Gotham Gazette Thu, 22 Mar 2018 23:19:17 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) City Council Hears Bill on Charter Revision Commission Fernando Cabrera

Council Member Fernando Cabrera (photo: John McCarten/City Council)

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.

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.

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.)

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.

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.

“The bill you will consider 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.

“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.

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.

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.

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.   

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.

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.

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.

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.”

Representatives for the four other borough presidents also testified in support of the bill, as did a number of government reform groups and advocates.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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;  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.

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.  

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.”

“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.

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

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City Council Hears Bill on Charter Revision Commission Fri, 16 Mar 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Council Speaker Backs Charter Commission Bill That Gives Him More Sway Corey Johnson

Speaker Johnson (photo: John McCarten/City Council)

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.

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.

On Friday, however, The New York Times reported 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.

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.

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.

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.”

“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.”

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.

Spokespeople for James and Brewer did not provide comment for this article. A mayoral spokesperson declined to comment.

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.

De Blasio was more direct, stating in his February 13 State of the City speech 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.

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.

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.

“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.”

The Council bill is set to be heard by the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations on Friday.

“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.”

[Read: De Blasio Promises Fairness, Democracy in State of the City Address]

[Read: Next Steps and Recent Precedents for De Blasio's Charter Revision Commission]

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

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Council Speaker Backs Charter Commission Bill That Gives Him More Sway Tue, 13 Mar 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Next Steps and Recent Precedents for De Blasio’s Charter Revision Commission Mayor de Blasio State of the City

Mayor de Blasio (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)

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.

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?

The mayor has the power to call a Charter Revision Commission under Section 36 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.

“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.”

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.

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.

“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.

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.

“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 recently wrote a book about de Blasio). “That said, once a commission is appointed, it can go where it chooses.”

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 two ballot questions that were both approved by 52 percent of voters.

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.

“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.”

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. “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.”

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.

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.

Muzzio pointed to an alternate proposal 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.

“Charter revision is important and needed,” Brewer tweeted on Tuesday, “but appointments should come from many electeds and the issues to be discussed should come from the group.”

In a New York Daily News editorial 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.

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.

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.

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.

“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.”

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

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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.  

Next Steps and Recent Precedents for De Blasio’s Charter Revision Commission Tue, 20 Feb 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Candidates File Final Campaign Finance Reports of 2017 Election Cycle de Blasio inauguration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

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Candidates File Final Campaign Finance Reports of 2017 Election Cycle Wed, 17 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
New York City Takeaways from Governor Cuomo's 2018 State of the State Cuomo State of the State podium

Gov. Cuomo delivers his 2018 State of the State (photo: Philip Kamrass/Governor's Office)

Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled his full policy agenda for the 2018 legislative session on Wednesday, returning to his traditional State of the State format: a single address at the Empire State Convention Center, chock full of slideshow-aided proposals and lofty rhetoric, with legislative leaders of all five conferences and other statewide elected officials accompanying him on stage.

During the 92-minute speech, Cuomo gave considerable attention on his women’s rights platform -- a timely legislation package in the face of international outcry over sexual misconduct in the workplace — as well as criminal justice reform proposals like significantly reducing the use of cash bail. Cuomo also focused a good deal on policies coming out of Washington, D.C., especially the recent tax overhaul program that will hit New York hard. He said the state will sue while also exploring other ways to blunt the impact of the drastically reduced ability for New Yorkers to deduct their high local and state taxes from their federal burden.

The second-term governor outlined a wide variety of proposals for the state and some that apply to different geographic areas. He touched on only a portion of the proposals listed in his 374-page policy book. The next three months will determine which Cuomo can accomplish through some combination of executive action, the regular legislative process, and a grand budget deal, due by the April 1 start to the new state fiscal year. After that, there will be another three months of legislative session.

Many of Cuomo’s broader proposals, like on criminal justice reform, workforce development, and protecting the environment, impact New York City, while several are aimed directly at the five boroughs, such as the creation of a subway station in Red Hook, Brooklyn, the creation of a new park in Brooklyn, and proposals to address the state’s homelessness problem, which is concentrated in New York City.

Mayor Bill de Blasio was in attendance for Cuomo’s speech and, in a news conference afterward, praised certain aspects of it, such as Cuomo’s promise to fight the federal tax overhaul, while taking a wait-and-see approach as the governor still did not unveil a congestion pricing scheme, and outlining a few of the city’s top priorities for the upcoming state budget, like more funding for the mayor’s plan to extend pre-school to all three-year-olds.

The Democratic governor wields an enormous degree of power over the state’s $160 billion-plus budget. He’ll unveil his executive budget proposal within the next few weeks, which will show at least some detail of how he plans to fund the initiatives in his State of the State while also balancing the roughly $4 billion deficit for next fiscal year.

As he alluded to during his speech, touting his ability to lead the state to bipartisan compromise, Cuomo is again negotiating with a split Legislature. While Democrats handily control the 150-seat Assembly, with most New York City lawmakers sitting in the majority, the 63-seat Senate is controlled by the Republican conference, made up of many members representing suburban and Upstate areas, that has formed a ruling coalition with the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference and rogue Democratic Senator Simcha Felder, of Brooklyn. As a result, downstate and left-leaning interests often rely on the governor to take up their policy items, and watch his annual address closely for signs that he will make them a focal point of the coming budget negotiations.

During his Wednesday remarks, Cuomo took slightly different approaches to two hot-button issues, important to many in New York City, that are also indicative of the political moment Cuomo finds himself in. Democrats in New York want to see Cuomo fight for Democratic takeover of the state Senate, including through special elections for two Senate seats that the governor has not yet called, despite being able to as of January 1. A long list of progressive legislation has been blocked in the Senate, with many believing Cuomo largely prefers to deal with a split Legislature so that he can better control spending and policy.

Advocates have been turning up their pressure on Cuomo to push for the Child Victims Act, legislation that makes it easier for people who were victims of childhood sex abuse to bring charges. The legislation has overwhelmingly passed the Assembly, but stalled in the Senate.

Those pushing for the the bill were disheartened by the governor’s omission in his State of the State speech, though it is included in his policy book, as it was last year.

"In the #MeToo moment it’s especially disappointing to see the Governor fail to mention child victims of sexual abuse in his State of the State address, even as he correctly prioritizes the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace,” said Michael Polenberg, VP of Government Affairs at Safe Horizon, and survivor and advocate Bridie Farrell in a joint statement. “Survivors of childhood sexual abuse, advocates, and elected officials have been fighting to pass the Child Victims Act (CVA) for over a decade.”

Meanwhile, the governor did give a brief shoutout to the New York Dream Act, which would allow undocumented college students who arrived here as children to obtain student financial aid as part of a comprehensive immigration package. Cuomo mentioned the Dream Act, which has also easily passed the Assembly but stalled in the Senate, when discussing the next phase of his Excelsior Scholarship, the middle-class college-tuition supplement he announced and passed last year.

Women’s Rights
Cuomo released more than 20 planks of his 2018 agenda in the lead-up to his speech, including his proposals related to fighting sexual harassment in workplaces.

The governor’s full women’s right platform is wide-ranging, from policies Democrats have pushed each year like the codification of Roe v. Wade into state law and the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, to his new call to criminalize “sextortion” and non-consensual pornography, often known as revenge porn, under state law, as well as legislation to remove firearms from domestic abusers.

In addition, the governor is proposing legislation to prohibit public dollars from being used to settle sexual harassment claims against individuals, and a proposal to void forced arbitration policies in employee contracts. He vowed that any companies doing business with the state would be required to disclose the number of sexual harassment adjudications and nondisclosure agreements they have executed. There appears to be a good chance that some, possibly most, of these measures will pass, as Republican and Democratic lawmakers in both houses have introduced legislation aimed at tightening sexual harassment laws.

“No taxpayer funds should be used to pay for any public official’s sexual harassment or misconduct – period. It is the bad act of the individual, let the individual pay,” said Cuomo.

Cuomo is also proposing that state pension funds only be invested in companies that have “adequate” representation of women and people of color on their boards of directors. And Cuomo is calling for the reauthorization and expansion of his Minority and Women Business Entrepreneurship program.

Criminal Justice Reform
In a dramatic moment, Cuomo addressed Akeem Browder, the brother of Kalief Browder, the young man who took his own life after being held for three years at Rikers Island jail complex, awaiting a trial for allegedly stealing a backpack that never came. “Akeem, I want you to know that your brother did not die in vain,” Cuomo said, with the audience giving Akeem a standing ovation.

Referencing Kalief Browder’s ordeal, Cuomo announced a comprehensive package including bail and speedy trial reforms, and improving the disclosure of evidence in the discovery process.

“To begin, our jails are filled with people who should not be incarcerated,” said Cuomo. “Race and wealth should not be factors in our criminal justice system.”

Many, including Public Advocate Letitia James and Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the criminal defense practice at The Legal Aid Society, commended the governor.

“This comprehensive package of criminal justice reforms places a spotlight on the current system’s flaws and the need for strong reforms to New York’s criminal discovery, bail and speedy trial statutes. Reforming these core issues is required to end mass incarceration, avoid wrongful convictions and, for New York City, expedite the closing of Rikers Island,” said Luongo. Mayor de Blasio has pointed to state-level bail reform as key to the goal of closing the Rikers jails by continuing to help reduce the city's detainee population.

New York Civil Liberties Union’s Donna Lieberman noted that the initiatives could have gone further, including the passage of Kalief’s Law, which ensures the right to a speedy trial, and the STAT Act, which would disclose policing data to improve transparency and accountability.

Affordable Housing
Cuomo lamented the state’s homelessness crisis, noting that he began his work in public service running a non-profit aiding homeless families, but critics say his proposals to address the crisis are slim.

“Homelessness is on the rise in our cities and worse than ever before. It pains me personally to acknowledge this reality,” he said. “It has become a part of our new normal, but it is abnormal and it is wrong,” he later added.

Cuomo vowed to build on the $20 billion investment made in 2016 on a five-year plan to combat homelessness, including thousands of supportive housing units that provide stable housing and social services. The governor said he would instruct the appropriate state agencies to expand street outreach, homelessness prevention activities, rapid rehousing, and ongoing housing stability for the formerly homeless.

He said he would direct the state’s mental health and substance abuse agencies to increase access at homeless shelters across the state. He also implored localities to do more to help mentally ill homeless people, saying that some claim their hands are tied. He vowed to “change the law this session.”

In a variety of directions, affordable housing and homelessness policy has been a topic of conflict between Cuomo and de Blasio.

During his post-speech press conference, de Blasio said one major area the city wants to see more from the state is affordable housing. He called for the delivery of NYCHA funds allocated two years ago, among other items.

“The supporting housing plan – as everyone knows, the City of New York is committed to, and is funding, and is acting on and implementing a plan for 15,000 supportive housing apartments. The State has a plan for 20,000. We need to see that plan take off and start to have an impact on the ground in New York City so it can help us address homelessness,” said de Blasio.

“And then the broader affordable housing plan that was put together at the end of the legislative session – again, we’re looking for action, we’re looking for results that will help us address the huge affordability challenges in New York City.”

In her statement reacting to Cuomo’s speech, Public Advocate James praised Cuomo on several fronts, but pointed to a need for Cuomo to improve his commitment to creating and preserving affordable housing. “I urge the Governor to push Albany legislators to adopt vacancy decontrol, make preferential rent permanent and repeal the twenty percent vacancy bonus and introduce a housing bond act to create more affordable housing,” she said. “In order to truly protect New Yorkers, we must ensure that everyone has access to safe and decent housing. It is the most critical step to creating a New York that is just and inclusive for all.”

Public Transportation
While Cuomo suggested that there is a congestion pricing plan in the works, he did not provide details, saying that he is waiting for his Fix NYC commission to "present options" to the Legislature. Any plan would be intended to create revenue for the MTA and reduce congestion into much of Manhattan, likely would add tolls on the East River bridges and other access points to the “Manhattan business district.”

He also appeared to take one of several jabs at de Blasio, who opposes congestion pricing and wants to see an added tax on high earners to additionally fund the MTA.

“These are difficult choices, but difficult choices do not get easier by ignoring them,” Cuomo said. “They only get harder. And in the meantime, cheap political slogans are just that—cheap political slogans. It's not a real policy or policy discussion. And that's what we need. Santa Claus did not visit the State Capitol this year. I was watching. Funding must be provided in a very tight budget and funding must be provided this session because the riders have suffered for too long, politics has gone on for too long, and we can't leave our riders stranded anymore -- period.”

Speaking with reporters, de Blasio reiterated that he believes passing an additional millionaires tax to pay for subway system repairs is achievable because his proposal only impacts New York City residents, not the main constituents of the Senate Republicans outside the city.

“It’s a way that we can solve our own problems. So, I’m going to keep working for that because I think it’s the right solution,” de Blasio said, adding, “No, I don’t think we’ve seen enough now to know what any congestion pricing option may look like.”

Public Safety
Cuomo opened his speech by noting the growing threats of terrorism, extreme weather, rising anti-semitism, and increasingly divisive politics. He proposed a number of initiatives aimed at making New York City, which is often a target for attacks, safer.

“Looking back, 2017 was a tough year by any measure, but New Yorkers once again rose to the occasion. We had frightening incidents of terrorism in New York City -- as Mayor Bill de Blasio well knows -- but we have the best police and first responders in the country and some of them are here today,” said Cuomo.

To address gang activity, Cuomo has proposed a plan to cut off the recruitment pipeline to eradicate MS-13, which has a strong presence in Long Island and parts of the five boroughs. Cuomo’s five-point plan would improve access to social programs -- including after-school education and job training for at-risk youth -- additional support for unaccompanied minors and bolstered law enforcement in gang hotspots.

He also introduced a number of counter terrorism initiatives, such as the construction of a new firefighter training facility to support the city’s first responders, expanded vehicle rental regulations, and a terrorism tip line.

“[T]he state owns many of the places of potential vulnerability, our bridges, tunnels, trains, buses and airports, our transit hubs like Penn Station and Grand Central,” Cuomo said. “Our transportation system must be better protected, and we must do it now. We have had warning.” He specifically cited Penn Station as vulnerable and said he already has plans in motion, while also referencing the possible use of eminent domain to make the surrounding area more secure.

Voting and Other Reforms
Leading up to his speech Cuomo unveiled parts of his “Democracy Agenda,” which aims to protect the integrity of elections, requires transparency for digital advertisements, and enact voting reforms.

Reform advocates, like Common Cause/NY’s Executive Director, Susan Lerner, welcomed the proposals but said that “the Governor proposed a high tech blanket to protect an antiquated election system that cries out for common-sense low-tech improvement.”

“It's not enough to simply pitch the idea of early voting – a crucial change that will bring New York in line with 37 other states- as well as same day voter registration, and no penalty absentee voting,” she said. “The Governor must put money behind it. Initiatives like automatic voter registration, electronic poll books, flexibility to change parties, and parolee voting rights are pivotal upgrades to our current system of elections administration that can not be ignored.”

The governor did not give much airtime to his government ethics and campaign finance initiatives this year, many of which are recycled from past years in his 2018 policy book. On Wednesday he talked briefly about ending outside income for lawmakers, and “spent less than a minute total discussing his remaining reforms,” said Jennifer Wilson, of The League of Women Voters.

The governor put forth several education initiatives, including to expand the availability of early childhood care, pre-kindergarten education, and afterschool; a proposal to guarantee free food for school children; and supports for teachers.

He also introduced a slew of measures to address the student loan debt crisis. Planks include appointing a Student Loan Ombudsman; requiring colleges to provide simple 'truth in lending' facts for students; and increasing consumer protection standards throughout the student loan industry.

De Blasio, after the event, told reporters he hopes to see a boost in education aid in the governor’s 2018-2019 budget proposal, which would help fund the city’s 3-K for All initiative.

Cuomo said he would call on the Port Authority and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to study potential options for relocating and improving maritime activities and enhancing transportation access to Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood and harbor. The plan would include the creation of a new subway line extending into the South Brooklyn neighborhood “to stimulate Red Hook’s community-based development.”

Citing the Trump administration’s efforts to scale back national parks, Cuomo vowed to open the largest state part in New York City, a 407-acre plot of land on Jamaica Bay.

He vowed to finally complete the Hudson River Park on Manhattan’s west side, a project started by his late father, former Governor Mario Cuomo, and Mayor David Dinkins.

“It was supposed to be finished in 2003. It was derailed by ongoing disputes. We now have settled the disputes. We now have a full completion plan that completes the park from Battery Park City to 59th Street,” said Cuomo.

Next Steps
Along with congestion pricing recommendations, Cuomo is also awaiting the results of a study he’s ordered of the possibility of eliminating a separate minimum wage for tipped workers, which could have significant impact in New York City.

Threats from the federal government loomed large at the State of the State, as the governor, who is facing reelection in 2018 and has presidential aspirations, painted himself as a unifying leader in the face of a divisive and hostile president.

While Cuomo prepares to release his executive budget plan in the coming weeks, he will continue to fight the federal tax overhaul and deal with other ways in which federal policies are cutting funds to New York. Still, Cuomo spoke in grand terms, saying that New York can accomplish anything it puts its mind to, as his tenure has shown.

“Ladies and gents I am a realist,” Cuomo said. “I know that this an ambitious agenda and I know it is probably the most challenging agenda that I have ever put forth. But these are challenging times, and we have to rise to the challenge for the very survival of our state.”

by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette

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New York City Takeaways from Governor Cuomo's 2018 State of the State Thu, 04 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Big Political News to Start 2018

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

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


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

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

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Big Political News to Start 2018 Wed, 03 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Sworn In for Second Term by Bernie Sanders, De Blasio Claims 'New Progressive Era' de Blasio Bernie Sanders inauguration progressives

De Blasio is sworn in by Sanders (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)

Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, was sworn in for a second and final term at City Hall on a frigid Monday afternoon, in a ceremony attended by nearly a thousand people and starring United States Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

De Blasio’s oath of office was administered by Sanders, the popular progressive leader who has championed policies to benefit middle- and working-class Americans, similar to the mayor’s own politics. In a fiery introduction, Sanders railed against the Trump administration while praising de Blasio’s first term record. “Instead of pandering to billionaires we have a government here which has chosen to listen to the needs of working families,” Sanders said.

The runner-up to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, Sanders had particular praise for the mayor’s signature universal pre-kindergarten program and also lauded the administration’s efforts in protecting immigrants, providing mental health services and tackling the affordability crisis through its affordable housing program. “The bottom line is that what Mayor de Blasio and his administration understand, is that in this country, in the home of Ellis Island, our job is to bring people together with love and compassion, and to end the divisions and the attacks that are taking place,” he said, casting the city’s efforts as wholly different from what is happening in the Republican-led federal government, especially the Trump administration.

De Blasio also spoke loftily, as is his style, of the “essence” of his second term. In relatively brief remarks, in which he repeatedly acknowledged the freezing temperature, he raised New York City as a model for the nation. He noted the city’s record-low crime rate in 2017, with the lowest number of murders since 1951, making it “the safest big city in America” and pledged that he would also work to make it “the fairest big city” in the country. He hearkened back to his reelection campaign, and his promise to New Yorkers who have been left behind in the city’s rapid but uneven prosperity.

“This is your city,” de Blasio said, repeating the slogan of his campaign and promising to pursue policies that promote affordability and “good-paying jobs.” De Blasio asserted that his administration “has begun a new progressive era in this city’s history.”

And, without mentioning Donald Trump, de Blasio pledged to stand up in the face of the growing divisiveness that defined the country’s zeitgeist for much of the two years. “We know the overt and gleeful prejudice that is suddenly en vogue spits in the face of all that has made our city great,” the mayor said, “and we will not be passive in the face of regression. We will not ignore or deny the threat, we will confront it head on. To do anything less would be an affront to our very identity as New Yorkers.”

Early in his remarks he congratulated the other two citywide elected officials, Public Advocate Letitia James and Comptroller Scott Stringer, fellow Democrats also beginning second terms. Notably, although both praised the mayor in their inaugural remarks, each also seemed to take digs at his administration. After crediting de Blasio for low crime and universal pre-K, Stringer spoke of the “sobering challenges” the city still faces, including a homelessness crisis that will see more than 60,000 people sleeping in shelters on Monday night. He decried the 33 percent increase in rents in the last ten years, while wages have not nearly grown apace, and the number of New Yorkers living in poverty. “Solving this crisis requires bold ideas and putting them into action,” he said.

James spoke more than the other two of her first-term accomplishments, including some in which she was pitted against the de Blasio administration. She claimed victory, for instance, in ensuring that students with disabilities are provided air-conditioned school buses, for which she sued the administration. And she spoke of marching in the rain with housing advocates to demand a more equitable and ambitious affordable housing program, specifically citing a proposal that the de Blasio administration has pushed back against.

It was a markedly different scene from four years ago, when de Blasio had been sworn in by former President Bill Clinton, with former Secretary of State and Senator Hillary Clinton and Governor Andrew Cuomo also in attendance. On Monday Cuomo was on Long Island presiding over the oath of office for newly-elected Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat.

Present at Monday’s New York City Hall ceremony were Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, and many City Council members. Former Mayor David Dinkins was also there, as was actor and education activist Cynthia Nixon, a de Blasio ally who attended four years ago and is now rumored as a potential primary challenger to Cuomo in his reelection bid this year. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York snuck in late during de Blasio’s speech, having been at another event beforehand.

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

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Sworn In for Second Term by Bernie Sanders, De Blasio Claims 'New Progressive Era' Mon, 01 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
City Council to Pass Bills Mandating Assessment of Vacant Lots vacant bldg via hpd

(photo via @NYCHousing)

Two years ago, Public Advocate Letitia James and City Council Members Jumaane Williams and Ydanis Rodriguez each introduced a bill under a set called the Housing Not Warehousing Act, a package aimed at reducing homelessness and increasing the city’s affordable housing stock. The bills seek to mandate an annual tally of the number of vacant lots and buildings in the city, determining which of those under city jurisdiction could be developed for affordable housing, while also requiring landlords with vacant properties to register them with the city.

Two of those bills, sponsored by the Council members, are set to be voted on by the Committee on Housing and Buildings, chaired by Williams, at a hearing on Monday. Following that, the bills are expected to head to the Council floor for a vote and approval on Tuesday at the last full meeting of the body in the current four-year session. They would then head to the desk of Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose administration has not supported the legislation.

The bills have strong support from housing advocates who have decried rising homelessness in the city as buildings remain unoccupied and lots remain undeveloped. The de Blasio administration continues to insist the city is doing everything in its power to utilize city-owned vacant lots for affordable housing, and have pushed back against a February 2016 report by City Comptroller Scott Stringer that indicated more than 1,100 lots that the city owns but were vacant.

[Related: Key to Affordable Housing Development, Vacant Lots Remain Source of Controversy]

Rodriguez’s bill would require the city to conduct an annual census and compile a list of vacant properties in the city, coordinating with numerous city agencies and departments, while Williams’ bill would mandate reporting by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) on the vacant lots and buildings under its jurisdiction, along with the potential for those properties to be used for creating affordable housing.

In a statement to Gotham Gazette, Williams said he was “proud” of his tenure as committee chair, “and what better way to end this term than by passing this legislation which puts in place additional tools we need to combat the urgent affordable housing and homelessness crisis we face in this city.” Williams also thanked James, Rodriguez, and “all of the activists who helped get us to this pivotal moment of progress.”

Rodriguez, in a statement, called the act an "important step" in tackling the city's affordable housing crisis. "By identifying vacant properties, we can turn them into permanent affordable housing units for our working families and our neediest New Yorkers, and prevent homelessness." he said.

James’ bill, which is not on the schedule for Monday’s hearing, takes aim at private landlords and the property they keep empty. The bill would have required landlords to register with the city buildings that have been vacant longer than a year. It mandates fines - between $100 and $500 every week - for those landlords that fail to renew those registrations every year.

Williams did not address the exclusion of the public advocate’s bill from the package, but Kevin Fagan, a spokesperson for the Council member, said it was a “pretty common situation” for a bill to be left out of a legislative package when it goes to a vote. All three of the bills have at least 30 sponsors in the 51-seat Council. Fagan pointed to the recent Construction Safety Act, also sponsored by Williams, as an instance where bills in the final approved package did not all pass at the same time.

“While we're disappointed the entire Housing Not Warehousing Act will not be voted upon, it is promising that two bills that seek to address our affordable crisis are coming to the floor for a vote,” said James, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “We must leave no stone unturned when it comes to building affordable housing, and that includes utilizing our vacant lots and properties. We are hopeful that Int. 1034 will pass quickly in the next session.”

Charmel Lucas, a member of Picture the Homeless, an advocacy group that has pushed for these bills, said in a statement that the group was glad the two bills will be voted on and that the group would continue to work with the public advocate to help pass her bill in 2018. “We're grateful to all the council members who had our back on bringing this important issue to a vote, including the current speaker candidates,” Lucas said. “These bills will help homeless people get the housing they need. By identifying vacant property that landlords are sitting on for decades, we can take steps to develop them into extremely-low-income housing."

There was some good news for the public advocate, however. A separate bill she sponsors -- requiring HPD to provide more information on owners of buildings and the violations and complaints they face -- will be approved at the same Monday committee hearing. “Transparency is critical for New Yorkers seeking to hold unscrupulous landlords accountable,” James said, touting the Worst Landlords Watchlist published by her office every year. “This bill will create an easy-to-use database that allows tenants to identify patterns of abuse and harassment by landlords across buildings, further empowering and protecting tenants.”

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

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Note - This article has been updated to include comment from Council Member Rodriguez and to clarify Fagan's comments on the Construction Safety bill. 

City Council to Pass Bills Mandating Assessment of Vacant Lots Fri, 15 Dec 2017 05:00:00 +0000
2017 New York City General Election Results voting elections New York City

(photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)

Mayor Bill de Blasio won reelection on Tuesday, earning about two-thirds of the vote in another low-turnout election -- about 1,070,000 voters cast ballots in the mayoral race. De Blasio's fellow incumbent citywide Democrats, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James, also won reelection, each with about three-quarters of the vote.

Among the most notable other votes cast in New York this Election Day, the constitutional convention ballot question -- proposal one on the back of the ballot -- was resoundly defeated, with more than 83% voting "no" statewide. Proposition two, which would allow the stripping of pensions from elected officials convicted of corruption, passed, and proposition three, allowing some opening up of preserved upstate land for important infrastructure projects, also passed. All three were statewide referendums, as voters went to the polls across New York, including in some interesting mayoral and county executive contests.

In New York City, though, de Blasio defeated six other candidates on the ballot, receiving about 66% of the vote, with Republican Nicole Malliotakis coming in second, earning about 28% of the vote. The other candidates -- Sal Albanese (Reform), Akeem Browder (Green), Mike Tolkin (Smart Cities), Bo Dietl (Dump the Mayor), and Aaron Commey (Libertarian) -- all finished at 2% or lower. Dietl, who raised and spent over $1 million and was included in both televised debates, got just 1% of the vote.

Stringer's Republican opponent, Michel Faulkner, came in second in the comptroller race with nearly 20% of the vote. Green Party nominee Julia Willebrand and Libertarian Alex Merced came in distant third and fourth, respectively.

James' Republican opponent, J.C. Polanco, came in second in the public advocate race with about 16% of the vote. Michael O'Reilly, the Conservative Party nominee, got about 8%; Green Party nominee James Lane about 2%; and Libertarian Devin Balkind under 1%.

Democrats Eric Gonzalez and Cyrus Vance won their Brooklyn and Manhattan District Attorney races overwhelmingly.

All five borough presidents were easily reelected with at least 75% of the vote: Gale Brewer in Manhattan; Ruben Diaz, Jr. in the Bronx; Eric Adams in Brooklyn; Melinda Katz in Queens -- all Democrats -- and James Oddo, a Republican, on Staten Island.

Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh won a special election to the state Senate, taking the Brooklyn and Manhattan seat vacated by Daniel Squadron earlier this year.

The following City Council results came in on Election Day -- it is worth noting that Council District 30, in Queens, appears headed to a recount after, in a bit of a surprise, incumbent Democrat City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley appers on the verge of losing to Robert Holden, who had lost the Democratic primary to Crowley but ran in the general on several ballot lines, including Republican.

Council District 1: Margaret Chin, a Democrat, will win with about 50% of the vote, with Christopher Marte coming in second with about 37%. This, after Marte lost the Democratic primary to Chin by just over 200 votes.

CD2: Carlina Rivera, Democrat, elected

CD3: Corey Johnson, Democrat, reelected

CD4: Keith Powers, Democrat, elected with 57% of the vote; Republican Rebecca Harary received about 31%; Liberal Party nominee Rachel Honig got 12%.

CD5: Ben Kallos, Democrat, reelected

CD6: Helen Rosenthal, Democrat, reelected

CD7: Mark Levine, Democrat, reelected

CD8: Diana Ayala, Democrat, elected

CD9: Bill Perkins, Democrat, reelected

CD10: Ydanis Rodriguez, Democrat, reelected

CD11: Andrew Cohen, Democrat, reelected

CD12: Andy King, Democrat, reelected

CD13: Mark Gjonaj, Democrat, elected with 49% of the vote; Republican John Cerini received 36%; and Working Families Party nominee Marjorie Velazquez, who did not campaign in the general, received 13%

CD14: Fernando Cabrera, Democrat, reelected

CD15: Ritchie Torres, Democrat, reelected

CD16: Vanessa Gibson, Democrat, reelected

CD17: Rafael Salamanca, Democrat, reelected

CD18: Ruben Diaz, Sr., Democrat, elected

CD19: Paul Vallone, Democrat, reelected with 56% of the vote; Republican Konstantinos Poulidis received 25%; and Reform Party nominee Paul Graziano received 18%

CD20: Peter Koo, Democrat, reelected

CD21: Francisco Moya, Democrat, elected

CD22: Costa Constantinides, Democrat, reelected

CD23: Barry Grodenchik, Democrat, reelected

CD24: Rory Lancman, Democrat, reelected

CD25: Danny Dromm, Democrat, reelected

CD26: Jimmy Van Bramer, Democrat, reelected

CD27: I. Daneek Miller, Democrat, reelected

CD28: Adrienne Adams, Democrat, elected

CD29: Karen Koslowitz, Democrat, reelected

CD30: TBD, either incumbent Elizabeth Crowley (Democrat) or challenger Robert Holden (Republican)

CD31: Donovan Richards, Democrat, reelected

CD32: Eric Ulrich, Republican, reelected with 66% of the vote; Democrat Mike Scala received about 34%

CD33: Stephen Levin, Democrat, reelected

CD34: Antonio Reynoso, Democrat, reelected

CD35: Laurie Cumbo, Democrat, reelected with 68% of the vote; Green Party nominee Jabari Brisport received about 29%

CD36: Robert Cornegy, Jr., Democrat, reelected, reelected

CD37: Rafael Espinal, Democrat, reelected

CD38: Carlos Menchaca, Democrat, reelected

CD39: Brad Lander, Democrat, reelected

CD40: Mathieu Eugene, Democrat, reelected with 60% of the vote; Reform Party nominee Brian Cunningham received about 36%

CD41: Alicka Ampry-Samuel, Democrat, elected

CD42: Inez Barron, Democrat, reelected

CD43: Justin Brannan, Democrat, elected with about 51% of the vote; Republican John Quaglione received about 47%

CD44: Kalman Yeger, Democrat, elected, with 67% of the vote; Yoni Hikind, running on the Our Community line, received about 29%

CD45: Jumaane Williams, Democrat, reelected

CD46: Alan Maisel, Democrat, reelected

CD47: Mark Treyger, Democrat, reelected

CD48: Chaim Deutsch, Democrat, reelected

CD49: Debroah Rose, Democrat, reelected

CD50: Steve Matteo, Republican, reelected

CD51: Joseph Borelli, Republican, reelected

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

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2017 New York City General Election Results Tue, 07 Nov 2017 05:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Analyzing the Public Advocate & Comptroller Debates

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

October 18, 2017 - Max & Murphy: Analyzing the Public Advocate and Comptroller Debates

brigid at debate nyc votesThe lone public advocate and comptroller debates of the election cycle occurred on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. Brigid Bergin of WNYC radio (pictured, middle) was one of the panelists asking questions at the comptroller debate between incumbent Democrat Scott Stringer and Republican challenger Michel Faulkner, and she joins this episode of Max & Murphy to recap and analyze that debate and the debate between incumbent Democrat Letitia James and Republican challenger J.C. Polanco in the public advocate race.

Bergin, Max, and Murphy also discussed the state of the mayoral race as we are less than three weeks before Election Day, November 7. The second and final mayoral debate is set for November 1.

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

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Analyzing the Public Advocate & Comptroller Debates Wed, 18 Oct 2017 04:00:00 +0000