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/gale-brewer 2018-09-22T04:02:23+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com City Council Charter Revision Commission Takes Shape 2018-07-09T04:00:00+00:00 2018-07-09T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7795:city-council-charter-revision-commission-takes-shape Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/gg-city-council-hearing-committee.jpg" alt="gg city council hearing committee" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(Sofie Hecht/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council’s commission to review the city charter -- a separate effort from an existing commission created by Mayor Bill de Blasio -- has been fully appointed and is set to begin its work next Monday, July 16.</p> <p>The City Council passed a bill in April, spearheaded by Public Advocate Letitia James, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and Council Speaker Corey Johnson, to create a commission to analyze the city’s governing document and recommend potentially significant changes to the structure and functions of city government. Although any such commission is allowed to consider the entire composition of the city charter, Brewer, James, and Johnson have pointed to a few broad priority areas including improving the city’s land use policies, strengthening the City Council’s ‘advise and consent’ role in approving mayoral appointees to city agencies and commissions, enhancing the Council’s power over city budgeting, and implementing stronger oversight of the mayoral administration.</p> <p>At a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7547-city-council-hears-bill-on-charter-revision-commission" target="_blank" rel="noopener">March 17 hearing</a> on the bill, James emphasized that the commission could achieve groundbreaking improvements similar to the 1989 charter commission that upended the entire structure of city government. She contrasted it with the mayor’s approach, which she said suffers from “predetermined conclusions, a narrow focus on issues within Council authority, and a timeline far too tight to do the job right.”</p> <p>The Council’s commission, composed of 15 members, is meant to carry out its work over the next 16 months, presenting ballot referenda to voters during the November 2019 general election. The mayor’s commission, created by de Blasio through an executive order, has a shorter timeline and a narrower brief, and will be proposing its own recommendations on Election Day this year.</p> <p>The Council commission’s members include four appointees of the speaker, including the chair, four mayoral appointees, and one each chosen by the public advocate, the comptroller, and the five borough presidents.</p> <p>Johnson picked Gail Benjamin, the former director of the Council’s land use division, to serve as commission chair. His other appointees include Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, a former de Blasio deputy mayor and the former chair of NYC Health+Hospitals, the city’s municipal hospital system; Rev. Clinton Miller, pastor at Brown Memorial Baptist Church; and Merryl Tisch, the former chancellor of the state Board of Regents and current vice chair of the SUNY board of trustees.</p> <p>“The appointment of these members of the Charter Revision Commission is the first step towards bringing the City Charter into the 21st century,” said Johnson in a statement announcing the full commission. “All of these individuals represent civic engagement at its best, and I am so grateful for the time they are giving to make our city a better place…The City Charter is in good hands.”</p> <p>In a phone interview, Benjamin said she was "excited" about leading the commission. "This is kind of the culmination of my career as a government official,” she said. Benjamin drew a distinction between the work she will oversee and that of the mayor's commission, which is expected to release its preliminary report soon.&nbsp;“This commission has a much broader mandate than the mayor gave to his commission and I think that all of the 15 members who have been appointed are excited about the broadness of the mandate and the ability to really examine how this city functions governmentally and what we can do to move it into the future," she said. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Though the two commissions will not overlap substantially, Benjamin said the Council's commission will review the testimony presented to the mayor's commission, as well as the reports and testimony from every commission convened since 1989. "There are lots of issues that [the mayor's] commission, I don’t think, has had the time to really flesh out," she said, citing city procurement practices, non-citizen voting and instant run-off voting as a few examples. "I would think that we would want to look at those kinds of issues also and that we’ll have the time to do that because we’ve got over a year and not just a few months," Benjamin said.&nbsp;</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio mostly plucked his Council commission appointees from his own administration. Among them are Lisette Camilo, the commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services; Paula Gavin, the city’s Chief Service Officer who heads up NYC Service, the agency tasked with promoting volunteering efforts; Lindsay Greene, a senior advisor to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen; and former City Planning chief Carl Weisbrod, currently a de Blasio appointee to the MTA board.</p> <p>Most other elected officials had already announced their selections to the commission or had quietly appointed members with little publicity. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In late May, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams chose former City Council Member and repeat mayoral contender Sal Albanese to represent him, citing Albanese’s outspoken positions on campaign finance reform. “I have called for, and am reiterating again now, for 100 percent publicly-financed campaigns where every candidate has an equal footing to express their ideas,” Adams had written in testimony at the March hearing before the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, which was considering the charter commission bill. “Fully publicly-financed elections will see more women running for office at a time when representation in the City Council has decreased since our last election. Fully publicly-financed campaigns have shown to increase minority participation in elected politics. A fully-funded system also takes away the quid pro quo corruption and will help restore faith in our electoral system.”</p> <p>Albanese, in a statement accompanying his appointment, said, “Charter revision is an opportunity to make our government more democratic and responsive to its citizens.” During his 2017 primary challenge to de Blasio, Albanese’s top policy plank was the “democracy vouchers” program that would drastically reduce the influence of private money in municipal elections.</p> <p>Last month, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. appointed former City Council Member James Vacca to the commission. “Jimmy has a wealth of experience in government and cares deeply about our borough and our city,” Diaz Jr. <a href="https://twitter.com/rubendiazjr/status/1005117342802640896?s=21" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tweeted</a> at the time.</p> <p>More recently, Public Advocate Letitia James tapped Sateesh Nori, a Legal Aid Society attorney, as her representative on the commission. “Mr. Nori brings with him the wisdom and expertise necessary for the role, as well as a lifelong commitment to public service and to his City,” James said in a statement. Comptroller Scott Stringer’s pick was Alison Hirsh, the vice president of 32BJ SEIU, the prominent property services workers union.</p> <p>Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer chose her general counsel and director of land use, James Caras, to serve as her representative. “After three decades, it’s time for a thorough, expert review of how our City Charter is serving New Yorkers and how to make our government work better,” Brewer said in Monday’s announcement.</p> <p>Queens Borough President Melinda Katz picked Eduardo Cordero Sr. And Staten Island Borough President James Oddo’s choice is Richmond County Clerk Stephen Fiala, who was previously a City Council member.</p> <p>While the Council-created commission is about to begin its work and will take an extended timeline before its ballot proposals are announced next year, the mayoral charter revision commission is in the final two months before it makes its recommendations public by early September, in time to be included on the November ballot. That commission recently made clear its areas of focus -- voting and election reform, campaign finance reform, land use decision-making, community boards, civic engagement, and independent redistricting -- <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/charter-revision-commission" target="_blank" rel="noopener">and held relevant expert hearings</a>.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7780-chair-says-charter-commission-will-step-in-where-politics-has-slowed-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Chair Says Mayoral Charter Commission Will Step In Where Politics Has Slowed Reform</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/gg-city-council-hearing-committee.jpg" alt="gg city council hearing committee" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(Sofie Hecht/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council’s commission to review the city charter -- a separate effort from an existing commission created by Mayor Bill de Blasio -- has been fully appointed and is set to begin its work next Monday, July 16.</p> <p>The City Council passed a bill in April, spearheaded by Public Advocate Letitia James, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and Council Speaker Corey Johnson, to create a commission to analyze the city’s governing document and recommend potentially significant changes to the structure and functions of city government. Although any such commission is allowed to consider the entire composition of the city charter, Brewer, James, and Johnson have pointed to a few broad priority areas including improving the city’s land use policies, strengthening the City Council’s ‘advise and consent’ role in approving mayoral appointees to city agencies and commissions, enhancing the Council’s power over city budgeting, and implementing stronger oversight of the mayoral administration.</p> <p>At a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7547-city-council-hears-bill-on-charter-revision-commission" target="_blank" rel="noopener">March 17 hearing</a> on the bill, James emphasized that the commission could achieve groundbreaking improvements similar to the 1989 charter commission that upended the entire structure of city government. She contrasted it with the mayor’s approach, which she said suffers from “predetermined conclusions, a narrow focus on issues within Council authority, and a timeline far too tight to do the job right.”</p> <p>The Council’s commission, composed of 15 members, is meant to carry out its work over the next 16 months, presenting ballot referenda to voters during the November 2019 general election. The mayor’s commission, created by de Blasio through an executive order, has a shorter timeline and a narrower brief, and will be proposing its own recommendations on Election Day this year.</p> <p>The Council commission’s members include four appointees of the speaker, including the chair, four mayoral appointees, and one each chosen by the public advocate, the comptroller, and the five borough presidents.</p> <p>Johnson picked Gail Benjamin, the former director of the Council’s land use division, to serve as commission chair. His other appointees include Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, a former de Blasio deputy mayor and the former chair of NYC Health+Hospitals, the city’s municipal hospital system; Rev. Clinton Miller, pastor at Brown Memorial Baptist Church; and Merryl Tisch, the former chancellor of the state Board of Regents and current vice chair of the SUNY board of trustees.</p> <p>“The appointment of these members of the Charter Revision Commission is the first step towards bringing the City Charter into the 21st century,” said Johnson in a statement announcing the full commission. “All of these individuals represent civic engagement at its best, and I am so grateful for the time they are giving to make our city a better place…The City Charter is in good hands.”</p> <p>In a phone interview, Benjamin said she was "excited" about leading the commission. "This is kind of the culmination of my career as a government official,” she said. Benjamin drew a distinction between the work she will oversee and that of the mayor's commission, which is expected to release its preliminary report soon.&nbsp;“This commission has a much broader mandate than the mayor gave to his commission and I think that all of the 15 members who have been appointed are excited about the broadness of the mandate and the ability to really examine how this city functions governmentally and what we can do to move it into the future," she said. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Though the two commissions will not overlap substantially, Benjamin said the Council's commission will review the testimony presented to the mayor's commission, as well as the reports and testimony from every commission convened since 1989. "There are lots of issues that [the mayor's] commission, I don’t think, has had the time to really flesh out," she said, citing city procurement practices, non-citizen voting and instant run-off voting as a few examples. "I would think that we would want to look at those kinds of issues also and that we’ll have the time to do that because we’ve got over a year and not just a few months," Benjamin said.&nbsp;</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio mostly plucked his Council commission appointees from his own administration. Among them are Lisette Camilo, the commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services; Paula Gavin, the city’s Chief Service Officer who heads up NYC Service, the agency tasked with promoting volunteering efforts; Lindsay Greene, a senior advisor to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen; and former City Planning chief Carl Weisbrod, currently a de Blasio appointee to the MTA board.</p> <p>Most other elected officials had already announced their selections to the commission or had quietly appointed members with little publicity. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In late May, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams chose former City Council Member and repeat mayoral contender Sal Albanese to represent him, citing Albanese’s outspoken positions on campaign finance reform. “I have called for, and am reiterating again now, for 100 percent publicly-financed campaigns where every candidate has an equal footing to express their ideas,” Adams had written in testimony at the March hearing before the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, which was considering the charter commission bill. “Fully publicly-financed elections will see more women running for office at a time when representation in the City Council has decreased since our last election. Fully publicly-financed campaigns have shown to increase minority participation in elected politics. A fully-funded system also takes away the quid pro quo corruption and will help restore faith in our electoral system.”</p> <p>Albanese, in a statement accompanying his appointment, said, “Charter revision is an opportunity to make our government more democratic and responsive to its citizens.” During his 2017 primary challenge to de Blasio, Albanese’s top policy plank was the “democracy vouchers” program that would drastically reduce the influence of private money in municipal elections.</p> <p>Last month, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. appointed former City Council Member James Vacca to the commission. “Jimmy has a wealth of experience in government and cares deeply about our borough and our city,” Diaz Jr. <a href="https://twitter.com/rubendiazjr/status/1005117342802640896?s=21" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tweeted</a> at the time.</p> <p>More recently, Public Advocate Letitia James tapped Sateesh Nori, a Legal Aid Society attorney, as her representative on the commission. “Mr. Nori brings with him the wisdom and expertise necessary for the role, as well as a lifelong commitment to public service and to his City,” James said in a statement. Comptroller Scott Stringer’s pick was Alison Hirsh, the vice president of 32BJ SEIU, the prominent property services workers union.</p> <p>Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer chose her general counsel and director of land use, James Caras, to serve as her representative. “After three decades, it’s time for a thorough, expert review of how our City Charter is serving New Yorkers and how to make our government work better,” Brewer said in Monday’s announcement.</p> <p>Queens Borough President Melinda Katz picked Eduardo Cordero Sr. And Staten Island Borough President James Oddo’s choice is Richmond County Clerk Stephen Fiala, who was previously a City Council member.</p> <p>While the Council-created commission is about to begin its work and will take an extended timeline before its ballot proposals are announced next year, the mayoral charter revision commission is in the final two months before it makes its recommendations public by early September, in time to be included on the November ballot. That commission recently made clear its areas of focus -- voting and election reform, campaign finance reform, land use decision-making, community boards, civic engagement, and independent redistricting -- <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/charter-revision-commission" target="_blank" rel="noopener">and held relevant expert hearings</a>.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7780-chair-says-charter-commission-will-step-in-where-politics-has-slowed-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Chair Says Mayoral Charter Commission Will Step In Where Politics Has Slowed Reform</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Revising The People’s Charter with Open Minds 2018-04-11T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-11T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7608:revising-the-people-s-charter-with-open-minds Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/41240788261_d912b7c150_z.jpg" alt="City Hall Mayor's Office photo" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>City Hall (photo:&nbsp;Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Revision of the City Charter, our central governing document, should not be a one-person show, focused on a single issue. Over the last 25 years, charter revision commissions have been wielded as political tools by mayors to block the building of a West Side Stadium, keep a political rival from potentially ascending to the mayoralty, and stop a referendum that would have limited the size of public school classes. Revisions have largely been narrow and myopic and the end results have been pre-baked according to the mayor’s will.</p> <p>The last truly transformative commission, convened in 1989, only came about in response to a Supreme Court decision and a series of scandals too big to ignore. But today, that all changes.</p> <p>We believe this city can do better. A new charter revision commission, which was approved Wednesday by the City Council, can and should be truly democratic and capable of broad systemic reform without predetermined conclusions.</p> <p>We support campaign finance reform, but also believe that the city’s land use, budget, and planning processes must be overhauled. We want to see the creation of a charter revision commission, but do not believe it should be an extension of one person’s will. That is why we proposed a commission on which no one official would have majority control and that would examine the charter as a whole, without preconditions or marching orders.</p> <p>We have thought a lot about New York City’s foundational governing document and have numerous specific proposals we would like to see considered. But what we really want is a truly independent commission that will enter the process with open ears and open minds - something that the entire City Council agrees with. Everything should be on the table, nothing should be off limits, and the final product should not be preordained by anyone. We proposed this as elected officials whose very offices have been threatened with elimination in past revisions, so it should be clear we have the courage of our convictions.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio’s proposal to lower campaign contribution limits through a revision commission he is calling is a commendable attempt to limit the influence of money in politics. Our commission, which was proposed before the mayor’s, is not a rebuke of his specific policy goals. But our intention is to create a commission that will consider the entire charter and put forth a set of proposals on whatever needs fixing.</p> <p>It has been nearly 30 years since the City Charter has truly been looked at top-to-bottom with an eye towards real reform. The people of this city deserve an independent commission that will not be directed to take a specific action, but charged with the responsibility to look at the whole picture and bring its recommendations to the people. It should consider whether the Council should have more say over the budget process, whether communities will have more input in land use before deals are all but finalized, whether our current system of checks-and-balances is sufficient to ensure meaningful oversight of mayoral agencies. Those discussions will not be had if the mayor simply appoints a slate of proxies and tells them what to consider and what conclusions to reach.</p> <p>This does not need to be a zero-sum game, or even a competition. The mayor’s commission can move forward and pursue the ‘democracy agenda’ he envisions. Meanwhile his four appointees can join our commission for an open discussion of what else our charter needs to do to grow and change along with the city. The City Council has already expressed its support and, if the mayor will join us, we can all come together to do what’s best for the people of New York.</p> <p>***<br /> Gale Brewer is Manhattan Borough President and Letitia James is Public Advocate. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/galeabrewer" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@GaleABrewer</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/TishJames" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@TishJames</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/41240788261_d912b7c150_z.jpg" alt="City Hall Mayor's Office photo" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>City Hall (photo:&nbsp;Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Revision of the City Charter, our central governing document, should not be a one-person show, focused on a single issue. Over the last 25 years, charter revision commissions have been wielded as political tools by mayors to block the building of a West Side Stadium, keep a political rival from potentially ascending to the mayoralty, and stop a referendum that would have limited the size of public school classes. Revisions have largely been narrow and myopic and the end results have been pre-baked according to the mayor’s will.</p> <p>The last truly transformative commission, convened in 1989, only came about in response to a Supreme Court decision and a series of scandals too big to ignore. But today, that all changes.</p> <p>We believe this city can do better. A new charter revision commission, which was approved Wednesday by the City Council, can and should be truly democratic and capable of broad systemic reform without predetermined conclusions.</p> <p>We support campaign finance reform, but also believe that the city’s land use, budget, and planning processes must be overhauled. We want to see the creation of a charter revision commission, but do not believe it should be an extension of one person’s will. That is why we proposed a commission on which no one official would have majority control and that would examine the charter as a whole, without preconditions or marching orders.</p> <p>We have thought a lot about New York City’s foundational governing document and have numerous specific proposals we would like to see considered. But what we really want is a truly independent commission that will enter the process with open ears and open minds - something that the entire City Council agrees with. Everything should be on the table, nothing should be off limits, and the final product should not be preordained by anyone. We proposed this as elected officials whose very offices have been threatened with elimination in past revisions, so it should be clear we have the courage of our convictions.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio’s proposal to lower campaign contribution limits through a revision commission he is calling is a commendable attempt to limit the influence of money in politics. Our commission, which was proposed before the mayor’s, is not a rebuke of his specific policy goals. But our intention is to create a commission that will consider the entire charter and put forth a set of proposals on whatever needs fixing.</p> <p>It has been nearly 30 years since the City Charter has truly been looked at top-to-bottom with an eye towards real reform. The people of this city deserve an independent commission that will not be directed to take a specific action, but charged with the responsibility to look at the whole picture and bring its recommendations to the people. It should consider whether the Council should have more say over the budget process, whether communities will have more input in land use before deals are all but finalized, whether our current system of checks-and-balances is sufficient to ensure meaningful oversight of mayoral agencies. Those discussions will not be had if the mayor simply appoints a slate of proxies and tells them what to consider and what conclusions to reach.</p> <p>This does not need to be a zero-sum game, or even a competition. The mayor’s commission can move forward and pursue the ‘democracy agenda’ he envisions. Meanwhile his four appointees can join our commission for an open discussion of what else our charter needs to do to grow and change along with the city. The City Council has already expressed its support and, if the mayor will join us, we can all come together to do what’s best for the people of New York.</p> <p>***<br /> Gale Brewer is Manhattan Borough President and Letitia James is Public Advocate. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/galeabrewer" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@GaleABrewer</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/TishJames" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@TishJames</a>.</p> <p>

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With Tweaks, City Council Passes Charter Revision Commission Bill 2018-04-08T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-08T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7596:with-tweaks-city-council-charter-revision-commission-bill-expected-to-pass Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/27049305848_cfc450cd4a_z.jpg" alt="Government Operations" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Council Member Cabrera and others (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p><em>Note: The City Council passed this bill on Wednesday, April 11</em></p> <p>The New York City Council is moving ahead with a bill to create a Charter Revision Commission to review the city charter, the city’s seminal governing document, with a committee vote on the bill set for Tuesday, and the full Council likely to vote it through on Wednesday. The Council’s commission is a separate effort from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s own commission, called by the mayor a few weeks ago.</p> <p>On Tuesday, the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations will hold a hearing on the latest version of its bill, whose prime sponsors are Public Advocate Letitia James, Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Ben Kallos (at the request of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.) James and Brewer initially put forth the idea last year, and Johnson got behind the effort after being elected speaker in January, when a new Council class was seated.</p> <p>The committee, chaired by Council Member Fernando Cabrera, is set to vote through the adjusted bill, which has added several measures since <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7547-city-council-hears-bill-on-charter-revision-commission" target="_blank">the first hearing in mid-March</a>, and a spokesperson for Johnson confirmed in an email that the bill is set to pass the full Council.</p> <p>The Council’s commission will have 15 members charged with analyzing the broad structure and functions of city government, and is expected to carry out its work into next year. It’s recommendations will be presented to voters in the form of referenda, which Brewer, James, and others are hoping to see included on the ballot for the 2019 general election.</p> <p>Of the 15 members, four each will be appointed by the mayor and Council speaker, while one each will be chosen by the five borough presidents, the public advocate, and the comptroller. The speaker will also appoint the chair of the commission. All those elected officials have come out in support of the proposal, except for de Blasio, who has insisted on a more limited mandate for his own commission, which some suspect he organized to preempt the Brewer-James-Johnson effort. Though by law it can review any aspect of city government, de Blasio’s commission is tasked by the mayor with looking at election administration, voter participation, and reducing the influence of money in politics.</p> <p>De Blasio has said he wants his commission’s recommendations on the ballot this November.</p> <p>Seemingly in response to the mayor’s reluctance to join the Council’s effort, the latest version of the Council’s proposal was amended to require that appointments be made in 60 days or forfeited.</p> <p>The bill also added transparency provisions which government reform advocates had called for at <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7547-city-council-hears-bill-on-charter-revision-commission" target="_blank">the March 16 hearing on the bill</a>. The commission will be subject to the state Freedom of Information Law, and will have to maintain a website with hearing agendas and transcripts, and webcast hearings. "We are pleased the Council has made amendments Reinvent Albany favored,” said Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor for Reinvent Albany, one of the groups that testified at the Marc hearing. “This is a good sign a Council-convened commission will be open and transparent.”</p> <p>Proponents of the Council’s commission envision that it will explore everything from the power of the City Council in city budgeting and over mayoral appointees to greater scrutiny for city agencies and the role of communities in the city’s land use process.</p> <p>On March 15, a day before the Council’s hearing, de Blasio announced the appointments of chair, vice chair, and the executive director of his commission but he has yet to name the rest of its members. At an unrelated news conference last week, he said, “[W]e’ll be naming the members very shortly.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/27049305848_cfc450cd4a_z.jpg" alt="Government Operations" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Council Member Cabrera and others (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p><em>Note: The City Council passed this bill on Wednesday, April 11</em></p> <p>The New York City Council is moving ahead with a bill to create a Charter Revision Commission to review the city charter, the city’s seminal governing document, with a committee vote on the bill set for Tuesday, and the full Council likely to vote it through on Wednesday. The Council’s commission is a separate effort from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s own commission, called by the mayor a few weeks ago.</p> <p>On Tuesday, the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations will hold a hearing on the latest version of its bill, whose prime sponsors are Public Advocate Letitia James, Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Ben Kallos (at the request of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.) James and Brewer initially put forth the idea last year, and Johnson got behind the effort after being elected speaker in January, when a new Council class was seated.</p> <p>The committee, chaired by Council Member Fernando Cabrera, is set to vote through the adjusted bill, which has added several measures since <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7547-city-council-hears-bill-on-charter-revision-commission" target="_blank">the first hearing in mid-March</a>, and a spokesperson for Johnson confirmed in an email that the bill is set to pass the full Council.</p> <p>The Council’s commission will have 15 members charged with analyzing the broad structure and functions of city government, and is expected to carry out its work into next year. It’s recommendations will be presented to voters in the form of referenda, which Brewer, James, and others are hoping to see included on the ballot for the 2019 general election.</p> <p>Of the 15 members, four each will be appointed by the mayor and Council speaker, while one each will be chosen by the five borough presidents, the public advocate, and the comptroller. The speaker will also appoint the chair of the commission. All those elected officials have come out in support of the proposal, except for de Blasio, who has insisted on a more limited mandate for his own commission, which some suspect he organized to preempt the Brewer-James-Johnson effort. Though by law it can review any aspect of city government, de Blasio’s commission is tasked by the mayor with looking at election administration, voter participation, and reducing the influence of money in politics.</p> <p>De Blasio has said he wants his commission’s recommendations on the ballot this November.</p> <p>Seemingly in response to the mayor’s reluctance to join the Council’s effort, the latest version of the Council’s proposal was amended to require that appointments be made in 60 days or forfeited.</p> <p>The bill also added transparency provisions which government reform advocates had called for at <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7547-city-council-hears-bill-on-charter-revision-commission" target="_blank">the March 16 hearing on the bill</a>. The commission will be subject to the state Freedom of Information Law, and will have to maintain a website with hearing agendas and transcripts, and webcast hearings. "We are pleased the Council has made amendments Reinvent Albany favored,” said Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor for Reinvent Albany, one of the groups that testified at the Marc hearing. “This is a good sign a Council-convened commission will be open and transparent.”</p> <p>Proponents of the Council’s commission envision that it will explore everything from the power of the City Council in city budgeting and over mayoral appointees to greater scrutiny for city agencies and the role of communities in the city’s land use process.</p> <p>On March 15, a day before the Council’s hearing, de Blasio announced the appointments of chair, vice chair, and the executive director of his commission but he has yet to name the rest of its members. At an unrelated news conference last week, he said, “[W]e’ll be naming the members very shortly.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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City Council Hears Bill on Charter Revision Commission 2018-03-16T04:00:00+00:00 2018-03-16T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7547:city-council-hears-bill-on-charter-revision-commission Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/40116866614_e9e098ebc8_z.jpg" alt="Fernando Cabrera" width="600" height="416" /></p> <p>Council Member Fernando Cabrera (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>A day after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced initial appointments to a Charter Revision Commission that he is convening to examine the city’s campaign finance laws, Public Advocate Letitia James and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer testified before the City Council on their own alternative proposal to create a Commission to examine the structure of city government.</p> <p>The Charter is the city’s seminal governing document, laying out the powers and functions of every level of city government. It is also a living document, and state law allows the mayor to create a 15-member Charter Revision Commission under his executive authority and also gives the City Council power to create one through legislation. Past mayors have availed of this power, some more than once. In February, de Blasio announced at his State of the City address that he intended to call a commission that could put proposals on the ballot for the November general election.</p> <p>On Friday, speaking before the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, James and Brewer advanced their proposal, which they had put before the Council in December and which City Council Speaker Corey Johnson recently signed on to as a lead co-sponsor. (The hearing had been on the schedule all week, perhaps explaining the timing of the mayor’s Thursday announcement.)</p> <p>As opposed to the mayor’s commission, where he appoints all 15 members, the James-Brewer bill would allow other elected officials a say in the process. The mayor would get four appointments, as would the City Council speaker. The five borough presidents, the public advocate, and the comptroller would each get to choose one member. An updated version of the bill grants the Council speaker the power to appoint the commission’s chair, a change that coincided with Johnson signing on as a co-sponsor and the Council pushing ahead with Friday’s hearing.</p> <p>James, in her opening statement, lauded the mayor’s intent in creating a commission but said it suffers from the same problems as previous commissions: “predetermined conclusions, a narrow focus on issues within Council authority, and a timeline far too tight to do the job right.” During his State of the City and since, de Blasio has indicated he wants his commission to focus on campaign finance and electoral reform, though he has acknowledged that by law the commission can look at the entirety of the charter.</p> <p>“The bill you will consider today...is a vehicle for a truly democratic and holistic process,” James said. Although both James and Brewer spoke of changes to the charter that they would be glad to see -- for instance, a stronger role for the Council in city budgeting, a greater voice for communities in land use decisions, enhanced oversight of city agencies -- they emphasized that those were not mandates that their proposed commission would be charged with. (Perhaps the only issue that James said she would not want on the table is changes to term limits for elected officials.) Rather, they would empower a commission to deliberate on the entire charter with ample time to consider the ramifications of any changes -- their commission would make proposals to go on the ballot in 2019.</p> <p>“Those discussions will not be had if the mayor simply appoints a slate of proxies and tells them what conclusions to reach,” said James, a Democrat like de Blasio, Brewer, and Johnson who is widely expected to run for mayor in 2021.</p> <p>James and Brewer also sought to dispel the notion that the commission they are proposing would competing with the mayor’s, pointing to the 2019 timeline and noting that they invited the mayor to join their effort. “This does not need to be a zero-sum game, or even a competition,” James said.</p> <p>Brewer, in particular, emphasized that past commissions had been formed by mayors to fulfil particular agendas and that appointees of the mayor were unlikely to consider proposals that could curb, in any way, the power of the mayor’s office. “I think all of our ideas would benefit from the give and take and compromise that would be necessary in a commission not controlled by any one elected official,” she said.</p> <p>Council Member Fernando Cabrera, chair of the committee, praised the bill and said he supported it because it was a “far better approach” than the mayor’s. “It will be a charter revision for everyone,” said the Bronx Democrat. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>But, Council Member Kalman Yeger, who was just elected to the Council in November, wasn’t sure about the proposal. “My perspective is that I have some discomfort with outsourcing my work, if you will, to an unelected body of 15 people,” he said, noting that though the speaker may get appointments on a commission, the other 50 Council members would not. He also raised concerns about proposing ballot referenda in 2019, an off-year in the election cycle when voter turnout is expected to be extremely low.</p> <p>James pushed back against those concerns. “I believe we should democratize this process,” she said, acknowledging that all the stakeholders in the commission would have to work hard to engage voters and generate interest in the revision process.</p> <p>Yeger, a Brooklyn Democrat, also pointed out what is most ironic about the two commissions: that they are being proposed by Democrats who ardently opposed holding a Constitutional Convention to examine the state constitution, which was a question on the ballot last November. Both Brewer and James conceded that though they opposed the ConCon, as it was colloquially called, the charter revision process has sufficient checks and balances, particularly with diverse appointees on a commission.</p> <p>James also noted that one of the big fears about the ConCon was about the individuals behind the curtain who would control it, which isn’t the case with their proposed commission. “There is no Wizard of Oz in this particular process,” she said. “It’s the Manhattan borough president and Letitia James, who you both know and work with.”</p> <p>Representatives for the four other borough presidents also testified in support of the bill, as did a number of government reform groups and advocates.</p> <p>Stanley Fritz, campaigns manager at Citizen Action of New York, encouraged the Council to set aside funds for a public education campaign to engage voters in the charter revision process. The bill currently calls for the Commission to hold at least one hearing in each of the five boroughs and to conduct extensive outreach to civic and community leaders.</p> <p>Fritz also advocated for amending the bill’s prohibition on appointing lobbyists to the commission, insisting that it should ensure that only lobbyists employed by for-profit entities should be barred, and that those who advocate for non-profits should be allowed to serve. Otherwise, “it would exclude virtually the entire New York City good-government community, including the sorts of advocates who are testifying before you today,” he said.</p> <p>Doug Muzzio, political science professor at Baruch College's School of Public and International Affairs, has also testified before an expert panel of the 2010 Charter Revision Commission created then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg. On Friday, he emphasized that any new commission should “articulate clear and compelling goals” related to broad subject areas such as governmental structure and land use, without which it would be directionless. He also said the commission should look at the unfinished business of past commissions, and “beware the unintended consequences,” though he didn’t offer specifics.</p> <p>Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, said the bill was “skeletal” and should add language to ensure that staff of those elected officials making appointments should be excluded from working for the commission. She also questioned why Speaker Johnson would be allowed to appoint the chair of the proposed commission, as opposed to the commission members choosing their own leader.</p> <p>Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor for Reinvent Albany, had a few prescriptions for a potential commission. He said the speaker and mayor should jointly appoint the chair of the commission; &nbsp;and stressed that the commission should abide by the state’s Freedom of information and Open Meetings laws, and should require public posting of events, materials, reports and archives.</p> <p>He also suggested that the bill include language requiring commission members and staff to solely use government emails to carry out their work and that any lobbying directed at the commission should be publicly reported. &nbsp;</p> <p>Camarda also encouraged the Council and mayor to work together on one commission, warning that two commissions could result in “conflicting policy, public confusion, excessive politicization, inefficiency, and litigation.”</p> <p>“There is no doubt two commissions convened in the same year would be unprecedented in recent memory and create a high degree of uncertainty,” he said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/40116866614_e9e098ebc8_z.jpg" alt="Fernando Cabrera" width="600" height="416" /></p> <p>Council Member Fernando Cabrera (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>A day after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced initial appointments to a Charter Revision Commission that he is convening to examine the city’s campaign finance laws, Public Advocate Letitia James and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer testified before the City Council on their own alternative proposal to create a Commission to examine the structure of city government.</p> <p>The Charter is the city’s seminal governing document, laying out the powers and functions of every level of city government. It is also a living document, and state law allows the mayor to create a 15-member Charter Revision Commission under his executive authority and also gives the City Council power to create one through legislation. Past mayors have availed of this power, some more than once. In February, de Blasio announced at his State of the City address that he intended to call a commission that could put proposals on the ballot for the November general election.</p> <p>On Friday, speaking before the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, James and Brewer advanced their proposal, which they had put before the Council in December and which City Council Speaker Corey Johnson recently signed on to as a lead co-sponsor. (The hearing had been on the schedule all week, perhaps explaining the timing of the mayor’s Thursday announcement.)</p> <p>As opposed to the mayor’s commission, where he appoints all 15 members, the James-Brewer bill would allow other elected officials a say in the process. The mayor would get four appointments, as would the City Council speaker. The five borough presidents, the public advocate, and the comptroller would each get to choose one member. An updated version of the bill grants the Council speaker the power to appoint the commission’s chair, a change that coincided with Johnson signing on as a co-sponsor and the Council pushing ahead with Friday’s hearing.</p> <p>James, in her opening statement, lauded the mayor’s intent in creating a commission but said it suffers from the same problems as previous commissions: “predetermined conclusions, a narrow focus on issues within Council authority, and a timeline far too tight to do the job right.” During his State of the City and since, de Blasio has indicated he wants his commission to focus on campaign finance and electoral reform, though he has acknowledged that by law the commission can look at the entirety of the charter.</p> <p>“The bill you will consider today...is a vehicle for a truly democratic and holistic process,” James said. Although both James and Brewer spoke of changes to the charter that they would be glad to see -- for instance, a stronger role for the Council in city budgeting, a greater voice for communities in land use decisions, enhanced oversight of city agencies -- they emphasized that those were not mandates that their proposed commission would be charged with. (Perhaps the only issue that James said she would not want on the table is changes to term limits for elected officials.) Rather, they would empower a commission to deliberate on the entire charter with ample time to consider the ramifications of any changes -- their commission would make proposals to go on the ballot in 2019.</p> <p>“Those discussions will not be had if the mayor simply appoints a slate of proxies and tells them what conclusions to reach,” said James, a Democrat like de Blasio, Brewer, and Johnson who is widely expected to run for mayor in 2021.</p> <p>James and Brewer also sought to dispel the notion that the commission they are proposing would competing with the mayor’s, pointing to the 2019 timeline and noting that they invited the mayor to join their effort. “This does not need to be a zero-sum game, or even a competition,” James said.</p> <p>Brewer, in particular, emphasized that past commissions had been formed by mayors to fulfil particular agendas and that appointees of the mayor were unlikely to consider proposals that could curb, in any way, the power of the mayor’s office. “I think all of our ideas would benefit from the give and take and compromise that would be necessary in a commission not controlled by any one elected official,” she said.</p> <p>Council Member Fernando Cabrera, chair of the committee, praised the bill and said he supported it because it was a “far better approach” than the mayor’s. “It will be a charter revision for everyone,” said the Bronx Democrat. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>But, Council Member Kalman Yeger, who was just elected to the Council in November, wasn’t sure about the proposal. “My perspective is that I have some discomfort with outsourcing my work, if you will, to an unelected body of 15 people,” he said, noting that though the speaker may get appointments on a commission, the other 50 Council members would not. He also raised concerns about proposing ballot referenda in 2019, an off-year in the election cycle when voter turnout is expected to be extremely low.</p> <p>James pushed back against those concerns. “I believe we should democratize this process,” she said, acknowledging that all the stakeholders in the commission would have to work hard to engage voters and generate interest in the revision process.</p> <p>Yeger, a Brooklyn Democrat, also pointed out what is most ironic about the two commissions: that they are being proposed by Democrats who ardently opposed holding a Constitutional Convention to examine the state constitution, which was a question on the ballot last November. Both Brewer and James conceded that though they opposed the ConCon, as it was colloquially called, the charter revision process has sufficient checks and balances, particularly with diverse appointees on a commission.</p> <p>James also noted that one of the big fears about the ConCon was about the individuals behind the curtain who would control it, which isn’t the case with their proposed commission. “There is no Wizard of Oz in this particular process,” she said. “It’s the Manhattan borough president and Letitia James, who you both know and work with.”</p> <p>Representatives for the four other borough presidents also testified in support of the bill, as did a number of government reform groups and advocates.</p> <p>Stanley Fritz, campaigns manager at Citizen Action of New York, encouraged the Council to set aside funds for a public education campaign to engage voters in the charter revision process. The bill currently calls for the Commission to hold at least one hearing in each of the five boroughs and to conduct extensive outreach to civic and community leaders.</p> <p>Fritz also advocated for amending the bill’s prohibition on appointing lobbyists to the commission, insisting that it should ensure that only lobbyists employed by for-profit entities should be barred, and that those who advocate for non-profits should be allowed to serve. Otherwise, “it would exclude virtually the entire New York City good-government community, including the sorts of advocates who are testifying before you today,” he said.</p> <p>Doug Muzzio, political science professor at Baruch College's School of Public and International Affairs, has also testified before an expert panel of the 2010 Charter Revision Commission created then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg. On Friday, he emphasized that any new commission should “articulate clear and compelling goals” related to broad subject areas such as governmental structure and land use, without which it would be directionless. He also said the commission should look at the unfinished business of past commissions, and “beware the unintended consequences,” though he didn’t offer specifics.</p> <p>Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, said the bill was “skeletal” and should add language to ensure that staff of those elected officials making appointments should be excluded from working for the commission. She also questioned why Speaker Johnson would be allowed to appoint the chair of the proposed commission, as opposed to the commission members choosing their own leader.</p> <p>Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor for Reinvent Albany, had a few prescriptions for a potential commission. He said the speaker and mayor should jointly appoint the chair of the commission; &nbsp;and stressed that the commission should abide by the state’s Freedom of information and Open Meetings laws, and should require public posting of events, materials, reports and archives.</p> <p>He also suggested that the bill include language requiring commission members and staff to solely use government emails to carry out their work and that any lobbying directed at the commission should be publicly reported. &nbsp;</p> <p>Camarda also encouraged the Council and mayor to work together on one commission, warning that two commissions could result in “conflicting policy, public confusion, excessive politicization, inefficiency, and litigation.”</p> <p>“There is no doubt two commissions convened in the same year would be unprecedented in recent memory and create a high degree of uncertainty,” he said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Council Speaker Backs Charter Commission Bill That Gives Him More Sway 2018-03-13T04:00:00+00:00 2018-03-13T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7540:council-speaker-backs-charter-commission-bill-that-gives-him-more-sway Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/38481177690_46fea514fe_z.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said last week that the Council would forge ahead with legislation to create a Charter Revision Commission to review the broad structure of city government, bucking Mayor Bill de Blasio’s intention to unilaterally create a commission meant to explore campaign finance and electoral reforms. And Johnson’s support of the bill -- first proposed in December by Public Advocate Letitia James and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer -- also came with one significant change to its language. Instead of the commission members electing a chair and vice chair from among themselves, the speaker would get to appoint the head of the commission.</p> <p>The original James-Brewer bill was introduced amid a frenzy of other activity on the last day of the 2014-2017 session of the City Council and, just two months later, was undercut by de Blasio’s announcement in his State of the City address that he would convene his own commission. The mayor said that he would solicit input from others, but that he would appoint all the commission members, exercising his executive prerogative.</p> <p>On Friday, however, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/09/nyregion/nyc-council-mayor-charter-review.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The New York Times reported</a> that Johnson would support the James-Brewer proposal, which calls for a commission with four members appointed by the mayor, four appointed by the Council speaker, one member appointed by each borough president, and one member appointed by each the public advocate and the comptroller.</p> <p>The original version of the bill proposed that the commission would get to choose one of its members to lead it through the process of examining, debating, and reimagining the charter, effectively the city’s constitution. The process takes months at the minimum, depending on the scope of the commission’s review, and its proposals are put to the voters on the ballot.</p> <p>The amended version of the bill, on which Johnson was added as a lead co-sponsor along with James and Brewer, contains the change giving him more power. “The speaker of the city council shall appoint from among the membership a chairperson,” it states.</p> <p>Joseph Viteritti, a professor at Hunter College who was research director for the Charter Revision Commission convened by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2010, said the change “certainly makes the Speaker a more important player in this.”</p> <p>“A very important function of the chair is to select the staff of the commission, the executive director, and the research director,” Viteritti said, pointing out that much of the work is driven by those staffers. “From a working point of view, I think it is significant...That’s what drives the process in the end.”</p> <p>Jennifer Fermino, a spokesperson for Johnson, maintained that the change in the bill was not noteworthy. “The structure of the commission remains unchanged. The sponsors of the bill agreed that having a chair appointed by the Speaker would make the process of setting up the Commission more efficient, as it has for past Commissions. The Chair can accept space and initial staff which will enable the Commission to get to work more quickly,” Fermino said in a statement.</p> <p>Spokespeople for James and Brewer did not provide comment for this article. A mayoral spokesperson declined to comment.</p> <p>Viteritti did note that any commission, whether created by the legislative branch or the executive, is virtually unhindered in scope and can choose to explore any section of the charter its members deem necessary. Both camps proposing a commission -- the mayor on one side and the council speaker, public advocate and Manhattan borough president on the other -- have made clear the issues they want to pursue, however.</p> <p>De Blasio was more direct, stating in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7476-de-blasio-promises-fairness-democracy-in-state-of-the-city-address" target="_blank" rel="noopener">his February 13 State of the City speech</a> that he would appoint a commission and “give it the mandate” to propose changes to campaign finance law, reducing the influence of wealthy donors in elections, as well as empower the city government to handle responsibilities currently entrusted to the Board of Elections, a quasi-state agency.</p> <p>Johnson is hoping for a broader assessment of city government, without any “pre-baked” ideas and proposals, and not including proposals that fall under the Council’s legislative authority, such as campaign finance reform. “A Charter Revision Commission should look at things that are structural in the governance of New York City,” he said when asked by Gotham Gazette, at an unrelated news conference last week, two days before The New York Times report.</p> <p>Among the ideas he floated -- some of which have been supported by James and Brewer as well -- are independent budgeting for the offices of the public advocate, the borough presidents, the comptroller and community boards; an “advise-and-consent” role for the Council on additional mayoral appointees and nominations; examining changes to the city’s land use process and units of appropriation as part of the budget process.</p> <p>“Those are things that we at the Council cannot legislate,” Johnson added. “They’re in the City Charter, they go to the structure of city government and we can’t legislate them. The issues that the mayor put forward, while they may be worthy issues, they’re not issues that the public needs to vote on as part of a Charter Revision Commission. The council could legislate those items.”</p> <p>The Council bill is set to be heard by the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations on Friday.</p> <p>“You never can entirely predict where a commission is going to go,” Viteritti said. “If you know where you’re going before you get there, what’s the point of calling a Charter Revision Commission.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7476-de-blasio-promises-fairness-democracy-in-state-of-the-city-address" target="_blank" rel="noopener">De Blasio Promises Fairness, Democracy in State of the City Address</a>]</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7488-next-steps-and-recent-precedents-for-de-blasio-s-charter-revision-commission" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Next Steps and Recent Precedents for De Blasio's Charter Revision Commission</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/38481177690_46fea514fe_z.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said last week that the Council would forge ahead with legislation to create a Charter Revision Commission to review the broad structure of city government, bucking Mayor Bill de Blasio’s intention to unilaterally create a commission meant to explore campaign finance and electoral reforms. And Johnson’s support of the bill -- first proposed in December by Public Advocate Letitia James and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer -- also came with one significant change to its language. Instead of the commission members electing a chair and vice chair from among themselves, the speaker would get to appoint the head of the commission.</p> <p>The original James-Brewer bill was introduced amid a frenzy of other activity on the last day of the 2014-2017 session of the City Council and, just two months later, was undercut by de Blasio’s announcement in his State of the City address that he would convene his own commission. The mayor said that he would solicit input from others, but that he would appoint all the commission members, exercising his executive prerogative.</p> <p>On Friday, however, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/09/nyregion/nyc-council-mayor-charter-review.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The New York Times reported</a> that Johnson would support the James-Brewer proposal, which calls for a commission with four members appointed by the mayor, four appointed by the Council speaker, one member appointed by each borough president, and one member appointed by each the public advocate and the comptroller.</p> <p>The original version of the bill proposed that the commission would get to choose one of its members to lead it through the process of examining, debating, and reimagining the charter, effectively the city’s constitution. The process takes months at the minimum, depending on the scope of the commission’s review, and its proposals are put to the voters on the ballot.</p> <p>The amended version of the bill, on which Johnson was added as a lead co-sponsor along with James and Brewer, contains the change giving him more power. “The speaker of the city council shall appoint from among the membership a chairperson,” it states.</p> <p>Joseph Viteritti, a professor at Hunter College who was research director for the Charter Revision Commission convened by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2010, said the change “certainly makes the Speaker a more important player in this.”</p> <p>“A very important function of the chair is to select the staff of the commission, the executive director, and the research director,” Viteritti said, pointing out that much of the work is driven by those staffers. “From a working point of view, I think it is significant...That’s what drives the process in the end.”</p> <p>Jennifer Fermino, a spokesperson for Johnson, maintained that the change in the bill was not noteworthy. “The structure of the commission remains unchanged. The sponsors of the bill agreed that having a chair appointed by the Speaker would make the process of setting up the Commission more efficient, as it has for past Commissions. The Chair can accept space and initial staff which will enable the Commission to get to work more quickly,” Fermino said in a statement.</p> <p>Spokespeople for James and Brewer did not provide comment for this article. A mayoral spokesperson declined to comment.</p> <p>Viteritti did note that any commission, whether created by the legislative branch or the executive, is virtually unhindered in scope and can choose to explore any section of the charter its members deem necessary. Both camps proposing a commission -- the mayor on one side and the council speaker, public advocate and Manhattan borough president on the other -- have made clear the issues they want to pursue, however.</p> <p>De Blasio was more direct, stating in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7476-de-blasio-promises-fairness-democracy-in-state-of-the-city-address" target="_blank" rel="noopener">his February 13 State of the City speech</a> that he would appoint a commission and “give it the mandate” to propose changes to campaign finance law, reducing the influence of wealthy donors in elections, as well as empower the city government to handle responsibilities currently entrusted to the Board of Elections, a quasi-state agency.</p> <p>Johnson is hoping for a broader assessment of city government, without any “pre-baked” ideas and proposals, and not including proposals that fall under the Council’s legislative authority, such as campaign finance reform. “A Charter Revision Commission should look at things that are structural in the governance of New York City,” he said when asked by Gotham Gazette, at an unrelated news conference last week, two days before The New York Times report.</p> <p>Among the ideas he floated -- some of which have been supported by James and Brewer as well -- are independent budgeting for the offices of the public advocate, the borough presidents, the comptroller and community boards; an “advise-and-consent” role for the Council on additional mayoral appointees and nominations; examining changes to the city’s land use process and units of appropriation as part of the budget process.</p> <p>“Those are things that we at the Council cannot legislate,” Johnson added. “They’re in the City Charter, they go to the structure of city government and we can’t legislate them. The issues that the mayor put forward, while they may be worthy issues, they’re not issues that the public needs to vote on as part of a Charter Revision Commission. The council could legislate those items.”</p> <p>The Council bill is set to be heard by the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations on Friday.</p> <p>“You never can entirely predict where a commission is going to go,” Viteritti said. “If you know where you’re going before you get there, what’s the point of calling a Charter Revision Commission.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7476-de-blasio-promises-fairness-democracy-in-state-of-the-city-address" target="_blank" rel="noopener">De Blasio Promises Fairness, Democracy in State of the City Address</a>]</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7488-next-steps-and-recent-precedents-for-de-blasio-s-charter-revision-commission" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Next Steps and Recent Precedents for De Blasio's Charter Revision Commission</a>]</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Next Steps and Recent Precedents for De Blasio’s Charter Revision Commission 2018-02-20T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-20T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7488:next-steps-and-recent-precedents-for-de-blasio-s-charter-revision-commission Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/38445040820_f6404fc2b3_z.jpg" alt="Mayor de Blasio State of the City" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo:&nbsp;Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in his State of the City speech that he would convene a commission to consider changes to the city charter, New York City’s seminal governing document. De Blasio said the charter revision commission would undertake the significant task of reducing the impact of “big money” on local elections and to engage voters in a democracy that has suffered from their apathy. The mayor is hoping the commission members, whom he has yet to name, will prepare recommendations in time for voters to approve or reject the commission’s ideas on Election Day this November through one or more ballot questions.</p> <p>De Blasio is ready to utilize a power available to him, though some are already questioning why he isn’t pursuing his desired changes through legislation at the City Council, while others are criticizing the mayor for pre-determining the panel’s outcomes. But, de Blasio will do as several predecessors have done and call a commission. How exactly does it work?</p> <p>The mayor has the power to call a Charter Revision Commission under <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/MHR/36" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Section 36</a> of the state’s municipal home rule law. A commission can be composed of between 9 and 15 members, who would all have to be residents of the city. The mayor simply has to file the names of his chosen members, who can include current public officials, with the City Clerk’s office. There is no public vetting process, but de Blasio has conceded that he is open to input from concerned elected officials about who should serve on the body.</p> <p>“I’m going to act in the manner stipulated in the City Charter,” the mayor said at an unrelated news conference on Feb 14, when asked by Gotham Gazette if he’d let other elected officials choose members for the commission, as some were calling for even before de Blasio’s announcement. “So, I’ll be naming the commission. I’m happy to talk to my colleagues in government about people they think would be right to serve, but I will name the commission just as previous mayors did.”</p> <p>De Blasio said in his State of the City speech that he would “give [the Commission] the mandate to propose a plan for deep public financing of local elections.” Despite being elected with maximum contributions from wealthy donors (the limit is $4,950 per person to a mayoral candidate), the mayor has been a frequent critic of the influence of big money in elections. He also established multiple extra-governmental fundraising entities that took in hundreds of thousands of dollars from entities with city business and led to new city laws restricting such groups.</p> <p>De Blasio has directly spoken out against the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates to untold amounts of unaccountable election spending, and has repeatedly called for broader campaign finance reforms to be enacted by the state.</p> <p>“I will also charge the Charter Revision Commission to propose a plan to empower the city government,” de Blasio continued during his State of the City, insisting that the city should be able to take on duties he believes are currently mishandled by the New York City Board of Elections, a quasi-state agency.</p> <p>However, the mayor cannot technically charge the Commission, which is meant to be independent, with exploring any specific agenda item. A commission could take up any issue its members deem appropriate and recommend changes to the charter that even the mayor could not reject. Final recommendations would have to be approved by a voter referendum.</p> <p>“The mayor I think has made it clear he has certain questions in mind, which seem to be well intended,” said Joseph Viteritti, a professor at Hunter College who served as research director for the 2010 Charter Revision Commission created by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Viteritti also <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7164-max-murphy-podcast-de-blasio-author-joseph-viteritti" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recently wrote a book about de Blasio</a>). “That said, once a commission is appointed, it can go where it chooses.”</p> <p>The 2010 commission held public hearings in each of the five boroughs and, based on feedback from the public and from elected officials, examined five broad subjects: voter participation, public integrity, government structure, term limits for elected officials, and land use. In its final report, the commission made several recommendations which ultimately formed the basis for <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/charter/downloads/pdf/final_ballot_questions_combined.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">two ballot questions</a> that were both <a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/html/results/2010.shtml" target="_blank" rel="noopener">approved</a> by 52 percent of voters.</p> <p>The first question reduced the number of terms that city elected officials can serve from three to two for those elected in 2010 and after, and prohibited the City Council from changing term limits for incumbents. The second question dealt more widely with elections and government administration. Among other things, it required the disclosure of independent expenditures in city elections; reduced the number of ballot petition signatures that candidates need to run for office; tasked the city’s Campaign Finance Board with voter assistance functions; established mandatory conflicts of interest trainings for all public servants, while also increasing fines for violations.</p> <p>“I would assume they’ll have public hearings and when you do that...people can introduce things that may or may not be on the agenda,” Viteritti said. “Any commission opens up the entire charter to review potentially. There’s no constraints once it’s appointed.”</p> <p>Notably, the 2010 Commission did not propose a ballot question on nonpartisan primary elections, a change that Bloomberg had made clear in the past that he wanted to see happen and that would allow any registered voter to vote in one party primary of their choosing. The Commission debated the issue extensively -- although Bloomberg did not raise it again that year -- but it did not include it in its final recommendations.&nbsp;“We decided not to propose that because we didn’t think we had enough time to consider the potential consequences of such a major change,” Viteritti said. “What that should tell anybody is that the mayor can express his priorities, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be reflected in the final deliberations of the commission.”</p> <p>The last time the city’s charter was thoroughly reviewed was by the 1989 Commission, on which Viteritti served as a consultant. That commission radically changed the structure of city government by eliminating the Board of Estimate -- a body made up of the citywide electeds and borough-wide officials who together exercised complete control over the city’s budget and land use -- and by assigning its roles to the City Council, which saw its number of seats increase from 35 to 51.</p> <p>Doug Muzzio, political science professor at Baruch College's School of Public and International Affairs, praised the mayor’s announcement but said his priorities should be broader. “It’s gotta be far more extensive and it’s gotta be funded appropriately,” said Muzzio, who was on an expert panel on government structure that testified before the 2010 Commission.</p> <p>Muzzio pointed to an <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3331869&amp;GUID=693BF4E3-7810-4823-B0AB-6CC9AC1C98D9&amp;Options=ID|Text|&amp;Search=charter+revision" target="_blank" rel="noopener">alternate proposal</a> put forward in legislation by Public Advocate Letitia James and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, both second-term Democrats like de Blasio. The proposed bill would create a charter review commission composed of representatives appointed by the mayor, who would get a plurality of appointees, the speaker of the City Council, the borough presidents, the public advocate and the comptroller. “In terms of greater diversity of views on something as important as the charter, I would prefer the Brewer-James proposal,” Muzzio said.</p> <p>“Charter revision is important and needed,” Brewer <a href="https://twitter.com/galeabrewer/status/965978668295172096" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tweeted</a> on Tuesday, “but appointments should come from many electeds and the issues to be discussed should come from the group.”</p> <p>In <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/give-nyc-charter-thoughtful-revamp-article-1.3713580" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a New York Daily News editorial</a> in December, Brewer and James called for a revamp of the city’s charter, noting that “the last real overhaul” was in 1989. Citing a new world and new challenges, a charter revision commission, they said, could give communities a stronger voice in the city’s land use processes, provide City Council members with greater say over the city’s budget, and streamline agencies with shared responsibilities. “Our goal is simple: empower a panel of genuine experts to do a top-to-bottom review of how our government could work better, and put their recommendations up for public discussion and a vote,” they said.</p> <p>Time will likely be a constraint on de Blasio’s commission and if they are to be ready to make recommendations by November, they will have to move quickly. The 2010 commission was convened in March and had issued its final report by August.</p> <p>Both Muzzio and Viteritti also pointed out that many of the improvements to campaign financing and election laws that the mayor wants to accomplish are held back by inaction by the state Legislature and Citizens United.</p> <p>Although the mayor may not drastically change how New York City’s massive municipal government works, he has nonetheless set the stage for a broader discussion of voting laws, election funding, and the city’s waning democracy, Viteritti insisted.</p> <p>“To me the most important thing to come out of this is to raise the consciousness of people to how broken and troubled the democratic process is,” he said. “The more public discussion we have about these issues the better...We have to start the conversation somewhere. It’s not starting in Albany. It’s not starting in Washington, D.C., that’s for sure.”</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article noted earlier that the 2010 Charter Revision Commission did not take up the issue of nonpartisan primary elections. The Commission, in fact, debated the issue but did not include it in their final recommendations. The article has been updated. &nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/38445040820_f6404fc2b3_z.jpg" alt="Mayor de Blasio State of the City" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo:&nbsp;Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in his State of the City speech that he would convene a commission to consider changes to the city charter, New York City’s seminal governing document. De Blasio said the charter revision commission would undertake the significant task of reducing the impact of “big money” on local elections and to engage voters in a democracy that has suffered from their apathy. The mayor is hoping the commission members, whom he has yet to name, will prepare recommendations in time for voters to approve or reject the commission’s ideas on Election Day this November through one or more ballot questions.</p> <p>De Blasio is ready to utilize a power available to him, though some are already questioning why he isn’t pursuing his desired changes through legislation at the City Council, while others are criticizing the mayor for pre-determining the panel’s outcomes. But, de Blasio will do as several predecessors have done and call a commission. How exactly does it work?</p> <p>The mayor has the power to call a Charter Revision Commission under <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/MHR/36" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Section 36</a> of the state’s municipal home rule law. A commission can be composed of between 9 and 15 members, who would all have to be residents of the city. The mayor simply has to file the names of his chosen members, who can include current public officials, with the City Clerk’s office. There is no public vetting process, but de Blasio has conceded that he is open to input from concerned elected officials about who should serve on the body.</p> <p>“I’m going to act in the manner stipulated in the City Charter,” the mayor said at an unrelated news conference on Feb 14, when asked by Gotham Gazette if he’d let other elected officials choose members for the commission, as some were calling for even before de Blasio’s announcement. “So, I’ll be naming the commission. I’m happy to talk to my colleagues in government about people they think would be right to serve, but I will name the commission just as previous mayors did.”</p> <p>De Blasio said in his State of the City speech that he would “give [the Commission] the mandate to propose a plan for deep public financing of local elections.” Despite being elected with maximum contributions from wealthy donors (the limit is $4,950 per person to a mayoral candidate), the mayor has been a frequent critic of the influence of big money in elections. He also established multiple extra-governmental fundraising entities that took in hundreds of thousands of dollars from entities with city business and led to new city laws restricting such groups.</p> <p>De Blasio has directly spoken out against the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates to untold amounts of unaccountable election spending, and has repeatedly called for broader campaign finance reforms to be enacted by the state.</p> <p>“I will also charge the Charter Revision Commission to propose a plan to empower the city government,” de Blasio continued during his State of the City, insisting that the city should be able to take on duties he believes are currently mishandled by the New York City Board of Elections, a quasi-state agency.</p> <p>However, the mayor cannot technically charge the Commission, which is meant to be independent, with exploring any specific agenda item. A commission could take up any issue its members deem appropriate and recommend changes to the charter that even the mayor could not reject. Final recommendations would have to be approved by a voter referendum.</p> <p>“The mayor I think has made it clear he has certain questions in mind, which seem to be well intended,” said Joseph Viteritti, a professor at Hunter College who served as research director for the 2010 Charter Revision Commission created by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Viteritti also <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7164-max-murphy-podcast-de-blasio-author-joseph-viteritti" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recently wrote a book about de Blasio</a>). “That said, once a commission is appointed, it can go where it chooses.”</p> <p>The 2010 commission held public hearings in each of the five boroughs and, based on feedback from the public and from elected officials, examined five broad subjects: voter participation, public integrity, government structure, term limits for elected officials, and land use. In its final report, the commission made several recommendations which ultimately formed the basis for <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/charter/downloads/pdf/final_ballot_questions_combined.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">two ballot questions</a> that were both <a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/html/results/2010.shtml" target="_blank" rel="noopener">approved</a> by 52 percent of voters.</p> <p>The first question reduced the number of terms that city elected officials can serve from three to two for those elected in 2010 and after, and prohibited the City Council from changing term limits for incumbents. The second question dealt more widely with elections and government administration. Among other things, it required the disclosure of independent expenditures in city elections; reduced the number of ballot petition signatures that candidates need to run for office; tasked the city’s Campaign Finance Board with voter assistance functions; established mandatory conflicts of interest trainings for all public servants, while also increasing fines for violations.</p> <p>“I would assume they’ll have public hearings and when you do that...people can introduce things that may or may not be on the agenda,” Viteritti said. “Any commission opens up the entire charter to review potentially. There’s no constraints once it’s appointed.”</p> <p>Notably, the 2010 Commission did not propose a ballot question on nonpartisan primary elections, a change that Bloomberg had made clear in the past that he wanted to see happen and that would allow any registered voter to vote in one party primary of their choosing. The Commission debated the issue extensively -- although Bloomberg did not raise it again that year -- but it did not include it in its final recommendations.&nbsp;“We decided not to propose that because we didn’t think we had enough time to consider the potential consequences of such a major change,” Viteritti said. “What that should tell anybody is that the mayor can express his priorities, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be reflected in the final deliberations of the commission.”</p> <p>The last time the city’s charter was thoroughly reviewed was by the 1989 Commission, on which Viteritti served as a consultant. That commission radically changed the structure of city government by eliminating the Board of Estimate -- a body made up of the citywide electeds and borough-wide officials who together exercised complete control over the city’s budget and land use -- and by assigning its roles to the City Council, which saw its number of seats increase from 35 to 51.</p> <p>Doug Muzzio, political science professor at Baruch College's School of Public and International Affairs, praised the mayor’s announcement but said his priorities should be broader. “It’s gotta be far more extensive and it’s gotta be funded appropriately,” said Muzzio, who was on an expert panel on government structure that testified before the 2010 Commission.</p> <p>Muzzio pointed to an <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3331869&amp;GUID=693BF4E3-7810-4823-B0AB-6CC9AC1C98D9&amp;Options=ID|Text|&amp;Search=charter+revision" target="_blank" rel="noopener">alternate proposal</a> put forward in legislation by Public Advocate Letitia James and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, both second-term Democrats like de Blasio. The proposed bill would create a charter review commission composed of representatives appointed by the mayor, who would get a plurality of appointees, the speaker of the City Council, the borough presidents, the public advocate and the comptroller. “In terms of greater diversity of views on something as important as the charter, I would prefer the Brewer-James proposal,” Muzzio said.</p> <p>“Charter revision is important and needed,” Brewer <a href="https://twitter.com/galeabrewer/status/965978668295172096" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tweeted</a> on Tuesday, “but appointments should come from many electeds and the issues to be discussed should come from the group.”</p> <p>In <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/give-nyc-charter-thoughtful-revamp-article-1.3713580" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a New York Daily News editorial</a> in December, Brewer and James called for a revamp of the city’s charter, noting that “the last real overhaul” was in 1989. Citing a new world and new challenges, a charter revision commission, they said, could give communities a stronger voice in the city’s land use processes, provide City Council members with greater say over the city’s budget, and streamline agencies with shared responsibilities. “Our goal is simple: empower a panel of genuine experts to do a top-to-bottom review of how our government could work better, and put their recommendations up for public discussion and a vote,” they said.</p> <p>Time will likely be a constraint on de Blasio’s commission and if they are to be ready to make recommendations by November, they will have to move quickly. The 2010 commission was convened in March and had issued its final report by August.</p> <p>Both Muzzio and Viteritti also pointed out that many of the improvements to campaign financing and election laws that the mayor wants to accomplish are held back by inaction by the state Legislature and Citizens United.</p> <p>Although the mayor may not drastically change how New York City’s massive municipal government works, he has nonetheless set the stage for a broader discussion of voting laws, election funding, and the city’s waning democracy, Viteritti insisted.</p> <p>“To me the most important thing to come out of this is to raise the consciousness of people to how broken and troubled the democratic process is,” he said. “The more public discussion we have about these issues the better...We have to start the conversation somewhere. It’s not starting in Albany. It’s not starting in Washington, D.C., that’s for sure.”</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article noted earlier that the 2010 Charter Revision Commission did not take up the issue of nonpartisan primary elections. The Commission, in fact, debated the issue but did not include it in their final recommendations. The article has been updated. &nbsp;</p>
City Council Hears Testimony on 'Open Data 2.0' Bills 2017-09-21T01:19:55+00:00 2017-09-21T01:19:55+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7209:city-council-hears-testimony-on-open-data-2-0-bills Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/c93-69luiaaiaii.jpg-large.jpeg" alt="c93 69luiaaiaii.jpg large" width="600" /></p> <p>Council Member James Vacca (right)</p> <hr /> <p>At an oversight hearing on Wednesday of the City Council’s Committee on Technology, good government and civic technology experts praised a pair of bills aimed at updating the city’s 2012 open data law, but raised concerns that the proposals could have unforeseen ramifications.</p> <p>The city’s current law mandates that city agencies publish non-confidential agency data on a public web portal for all New Yorkers to see and easily access. The <a href="https://opendata.cityofnewyork.us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">open data portal</a> is now home to over 1,600 data sets, with hundreds more data sets scheduled to be released in the coming years. The two “Open Data 2.0” proposals, sponsored by Council Member James Vacca, chair of the committee, and supported by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, are intended to bolster open data reporting standards as well as improve certain areas of the current policy. “Access to government information ensures public institutions can be held accountable,” said Vacca, in his opening statement. “In New York City, the importance of public access to data is reflected in both law and practice.” He noted that New York City had been the first municipality in America to pass a law requiring public data be posted online in machine readable formats.</p> <p>The hearing was a bittersweet occasion for Vacca, who is term-limited and will be leaving the City Council in December after 12 years. It was his final oversight hearing on open data policy, a project he has long championed.</p> <p>The city’s open data policy is seen as a model not just for the United States, but the entire world, Brewer noted in her opening statement at the hearing. “I just met with elected officials in Spain... And they are looking at our law,” Brewer said. To illustrate one of the uses of open data, Brewer will be joining civic technology group BetaNYC to host a “311 Data Jam” on Saturday, employing the city’s dataset on the 311 helpline. It’s the third such event hosted by BetaNYC, and they will be introducing “BoardStat,” a tool for community boards to analyze visualized 311 data in order to discover community trends.</p> <p>The bulk of Wednesday’s hearing covered <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3136796&amp;GUID=0144E84F-0BEC-4DB9-ABC6-B564DE4F717C&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Intro. 1707</a>, which includes provisions requiring reviews of the “Technical Standards Manual,” which is the guideline for how agencies manage and present their datasets every two years, to ensure the datasets remain up to date.</p> <p>“These standards are designed to make open data more usable to the maximum number of users,” said Albert Webber, director of Open Data for the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT). “We see the TSM as a living document, meant to keep up with advances in technology, data availability, and the passage of local laws that impact data disclosure. An official periodic review of this document would ensure that open data disclosure stays up-to-date, relevant, and true to the most current practices.”</p> <p>The bill codifies a requirement for city agencies to appoint an “open data coordinator” to ensure agency compliance with the open data law. It also changes the deadline for agencies’ compliance plans from July to September, to avoid conflicting with the city’s budget season. The bill would also require that data analytics on public usage of the data portal be collected and studied.</p> <p>Criticisms of the legislation stemmed not from opposition to any one plank, but rather from unintended consequences that certain provisions of Intro. 1707 could have in areas such as agency reporting, accountability, and protection of individual privacy.</p> <p>One provision in the proposal raised eyebrows among good government groups and civic technologists. Noel Hidalgo, executive director of Beta NYC, and John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, pointed out that the bill extends the open data compliance deadline for city agencies from 2018 to 2021, a full nine years after the law went into effect in 2012. Many datasets from numerous city agencies are currently scheduled for release on the current deadline, December 31, 2018.</p> <p>Kaehny said allowing agencies to hold off on publishing data is akin to a high school student saying they’ll turn in all of their homework on the last day, a promise that can’t be seen as reliable. He made similar comments to Gotham Gazette <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7086-city-releases-latest-progress-on-open-data-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">in July</a> after the city released its annual update to the open data plan. Kaehny referred to the extension to 2021 as a “homework extension” that will never be turned in.</p> <p>Vacca pressed Webber on these concerns, and Webber insisted that the administration was committed to releasing the data sets on time. “Putting a deadline is always helpful,” he told the Council member. “But no, we do not have concerns that pushing it to 2021 will delay the release of some datasets.” In his testimony, Webber stated that the administration would “like to discuss how to improve the language to ensure that submissions meant to be disclosed by December 31, 2018 will still be held to that deadline.”</p> <p>Another aspect of Intro. 1707 that received some critique was a provision calling for the collection of data analytics on visitors to the portal. Concerns were raised that recording data on unique visitors to the portal, especially those exploring data that could be construed as sensitive, might violate an individual’s privacy. The language of this provision in the bill was viewed as vague.</p> <p>“Pageviews, great,” said Sumana Harihareswara, a programmer from Astoria who testified at the hearing. “Numbers of pageviews, great. Unique users? I don’t want to be identified uniquely in a public place for having looked up a certain piece of data. So number of unique users is perhaps what this ought to say.”</p> <p>Those who testified otherwise generally praised the proposed biannual review of the TSM, the change in the annual compliance deadline from July to September, and codifying into law the agency requirement of an open data coordinator.</p> <p>The bill also saw some critique for what it lacked, such as a “private right of action,” the ability of the public to sue agencies failing to perform their duties. Kaehny noted that the only course of action without the private right of action is to “name and shame” agencies considered to be “laggard” in regards to their dataset releases. According to Kaehny, open data is one of the few pieces of legislation in New York City that does not include a private right of action, making it highly unusual, especially for such a major city law.</p> <p>Brewer echoed the call for a private right of action, emphasizing that future administrations may not be as committed to transparency. “I believe we must provide a private right-of-action to protect the New York City municipal open data apparatus from a future administration that does not wish to operate it in good faith as the current and previous administrations have done,” she said. She cited the Trump administration’s moves immediately post-inauguration to delete data that had been posted online under the previous administration; there is no federal law that establishes similar data protections as New York City’s policy.</p> <p>Kaehny claimed that even naming and shaming is a difficult task, given that agency compliance with the law is not compiled in a single spreadsheet on the portal but rather in four separate spreadsheets. Compiling all relevant information about published and unpublished datasets into one spreadsheet was one of Reinvent Albany’s key recommendations to the committee. “What we’re seeing is fog when it comes to understanding exactly how well agencies are doing,” Kaehny said.</p> <p>The administration also had suggestions for improving the bill. Echoing testimony from the advocates, DoITT’s Webber expressed dismay at the law’s lack of any licensing requirements for the data, hoping that “permissive licenses,” licenses with few, if any, redistributive restrictions, could be added to the program.</p> <p>“Our mission to encourage public engagement with open data in the long term makes the ability to license very important,” Webber said. “Structured properly, licenses could allow us to formally make the city’s datasets free and open for public use in perpetuity, codifying our existing practice and ensuring that New Yorkers have access to open data for the long haul.”</p> <p>Also under consideration at the hearing was <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2984659&amp;GUID=6B734B2A-47FA-49C7-BE83-C7C640B098D2&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Intro. 1528</a>, an amendment to an existing open data law that would require agencies that process Freedom of Information Law requests involving non-confidential data to report and publish the names of the public datasets, rather than simply the metrics of the datasets. The measure received overall support from those testifying before the committee.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/c93-69luiaaiaii.jpg-large.jpeg" alt="c93 69luiaaiaii.jpg large" width="600" /></p> <p>Council Member James Vacca (right)</p> <hr /> <p>At an oversight hearing on Wednesday of the City Council’s Committee on Technology, good government and civic technology experts praised a pair of bills aimed at updating the city’s 2012 open data law, but raised concerns that the proposals could have unforeseen ramifications.</p> <p>The city’s current law mandates that city agencies publish non-confidential agency data on a public web portal for all New Yorkers to see and easily access. The <a href="https://opendata.cityofnewyork.us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">open data portal</a> is now home to over 1,600 data sets, with hundreds more data sets scheduled to be released in the coming years. The two “Open Data 2.0” proposals, sponsored by Council Member James Vacca, chair of the committee, and supported by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, are intended to bolster open data reporting standards as well as improve certain areas of the current policy. “Access to government information ensures public institutions can be held accountable,” said Vacca, in his opening statement. “In New York City, the importance of public access to data is reflected in both law and practice.” He noted that New York City had been the first municipality in America to pass a law requiring public data be posted online in machine readable formats.</p> <p>The hearing was a bittersweet occasion for Vacca, who is term-limited and will be leaving the City Council in December after 12 years. It was his final oversight hearing on open data policy, a project he has long championed.</p> <p>The city’s open data policy is seen as a model not just for the United States, but the entire world, Brewer noted in her opening statement at the hearing. “I just met with elected officials in Spain... And they are looking at our law,” Brewer said. To illustrate one of the uses of open data, Brewer will be joining civic technology group BetaNYC to host a “311 Data Jam” on Saturday, employing the city’s dataset on the 311 helpline. It’s the third such event hosted by BetaNYC, and they will be introducing “BoardStat,” a tool for community boards to analyze visualized 311 data in order to discover community trends.</p> <p>The bulk of Wednesday’s hearing covered <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3136796&amp;GUID=0144E84F-0BEC-4DB9-ABC6-B564DE4F717C&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Intro. 1707</a>, which includes provisions requiring reviews of the “Technical Standards Manual,” which is the guideline for how agencies manage and present their datasets every two years, to ensure the datasets remain up to date.</p> <p>“These standards are designed to make open data more usable to the maximum number of users,” said Albert Webber, director of Open Data for the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT). “We see the TSM as a living document, meant to keep up with advances in technology, data availability, and the passage of local laws that impact data disclosure. An official periodic review of this document would ensure that open data disclosure stays up-to-date, relevant, and true to the most current practices.”</p> <p>The bill codifies a requirement for city agencies to appoint an “open data coordinator” to ensure agency compliance with the open data law. It also changes the deadline for agencies’ compliance plans from July to September, to avoid conflicting with the city’s budget season. The bill would also require that data analytics on public usage of the data portal be collected and studied.</p> <p>Criticisms of the legislation stemmed not from opposition to any one plank, but rather from unintended consequences that certain provisions of Intro. 1707 could have in areas such as agency reporting, accountability, and protection of individual privacy.</p> <p>One provision in the proposal raised eyebrows among good government groups and civic technologists. Noel Hidalgo, executive director of Beta NYC, and John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, pointed out that the bill extends the open data compliance deadline for city agencies from 2018 to 2021, a full nine years after the law went into effect in 2012. Many datasets from numerous city agencies are currently scheduled for release on the current deadline, December 31, 2018.</p> <p>Kaehny said allowing agencies to hold off on publishing data is akin to a high school student saying they’ll turn in all of their homework on the last day, a promise that can’t be seen as reliable. He made similar comments to Gotham Gazette <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7086-city-releases-latest-progress-on-open-data-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">in July</a> after the city released its annual update to the open data plan. Kaehny referred to the extension to 2021 as a “homework extension” that will never be turned in.</p> <p>Vacca pressed Webber on these concerns, and Webber insisted that the administration was committed to releasing the data sets on time. “Putting a deadline is always helpful,” he told the Council member. “But no, we do not have concerns that pushing it to 2021 will delay the release of some datasets.” In his testimony, Webber stated that the administration would “like to discuss how to improve the language to ensure that submissions meant to be disclosed by December 31, 2018 will still be held to that deadline.”</p> <p>Another aspect of Intro. 1707 that received some critique was a provision calling for the collection of data analytics on visitors to the portal. Concerns were raised that recording data on unique visitors to the portal, especially those exploring data that could be construed as sensitive, might violate an individual’s privacy. The language of this provision in the bill was viewed as vague.</p> <p>“Pageviews, great,” said Sumana Harihareswara, a programmer from Astoria who testified at the hearing. “Numbers of pageviews, great. Unique users? I don’t want to be identified uniquely in a public place for having looked up a certain piece of data. So number of unique users is perhaps what this ought to say.”</p> <p>Those who testified otherwise generally praised the proposed biannual review of the TSM, the change in the annual compliance deadline from July to September, and codifying into law the agency requirement of an open data coordinator.</p> <p>The bill also saw some critique for what it lacked, such as a “private right of action,” the ability of the public to sue agencies failing to perform their duties. Kaehny noted that the only course of action without the private right of action is to “name and shame” agencies considered to be “laggard” in regards to their dataset releases. According to Kaehny, open data is one of the few pieces of legislation in New York City that does not include a private right of action, making it highly unusual, especially for such a major city law.</p> <p>Brewer echoed the call for a private right of action, emphasizing that future administrations may not be as committed to transparency. “I believe we must provide a private right-of-action to protect the New York City municipal open data apparatus from a future administration that does not wish to operate it in good faith as the current and previous administrations have done,” she said. She cited the Trump administration’s moves immediately post-inauguration to delete data that had been posted online under the previous administration; there is no federal law that establishes similar data protections as New York City’s policy.</p> <p>Kaehny claimed that even naming and shaming is a difficult task, given that agency compliance with the law is not compiled in a single spreadsheet on the portal but rather in four separate spreadsheets. Compiling all relevant information about published and unpublished datasets into one spreadsheet was one of Reinvent Albany’s key recommendations to the committee. “What we’re seeing is fog when it comes to understanding exactly how well agencies are doing,” Kaehny said.</p> <p>The administration also had suggestions for improving the bill. Echoing testimony from the advocates, DoITT’s Webber expressed dismay at the law’s lack of any licensing requirements for the data, hoping that “permissive licenses,” licenses with few, if any, redistributive restrictions, could be added to the program.</p> <p>“Our mission to encourage public engagement with open data in the long term makes the ability to license very important,” Webber said. “Structured properly, licenses could allow us to formally make the city’s datasets free and open for public use in perpetuity, codifying our existing practice and ensuring that New Yorkers have access to open data for the long haul.”</p> <p>Also under consideration at the hearing was <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2984659&amp;GUID=6B734B2A-47FA-49C7-BE83-C7C640B098D2&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Intro. 1528</a>, an amendment to an existing open data law that would require agencies that process Freedom of Information Law requests involving non-confidential data to report and publish the names of the public datasets, rather than simply the metrics of the datasets. The measure received overall support from those testifying before the committee.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
De Blasio Goes Local with ‘City Hall in Your Borough’ Series 2017-04-09T04:00:00+00:00 2017-04-09T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6863:de-blasio-goes-local-with-city-hall-in-your-borough-series Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/26484184021_a59e709777_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio Staten Island Oddo" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio at a Staten Island town hall (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio will be on Staten Island this week in the first of five “City Hall in Your Borough” sojourns wherein the mayor, who is up for reelection this fall, is bringing city government local. De Blasio, many of his commissioners, top aides, and City Hall staff will work out of borough hall, hold constituent office hours and a variety of events on the island, and attempt to immerse themselves in borough issues for the week.</p> <p>The mayor chose to start the initiative on Staten Island, the only borough the first-term Democrat lost in his landslide 2013 victory. De Blasio’s week will include a town hall Thursday night, but begins Monday with several events, including a morning cabinet meeting with senior staff at borough hall, a noon press conference related to neighborhood policing, and a 10 p.m. visit with a road re-paving crew.</p> <p>According to the mayor’s office, de Blasio will set aside time to meet with local constituents and groups, visit at least one house of worship, and make many other stops around the borough. He is expected to hold events with each of Staten Island’s three City Council members, and to spend a good deal of time with Borough President James Oddo, a Republican whom the mayor has a close relationship with. First Lady Chirlane McCray is expected to hold events related to ThriveNYC, the mental health program she spearheads.</p> <p>The mayor will be commuting to Staten Island from Gracie Mansion, his office said, not spending overnights on the island. [The Staten Island Advance <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2017/04/early_look_at_de_blasios_week.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">acquired a draft schedule</a> for de Blasio’s week, though it is unclear how closely his actual plan will match it. The launch of the overall initiative was <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/de-blasio-staff-launch-initiative-city-hall-borough-article-1.3009342" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first reported by The Daily News</a>.]</p> <p>De Blasio’s week on Staten Island is sure to deal with some broad citywide themes like public safety, education, affordable housing, and development, but will also have a distinctly local feel. As borough officials often say, Staten Island is more like the rest of the United States than it is the rest of New York City. Staten Island has high homeowner and driving populations compared to other boroughs, for example. Many Staten Islanders also continue to battle their way back from Superstorm Sandy and there has been a good deal of frustration about the city’s Build It Back recovery program. The borough is also dealing with the opioid addiction and overdose problem that has spread throughout communities across the country.</p> <p>After Staten Island, “City Hall in Your Borough” will proceed to the other four boroughs throughout the year, all as de Blasio competes in the Democratic primary and, likely, general election in his pursuit of a second term. Asked about the initiative coinciding with election season, mayoral spokesperson Jessica Ramos said that “It's coinciding with spring” and that the administration wants New Yorkers to interact with their local government in their own neighborhoods. ‎”We'll be doing this again over following years,” she said in an email.</p> <p>The mayor and his team are likely to work out of borough hall in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/de-blasio-staff-launch-initiative-city-hall-borough-article-1.3009342" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to The Daily News</a>, but will seek uptown space in Manhattan given that City Hall and the Manhattan Borough President’s offices at 1 Centre Street are so close to each other.</p> <p>Asked about the initiative, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams had praise for de Blasio, but said in a statement that while he “would welcome Mayor de Blasio and his team to Brooklyn Borough Hall with open arms for this initiative...it would be even more impactful for us to work together on bringing City Hall to neighborhoods like Brownsville that have a real need of this presence. A site such as the Brownsville Recreation Center, for example, would serve as a great hyperlocal hub for this effort."</p> <p>Adams said City Hall in Your Borough is “a smart concept to get government out of the austere structures that often separate it from the communities it serves.” According to his office, borough specific issues Adams wants to see City Hall focus on include affordable housing, tenant harassment, civic tech innovation, preventive health care, school tech infrastructure, among others. Adams also wants to see city agencies rethink community engagement models.</p> <p>In a brief interview, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said that her team and the mayor’s have been in touch already. Asked what the focus issues should be, Brewer said her office “gets a ton of housing, housing, housing” and that people really are concerned about both residential and small business affordability. Small Business Services, NYCHA, and the Department of Buildings were three city agencies that Brewer said the mayor’s team should be ready to prioritize.</p> <p>As for space, Brewer said she is the only borough president without a grand borough hall, but that she is also the only one with a storefront presence. She said her office’s uptown satellite space on West 125th Street “is not huge but it can fit 25 or 30 people at a time. So, we'd love him to join us there. We also have an office at the Harlem State Office Building, which has, obviously, huge spaces. So, either one, I think, would be fabulous, and we'd love to host the mayor.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. declined to comment on City Hall in Your Borough or to make the borough president available for a brief interview. Diaz Jr. has been an outspoken critic of de Blasio on several issues, and was considering challenging the mayor in the Democratic primary, but now plans to run for re-election. He is the only borough president that de Blasio is <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6051-rift-between-de-blasio-and-diaz-jr-grows-with-implications-for-the-bronx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">not on good terms with</a>.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz did not return a request for comment. Katz praised de Blasio at a recent town hall event in Queens for delivering on universal pre-kindergarten, though she and many in her borough want to see more from City Hall on school overcrowding and have concerns about the mayor’s homeless shelter siting.</p> <p>At a January event hosted by Crain’s New York Business, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6727-five-borough-presidents-advise-critique-de-blasio" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the five borough presidents gave their assessments of de Blasio</a> and offered him advice for how to improve his relationships with their boroughs.</p> <p>Oddo, who will host de Blasio this week on Staten Island, said he still wants to see a culture change at city agencies where rank-and-file employees feel more urgency to complete projects and make progress. “You want to have a legacy” as a mayor, Oddo said, “you have to change the culture of these agencies, and I don’t believe that’s happening.”</p> <p>“He could do a whole lot better, in my opinion, in his messaging and communication to the people of the City of New York,” Diaz Jr. said.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/26484184021_a59e709777_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio Staten Island Oddo" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio at a Staten Island town hall (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio will be on Staten Island this week in the first of five “City Hall in Your Borough” sojourns wherein the mayor, who is up for reelection this fall, is bringing city government local. De Blasio, many of his commissioners, top aides, and City Hall staff will work out of borough hall, hold constituent office hours and a variety of events on the island, and attempt to immerse themselves in borough issues for the week.</p> <p>The mayor chose to start the initiative on Staten Island, the only borough the first-term Democrat lost in his landslide 2013 victory. De Blasio’s week will include a town hall Thursday night, but begins Monday with several events, including a morning cabinet meeting with senior staff at borough hall, a noon press conference related to neighborhood policing, and a 10 p.m. visit with a road re-paving crew.</p> <p>According to the mayor’s office, de Blasio will set aside time to meet with local constituents and groups, visit at least one house of worship, and make many other stops around the borough. He is expected to hold events with each of Staten Island’s three City Council members, and to spend a good deal of time with Borough President James Oddo, a Republican whom the mayor has a close relationship with. First Lady Chirlane McCray is expected to hold events related to ThriveNYC, the mental health program she spearheads.</p> <p>The mayor will be commuting to Staten Island from Gracie Mansion, his office said, not spending overnights on the island. [The Staten Island Advance <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2017/04/early_look_at_de_blasios_week.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">acquired a draft schedule</a> for de Blasio’s week, though it is unclear how closely his actual plan will match it. The launch of the overall initiative was <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/de-blasio-staff-launch-initiative-city-hall-borough-article-1.3009342" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first reported by The Daily News</a>.]</p> <p>De Blasio’s week on Staten Island is sure to deal with some broad citywide themes like public safety, education, affordable housing, and development, but will also have a distinctly local feel. As borough officials often say, Staten Island is more like the rest of the United States than it is the rest of New York City. Staten Island has high homeowner and driving populations compared to other boroughs, for example. Many Staten Islanders also continue to battle their way back from Superstorm Sandy and there has been a good deal of frustration about the city’s Build It Back recovery program. The borough is also dealing with the opioid addiction and overdose problem that has spread throughout communities across the country.</p> <p>After Staten Island, “City Hall in Your Borough” will proceed to the other four boroughs throughout the year, all as de Blasio competes in the Democratic primary and, likely, general election in his pursuit of a second term. Asked about the initiative coinciding with election season, mayoral spokesperson Jessica Ramos said that “It's coinciding with spring” and that the administration wants New Yorkers to interact with their local government in their own neighborhoods. ‎”We'll be doing this again over following years,” she said in an email.</p> <p>The mayor and his team are likely to work out of borough hall in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/de-blasio-staff-launch-initiative-city-hall-borough-article-1.3009342" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to The Daily News</a>, but will seek uptown space in Manhattan given that City Hall and the Manhattan Borough President’s offices at 1 Centre Street are so close to each other.</p> <p>Asked about the initiative, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams had praise for de Blasio, but said in a statement that while he “would welcome Mayor de Blasio and his team to Brooklyn Borough Hall with open arms for this initiative...it would be even more impactful for us to work together on bringing City Hall to neighborhoods like Brownsville that have a real need of this presence. A site such as the Brownsville Recreation Center, for example, would serve as a great hyperlocal hub for this effort."</p> <p>Adams said City Hall in Your Borough is “a smart concept to get government out of the austere structures that often separate it from the communities it serves.” According to his office, borough specific issues Adams wants to see City Hall focus on include affordable housing, tenant harassment, civic tech innovation, preventive health care, school tech infrastructure, among others. Adams also wants to see city agencies rethink community engagement models.</p> <p>In a brief interview, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said that her team and the mayor’s have been in touch already. Asked what the focus issues should be, Brewer said her office “gets a ton of housing, housing, housing” and that people really are concerned about both residential and small business affordability. Small Business Services, NYCHA, and the Department of Buildings were three city agencies that Brewer said the mayor’s team should be ready to prioritize.</p> <p>As for space, Brewer said she is the only borough president without a grand borough hall, but that she is also the only one with a storefront presence. She said her office’s uptown satellite space on West 125th Street “is not huge but it can fit 25 or 30 people at a time. So, we'd love him to join us there. We also have an office at the Harlem State Office Building, which has, obviously, huge spaces. So, either one, I think, would be fabulous, and we'd love to host the mayor.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. declined to comment on City Hall in Your Borough or to make the borough president available for a brief interview. Diaz Jr. has been an outspoken critic of de Blasio on several issues, and was considering challenging the mayor in the Democratic primary, but now plans to run for re-election. He is the only borough president that de Blasio is <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6051-rift-between-de-blasio-and-diaz-jr-grows-with-implications-for-the-bronx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">not on good terms with</a>.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz did not return a request for comment. Katz praised de Blasio at a recent town hall event in Queens for delivering on universal pre-kindergarten, though she and many in her borough want to see more from City Hall on school overcrowding and have concerns about the mayor’s homeless shelter siting.</p> <p>At a January event hosted by Crain’s New York Business, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6727-five-borough-presidents-advise-critique-de-blasio" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the five borough presidents gave their assessments of de Blasio</a> and offered him advice for how to improve his relationships with their boroughs.</p> <p>Oddo, who will host de Blasio this week on Staten Island, said he still wants to see a culture change at city agencies where rank-and-file employees feel more urgency to complete projects and make progress. “You want to have a legacy” as a mayor, Oddo said, “you have to change the culture of these agencies, and I don’t believe that’s happening.”</p> <p>“He could do a whole lot better, in my opinion, in his messaging and communication to the people of the City of New York,” Diaz Jr. said.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
De Blasio’s ‘Fearless’ Moment 2017-03-27T04:00:00+00:00 2017-03-27T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6835:de-blasio-s-fearless-moment Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/33302628560_91b0cb6b34_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio fearless girl statue" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio &amp; "Fearless Girl" (photos:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio walked swiftly down Broadway Monday afternoon with a big smile on his face. The mayor approached the entrance to a barricaded area in which he was about to address gathered members of the media and was stopped for a photo by a group of Girl Scouts. He gladly obliged, then proceeded, approaching the Wall Street Bull, but stopping a few yards short at his destination, the “Fearless Girl” statue.</p> <p>De Blasio knelt beside the small statue that has become a symbol of female power and empowerment, and put an arm around the bronzed girl, posing for photos and smiling widely. Cameras shuttered from within the cordoned off triangle, which was filled with journalists and tourists, while other onlookers from surrounding sidewalks took in the scene and car traffic slowly proceeded toward Bowling Green.</p> <p>The mayor then gave brief remarks at a makeshift podium featuring a bouquet of microphones, where he explained that the Fearless Girl would be permitted to remain installed and staring down the bull through next International Women’s Day, in March 2018. It was the mayor's first remarks to gathered members of the media since <a href="https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/03/23/nyregion/bill-de-blasio-walks-out-news-conference.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&amp;smid=nytcore-iphone-share&amp;_r=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an ill-fated Thursday press conference</a> that the mayor ended abruptly when he did not like the questions he was asked.</p> <p>“[T]his statue, the Fearless Girl, means so much to the people of New York City – and I’m saying all the people of New York City,” said de Blasio, who was accompanied by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. “I’ve been profoundly struck by what this statue means in particular to women, and to girls in this city, and this whole country. But I think there’s an even broader symbolism of standing up to fear, standing up to power, being able to find in yourself the strength to do what’s right.”</p> <p>Just a few weeks ago, on this year’s International Women’s Day, March 8, when the Fearless Girl had seemingly appeared out of nowhere and became a social media sensation, de Blasio was caught unaware when asked about the statue at an unrelated press conference. The mayor promised a WNYC radio reporter that his office would soon provide a reaction, once he was briefed. Later that day, the mayor’s Twitter account <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCMayor/status/839611352113102848" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">announced</a> “our future rests in the hands of fearless girls,” with a photo of the statue and a group of admirers. The tweet also said that the statue would be “standing tall in Lower Manhattan through April 2nd,” a timeline that has now been extended after public outcry, including from Public Advocate Letitia James.</p> <p>James and de Blasio appeared together at a March 21 press conference on street safety. When the mayor was asked about the statue and James’ advocacy for its permanence, de Blasio half-jokingly called James "a fearless girl” in reference to work they had done together opposing former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s term-limits extension. The mayor then said he was considering “prolonging” the statue’s “presence.”</p> <p>“You know, some people have called for permanent action,” the mayor continued, “we’re hesitant to do anything permanent because, you know, that has ramifications for the whole city. But in terms of a longer presence, I’m open to that and we’re going to be looking at that.”</p> <p>On Monday, James reacted to the city extending the statue’s presence, saying in a statement she is “pleased that the Mayor is extending her permit. However, the importance of empowering women is not temporary, and Fearless Girl must become a permanent fixture in our City as a reminder to all women that no dream is too big and no ceiling is too high.”</p> <p>De Blasio’s visit to the statue was a late addition to his schedule. In his remarks, the mayor connected the statue to the women’s marches of January 21, which came the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, with “women and their male allies all over this country – hundreds of cities and towns – coming out to say that regardless of the results of an election, no one was going to affront women and the rights of women.”</p> <p>“And right after that, this miraculous girl appears and created such a powerful sensation because she spoke to the moment,” de Blasio continued, “that sense that women were not going to live in fear, that women were going to teach their daughters and all the girls in their life to believe in themselves.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/33686495765_f318f22122_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio Brewer fearless girl" width="350" height="233" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" />The Fearless Girl statue is a creation of Kristen Visbal, commissioned by State Street Global Advisors. Visbal has said in recent <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2017/03/07/creating-the-girl-who-stared-down-the-wall-street-bull/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">interviews</a> that the statue shows a “brave, proud, and strong” person, not “defiant” or “belligerent,” but a symbol that women are unapologetically part of the “traditionally male environment” on Wall Street. A representative of State Street has said the statue represents “the power and potential of having more women in leadership.”</p> <p>Some have called Fearless Girl a corporate public relations ploy and though James, Brewer, and other female civic leaders have championed the statue, the enthusiasm for it has been the source of much derision, including on social media, which can often be home to a great deal of negativity. Yet, New York Times columnist Ginia Bellafonte <a href="https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/03/16/nyregion/fearless-girl-statue-manhattan.html?_r=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recently called</a> Fearless Girl “corporate feminism” and noted that it could have been an effort at changing the subject or distracting from some recent bad news -- fraud charges -- for the State Street parent company, which the company denied.</p> <p>De Blasio, a champion of regulating Wall Street who regularly calls for higher taxes on the wealthy, made no mention of the financial industry on Monday.</p> <p>The mayor's appearance at the statue was the first time he had gathered the press to make remarks since Thursday's truncated media availability, when the mayor promoted his “mansion tax” proposal but refused to answer questions on other topics and shut the press conference down in frustration after three “off-topic” questions.</p> <p>On Monday, de Blasio’s updated schedule, as emailed to members of the media, said that the appearance at Fearless Girl would not include any Q&amp;A with the press, despite the fact that more than a dozen journalists were on the scene. After the mayor posed for photos, gave his remarks, and listened as Brewer gave hers, he quickly walked back up Broadway to a waiting car, ignoring reporters who started asking questions.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/33302628560_91b0cb6b34_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio fearless girl statue" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio &amp; "Fearless Girl" (photos:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio walked swiftly down Broadway Monday afternoon with a big smile on his face. The mayor approached the entrance to a barricaded area in which he was about to address gathered members of the media and was stopped for a photo by a group of Girl Scouts. He gladly obliged, then proceeded, approaching the Wall Street Bull, but stopping a few yards short at his destination, the “Fearless Girl” statue.</p> <p>De Blasio knelt beside the small statue that has become a symbol of female power and empowerment, and put an arm around the bronzed girl, posing for photos and smiling widely. Cameras shuttered from within the cordoned off triangle, which was filled with journalists and tourists, while other onlookers from surrounding sidewalks took in the scene and car traffic slowly proceeded toward Bowling Green.</p> <p>The mayor then gave brief remarks at a makeshift podium featuring a bouquet of microphones, where he explained that the Fearless Girl would be permitted to remain installed and staring down the bull through next International Women’s Day, in March 2018. It was the mayor's first remarks to gathered members of the media since <a href="https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/03/23/nyregion/bill-de-blasio-walks-out-news-conference.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&amp;smid=nytcore-iphone-share&amp;_r=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an ill-fated Thursday press conference</a> that the mayor ended abruptly when he did not like the questions he was asked.</p> <p>“[T]his statue, the Fearless Girl, means so much to the people of New York City – and I’m saying all the people of New York City,” said de Blasio, who was accompanied by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. “I’ve been profoundly struck by what this statue means in particular to women, and to girls in this city, and this whole country. But I think there’s an even broader symbolism of standing up to fear, standing up to power, being able to find in yourself the strength to do what’s right.”</p> <p>Just a few weeks ago, on this year’s International Women’s Day, March 8, when the Fearless Girl had seemingly appeared out of nowhere and became a social media sensation, de Blasio was caught unaware when asked about the statue at an unrelated press conference. The mayor promised a WNYC radio reporter that his office would soon provide a reaction, once he was briefed. Later that day, the mayor’s Twitter account <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCMayor/status/839611352113102848" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">announced</a> “our future rests in the hands of fearless girls,” with a photo of the statue and a group of admirers. The tweet also said that the statue would be “standing tall in Lower Manhattan through April 2nd,” a timeline that has now been extended after public outcry, including from Public Advocate Letitia James.</p> <p>James and de Blasio appeared together at a March 21 press conference on street safety. When the mayor was asked about the statue and James’ advocacy for its permanence, de Blasio half-jokingly called James "a fearless girl” in reference to work they had done together opposing former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s term-limits extension. The mayor then said he was considering “prolonging” the statue’s “presence.”</p> <p>“You know, some people have called for permanent action,” the mayor continued, “we’re hesitant to do anything permanent because, you know, that has ramifications for the whole city. But in terms of a longer presence, I’m open to that and we’re going to be looking at that.”</p> <p>On Monday, James reacted to the city extending the statue’s presence, saying in a statement she is “pleased that the Mayor is extending her permit. However, the importance of empowering women is not temporary, and Fearless Girl must become a permanent fixture in our City as a reminder to all women that no dream is too big and no ceiling is too high.”</p> <p>De Blasio’s visit to the statue was a late addition to his schedule. In his remarks, the mayor connected the statue to the women’s marches of January 21, which came the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, with “women and their male allies all over this country – hundreds of cities and towns – coming out to say that regardless of the results of an election, no one was going to affront women and the rights of women.”</p> <p>“And right after that, this miraculous girl appears and created such a powerful sensation because she spoke to the moment,” de Blasio continued, “that sense that women were not going to live in fear, that women were going to teach their daughters and all the girls in their life to believe in themselves.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/33686495765_f318f22122_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio Brewer fearless girl" width="350" height="233" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" />The Fearless Girl statue is a creation of Kristen Visbal, commissioned by State Street Global Advisors. Visbal has said in recent <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2017/03/07/creating-the-girl-who-stared-down-the-wall-street-bull/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">interviews</a> that the statue shows a “brave, proud, and strong” person, not “defiant” or “belligerent,” but a symbol that women are unapologetically part of the “traditionally male environment” on Wall Street. A representative of State Street has said the statue represents “the power and potential of having more women in leadership.”</p> <p>Some have called Fearless Girl a corporate public relations ploy and though James, Brewer, and other female civic leaders have championed the statue, the enthusiasm for it has been the source of much derision, including on social media, which can often be home to a great deal of negativity. Yet, New York Times columnist Ginia Bellafonte <a href="https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/03/16/nyregion/fearless-girl-statue-manhattan.html?_r=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recently called</a> Fearless Girl “corporate feminism” and noted that it could have been an effort at changing the subject or distracting from some recent bad news -- fraud charges -- for the State Street parent company, which the company denied.</p> <p>De Blasio, a champion of regulating Wall Street who regularly calls for higher taxes on the wealthy, made no mention of the financial industry on Monday.</p> <p>The mayor's appearance at the statue was the first time he had gathered the press to make remarks since Thursday's truncated media availability, when the mayor promoted his “mansion tax” proposal but refused to answer questions on other topics and shut the press conference down in frustration after three “off-topic” questions.</p> <p>On Monday, de Blasio’s updated schedule, as emailed to members of the media, said that the appearance at Fearless Girl would not include any Q&amp;A with the press, despite the fact that more than a dozen journalists were on the scene. After the mayor posed for photos, gave his remarks, and listened as Brewer gave hers, he quickly walked back up Broadway to a waiting car, ignoring reporters who started asking questions.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
De Blasio Faces Local Questions About ‘Mansion Tax’ Plan 2017-02-23T05:00:00+00:00 2017-02-23T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6773:de-blasio-faces-local-questions-about-mansion-tax-plan Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/32805723182_2f0ce1af02_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio speech dining room gracie" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo:&nbsp;Edwin J. Torres/ Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>A report released by the city Independent Budget Office has raised questions about the potential effects of the so-called “mansion tax,” a proposed part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing strategy that would levy a 2.5 percent surcharge on the sale price over a threshold of $2 million for residential properties.</p> <p>De Blasio put forward a version of the mansion tax proposal, which requires approval by the State Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo, in mid-2015. It failed to gain traction then. The mayor presented the current updated form at an Albany legislative state budget hearing in late January and reiterated it at his State of the City address February 13.</p> <p>The mayor has said that he hopes the revenues from the tax, estimated by his Office of Management and Budget at $336 million in fiscal year 2018, will be used to subsidize rents for seniors.</p> <p><a href="http://ibo.nyc.ny.us/cgi-park2/2017/02/how-many-homes-apartments-in-new-york-city-sold-in-recent-years-for-more-than-2-million/" target="_blank">The IBO report</a> shows that about 8 percent of citywide home sales between 2014 and 2016 carried price tags of $2 million or more; and of those sales, 86 percent were for properties in Manhattan.</p> <p>Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer had requested that IBO examine the impact the tax would have on her constituency. Often in agreement with de Blasio, a fellow Democrat, Brewer told Gotham Gazette that she is opposed to the mayor’s mansion tax proposal.</p> <p>“Manhattan should not be the cash cow for the rest of the boroughs,” Brewer said during a phone interview, adding that she would be “much more comfortable with [a threshold of] $5 million and not $2 million.”</p> <p>At the State of the City speech, the mayor told his constituents to “ask [state legislators] if you think someone selling a home for more than $2 million can afford a little bit for senior citizens.” The tax would be paid by the buyer, according to de Blasio’s plan.</p> <p>Brewer also raised concerns that mansion tax revenues would not be guaranteed to go to rent subsidies. “Any tax that has been enacted then has to be allocated. It could go to seniors, or it could go to homeless services, or it could go to anything,” she said.</p> <p>Asked if she would publicly oppose and testify against the tax if given the opportunity, Brewer said she would. She said she had not been in touch with the mayor or his staff about the mansion tax specifically, but had heard from constituents concerned about the measure’s effects.</p> <p>In emailed comments expanding on the report, IBO Chief of Staff Doug Turetsky said there were arguments for and against the tax. A possible issue is the specter of a price cliff: “suddenly you will probably have a lot of sales priced just under the threshold for the mansion tax.”</p> <p>However, he touted the proposal’s potential to level the playing field, as both co-ops and high-end residential sales paid in cash or with foreign financing are not subject to the city’s existing mortgage recording tax. “As a result, purchasers of a comparatively moderate priced home will likely pay both the city’s mortgage recording tax and real property transfer tax, while many buyers of the city’s most expensive residential properties will only pay the transfer tax,” he said.</p> <p>Along with skepticism from Brewer, de Blasio is facing a long road to mansion tax passage in Albany, where both Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, and the state Senate Republican majority are philosophically opposed to new taxes. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has said his conference is interested in cutting taxes, and he is facing a Cuomo proposal to extend the state’s “millionaire’s tax.”</p> <p>De Blasio has said that recent progressive victories indicate nothing is impossible to see through Albany if there is enough support. The mayor also argues the city needs the mansion tax revenue to bolster his affordable housing plan, especially for seniors, though the city has been rapidly adding to its budget under the mayor without additional taxes, given revenues have been strong amid a booming city economy.</p> <p>“I don’t think the mayor has thus far made the case why the tax is needed for any particular agenda he wants to pursue,” said Carol Kellerman, president of the Citizens Budget Commission, adding that “it would seem to us that the mayor and the [City] Council are able to fund anything they need $330 million for” out of the already expanded, $84.7 billion budget the mayor has proposed for fiscal year 2018.</p> <p>Melissa Grace, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, dismissed the idea of a price cliff, arguing that, since the tax would only apply for the price over $2 million, “that’s not going to affect any buyer or seller’s behavior.” She also pointed out that the average home purchase affected by the tax would be $4.5 million, an argument the mayor also raised at an unrelated press conference this week when Gotham Gazette asked about his tax plan.</p> <p>In response to Brewer’s concern of the money being used for other purposes, Grace said that according to the city’s proposal, the funds would go specifically to the recently announced Elder Rent Assistance program and could not be used for anything else.</p> <p>Asked at a Tuesday press conference about previous statements that the mansion tax was justifiable given tax cuts for the wealthy the mayor is anticipating from Washington, D.C., the mayor said that President Donald Trump “has been salivating for the opportunity to reduce corporate taxes and taxes on the wealthy...So I think it’s a really, really good betting assumption there will be tax cuts for the wealthy and the corporations.”</p> <p>The mayor added that, even if a federal tax cut does not materialize, “I still think the mansion tax makes sense...Someone who’s buying a $4.5 million home can afford to spend a little bit more.”</p> <p>

***
by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/32805723182_2f0ce1af02_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio speech dining room gracie" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo:&nbsp;Edwin J. Torres/ Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>A report released by the city Independent Budget Office has raised questions about the potential effects of the so-called “mansion tax,” a proposed part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing strategy that would levy a 2.5 percent surcharge on the sale price over a threshold of $2 million for residential properties.</p> <p>De Blasio put forward a version of the mansion tax proposal, which requires approval by the State Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo, in mid-2015. It failed to gain traction then. The mayor presented the current updated form at an Albany legislative state budget hearing in late January and reiterated it at his State of the City address February 13.</p> <p>The mayor has said that he hopes the revenues from the tax, estimated by his Office of Management and Budget at $336 million in fiscal year 2018, will be used to subsidize rents for seniors.</p> <p><a href="http://ibo.nyc.ny.us/cgi-park2/2017/02/how-many-homes-apartments-in-new-york-city-sold-in-recent-years-for-more-than-2-million/" target="_blank">The IBO report</a> shows that about 8 percent of citywide home sales between 2014 and 2016 carried price tags of $2 million or more; and of those sales, 86 percent were for properties in Manhattan.</p> <p>Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer had requested that IBO examine the impact the tax would have on her constituency. Often in agreement with de Blasio, a fellow Democrat, Brewer told Gotham Gazette that she is opposed to the mayor’s mansion tax proposal.</p> <p>“Manhattan should not be the cash cow for the rest of the boroughs,” Brewer said during a phone interview, adding that she would be “much more comfortable with [a threshold of] $5 million and not $2 million.”</p> <p>At the State of the City speech, the mayor told his constituents to “ask [state legislators] if you think someone selling a home for more than $2 million can afford a little bit for senior citizens.” The tax would be paid by the buyer, according to de Blasio’s plan.</p> <p>Brewer also raised concerns that mansion tax revenues would not be guaranteed to go to rent subsidies. “Any tax that has been enacted then has to be allocated. It could go to seniors, or it could go to homeless services, or it could go to anything,” she said.</p> <p>Asked if she would publicly oppose and testify against the tax if given the opportunity, Brewer said she would. She said she had not been in touch with the mayor or his staff about the mansion tax specifically, but had heard from constituents concerned about the measure’s effects.</p> <p>In emailed comments expanding on the report, IBO Chief of Staff Doug Turetsky said there were arguments for and against the tax. A possible issue is the specter of a price cliff: “suddenly you will probably have a lot of sales priced just under the threshold for the mansion tax.”</p> <p>However, he touted the proposal’s potential to level the playing field, as both co-ops and high-end residential sales paid in cash or with foreign financing are not subject to the city’s existing mortgage recording tax. “As a result, purchasers of a comparatively moderate priced home will likely pay both the city’s mortgage recording tax and real property transfer tax, while many buyers of the city’s most expensive residential properties will only pay the transfer tax,” he said.</p> <p>Along with skepticism from Brewer, de Blasio is facing a long road to mansion tax passage in Albany, where both Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, and the state Senate Republican majority are philosophically opposed to new taxes. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has said his conference is interested in cutting taxes, and he is facing a Cuomo proposal to extend the state’s “millionaire’s tax.”</p> <p>De Blasio has said that recent progressive victories indicate nothing is impossible to see through Albany if there is enough support. The mayor also argues the city needs the mansion tax revenue to bolster his affordable housing plan, especially for seniors, though the city has been rapidly adding to its budget under the mayor without additional taxes, given revenues have been strong amid a booming city economy.</p> <p>“I don’t think the mayor has thus far made the case why the tax is needed for any particular agenda he wants to pursue,” said Carol Kellerman, president of the Citizens Budget Commission, adding that “it would seem to us that the mayor and the [City] Council are able to fund anything they need $330 million for” out of the already expanded, $84.7 billion budget the mayor has proposed for fiscal year 2018.</p> <p>Melissa Grace, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, dismissed the idea of a price cliff, arguing that, since the tax would only apply for the price over $2 million, “that’s not going to affect any buyer or seller’s behavior.” She also pointed out that the average home purchase affected by the tax would be $4.5 million, an argument the mayor also raised at an unrelated press conference this week when Gotham Gazette asked about his tax plan.</p> <p>In response to Brewer’s concern of the money being used for other purposes, Grace said that according to the city’s proposal, the funds would go specifically to the recently announced Elder Rent Assistance program and could not be used for anything else.</p> <p>Asked at a Tuesday press conference about previous statements that the mansion tax was justifiable given tax cuts for the wealthy the mayor is anticipating from Washington, D.C., the mayor said that President Donald Trump “has been salivating for the opportunity to reduce corporate taxes and taxes on the wealthy...So I think it’s a really, really good betting assumption there will be tax cuts for the wealthy and the corporations.”</p> <p>The mayor added that, even if a federal tax cut does not materialize, “I still think the mansion tax makes sense...Someone who’s buying a $4.5 million home can afford to spend a little bit more.”</p> <p>

***
by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>