYC Deserves Better,” to find the right candidate to defeat de Blasio.</p> <p>While Tusk has declared he’s looking to back a Democrat in 2017 because he thinks the best path to defeat de Blasio is through the primary, Ulrich said he hopes to get him “to change his theory” and explained what he sees as his wide-ranging appeal: he is fiscally conservative, but also pro-choice, pro-marriage equality, pro-labor, and always ready to work with people of all viewpoints and party affiliations, he said.</p> <p>“I’ve met with Howard Wolfson privately,” Ulrich said of Bloomberg’s top political advisor. “I’m not going to divulge everything we discussed. We talked about next year’s race, and I was very encouraged by the conversation.”</p> <p>Ulrich <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/d32/html/members/home.shtml" target="_blank">represents</a> neighborhoods including Breezy Point, Ozone Park, and Rockaway Beach, and is the chair of the Council’s veterans affairs committee. He said Monday his plan is to bring in several hundred donors and launch a significant fundraising haul with a series of events between now and the next Campaign Finance Board filing in January. Admitting he has hurdles to clear before declaring a run for Mayor and an uphill battle if he does run, Ulrich said he wants to test the waters and, hopefully, take on de Blasio, who is mostly seen as a heavy favorite to win re-election. A key, Ulrich acknowledged, is raising solid early money and showing he can qualify for the city’s public matching funds program.</p> <p>He’s been meeting with political, civic, business, and faith leaders across the city, Ulrich said, “on my own time” (as opposed to when he’s performing his City Council duties). Democrats, Republicans, and independents included, the 31-year-old Council member said, many of whom are supportive, though interested in what kind of campaign he can begin moving before endorsing him or offering concrete help. Ulrich said he hasn’t hired a political consultancy yet, but has had several show interest.</p> <p>Ulrich acknowledges the steep challenge for a Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic city, but also believes that a strong enough candidate could convince the city’s Republicans, most of its unaffiliated voters, and some of its Democrats to change course from de Blasio. He predicts a good likelihood of major independent expenditure money flooding the race in order to remove de Blasio from office.</p> <p>“Some of the people rumored to run for Mayor, both on the Democratic side and the Republican side, have missed the mark,” Ulrich said. “It’s going to be a referendum on de Blasio -- whether or not people want Bill de Blasio to be a one-term mayor. If you like the direction of the city...vote for Bill de Blasio. If you want to put the city on a different direction...then you’ve got to vote for somebody else.”</p> <p>While he said that “The big albatross around the mayor’s neck is the homeless crisis -- this is an issue that he’s failed to address,” Ulrich listed a few specific issues that he thinks the mayor has not performed on, but appears more focus on pointing to something less tangible, but important.</p> <p>“I think that we’re facing a crisis of confidence,” Ulrich said. “I believe people simply don’t have confidence in the mayor’s ability to do a good job...People just don’t like the guy, and that’s important to being in public office.” Ulrich referenced the investigations into the mayor’s fundraising practices.</p> <p>Allies of the mayor are quick to point out that Ulrich doesn’t have the resume, gravitas, name recognition, or money that Bloomberg had when he won three citywide elections as a Republican or independent.</p> <p>Dan Levitan, a spokesperson for de Blasio’s re-election campaign, said in a statement, “Under Mayor de Blasio, crime just hit another all-time low, jobs are at record highs, the City is building and preserving affordable housing at a record pace, while graduation rates and test scores continue to improve. We are happy to match that record against anyone.”</p> <p>Speaking on Monday, Ulrich gave de Blasio credit for his universal pre-kindergarten program, but said state funding made it possible and that he otherwise doesn’t have anything positive to say for the mayor. He pointed to questions around de Blasio’s education agenda, his mismanagement of the city’s Build It Back Sandy recovery program; said there is low morale in the NYPD, and criticized the mayor for “his combative relationship with the press and the governor.”</p> <p>Ulrich admitted he has big questions to answer, with the fundraising near or at the top. “I’m not going to run to get embarrassed,” he said. “Am I going to give up my seat on the City Council, where I could run for reelection one more time...do I want to give that up to run for Mayor? Only if I really thought there was a path to victory and I could get the support that I needed.”</p> <p>Most experts believe de Blasio has a very strong chance of winning another term. He is popular among Democrats and has many advantages of incumbency. But, he is much <a href="https://poll.qu.edu/new-york-city/release-detail?ReleaseID=2369" target="_blank">less popular </a>among Republicans and unaffiliated voters, and he is deeply unpopular among white New Yorkers, polls show. One question for any de Blasio general election challenger is whether there are enough votes out there to be captured in a city that is heavily Democratic and increasingly made up of people of color.</p> <p><a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/enrollment/county/county_apr16.pdf" target="_blank">According to</a> the state Board of Elections, as of April 1, there were just over 4 million active registered voters in New York City: 2.76 million of them Democrats; 460,000 Republicans; 785,700 unaffiliated; and about 162,000 registered with other parties, like the Independence, Green, Working Families, and Conservative parties.</p> <p>Short of viability against de Blasio, unknown for Ulrich is what the Republican primary field will look like. Real estate executive Paul Massey has declared a run, and there are other rumored candidates, but it’s not clear what the city and state GOP leadership are doing in terms of cultivating candidates. Ulrich said he’s had some encouraging conversations with county and club leaders; some people have told him he’d give de Blasio “the best fight,” he said.</p> <p>Ulrich added, “Some of have said, ‘Eric’s a good guy, but we want another rich white guy...a billionaire.’” But, Ulrich said he’s not sure that Bloomberg-like figure is out there -- a strong candidate who can also self-finance. “If we’re tied with CFB funds,” Ulrich said of himself and de Blasio, “I can’t imagine powerful business and civic folks not getting involved” with independent expenditures.</p> <p>“Eric has a lot of talent,” said City Council Member Joseph Borelli, a Staten Island Republican. “The mayor is unpopular in many parts of the city where Eric’s voice could resonate, but it’s early in the process and there are a number of Republicans who’ve expressed interest, and we should be careful with who we nominate.”</p> <p>Borelli and Ulrich come from different wings of the GOP -- Borelli has been a major supporter of Donald Trump’s candidacy, while Ulrich has been in the “never Trump” category and backed Kasich. Ulrich has regularly voted for City Council bills that Borelli and the third Republican in the City Council, Minority Leader Steven Matteo, vote against. Still, if Ulrich is the Republican nominee for Mayor in 2017, it’s all-but-certain that Borelli and other Republicans back him. The question is how much money and enthusiasm Ulrich or any Republican nominee for Mayor can attract -- de Blasio’s 2013 opponent, Joe Lhota, was not the beneficiary of a major rallying of the troops. De Blasio won in a landslide.</p> <p>One place Ulrich could be looking for support is through Tusk and his ambition to unseat de Blasio, who he has called corrupt and incompetent. Asked about the prospect of meeting with and supporting Ulrich, Patrick Muncie, who works at Tusk Strategies and is a spokesperson for NYC Deserves Better, sent Gotham Gazette a statement saying, “While we like and respect Council Member Ulrich, and are happy to meet with him to discuss our shared belief that New Yorkers deserve honest, competent leadership in City Hall, we’re confident the most realistic path [to defeating de Blasio] is through the Democratic primary.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
With De Blasio Appearing Vulnerable, Heightened Examination of Paths to Defeat Him 2016-08-14T04:00:00+00:00 2016-08-14T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6480:with-de-blasio-appearing-vulnerable-heightened-examination-of-paths-to-defeat-him Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/28132525604_33be991e32_z.jpg" alt="de blasio balcony" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio (photo: Ed Reed, Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Mayor Bill de Blasio often says he doesn&rsquo;t put much stock in public opinion polls; he believes they&rsquo;re about as accurate as weather predictions. When asked, he didn&rsquo;t express much concern after a <a href="https://www.qu.edu/news-and-events/quinnipiac-university-poll/new-york-city/release-detail?ReleaseID=2369" target="_blank">Quinnipiac University poll</a> released August 1 showed that 51 percent of New York City voters don&rsquo;t think he deserves to be re-elected in 2017. But even if de Blasio didn&rsquo;t care, his critics and potential opponents surely did, and are likely buoyed in their belief that there is a way to beat an incumbent Democrat who has been arguably the most progressive mayor in the city&rsquo;s history and overseen dropping crime, growing jobs, and a record tourism.</p> <p dir="ltr">As polls show de Blasio&rsquo;s relative weakness, some voices have grown louder calling for his ouster, and potential opponents weigh jumping into the race, one key question is the best path to defeating him. In an overwhelmingly Democratic city that saw 20 years of Republican dominance of the mayoralty before his election, it&rsquo;s not immediately clear where de Blasio is most vulnerable.</p> <p dir="ltr">As can be expected, political consultants are divided on the prospect of de Blasio&rsquo;s re-election. Republican consultants believe he can be beaten if an opponent uses the right strategy, aptly highlighting the mayor&rsquo;s weaknesses, while many Democrats are certain the chances of that are negligible at best.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;[De Blasio&rsquo;s opponents] need to make it a referendum on his competence and his management,&rdquo; said Evan Siegfried, a Republican strategist. &ldquo;That includes Democrats, especially in the primaries.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;An incompetent mayor can lose,&rdquo; he added.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is the competence argument that is already being made by the loudest voice to thus far openly declare intention to defeat de Blasio in 2017 - that of consultant Bradley Tusk, who ran former Mayor Michael Bloomberg&rsquo;s third successful mayoral campaign, in 2009. Tusk has said, though, that he believes the most likely path to defeating de Blasio in 2017 is through the Democratic primary. He&rsquo;s currently waging a public relations campaign to damage the mayor while he attempts to recruit the strongest candidate possible.</p> <p dir="ltr">As Tusk and others, even Republicans, acknowledge, the voter registration numbers don&rsquo;t lie. They also see that while de Blasio&rsquo;s approval rating is low, he still has fairly strong support among Democrats, especially African-Americans.</p> <p dir="ltr">In order to beat de Blasio, &ldquo;Republicans and independents will have to appeal to disaffected Democrats and have to bring in pretty much every constituency,&rdquo; said Siegfried. &ldquo;Bill de Blasio is absolutely beatable only if you run a good and strong campaign with a solid candidate...They should aim to peel off the pork from where de Blasio is strong, particularly the African-American community.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">On the Republican end, there are already a few candidates who&rsquo;ve indicated they may run against the mayor, including Queens City Council Member Eric Ulrich; billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis, who lost in the 2013 Republican primary; real estate developer Paul Massey; and former professional football player and Harlem pastor Michel Faulkner. The latter two have officially declared their runs.</p> <p dir="ltr">Republican campaign consultant Jessica Proud of The November Team, who is working for Massey&rsquo;s campaign, believes there is a path to victory against the incumbent mayor. &ldquo;Clearly de Blasio has not been able to inspire the confidence of voters,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;He has not shown himself to be a good manager of the city.&rdquo; Proud said Massey&rsquo;s appeal is that he&rsquo;s not a politician. &ldquo;He&rsquo;s not an ideologue, his approach would be one of good management,&rdquo; she said, with an implicit nod toward a Bloomberg-esque technocrat and citing Massey&rsquo;s top priorities in the campaign: public safety and quality of life issues, housing, and improving city schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">The management issue is a common refrain and relates directly to competence. Even though crime is down, Republican consultants point to polls that show the perception of crime remains skewed. Many people believe other quality of life issues, like street cleanliness, are getting worse even if there is evidence to the contrary. The Quinnipiac poll released August 1 showed that 49 percent of New York City voters disapproved of how the mayor is handling crime, compared to 42 percent who approved.</p> <p dir="ltr">George Arzt, a Democratic consultant, said, &ldquo;[De Blasio is] vulnerable to a challenge but not from a Republican.&rdquo; He said that contenders like Massey or Catsimatidis don&rsquo;t have the same level of resources as Bloomberg did, and that they definitely don&rsquo;t have the political skills or organization. &ldquo;There were circumstances that cannot be duplicated as we see now,&rdquo; he said of Bloomberg&rsquo;s election as a Republican candidate. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s doubtful that anyone even with money can make a go of it.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Another Democratic strategist, Hank Sheinkopf, said a Republican candidate could only be elected if the city were to undergo a serious crisis, say a crime wave, massive corruption, or another recession. De Blasio's administration and campaign allies are being investigated on multiple fronts by state and federal law enforcement officials - the results of those investigations could shift political dynamics drastically, of course. Short of major indictments, Sheinkopf did point out early indicators of problems -- certain crimes have increased, like rape, but overall the crime rate is at historic lows; school test scores may be improving but the schools are underperforming in general; violence in the city&rsquo;s jails; and future budget deficits despite the city being flush with cash.</p> <p dir="ltr">Even with those considerations, Sheinkopf said, &ldquo;A fusion candidate will have a better chance,&rdquo; &nbsp;referring to a candidate who runs on multiple party lines. &ldquo;They have the Republican line and other lines which makes it easier for people to vote for them.&rdquo; An effective Republican challenger would have to draw crossover votes from traditionally Democratic voting sections of the population, as Siegfried also suggested and any Republican candidate or consultant must understand.</p> <p dir="ltr">Democrats&rsquo; immense voter registration advantage is simply a reality that all involved in New York City political campaigns must recognize. However, one caveat to the voter registration numbers are the voter turnout numbers, which are often quite low. If a certain candidate, incumbent or otherwise, can motivate more people to vote in a significant mass, an election can be swung.</p> <p dir="ltr">As of April 1, there are more than 4 million <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/enrollment/county/county_apr16.pdf" target="_blank">active registered voters</a> in the city, of which 2.75 million are Democrats and only 414,478 are Republicans. However, that advantage isn&rsquo;t necessarily borne out by history, a fact pointed to by Steven Romalewski, director of the mapping service at the Center for Urban Research at the CUNY Graduate Center. In an interview with Gotham Gazette, Romalewski said, &ldquo;The enrollment advantage doesn&rsquo;t necessarily tell you much. It matters less than personality of the candidates and the issues. If everyone turned out to vote who is registered to vote and voted the party line, a Democrat would win. But that doesn&rsquo;t always happen.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Romalewski noted that a 2013 general election analysis showed that in certain districts, de Blasio received fewer Democratic votes than the total votes cast by registered Democrats, indicating that some may have voted for his Republican opponent, Joe Lhota. In other districts, de Blasio received more votes than the total Democratic votes cast, meaning he had support from outside the Democratic party as well. There were six major qualified parties and 14 minor parties on the general election ballot, with de Blasio holding the Democratic and Working Families Party lines.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city also has nearly 800,000 unaffiliated voters, often called &ldquo;independents,&rdquo; which adds another facet to the Democrat-Republican enrollment imbalance.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;In 2017, I think the same kind of analysis holds,&rdquo; Romalewski said in an email. &ldquo;If none or just a small number of Democrats vote for de Blasio's opponent, he'll do ok. &nbsp;But if his challenger can persuade enough Dems to "defect," he'll be in trouble.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">But de Blasio&rsquo;s great strength, as Romalewski pointed out, is that he &ldquo;not only did well and much better than the prior three Democratic candidates [for mayor] but also did well in areas where Bloomberg did well. He kinda combined the traditional Democratic base -- Black and Hispanic areas -- with liberal white areas.&rdquo; De Blasio won a dominant 73 percent of the general election vote against Lhota in 2013.</p> <p dir="ltr">Critics point to the fact that only 26 percent of registered voters cast ballots in that election, which indicates some combination of apathy, recognition that de Blasio had a huge polling advantage heading toward Election Day, and limited enthusiasm for Lhota from Republicans and independents.</p> <p dir="ltr">A Republican would have to have a &ldquo;cache&rdquo; of progressive politics combined with the skills of a good manager, Romalewski said, to cut into de Blasio&rsquo;s voter base. &ldquo;The conventional wisdom is that it&rsquo;s unlikely [de Blasio will] have effective challengers,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Most observers assume that the mayor will only face a stiff challenge in the Democratic primary, due to the aforementioned factors and no obvious other big name Republican or independent waiting in the wings. And a tough Democratic primary is only possible, some say, if a single strong candidate runs against de Blasio instead of multiple candidates who could split the anti-de Blasio vote. &ldquo;If two or three Democrats challenge the mayor, he&rsquo;s going to win,&rdquo; said Bill Cunningham, managing director at DKC and former communications director for Bloomberg. &ldquo;If only one runs, there&rsquo;s a chance to coalesce the people who view [de Blasio] unfavorably and give them a place to go vote.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">One other path some experts float would be for a strong African-American candidate to enter the race - someone like Congressional Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, for example - who would chip away at de Blasio&rsquo;s deep African-American base, and one strong white candidate - someone like Comptroller Scott Stringer - who could pick up as many other disaffected Democrats as possible.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cunningham said for a competitive race, &ldquo;You need a message, a messenger and you need to be able to deliver that to the public. There&rsquo;s no mystery to what the recipe is. The trick is finding a candidate who is intelligent and can campaign effectively and has the money to deliver the message to the voters.&rdquo; Bloomberg had those qualities, he pointed out, but the current crop of contenders don&rsquo;t. Along with Stringer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is currently seen as the other most likely Democratic challenger to the mayor.</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked about potential opponents, de Blasio has repeatedly said he&rsquo;s ready to take on all comers, at times mentioning the pillars of his term: universal pre-kindergarten, affordable housing, and low crime. At one point last year de Blasio discussed his "record of achievement" and said of potential 2017 opponents, "come one, come all."</p> <p dir="ltr">A spokesperson for de Blasio&rsquo;s campaign, Dan Levitan, emailed a statement about the prospects for 2017, saying, &ldquo;Crime just hit another all-time low, jobs are at record highs, the City is building and preserving affordable housing at a record pace, while graduation rates and test scores continue to improve. That is Mayor de Blasio's record and that is what next year's election will be about.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Even Tusk, who is arguably de Blasio&rsquo;s most vocal opponent right now, acknowledges that he&rsquo;ll be hard pressed to find a candidate who fits the bill of a Democrat with appeal among Republican voters. He recently indicated to the <a href="http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/08/11/nyregion/weakened-de-blasio-may-be-vulnerable-to-3rd-party-bid-by-a-democrat.html?partner=rss&amp;emc=rss&amp;utm_source=dlvr.it&amp;utm_medium=twitter" target="_blank">New York Times</a> that a successful candidate could run on a third-party line in the general even if they lost the Democratic primary; or a candidate could possibly skip the Democratic primary altogether and run on an independent line.</p> <p dir="ltr">As CUNY&rsquo;s Romalewski notes, in the 2009 general, Bloomberg did well in areas where he consistently won votes in the prior two elections -- much of Queens, the Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Downtown Manhattan, South Brooklyn, and almost all of Staten Island. His Democratic opponent at the time, Bill Thompson, made it a close race, losing by less than five points. Thompson, who is black, won large blocks in Southeast Queens, Central Brooklyn, Harlem, and the Bronx. Unfortunately for him, though, turnout wasn&rsquo;t as high in these areas as he needed for a victory. De Blasio upended the pattern in 2013, pulling votes from constituencies that voted for both Bloomberg and Thompson in &lsquo;09.</p> <p dir="ltr">Romalewski&rsquo;s analysis of the 2013 election also notes areas de Blasio lost to Lhota, including the traditionally Republican-leaning Upper East Side, Middle Village and other areas in northeast Queens, a few orthodox Jewish communities in Southern Brooklyn, and most of Staten Island. In general, these areas were dominated by white New Yorkers who have been increasingly critical of de Blasio. The mayor overwhelmingly won communities dominated by African-Americans and Hispanics, who continue to support him. The Quinnipiac poll noted as much, finding that in hypothetical match-ups whites largely favored Comptroller Scott Stringer and former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn over de Blasio, who maintained huge margins among African-Americans and Hispanics. (The poll did not include possible Republican candidates.)</p> <p dir="ltr">In terms of approval rating, 63 percent of black voters and 50 percent of Hispanic voters approve of de Blasio&rsquo;s handling of the job, while only 25 percent of white voters felt the same. The Democrat-Republican divide is even greater, with 55 percent of Democrats giving de Blasio a thumbs up and only 9 percent of Republicans doing so. Among independents, 30 percent approved of the mayor.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Tusk&rsquo;s &ldquo;NYC Deserves Better&rdquo; <a href="http://www.nycdeservesbetter.com/blog/2016/8/12/new-podcast-bradley-tusk-with-jefrey-pollock" target="_blank">podcast</a>, Democratic consultant and pollster Jefrey Pollock pointed out that despite the mayor&rsquo;s weakening numbers, he has enough support among African-Americans and Hispanics for a strong showing in the Democratic primary. Pollock noted, and Tusk reiterated, that popular adage that almost every political expert and consultant says of the mayoral race -- &ldquo;You can&rsquo;t beat somebody with nobody.&rdquo; Pollock said independent groups support an opponent of de Blasio, if an effective one were to emerge.</p> <p>&ldquo;That is the great challenge,&rdquo; Tusk said.</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/28132525604_33be991e32_z.jpg" alt="de blasio balcony" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio (photo: Ed Reed, Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Mayor Bill de Blasio often says he doesn&rsquo;t put much stock in public opinion polls; he believes they&rsquo;re about as accurate as weather predictions. When asked, he didn&rsquo;t express much concern after a <a href="https://www.qu.edu/news-and-events/quinnipiac-university-poll/new-york-city/release-detail?ReleaseID=2369" target="_blank">Quinnipiac University poll</a> released August 1 showed that 51 percent of New York City voters don&rsquo;t think he deserves to be re-elected in 2017. But even if de Blasio didn&rsquo;t care, his critics and potential opponents surely did, and are likely buoyed in their belief that there is a way to beat an incumbent Democrat who has been arguably the most progressive mayor in the city&rsquo;s history and overseen dropping crime, growing jobs, and a record tourism.</p> <p dir="ltr">As polls show de Blasio&rsquo;s relative weakness, some voices have grown louder calling for his ouster, and potential opponents weigh jumping into the race, one key question is the best path to defeating him. In an overwhelmingly Democratic city that saw 20 years of Republican dominance of the mayoralty before his election, it&rsquo;s not immediately clear where de Blasio is most vulnerable.</p> <p dir="ltr">As can be expected, political consultants are divided on the prospect of de Blasio&rsquo;s re-election. Republican consultants believe he can be beaten if an opponent uses the right strategy, aptly highlighting the mayor&rsquo;s weaknesses, while many Democrats are certain the chances of that are negligible at best.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;[De Blasio&rsquo;s opponents] need to make it a referendum on his competence and his management,&rdquo; said Evan Siegfried, a Republican strategist. &ldquo;That includes Democrats, especially in the primaries.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;An incompetent mayor can lose,&rdquo; he added.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is the competence argument that is already being made by the loudest voice to thus far openly declare intention to defeat de Blasio in 2017 - that of consultant Bradley Tusk, who ran former Mayor Michael Bloomberg&rsquo;s third successful mayoral campaign, in 2009. Tusk has said, though, that he believes the most likely path to defeating de Blasio in 2017 is through the Democratic primary. He&rsquo;s currently waging a public relations campaign to damage the mayor while he attempts to recruit the strongest candidate possible.</p> <p dir="ltr">As Tusk and others, even Republicans, acknowledge, the voter registration numbers don&rsquo;t lie. They also see that while de Blasio&rsquo;s approval rating is low, he still has fairly strong support among Democrats, especially African-Americans.</p> <p dir="ltr">In order to beat de Blasio, &ldquo;Republicans and independents will have to appeal to disaffected Democrats and have to bring in pretty much every constituency,&rdquo; said Siegfried. &ldquo;Bill de Blasio is absolutely beatable only if you run a good and strong campaign with a solid candidate...They should aim to peel off the pork from where de Blasio is strong, particularly the African-American community.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">On the Republican end, there are already a few candidates who&rsquo;ve indicated they may run against the mayor, including Queens City Council Member Eric Ulrich; billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis, who lost in the 2013 Republican primary; real estate developer Paul Massey; and former professional football player and Harlem pastor Michel Faulkner. The latter two have officially declared their runs.</p> <p dir="ltr">Republican campaign consultant Jessica Proud of The November Team, who is working for Massey&rsquo;s campaign, believes there is a path to victory against the incumbent mayor. &ldquo;Clearly de Blasio has not been able to inspire the confidence of voters,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;He has not shown himself to be a good manager of the city.&rdquo; Proud said Massey&rsquo;s appeal is that he&rsquo;s not a politician. &ldquo;He&rsquo;s not an ideologue, his approach would be one of good management,&rdquo; she said, with an implicit nod toward a Bloomberg-esque technocrat and citing Massey&rsquo;s top priorities in the campaign: public safety and quality of life issues, housing, and improving city schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">The management issue is a common refrain and relates directly to competence. Even though crime is down, Republican consultants point to polls that show the perception of crime remains skewed. Many people believe other quality of life issues, like street cleanliness, are getting worse even if there is evidence to the contrary. The Quinnipiac poll released August 1 showed that 49 percent of New York City voters disapproved of how the mayor is handling crime, compared to 42 percent who approved.</p> <p dir="ltr">George Arzt, a Democratic consultant, said, &ldquo;[De Blasio is] vulnerable to a challenge but not from a Republican.&rdquo; He said that contenders like Massey or Catsimatidis don&rsquo;t have the same level of resources as Bloomberg did, and that they definitely don&rsquo;t have the political skills or organization. &ldquo;There were circumstances that cannot be duplicated as we see now,&rdquo; he said of Bloomberg&rsquo;s election as a Republican candidate. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s doubtful that anyone even with money can make a go of it.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Another Democratic strategist, Hank Sheinkopf, said a Republican candidate could only be elected if the city were to undergo a serious crisis, say a crime wave, massive corruption, or another recession. De Blasio's administration and campaign allies are being investigated on multiple fronts by state and federal law enforcement officials - the results of those investigations could shift political dynamics drastically, of course. Short of major indictments, Sheinkopf did point out early indicators of problems -- certain crimes have increased, like rape, but overall the crime rate is at historic lows; school test scores may be improving but the schools are underperforming in general; violence in the city&rsquo;s jails; and future budget deficits despite the city being flush with cash.</p> <p dir="ltr">Even with those considerations, Sheinkopf said, &ldquo;A fusion candidate will have a better chance,&rdquo; &nbsp;referring to a candidate who runs on multiple party lines. &ldquo;They have the Republican line and other lines which makes it easier for people to vote for them.&rdquo; An effective Republican challenger would have to draw crossover votes from traditionally Democratic voting sections of the population, as Siegfried also suggested and any Republican candidate or consultant must understand.</p> <p dir="ltr">Democrats&rsquo; immense voter registration advantage is simply a reality that all involved in New York City political campaigns must recognize. However, one caveat to the voter registration numbers are the voter turnout numbers, which are often quite low. If a certain candidate, incumbent or otherwise, can motivate more people to vote in a significant mass, an election can be swung.</p> <p dir="ltr">As of April 1, there are more than 4 million <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/enrollment/county/county_apr16.pdf" target="_blank">active registered voters</a> in the city, of which 2.75 million are Democrats and only 414,478 are Republicans. However, that advantage isn&rsquo;t necessarily borne out by history, a fact pointed to by Steven Romalewski, director of the mapping service at the Center for Urban Research at the CUNY Graduate Center. In an interview with Gotham Gazette, Romalewski said, &ldquo;The enrollment advantage doesn&rsquo;t necessarily tell you much. It matters less than personality of the candidates and the issues. If everyone turned out to vote who is registered to vote and voted the party line, a Democrat would win. But that doesn&rsquo;t always happen.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Romalewski noted that a 2013 general election analysis showed that in certain districts, de Blasio received fewer Democratic votes than the total votes cast by registered Democrats, indicating that some may have voted for his Republican opponent, Joe Lhota. In other districts, de Blasio received more votes than the total Democratic votes cast, meaning he had support from outside the Democratic party as well. There were six major qualified parties and 14 minor parties on the general election ballot, with de Blasio holding the Democratic and Working Families Party lines.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city also has nearly 800,000 unaffiliated voters, often called &ldquo;independents,&rdquo; which adds another facet to the Democrat-Republican enrollment imbalance.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;In 2017, I think the same kind of analysis holds,&rdquo; Romalewski said in an email. &ldquo;If none or just a small number of Democrats vote for de Blasio's opponent, he'll do ok. &nbsp;But if his challenger can persuade enough Dems to "defect," he'll be in trouble.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">But de Blasio&rsquo;s great strength, as Romalewski pointed out, is that he &ldquo;not only did well and much better than the prior three Democratic candidates [for mayor] but also did well in areas where Bloomberg did well. He kinda combined the traditional Democratic base -- Black and Hispanic areas -- with liberal white areas.&rdquo; De Blasio won a dominant 73 percent of the general election vote against Lhota in 2013.</p> <p dir="ltr">Critics point to the fact that only 26 percent of registered voters cast ballots in that election, which indicates some combination of apathy, recognition that de Blasio had a huge polling advantage heading toward Election Day, and limited enthusiasm for Lhota from Republicans and independents.</p> <p dir="ltr">A Republican would have to have a &ldquo;cache&rdquo; of progressive politics combined with the skills of a good manager, Romalewski said, to cut into de Blasio&rsquo;s voter base. &ldquo;The conventional wisdom is that it&rsquo;s unlikely [de Blasio will] have effective challengers,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Most observers assume that the mayor will only face a stiff challenge in the Democratic primary, due to the aforementioned factors and no obvious other big name Republican or independent waiting in the wings. And a tough Democratic primary is only possible, some say, if a single strong candidate runs against de Blasio instead of multiple candidates who could split the anti-de Blasio vote. &ldquo;If two or three Democrats challenge the mayor, he&rsquo;s going to win,&rdquo; said Bill Cunningham, managing director at DKC and former communications director for Bloomberg. &ldquo;If only one runs, there&rsquo;s a chance to coalesce the people who view [de Blasio] unfavorably and give them a place to go vote.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">One other path some experts float would be for a strong African-American candidate to enter the race - someone like Congressional Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, for example - who would chip away at de Blasio&rsquo;s deep African-American base, and one strong white candidate - someone like Comptroller Scott Stringer - who could pick up as many other disaffected Democrats as possible.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cunningham said for a competitive race, &ldquo;You need a message, a messenger and you need to be able to deliver that to the public. There&rsquo;s no mystery to what the recipe is. The trick is finding a candidate who is intelligent and can campaign effectively and has the money to deliver the message to the voters.&rdquo; Bloomberg had those qualities, he pointed out, but the current crop of contenders don&rsquo;t. Along with Stringer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is currently seen as the other most likely Democratic challenger to the mayor.</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked about potential opponents, de Blasio has repeatedly said he&rsquo;s ready to take on all comers, at times mentioning the pillars of his term: universal pre-kindergarten, affordable housing, and low crime. At one point last year de Blasio discussed his "record of achievement" and said of potential 2017 opponents, "come one, come all."</p> <p dir="ltr">A spokesperson for de Blasio&rsquo;s campaign, Dan Levitan, emailed a statement about the prospects for 2017, saying, &ldquo;Crime just hit another all-time low, jobs are at record highs, the City is building and preserving affordable housing at a record pace, while graduation rates and test scores continue to improve. That is Mayor de Blasio's record and that is what next year's election will be about.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Even Tusk, who is arguably de Blasio&rsquo;s most vocal opponent right now, acknowledges that he&rsquo;ll be hard pressed to find a candidate who fits the bill of a Democrat with appeal among Republican voters. He recently indicated to the <a href="http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/08/11/nyregion/weakened-de-blasio-may-be-vulnerable-to-3rd-party-bid-by-a-democrat.html?partner=rss&amp;emc=rss&amp;utm_source=dlvr.it&amp;utm_medium=twitter" target="_blank">New York Times</a> that a successful candidate could run on a third-party line in the general even if they lost the Democratic primary; or a candidate could possibly skip the Democratic primary altogether and run on an independent line.</p> <p dir="ltr">As CUNY&rsquo;s Romalewski notes, in the 2009 general, Bloomberg did well in areas where he consistently won votes in the prior two elections -- much of Queens, the Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Downtown Manhattan, South Brooklyn, and almost all of Staten Island. His Democratic opponent at the time, Bill Thompson, made it a close race, losing by less than five points. Thompson, who is black, won large blocks in Southeast Queens, Central Brooklyn, Harlem, and the Bronx. Unfortunately for him, though, turnout wasn&rsquo;t as high in these areas as he needed for a victory. De Blasio upended the pattern in 2013, pulling votes from constituencies that voted for both Bloomberg and Thompson in &lsquo;09.</p> <p dir="ltr">Romalewski&rsquo;s analysis of the 2013 election also notes areas de Blasio lost to Lhota, including the traditionally Republican-leaning Upper East Side, Middle Village and other areas in northeast Queens, a few orthodox Jewish communities in Southern Brooklyn, and most of Staten Island. In general, these areas were dominated by white New Yorkers who have been increasingly critical of de Blasio. The mayor overwhelmingly won communities dominated by African-Americans and Hispanics, who continue to support him. The Quinnipiac poll noted as much, finding that in hypothetical match-ups whites largely favored Comptroller Scott Stringer and former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn over de Blasio, who maintained huge margins among African-Americans and Hispanics. (The poll did not include possible Republican candidates.)</p> <p dir="ltr">In terms of approval rating, 63 percent of black voters and 50 percent of Hispanic voters approve of de Blasio&rsquo;s handling of the job, while only 25 percent of white voters felt the same. The Democrat-Republican divide is even greater, with 55 percent of Democrats giving de Blasio a thumbs up and only 9 percent of Republicans doing so. Among independents, 30 percent approved of the mayor.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Tusk&rsquo;s &ldquo;NYC Deserves Better&rdquo; <a href="http://www.nycdeservesbetter.com/blog/2016/8/12/new-podcast-bradley-tusk-with-jefrey-pollock" target="_blank">podcast</a>, Democratic consultant and pollster Jefrey Pollock pointed out that despite the mayor&rsquo;s weakening numbers, he has enough support among African-Americans and Hispanics for a strong showing in the Democratic primary. Pollock noted, and Tusk reiterated, that popular adage that almost every political expert and consultant says of the mayoral race -- &ldquo;You can&rsquo;t beat somebody with nobody.&rdquo; Pollock said independent groups support an opponent of de Blasio, if an effective one were to emerge.</p> <p>&ldquo;That is the great challenge,&rdquo; Tusk said.</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Council to Hold First Budget Hearing for New Veterans' Services Department 2016-05-19T04:00:00+00:00 2016-05-19T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6346:council-to-hold-first-budget-hearing-for-new-veterans-services-department Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/22165070704_8bd75087e3_z.jpg" width="600" height="399" alt="city hall veterans flags" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio with Commissioner Sutton (in blue) (photo:&nbsp;Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>On Friday, the New York City Council will hold the first-ever budget hearing for the newly created Department of Veterans’ Services.</p> <p>The Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs is transitioning into the Department of Veterans’ Services, a standalone department with a distinct agency budget and providing expanded services for the city’s 225,000 military veterans. The department became official in April and will now proceed to rollout over the next year, increasing staff from a mere half-dozen to more than 30 full-time employees.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio’s executive budget allocates $3.84 million to the Department of Veterans’ Services, about twice as much as MOVA’s budget for the current fiscal year. Commissioner Loree Sutton has already indicated what the agency’s direction will be. Speaking at an event at LaGuardia Community College on May 2, she laid out her top strategic priorities: ending veteran homelessness; implementing elements of the city’s ThriveNYC mental health program; and promoting education, employment and entrepreneurship for veterans.</p> <p>The department has already taken a few steps in implementing these goals. To fight veteran homelessness, it has hired five peer-to-peer coordinators to undertake outreach to homeless veterans, particularly the “hidden population,” Sutton said, which includes student veterans who have difficulties accessing affordable housing. The city currently has about 432 veterans in the homeless shelter system, down from more than 3,500 six or seven years ago. Last year, the federal government certified the city as having ended chronic veteran homelessness, meaning homeless veterans who remain. The department will also appoint two assistant commissioners, one to implement Thrive NYC with an eight-member team and another to connect veterans with educational and economic opportunities.</p> <p>Sutton stressed that the department is rolling out in phases. “Just because the mayor signed the legislation establishing the Department of Veteran Services last December doesn’t mean that it’s a light switch,” she said at the event. “You don’t go from five folks to 34 folks overnight.”</p> <p>Using rudimentary military terminology, she explained the process. Until July 1, the department will be in the “transitional planning and budget” phase. With the July start of the new fiscal year, the department will enter Phase II, IOC or initial operating capacity. That phase will go through the entire fiscal year. “We will ramp up to that full 33-34 positions and by July of 2017 we’ll be at FOC - full operating capacity,” Sutton said.</p> <p>“It’s exciting but we’re not going to move out in front of ourselves,” Sutton added. “We know that it’s our privilege to not just fill slots but rather to build a team, to form a family, to create a culture that can best serve the veterans and families of all five boroughs.”</p> <p>After the release of the preliminary budget, the department was initially slated for a budget hearing <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6261-city-resets-first-budget-hearing-for-new-veterans-affairs-department" target="_blank">which was later cancelled</a>. For veterans advocates, it would’ve been a chance to hear the administration’s plan to set up its new agency and identify its priorities for veteran services. Tomorrow, advocates and the Council will get those answers.</p> <p>“I’m excited to hear from the new commissioner about what her long-term vision is for the department,” Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement to Gotham Gazette, “how the Council can be an effective partner in assisting the DVS in realizing this vision, and what the main priorities and goals are in the coming fiscal year.”</p> <p>Mark-Viverito will attend Friday’s hearing, slated for 1 p.m. at City Hall, and deliver brief opening remarks. According to her office, the speaker will highlight the need for expanded services for the city’s veterans - the reason that the Council pushed for a new department outside the mayor's office - citing persistent challenges of mental illness, substance abuse, hunger, and unemployment.</p> <p>Kristen Rouse, an Army veteran and president and founding director of NYC Veterans Alliance, an advocacy group, has many expectations of the “ambitious programs” that DVS has on the horizon and hopes to get the budget details on Friday. Rouse’s priorities, which converge largely with Sutton’s outline, include the department’s approach to communications with veterans, implementation of veteran-specific initiatives in ThriveNYC, support for homeless veterans, placement of veteran outreach counselors in every borough, improved support for veteran employees in city agencies, and job placement assistance for veterans.</p> <p>“I'm also hoping to see a solid commitment of city tax-levy dollars in addition to the federal and state funding to show that the city is truly buying in on veteran programs and not simply going after external funds, or even private or philanthropic funds,” Rouse said.</p> <p>Navy veteran Joe Bello, a member of the city’s Veterans Advisory Board and founder of NY MetroVets, which seeks to keep veterans informed, is pleased with the level of funding DVS will receive. “It shows that the mayor is committed to building up the department,” he said. “I’m looking forward to hearing from Commissioner Sutton about what kinds of resources and services they’ll provide.”</p> <p>He did have minor concerns, however, about both the budget and Friday’s hearing. He said a vital reason that veterans advocates pushed for the new department was so that the city could ensure streamlined disbursement of funds to local nonprofit organizations that serve veterans. Those funds, he said, usually go through specific city agencies and face delays.</p> <p>“When we saw the positions they’d put forth, I didn’t see any person to handle the money for nonprofits. I’m hopeful Council Member [Eric] Ulrich will ask about that,” Bello added, referring to the chair of the Council’s veterans affairs committee, Eric Ulrich. Ulrich, Mark-Viverito, and Council Member Paul Vallone were key driving forces behind the creation of the new department, which Mayor de Blasio had initially rejected.</p> <p>Ulrich and Council finance committee Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland will lead Friday’s hearing. Ulrich’s office did not return requests for comment ahead of the hearing.</p> <p>Bello also said he was disappointed that the public would not be able to testify at the hearing, as is the case with all executive budget hearings. “For the first hearing ever, they should’ve given some consideration to that,” he said. “Otherwise I’m excited.”</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/22165070704_8bd75087e3_z.jpg" width="600" height="399" alt="city hall veterans flags" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio with Commissioner Sutton (in blue) (photo:&nbsp;Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>On Friday, the New York City Council will hold the first-ever budget hearing for the newly created Department of Veterans’ Services.</p> <p>The Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs is transitioning into the Department of Veterans’ Services, a standalone department with a distinct agency budget and providing expanded services for the city’s 225,000 military veterans. The department became official in April and will now proceed to rollout over the next year, increasing staff from a mere half-dozen to more than 30 full-time employees.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio’s executive budget allocates $3.84 million to the Department of Veterans’ Services, about twice as much as MOVA’s budget for the current fiscal year. Commissioner Loree Sutton has already indicated what the agency’s direction will be. Speaking at an event at LaGuardia Community College on May 2, she laid out her top strategic priorities: ending veteran homelessness; implementing elements of the city’s ThriveNYC mental health program; and promoting education, employment and entrepreneurship for veterans.</p> <p>The department has already taken a few steps in implementing these goals. To fight veteran homelessness, it has hired five peer-to-peer coordinators to undertake outreach to homeless veterans, particularly the “hidden population,” Sutton said, which includes student veterans who have difficulties accessing affordable housing. The city currently has about 432 veterans in the homeless shelter system, down from more than 3,500 six or seven years ago. Last year, the federal government certified the city as having ended chronic veteran homelessness, meaning homeless veterans who remain. The department will also appoint two assistant commissioners, one to implement Thrive NYC with an eight-member team and another to connect veterans with educational and economic opportunities.</p> <p>Sutton stressed that the department is rolling out in phases. “Just because the mayor signed the legislation establishing the Department of Veteran Services last December doesn’t mean that it’s a light switch,” she said at the event. “You don’t go from five folks to 34 folks overnight.”</p> <p>Using rudimentary military terminology, she explained the process. Until July 1, the department will be in the “transitional planning and budget” phase. With the July start of the new fiscal year, the department will enter Phase II, IOC or initial operating capacity. That phase will go through the entire fiscal year. “We will ramp up to that full 33-34 positions and by July of 2017 we’ll be at FOC - full operating capacity,” Sutton said.</p> <p>“It’s exciting but we’re not going to move out in front of ourselves,” Sutton added. “We know that it’s our privilege to not just fill slots but rather to build a team, to form a family, to create a culture that can best serve the veterans and families of all five boroughs.”</p> <p>After the release of the preliminary budget, the department was initially slated for a budget hearing <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6261-city-resets-first-budget-hearing-for-new-veterans-affairs-department" target="_blank">which was later cancelled</a>. For veterans advocates, it would’ve been a chance to hear the administration’s plan to set up its new agency and identify its priorities for veteran services. Tomorrow, advocates and the Council will get those answers.</p> <p>“I’m excited to hear from the new commissioner about what her long-term vision is for the department,” Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement to Gotham Gazette, “how the Council can be an effective partner in assisting the DVS in realizing this vision, and what the main priorities and goals are in the coming fiscal year.”</p> <p>Mark-Viverito will attend Friday’s hearing, slated for 1 p.m. at City Hall, and deliver brief opening remarks. According to her office, the speaker will highlight the need for expanded services for the city’s veterans - the reason that the Council pushed for a new department outside the mayor's office - citing persistent challenges of mental illness, substance abuse, hunger, and unemployment.</p> <p>Kristen Rouse, an Army veteran and president and founding director of NYC Veterans Alliance, an advocacy group, has many expectations of the “ambitious programs” that DVS has on the horizon and hopes to get the budget details on Friday. Rouse’s priorities, which converge largely with Sutton’s outline, include the department’s approach to communications with veterans, implementation of veteran-specific initiatives in ThriveNYC, support for homeless veterans, placement of veteran outreach counselors in every borough, improved support for veteran employees in city agencies, and job placement assistance for veterans.</p> <p>“I'm also hoping to see a solid commitment of city tax-levy dollars in addition to the federal and state funding to show that the city is truly buying in on veteran programs and not simply going after external funds, or even private or philanthropic funds,” Rouse said.</p> <p>Navy veteran Joe Bello, a member of the city’s Veterans Advisory Board and founder of NY MetroVets, which seeks to keep veterans informed, is pleased with the level of funding DVS will receive. “It shows that the mayor is committed to building up the department,” he said. “I’m looking forward to hearing from Commissioner Sutton about what kinds of resources and services they’ll provide.”</p> <p>He did have minor concerns, however, about both the budget and Friday’s hearing. He said a vital reason that veterans advocates pushed for the new department was so that the city could ensure streamlined disbursement of funds to local nonprofit organizations that serve veterans. Those funds, he said, usually go through specific city agencies and face delays.</p> <p>“When we saw the positions they’d put forth, I didn’t see any person to handle the money for nonprofits. I’m hopeful Council Member [Eric] Ulrich will ask about that,” Bello added, referring to the chair of the Council’s veterans affairs committee, Eric Ulrich. Ulrich, Mark-Viverito, and Council Member Paul Vallone were key driving forces behind the creation of the new department, which Mayor de Blasio had initially rejected.</p> <p>Ulrich and Council finance committee Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland will lead Friday’s hearing. Ulrich’s office did not return requests for comment ahead of the hearing.</p> <p>Bello also said he was disappointed that the public would not be able to testify at the hearing, as is the case with all executive budget hearings. “For the first hearing ever, they should’ve given some consideration to that,” he said. “Otherwise I’m excited.”</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>