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/minimum-wage 2017-12-14T00:26:39+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com De Blasio's Record on Poverty and Inequality 2017-10-31T04:00:00+00:00 2017-10-31T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7280:de-blasio-s-record-on-poverty-and-inequality Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/37243746344_76954aa35e_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio equality shaking hands crowd" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio at an announcement (photo:&nbsp;Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p><strong><em>This article is part of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7221-dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection">a series on Mayor de Blasio's first term record</a>&nbsp;as he seeks reelection this fall, in partnership with WNYC radio and City Limits.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7221-dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection">Find all pieces of the series here</a>.</em></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;">**********</p> <p>Bill&nbsp;de Blasio ran for Mayor in 2013 as an unabashed progressive, painting the image of a city cleaved in an even two by its wealth distribution. There existed, he explained, a relatively small class of New Yorkers at the top holding the majority of the city’s wealth and making immense sums of income each year. The rest, a large underclass of New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet, left behind during the boom of the Bloomberg years and decades of insufficient federal policy, especially on taxes and redistribution of wealth. De Blasio envisioned, with lofty rhetoric and ambitious policies, bridging that gap and pulling up those at the bottom while asking those doing very well to chip in a bit more.</p> <p>He was elected overwhelmingly.</p> <p>“New York has faced fiscal collapse, a crime epidemic, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters. But now, in our time, we face a different crisis – an inequality crisis,” de Blasio declared in his <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/02/nyregion/complete-text-of-bill-de-blasios-inauguration-speech.html?mcubz=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">inaugural address</a> as mayor on January 1, 2014. “It’s not often the stuff of banner headlines in our daily newspapers. It’s a quiet crisis, but one no less pernicious than those that have come before.”</p> <p>Equity became the foundation of the de Blasio administration, enshrined in virtually every policy coming from City Hall and, more comprehensively, in the <a href="https://onenyc.cityofnewyork.us/visions/equity/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">OneNYC roadmap</a> for the city’s future, which sets poverty reduction and other goals to fulfill de Blasio’s promises.</p> <p>Whether it’s affordable housing, sustainability, economic development, community infrastructure, or education, the administration has sought to build equity, though de Blasio has at times been accused of not going far enough by those who had immense expectations of him. Tellingly, under de Blasio, the annual Mayor’s Management Report, which is mandated by law and details the accomplishments of more than 40 city agencies on hundreds of performance indicators, included for the first time evaluations of agency efforts for their “focus on equity.”</p> <p>With data showing an acute poverty problem in New York City, amid its immense wealth and gleaming towers, de Blasio sought to drastically increase opportunities available to poor, working class, and middle class people, and reduce the number of people in or near poverty, a rate that stood at <a href="https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_08_1YR_S1701&amp;prodType=table" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly</a> 21 percent -- or 1.74 million people -- when he took office.</p> <p>De Blasio set the city on a path that he believes will reach the OneNYC goal of pulling 800,000 New Yorkers out of poverty or near poverty by 2025. And though the results of many of his policy actions cannot easily be gauged in the short term, there are a few clear indicators that the city’s approach is working. Notably, between 2014 and the end of 2017, about 281,000 New Yorkers will have left poverty or near-poverty simply due to an increase in the minimum wage to $11. That wage, set by state policy that de Blasio and his allies have helped influence, is <a href="https://www.govdocs.com/new-york-state-15-minimum-wage-paid-family-leave/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">set to jump</a> to $13 at the start of 2018 and hit $15 per hour in New York City on December 31, 2018 for companies with 11 or more employees (the wages will be $12 then $14 for smaller companies).</p> <p>According to five-year estimates from the <a href="https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/community_facts.xhtml" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">American Community Survey</a> for 2011-2015, about 20.6 percent of New York City residents lived below the federal poverty level. The latest one-year <a href="https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_16_SPL_K201701&amp;prodType=table" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ACS supplemental estimates</a> for 2016, released September 14, show improvement. People living under the poverty level in New York City, measured by the federal threshold, fell to 18.9 percent or 1.59 million New Yorkers, itself still an astonishingly large number. And, the number remained marginally higher than the pre-recession poverty level of 18.5 percent in 2008 and far higher than the national poverty level of 14 percent in 2016.</p> <p>The federal measure only takes into account pre-tax cash income. New York City has its own poverty measure which also accounts for non-cash benefits, tax credits, and housing subsidies, and sets a threshold that includes housing costs to judge poverty more accurately. By <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/opportunity/pdf/NYCgovPovMeas2017-Highlights.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">city estimates</a>, poverty in the city is at its lowest since the Great Recession, at 19.9 percent in 2015, down from 20.7 in 2013. The city’s data does not account for the latest ACS microdata yet.</p> <p>Although the mayor has little control over the broad contours of the economy, he has been able to use the significant authority at the local level to enact a multi-faceted approach to lifting up wages, giving low-wage earners better opportunities, and enhancing access to city services for New York’s most disadvantaged residents.</p> <p>In his first term, de Blasio has invested heavily in early childhood education and the universal pre-kindergarten program, his signature achievement, is serving nearly 70,000 children in 2017 (up from 20,000 prior to the UPK expansion) and is estimated by the city to have put $1.4 billion back in the pockets of New Yorkers who do not have to pay for child care. About 500,000 people were covered by the city’s expansion of paid sick leave in 2014, especially helping low-wage workers become more likely to keep their jobs if they get sick and need to miss work.</p> <p>And though the city’s homelessness crisis continues to be blight on the mayor’s record, he has taken steps to stem the tide by funding free legal assistance for tenants in housing court and increasing rental subsidies for low-income families. In the lead up to Election Day, de Blasio announced an expansion of his affordable housing program, from a target of 200,000 affordable rental units over 10 years to 300,000 over 12.</p> <p>On Tuesday, the mayor said he would also double the number of units planned for seniors from 15,000 to 30,000. This, after having adjusted his housing plan earlier this year to increase the number of deeply affordable units and those for seniors.</p> <p>De Blasio has increased funding and attention to NYCHA, the public housing authority home to about half a million New Yorkers, while launching a community parks initiative and a variety of other programs aimed at equity across neighborhoods and demographics. IDNYC, the city’s municipal identity program with 863,464 card holders, allowed more New Yorkers, particularly undocumented immigrants, to avail of city services. These are among other initiatives, both large and small, that the administration has set in motion to increase opportunity, especially for those struggling.</p> <p>Most significantly in terms of income inequality, de Blasio made a concerted effort in his first term to push for a higher minimum wage at the local and state level. The increase in the minimum wage from $7.25 in 2013 to $11 has had its intended consequences. Last year, the mayor approved an increase to a $15 minimum wage, by the end of 2018, for all city employees and nonprofit human services contractors, the groups for which he has discretion. He also instituted a paid family leave program for 20,000 city workers whose contracts are not part of labor union collective bargaining. New York State followed in the city’s footsteps by announcing its $15 minimum wage program, which is phased in faster in New York City than several other parts of the state, and a paid family leave program that begins its phase-in in 2018.</p> <p>“De Blasio deserves a lot of credit for that, and it appears to be having a pronounced effect in reducing poverty,” said James Parrott, director of economic and fiscal policy at the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs, of the minimum wage efforts.</p> <p>Other than the paid sick leave law and universal pre-kindergarten, according to Parrott, a chief accomplishment of the administration has been the settling of 99.1 percent of expired municipal union contracts, which gave many low- and moderate-income workers wage increases. Parrott also cited other positive developments, including new labor protections for freelancers and the creation of an Office of Labor Standards at the Department of Consumer Affairs. “I’m not gonna give [de Blasio] all the credit but the things he has done have led to some pretty remarkable improvements in wages and incomes of the bottom 30-40 percent of the income distribution since 2013,” Parrott said.</p> <p>Parrott also noted that there are limitations in judging progress from the federal poverty measure or from the Gini coefficient, a statistical tool used by the U.S. Census to measure income inequality. Instead, Parrott prefers to use income tax data, which he said shows a more complete picture of wealth distribution, combined with other data measures on wages and family income. All these together, he said, have shown “the best improvements in the last 30 to 40 years, it could even be 50 years if we had comparable data to make a careful comparison.”</p> <p>An encouraging trend, evinced from 2016 census data, is that median household income in 2016 &nbsp;was $58,856, up from $56,457 in 2015, and surpassing the pre-recession peak level of $56,982 in 2008, according to an <a href="https://www.cccnewyork.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Census-Data-Statement.9.14.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">analysis</a> by the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York. Median incomes for families with children grew at 10.4 percent between 2015-2016, outpacing overall household income growth. Black and Latino New Yorkers benefited from the largest decreases in poverty rates -- nearly 2 percentage points each -- and poverty fell across racial and ethnic groups. The report did point out some worrying trends. Poverty on Staten Island, for instance, was 3.2 points higher than pre-recession levels; income increases were concentrated in Manhattan and Brooklyn; and the gap in median household income for racial and ethnic groups, which expanded during the recession, has continued to grow.</p> <p>Jennifer March, executive director of CCCNY, praised numerous policies enacted by the de Blasio administration that are “positioned as vehicles to combat income inequality,” including universal prekindergarten and its planned expansion to three-year-olds, the paid sick leave expansion, the minimum wage increase, the recent implementation of free universal school lunch and universal after-school programs for middle school students. She also commended initiatives such as the piloting of child savings accounts, and the overall efforts at creating affordable housing and rent freezes for rent-regulated tenants.</p> <p>“Those things combined really suggest that he has an ambitious multi-pronged approach to help families and New Yorkers afford to live here and to reduce the gap between those that are earning more and those that are really struggling,” she said.</p> <p>In 2015, de Blasio launched an ill-fated attempt to influence the national conversation around income inequality through a nonprofit organization that brought together progressive elected officials, leaders, and celebrities from across the country. The nonprofit, the Progressive Agenda Committee, fizzled out after an unsuccessful bid to host a presidential candidate forum in Iowa in late 2015, and de Blasio’s message about economic inequality and the need to put it at the forefront of the Democratic platform was largely subsumed by the candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.</p> <p>Since the election of President Donald Trump, de Blasio has doubled down on his agenda, pushing multiple proposed tax increases on wealthy New Yorkers -- which would require action by the State -- to fund items such as affordable housing for seniors and subsidized transit fares for low-income commuters. De Blasio has regularly criticized the Hillary Clinton campaign for not focusing on economic populism enough.</p> <p>As he heads toward an expected second term, de Blasio has announced a shift to actively creating better paying jobs in burgeoning economic sectors and building talent pipelines to ensure that New York City residents are the beneficiaries of city-funded economic growth. He acknowledged, in a sobering <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/081-17/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-presents-2017-state-the-city" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">State of the City speech</a> this year, that “people are so fundamentally challenged by the affordability crisis that this city simply must do more and must do it quickly.” &nbsp;</p> <p>“So many people love this city. But here is a blunt truth,” he said. “They love it, but that doesn't mean it's easy to live here. Right? For a lot of seniors, this is not an easy place to live. For a lot of young people just starting out, it's not so easy. For folks struggling to make ends meet, this can be a punishing environment.”</p> <p>De Blasio announced the broad contours of a plan to use city resources to spur the growth of 100,000 jobs paying at least $50,000 over a 10-year period. A few months later, he and his team unveiled a more detailed plan, which was met with snickers about a lack of detail and questions about its necessity, or whether it is more of an election year gimmick.</p> <p>As many people evaluate the mayor in his reelection bid, the stubborn nature of income inequality and the fact that so many New Yorkers continue to struggle to live secure, decent lives raise questions about de Blasio’s ability to deliver on his core 2013 promises. The mayor has largely shifted his lens, at least when speaking publicly, from income inequality and toward efforts to lift up those at the bottom.</p> <p>De Blasio is, in part, a victim of his own rhetoric, says Alex Armlovich, adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. “That wasn’t a good promise to make on the mayoral level,” said Armlovich, of the mayor’s commitment to fight the “tale of two cities” that he evoked on the campaign trail. “Inequality is a national issue. At the local level, [population] displacement and retention effects are going to swamp your efforts to reduce inequality.”</p> <p>In <a href="https://www.manhattan-institute.org/sites/default/files/IB-AA-1017.pdf">a report</a> released earlier this month, Armlovich noted that income inequality as judged by the Gini coefficient has in fact remained flat under de Blasio and that changes in income inequality were affected by compensation trends in the financial sector rather than by the city’s policies. The Gini measures income distribution on a scale of 0 to 1, and the higher it is, the higher the inequality. The city’s Gini score in 2016 was about 0.55. Armlovich pointed out that city policies that help poor New Yorkers live in the city, such as more affordable housing, naturally increase the Gini, even though they are laudable policy goals, because they wind up keeping many low-income people from moving elsewhere.</p> <p>Debate over the use of the Gini notwithstanding, Armlovich said the mayor should focus on providing equitable services across the five boroughs. “That’s what you can hold the mayor accountable for, because the mayor doesn’t control the economy,” he said. “His whole mistake in all of this was making himself politically accountable for a statistic that he doesn’t control.”</p> <p>In an interview with&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/mayor-de-blasio-visits-daily-news-editorial-board-audio-article-1.3572377" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Daily News editorial board</a>, the mayor insisted that the static Gini score was not reflective of a failure by his administration. “I'm very comfortable saying when I think something that I've done has not worked, or hasn't worked well enough,” he said. “But on this one, because we have seen job growth, we have seen wage growth, we have seen people getting out of poverty, we certainly have tangible evidence of reducing people's economic burdens. I think the central question is, were we going to give folks, low-income folks, working class people, middle class people, all of whom felt economically stuck, were we gonna give them more upward mobility? That's the central question in New York. It's also the central question in the country. Here we've been able to prove, not just because of public sector policies, but sustainability because of public sector policies, that we can increase upward mobility. That doesn't answer the question about the rich getting richer. Now, again, how do you address that? In my view, most notably, through tax policy.”</p> <p>Indeed, income is one measure of inequality, and de Blasio has consistently sought to go further, whether in his attention to NYCHA or his parks or community schools efforts. He’s increased the city’s annual operating budget by about 18% since taking office, up to its current $85 billion, in large part to expand services and add to the public payroll, including thousands more early education teachers, police officers, and others. While some can aptly criticize this budget growth and others question how effective additional spending has been in certain areas, there is little question that de Blasio has heavily invested taxpayer money in building equity.</p> <p>The CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance devised the <a href="http://2pamhxjr83j1pnmowx9otlyb.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Equality-Indicators-Annual-Report-2016.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NYC Equality Score</a>, a tool for a more holistic view of inequality in the city, first published in 2015, with 95 indicators across six areas: economy, education, health, housing, justice, and services. Out of a possible 100, the city’s 2016 score was 46.01, up from 45.45 in 2015. “These scores suggest that NYC continues to be characterized by vast inequalities, and that when looking at the city as a whole, little has changed,” the report reads. “Generally speaking this score means that overall, the disadvantaged groups represented here are almost twice as likely as those not disadvantaged to experience negative outcomes in fundamental areas of life, as measured by the Equality Indicators.”</p> <p>“It’s such a daunting challenge,” said City Council Member Stephen Levin, chair of the general welfare committee, which tackles with issues including poverty and homelessness (and was once chaired by de Blasio himself), “because you’re dealing with broader economic issues, you’re dealing with the persistent challenge of lack of affordable housing, and you’re dealing with the issues in Albany.” Levin was referring to state government, where Republicans hold power over the state Senate and often put the kibosh on progressive legislation floated by Democrats who control the Assembly and supported by de Blasio. Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who de Blasio often feuds with, is inconsistent in his support for policies backed by the mayor, regularly opposing any tax increases.</p> <p>Levin, a fellow Brooklyn Democrat who has endorsed de Blasio for reelection, said the mayor’s dedication on equity is “indisputable.” “This mayor and administration are using every tool in their toolbox,” he said, lamenting their inability to affect larger trends that can be influenced much more strongly by either state or federal policy. “I expect that over the next four years, this continues to be a priority.”</p> <p>De Blasio does face significant challenges ahead. Federal policy proposals on taxes and healthcare threaten to blow holes in the state and city budgets, and could shred the city’s social safety net. Large-scale budget cuts at a time when the city’s budget has ballooned by billions of dollars would put the mayor in a tough spot, despite the significant rainy day funds built up over the last four years.</p> <p>“What remains to be fixed is the highly regressive nature of the local tax structure, and mainly the property tax system,” said Parrott, of the New School. “He has to really work on it to figure out how to build the alliance in Albany. And he’s gotta keep making tweaks to his policies on affordable housing, homelessness, and education.” De Blasio has promised to push property tax reform if he’s reelected but has not provided specific details for addressing a system that is seen as disadvantageous to many middle-class New Yorkers of color because of how assessments are made in part based on geography.</p> <p>CCCNY’s March said the mayor should advocate for deepening the earned income tax credit and the child care tax credit, both of which bolster the finances of working families and would require the state to pass legislation. “I think the challenge he will face moving forward, assuming he’s reelected, is the federal context in which we’re working,” she said, noting for instance that 900,000 children in New York rely on some form of public health insurance, which face proposed federal cuts. She also stressed the need for increased investment in affordable housing and reducing family homelessness. “One of the biggest conundrums will be that incomes have not kept pace with rising rents in the city,” she said, pointing to a challenge frequently cited by de Blasio and his top aides, like social services Commissioner Steven Banks.</p> <p>“Many of the things that he started in his first term, we will see the real benefits of years from now,” March added. “Whether that’s universal pre-K, universal school lunch, or universal after-school for middle school, all of those things. It’s the consistent access that populations have to programs that are designed to promote school preparedness or reduce hunger or promote a college-oriented identity, over time we will see the results of these things.”</p> <p>Mayoral spokesperson Eric Phillips declined to comment for this article. Emails and messages to spokespersons for the Human Resources Administration/Department of Social Services went unanswered.</p> <p>A <a href="https://poll.qu.edu/new-york-city/release-detail?ReleaseID=2475">Quinnipiac University Poll</a> from July 31 showed that a majority of New Yorkers, 63 percent, disapproved of the way de Blasio has handled poverty and homelessness while only 29 percent approved. In eight polls conducted by Quinnipiac between 2015 and 2017, it was the worst appraisal the mayor received on the issue, likely due to the problems de Blasio has had in controlling and reducing homelessness.</p> <p>Another particular issue related to poverty and inequality where de Blasio has disappointed advocates has been his lack of direct support for the “Fair Fares” proposal, which would provide half-price MetroCards to 800,000 low-income New Yorkers.</p> <p>The proposal was created by two advocacy groups, the Community Service Society and Riders Alliance. De Blasio refused to fund the proposal in the city budget and wouldn’t support a pilot program floated by the City Council either, instead insisting the state-run MTA should provide the funds to those riding its services. Eventually, in his “Fair Fix” proposal for funding mass transit through a tax increase on the highest-earning New Yorkers -- which would need state-level approval -- the mayor included a set-aside for Fair Fares, which he called an “ultimate act of justice” despite his hesitance to identify the roughly $200 million to cover it annually. It’s unlikely that the state Senate, run by Republicans, or Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who largely opposes tax increases, would approve the so-called millionaires tax in 2018, which is a state-level election year.</p> <p>“That would have a significant impact on low-income New Yorkers, first financially, but also by helping them access better jobs, training, things that would increase their upward mobility,” said Nancy Rankin, vice president for policy, research and advocacy, CSS. “It’s unfathomable to us why [Mayor de Blasio] wouldn’t want to do something that’s at the core of what he says his administration is about. That’s why people voted for him. That’s a practical step that would make an enormous difference in people’s lives.”</p> <p>Council Member Levin holds out hope that the balance of the state Legislature would shift in next year’s election cycle towards Democrats who are friendlier to New York City and its progressive priorities. “Hopefully some of the dynamics shift and we can move the dial in a more accelerated way,” he said.</p> <p>Jesse Laymon, director of policy and advocacy at the New York City Employment and Training Coalition, an organization comprised of more than 150 workforce providers, praised the de Blasio administration for leveraging economic growth into lifting wages at the bottom of the economic ladder, but nonetheless had pointed criticism for their policies. “It’s one thing to make it less terrible to be poor in New York, and I think they’ve done a good job of making it less terrible to be poor, but they have not done a great job of making it easier to get out of poverty,” he said. “And that’s really the goal that they should focus more attention on in the second term.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">**********</p> <p><strong><em>This article is part of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7221-dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection">a series on Mayor de Blasio's first term record</a>&nbsp;as he seeks reelection this fall, in partnership with WNYC radio and City Limits.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7221-dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection">Find all pieces of the series here</a>.</em></strong></p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/37243746344_76954aa35e_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio equality shaking hands crowd" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio at an announcement (photo:&nbsp;Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p><strong><em>This article is part of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7221-dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection">a series on Mayor de Blasio's first term record</a>&nbsp;as he seeks reelection this fall, in partnership with WNYC radio and City Limits.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7221-dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection">Find all pieces of the series here</a>.</em></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;">**********</p> <p>Bill&nbsp;de Blasio ran for Mayor in 2013 as an unabashed progressive, painting the image of a city cleaved in an even two by its wealth distribution. There existed, he explained, a relatively small class of New Yorkers at the top holding the majority of the city’s wealth and making immense sums of income each year. The rest, a large underclass of New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet, left behind during the boom of the Bloomberg years and decades of insufficient federal policy, especially on taxes and redistribution of wealth. De Blasio envisioned, with lofty rhetoric and ambitious policies, bridging that gap and pulling up those at the bottom while asking those doing very well to chip in a bit more.</p> <p>He was elected overwhelmingly.</p> <p>“New York has faced fiscal collapse, a crime epidemic, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters. But now, in our time, we face a different crisis – an inequality crisis,” de Blasio declared in his <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/02/nyregion/complete-text-of-bill-de-blasios-inauguration-speech.html?mcubz=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">inaugural address</a> as mayor on January 1, 2014. “It’s not often the stuff of banner headlines in our daily newspapers. It’s a quiet crisis, but one no less pernicious than those that have come before.”</p> <p>Equity became the foundation of the de Blasio administration, enshrined in virtually every policy coming from City Hall and, more comprehensively, in the <a href="https://onenyc.cityofnewyork.us/visions/equity/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">OneNYC roadmap</a> for the city’s future, which sets poverty reduction and other goals to fulfill de Blasio’s promises.</p> <p>Whether it’s affordable housing, sustainability, economic development, community infrastructure, or education, the administration has sought to build equity, though de Blasio has at times been accused of not going far enough by those who had immense expectations of him. Tellingly, under de Blasio, the annual Mayor’s Management Report, which is mandated by law and details the accomplishments of more than 40 city agencies on hundreds of performance indicators, included for the first time evaluations of agency efforts for their “focus on equity.”</p> <p>With data showing an acute poverty problem in New York City, amid its immense wealth and gleaming towers, de Blasio sought to drastically increase opportunities available to poor, working class, and middle class people, and reduce the number of people in or near poverty, a rate that stood at <a href="https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_08_1YR_S1701&amp;prodType=table" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly</a> 21 percent -- or 1.74 million people -- when he took office.</p> <p>De Blasio set the city on a path that he believes will reach the OneNYC goal of pulling 800,000 New Yorkers out of poverty or near poverty by 2025. And though the results of many of his policy actions cannot easily be gauged in the short term, there are a few clear indicators that the city’s approach is working. Notably, between 2014 and the end of 2017, about 281,000 New Yorkers will have left poverty or near-poverty simply due to an increase in the minimum wage to $11. That wage, set by state policy that de Blasio and his allies have helped influence, is <a href="https://www.govdocs.com/new-york-state-15-minimum-wage-paid-family-leave/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">set to jump</a> to $13 at the start of 2018 and hit $15 per hour in New York City on December 31, 2018 for companies with 11 or more employees (the wages will be $12 then $14 for smaller companies).</p> <p>According to five-year estimates from the <a href="https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/community_facts.xhtml" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">American Community Survey</a> for 2011-2015, about 20.6 percent of New York City residents lived below the federal poverty level. The latest one-year <a href="https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_16_SPL_K201701&amp;prodType=table" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ACS supplemental estimates</a> for 2016, released September 14, show improvement. People living under the poverty level in New York City, measured by the federal threshold, fell to 18.9 percent or 1.59 million New Yorkers, itself still an astonishingly large number. And, the number remained marginally higher than the pre-recession poverty level of 18.5 percent in 2008 and far higher than the national poverty level of 14 percent in 2016.</p> <p>The federal measure only takes into account pre-tax cash income. New York City has its own poverty measure which also accounts for non-cash benefits, tax credits, and housing subsidies, and sets a threshold that includes housing costs to judge poverty more accurately. By <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/opportunity/pdf/NYCgovPovMeas2017-Highlights.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">city estimates</a>, poverty in the city is at its lowest since the Great Recession, at 19.9 percent in 2015, down from 20.7 in 2013. The city’s data does not account for the latest ACS microdata yet.</p> <p>Although the mayor has little control over the broad contours of the economy, he has been able to use the significant authority at the local level to enact a multi-faceted approach to lifting up wages, giving low-wage earners better opportunities, and enhancing access to city services for New York’s most disadvantaged residents.</p> <p>In his first term, de Blasio has invested heavily in early childhood education and the universal pre-kindergarten program, his signature achievement, is serving nearly 70,000 children in 2017 (up from 20,000 prior to the UPK expansion) and is estimated by the city to have put $1.4 billion back in the pockets of New Yorkers who do not have to pay for child care. About 500,000 people were covered by the city’s expansion of paid sick leave in 2014, especially helping low-wage workers become more likely to keep their jobs if they get sick and need to miss work.</p> <p>And though the city’s homelessness crisis continues to be blight on the mayor’s record, he has taken steps to stem the tide by funding free legal assistance for tenants in housing court and increasing rental subsidies for low-income families. In the lead up to Election Day, de Blasio announced an expansion of his affordable housing program, from a target of 200,000 affordable rental units over 10 years to 300,000 over 12.</p> <p>On Tuesday, the mayor said he would also double the number of units planned for seniors from 15,000 to 30,000. This, after having adjusted his housing plan earlier this year to increase the number of deeply affordable units and those for seniors.</p> <p>De Blasio has increased funding and attention to NYCHA, the public housing authority home to about half a million New Yorkers, while launching a community parks initiative and a variety of other programs aimed at equity across neighborhoods and demographics. IDNYC, the city’s municipal identity program with 863,464 card holders, allowed more New Yorkers, particularly undocumented immigrants, to avail of city services. These are among other initiatives, both large and small, that the administration has set in motion to increase opportunity, especially for those struggling.</p> <p>Most significantly in terms of income inequality, de Blasio made a concerted effort in his first term to push for a higher minimum wage at the local and state level. The increase in the minimum wage from $7.25 in 2013 to $11 has had its intended consequences. Last year, the mayor approved an increase to a $15 minimum wage, by the end of 2018, for all city employees and nonprofit human services contractors, the groups for which he has discretion. He also instituted a paid family leave program for 20,000 city workers whose contracts are not part of labor union collective bargaining. New York State followed in the city’s footsteps by announcing its $15 minimum wage program, which is phased in faster in New York City than several other parts of the state, and a paid family leave program that begins its phase-in in 2018.</p> <p>“De Blasio deserves a lot of credit for that, and it appears to be having a pronounced effect in reducing poverty,” said James Parrott, director of economic and fiscal policy at the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs, of the minimum wage efforts.</p> <p>Other than the paid sick leave law and universal pre-kindergarten, according to Parrott, a chief accomplishment of the administration has been the settling of 99.1 percent of expired municipal union contracts, which gave many low- and moderate-income workers wage increases. Parrott also cited other positive developments, including new labor protections for freelancers and the creation of an Office of Labor Standards at the Department of Consumer Affairs. “I’m not gonna give [de Blasio] all the credit but the things he has done have led to some pretty remarkable improvements in wages and incomes of the bottom 30-40 percent of the income distribution since 2013,” Parrott said.</p> <p>Parrott also noted that there are limitations in judging progress from the federal poverty measure or from the Gini coefficient, a statistical tool used by the U.S. Census to measure income inequality. Instead, Parrott prefers to use income tax data, which he said shows a more complete picture of wealth distribution, combined with other data measures on wages and family income. All these together, he said, have shown “the best improvements in the last 30 to 40 years, it could even be 50 years if we had comparable data to make a careful comparison.”</p> <p>An encouraging trend, evinced from 2016 census data, is that median household income in 2016 &nbsp;was $58,856, up from $56,457 in 2015, and surpassing the pre-recession peak level of $56,982 in 2008, according to an <a href="https://www.cccnewyork.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Census-Data-Statement.9.14.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">analysis</a> by the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York. Median incomes for families with children grew at 10.4 percent between 2015-2016, outpacing overall household income growth. Black and Latino New Yorkers benefited from the largest decreases in poverty rates -- nearly 2 percentage points each -- and poverty fell across racial and ethnic groups. The report did point out some worrying trends. Poverty on Staten Island, for instance, was 3.2 points higher than pre-recession levels; income increases were concentrated in Manhattan and Brooklyn; and the gap in median household income for racial and ethnic groups, which expanded during the recession, has continued to grow.</p> <p>Jennifer March, executive director of CCCNY, praised numerous policies enacted by the de Blasio administration that are “positioned as vehicles to combat income inequality,” including universal prekindergarten and its planned expansion to three-year-olds, the paid sick leave expansion, the minimum wage increase, the recent implementation of free universal school lunch and universal after-school programs for middle school students. She also commended initiatives such as the piloting of child savings accounts, and the overall efforts at creating affordable housing and rent freezes for rent-regulated tenants.</p> <p>“Those things combined really suggest that he has an ambitious multi-pronged approach to help families and New Yorkers afford to live here and to reduce the gap between those that are earning more and those that are really struggling,” she said.</p> <p>In 2015, de Blasio launched an ill-fated attempt to influence the national conversation around income inequality through a nonprofit organization that brought together progressive elected officials, leaders, and celebrities from across the country. The nonprofit, the Progressive Agenda Committee, fizzled out after an unsuccessful bid to host a presidential candidate forum in Iowa in late 2015, and de Blasio’s message about economic inequality and the need to put it at the forefront of the Democratic platform was largely subsumed by the candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.</p> <p>Since the election of President Donald Trump, de Blasio has doubled down on his agenda, pushing multiple proposed tax increases on wealthy New Yorkers -- which would require action by the State -- to fund items such as affordable housing for seniors and subsidized transit fares for low-income commuters. De Blasio has regularly criticized the Hillary Clinton campaign for not focusing on economic populism enough.</p> <p>As he heads toward an expected second term, de Blasio has announced a shift to actively creating better paying jobs in burgeoning economic sectors and building talent pipelines to ensure that New York City residents are the beneficiaries of city-funded economic growth. He acknowledged, in a sobering <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/081-17/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-presents-2017-state-the-city" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">State of the City speech</a> this year, that “people are so fundamentally challenged by the affordability crisis that this city simply must do more and must do it quickly.” &nbsp;</p> <p>“So many people love this city. But here is a blunt truth,” he said. “They love it, but that doesn't mean it's easy to live here. Right? For a lot of seniors, this is not an easy place to live. For a lot of young people just starting out, it's not so easy. For folks struggling to make ends meet, this can be a punishing environment.”</p> <p>De Blasio announced the broad contours of a plan to use city resources to spur the growth of 100,000 jobs paying at least $50,000 over a 10-year period. A few months later, he and his team unveiled a more detailed plan, which was met with snickers about a lack of detail and questions about its necessity, or whether it is more of an election year gimmick.</p> <p>As many people evaluate the mayor in his reelection bid, the stubborn nature of income inequality and the fact that so many New Yorkers continue to struggle to live secure, decent lives raise questions about de Blasio’s ability to deliver on his core 2013 promises. The mayor has largely shifted his lens, at least when speaking publicly, from income inequality and toward efforts to lift up those at the bottom.</p> <p>De Blasio is, in part, a victim of his own rhetoric, says Alex Armlovich, adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. “That wasn’t a good promise to make on the mayoral level,” said Armlovich, of the mayor’s commitment to fight the “tale of two cities” that he evoked on the campaign trail. “Inequality is a national issue. At the local level, [population] displacement and retention effects are going to swamp your efforts to reduce inequality.”</p> <p>In <a href="https://www.manhattan-institute.org/sites/default/files/IB-AA-1017.pdf">a report</a> released earlier this month, Armlovich noted that income inequality as judged by the Gini coefficient has in fact remained flat under de Blasio and that changes in income inequality were affected by compensation trends in the financial sector rather than by the city’s policies. The Gini measures income distribution on a scale of 0 to 1, and the higher it is, the higher the inequality. The city’s Gini score in 2016 was about 0.55. Armlovich pointed out that city policies that help poor New Yorkers live in the city, such as more affordable housing, naturally increase the Gini, even though they are laudable policy goals, because they wind up keeping many low-income people from moving elsewhere.</p> <p>Debate over the use of the Gini notwithstanding, Armlovich said the mayor should focus on providing equitable services across the five boroughs. “That’s what you can hold the mayor accountable for, because the mayor doesn’t control the economy,” he said. “His whole mistake in all of this was making himself politically accountable for a statistic that he doesn’t control.”</p> <p>In an interview with&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/mayor-de-blasio-visits-daily-news-editorial-board-audio-article-1.3572377" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Daily News editorial board</a>, the mayor insisted that the static Gini score was not reflective of a failure by his administration. “I'm very comfortable saying when I think something that I've done has not worked, or hasn't worked well enough,” he said. “But on this one, because we have seen job growth, we have seen wage growth, we have seen people getting out of poverty, we certainly have tangible evidence of reducing people's economic burdens. I think the central question is, were we going to give folks, low-income folks, working class people, middle class people, all of whom felt economically stuck, were we gonna give them more upward mobility? That's the central question in New York. It's also the central question in the country. Here we've been able to prove, not just because of public sector policies, but sustainability because of public sector policies, that we can increase upward mobility. That doesn't answer the question about the rich getting richer. Now, again, how do you address that? In my view, most notably, through tax policy.”</p> <p>Indeed, income is one measure of inequality, and de Blasio has consistently sought to go further, whether in his attention to NYCHA or his parks or community schools efforts. He’s increased the city’s annual operating budget by about 18% since taking office, up to its current $85 billion, in large part to expand services and add to the public payroll, including thousands more early education teachers, police officers, and others. While some can aptly criticize this budget growth and others question how effective additional spending has been in certain areas, there is little question that de Blasio has heavily invested taxpayer money in building equity.</p> <p>The CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance devised the <a href="http://2pamhxjr83j1pnmowx9otlyb.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Equality-Indicators-Annual-Report-2016.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NYC Equality Score</a>, a tool for a more holistic view of inequality in the city, first published in 2015, with 95 indicators across six areas: economy, education, health, housing, justice, and services. Out of a possible 100, the city’s 2016 score was 46.01, up from 45.45 in 2015. “These scores suggest that NYC continues to be characterized by vast inequalities, and that when looking at the city as a whole, little has changed,” the report reads. “Generally speaking this score means that overall, the disadvantaged groups represented here are almost twice as likely as those not disadvantaged to experience negative outcomes in fundamental areas of life, as measured by the Equality Indicators.”</p> <p>“It’s such a daunting challenge,” said City Council Member Stephen Levin, chair of the general welfare committee, which tackles with issues including poverty and homelessness (and was once chaired by de Blasio himself), “because you’re dealing with broader economic issues, you’re dealing with the persistent challenge of lack of affordable housing, and you’re dealing with the issues in Albany.” Levin was referring to state government, where Republicans hold power over the state Senate and often put the kibosh on progressive legislation floated by Democrats who control the Assembly and supported by de Blasio. Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who de Blasio often feuds with, is inconsistent in his support for policies backed by the mayor, regularly opposing any tax increases.</p> <p>Levin, a fellow Brooklyn Democrat who has endorsed de Blasio for reelection, said the mayor’s dedication on equity is “indisputable.” “This mayor and administration are using every tool in their toolbox,” he said, lamenting their inability to affect larger trends that can be influenced much more strongly by either state or federal policy. “I expect that over the next four years, this continues to be a priority.”</p> <p>De Blasio does face significant challenges ahead. Federal policy proposals on taxes and healthcare threaten to blow holes in the state and city budgets, and could shred the city’s social safety net. Large-scale budget cuts at a time when the city’s budget has ballooned by billions of dollars would put the mayor in a tough spot, despite the significant rainy day funds built up over the last four years.</p> <p>“What remains to be fixed is the highly regressive nature of the local tax structure, and mainly the property tax system,” said Parrott, of the New School. “He has to really work on it to figure out how to build the alliance in Albany. And he’s gotta keep making tweaks to his policies on affordable housing, homelessness, and education.” De Blasio has promised to push property tax reform if he’s reelected but has not provided specific details for addressing a system that is seen as disadvantageous to many middle-class New Yorkers of color because of how assessments are made in part based on geography.</p> <p>CCCNY’s March said the mayor should advocate for deepening the earned income tax credit and the child care tax credit, both of which bolster the finances of working families and would require the state to pass legislation. “I think the challenge he will face moving forward, assuming he’s reelected, is the federal context in which we’re working,” she said, noting for instance that 900,000 children in New York rely on some form of public health insurance, which face proposed federal cuts. She also stressed the need for increased investment in affordable housing and reducing family homelessness. “One of the biggest conundrums will be that incomes have not kept pace with rising rents in the city,” she said, pointing to a challenge frequently cited by de Blasio and his top aides, like social services Commissioner Steven Banks.</p> <p>“Many of the things that he started in his first term, we will see the real benefits of years from now,” March added. “Whether that’s universal pre-K, universal school lunch, or universal after-school for middle school, all of those things. It’s the consistent access that populations have to programs that are designed to promote school preparedness or reduce hunger or promote a college-oriented identity, over time we will see the results of these things.”</p> <p>Mayoral spokesperson Eric Phillips declined to comment for this article. Emails and messages to spokespersons for the Human Resources Administration/Department of Social Services went unanswered.</p> <p>A <a href="https://poll.qu.edu/new-york-city/release-detail?ReleaseID=2475">Quinnipiac University Poll</a> from July 31 showed that a majority of New Yorkers, 63 percent, disapproved of the way de Blasio has handled poverty and homelessness while only 29 percent approved. In eight polls conducted by Quinnipiac between 2015 and 2017, it was the worst appraisal the mayor received on the issue, likely due to the problems de Blasio has had in controlling and reducing homelessness.</p> <p>Another particular issue related to poverty and inequality where de Blasio has disappointed advocates has been his lack of direct support for the “Fair Fares” proposal, which would provide half-price MetroCards to 800,000 low-income New Yorkers.</p> <p>The proposal was created by two advocacy groups, the Community Service Society and Riders Alliance. De Blasio refused to fund the proposal in the city budget and wouldn’t support a pilot program floated by the City Council either, instead insisting the state-run MTA should provide the funds to those riding its services. Eventually, in his “Fair Fix” proposal for funding mass transit through a tax increase on the highest-earning New Yorkers -- which would need state-level approval -- the mayor included a set-aside for Fair Fares, which he called an “ultimate act of justice” despite his hesitance to identify the roughly $200 million to cover it annually. It’s unlikely that the state Senate, run by Republicans, or Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who largely opposes tax increases, would approve the so-called millionaires tax in 2018, which is a state-level election year.</p> <p>“That would have a significant impact on low-income New Yorkers, first financially, but also by helping them access better jobs, training, things that would increase their upward mobility,” said Nancy Rankin, vice president for policy, research and advocacy, CSS. “It’s unfathomable to us why [Mayor de Blasio] wouldn’t want to do something that’s at the core of what he says his administration is about. That’s why people voted for him. That’s a practical step that would make an enormous difference in people’s lives.”</p> <p>Council Member Levin holds out hope that the balance of the state Legislature would shift in next year’s election cycle towards Democrats who are friendlier to New York City and its progressive priorities. “Hopefully some of the dynamics shift and we can move the dial in a more accelerated way,” he said.</p> <p>Jesse Laymon, director of policy and advocacy at the New York City Employment and Training Coalition, an organization comprised of more than 150 workforce providers, praised the de Blasio administration for leveraging economic growth into lifting wages at the bottom of the economic ladder, but nonetheless had pointed criticism for their policies. “It’s one thing to make it less terrible to be poor in New York, and I think they’ve done a good job of making it less terrible to be poor, but they have not done a great job of making it easier to get out of poverty,” he said. “And that’s really the goal that they should focus more attention on in the second term.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">**********</p> <p><strong><em>This article is part of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7221-dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection">a series on Mayor de Blasio's first term record</a>&nbsp;as he seeks reelection this fall, in partnership with WNYC radio and City Limits.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7221-dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection">Find all pieces of the series here</a>.</em></strong></p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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In Trump Era, Workers Will Demand New York City & State Step Up to Defend Them 2016-12-13T05:00:00+00:00 2016-12-13T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6667:in-trump-era-workers-will-demand-new-york-city-state-step-up-to-defend-them Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/mtr_pic_somos_hermanas_kid_march.jpg" alt="mtr pic somos hermanas kid march" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>photo: Make The Road New York</p> <hr /> <p>The symbolism of Donald Trump’s nomination of fast-food CEO Andy Puzder for U.S. Secretary of Labor could not be clearer: at a time when fast food workers are leading the fight for fair pay and dignified working conditions in this country, President-elect Trump has decided to declare war on the Fight for $15 movement. And here in New York, workers like me are ready to fight back.</p> <p>Puzder has <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/andy-puzder-minimum-wage-maximum-politics-1412543682" target="_blank">fought attempts</a> to raise the minimum wage, argued against expanding eligibility for overtime pay, and <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/08/us/politics/andrew-puzder-labor-secretary-trump.html" target="_blank">supports repealing</a> the Affordable Care Act. At a time when corporations have been working hard to fight minimum wage increases and roll back workers’ rights through forced arbitration of employee grievances, misclassifying workers, and automation, they could find no better ally in harming workers than Puzder.</p> <p>Like President-elect Trump, Puzder <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/2016/10/17/ceo-for-trump-i-pay-attention-to-economic-creds-not-tabloid-fodder.html" target="_blank">peddles his preferred policies</a> as trickle-down-economics: more money for CEOs equals more jobs for working people. But these ideas have been discredited for decades -- they’re the reason that wages for workers like me have stagnated for so long. And, they’re rooted in the offensive assumption that some people -- service workers, immigrants, and people of color -- deserve to live in poverty no matter how hard they work, while corporate CEOs deserve to get rich off their labor.</p> <p>A Puzder appointment is bad news for all working people, but the situation is even more precarious for immigrant workers, who already experience on-the-job exploitation like wage theft <a href="http://www.epi.org/blog/wage-theft-by-employers-is-costing-u-s-workers-billions-of-dollars-a-year/" target="_blank">at triple the rate</a> of the rest of the workforce. A CEO-led Department of Labor, coupled with the nativist agenda of Donald Trump, sends a clear message to employers to ramp up a strategy they have long-used to try to subjugate immigrant workers: weaponizing immigration status to retaliate and intimidate.</p> <p>Immigrant workers in New York have been leading the labor movement for decades, most recently winning historic increases in the state minimum wage, some of the strongest legal protections against wage theft in the country, and collective bargaining rights in industries, like carwashes, considered “unorganizable.” We remain ready ready to fight, but we will need energetic allies in our city and state governments and creative new strategies to ensure that we protect against the worst of what comes out of Washington, D.C. and continue to win victories closer to home.</p> <p>First on the agenda will be making sure that the state’s $15 minimum wage victory becomes a reality for all New Yorkers, especially those who will be most vulnerable during a Trump presidency. This means shortening the timetable for reaching $15 upstate, raising tipped workers to the full minimum wage, and implementing new strategies for combating wage theft and employee misclassification. Workers, especially low-wage workers, also need fair scheduling rights in order to better plan their lives and support their families; legislation has been introduced at the City level and should be explored throughout the state.</p> <p>There’s an old labor movement saying that sometimes management is the best organizer, meaning a bad boss can be the best incentive to organize. While working people in New York, and throughout the country, certainly have our work cut out for us under a Trump administration, Andrew Puzder’s offensive agenda could make him our best organizer yet. We will fight, and we will win.</p> <p>***<br />Daniel Cortéz is a member of Make the Road New York (MRNY), which, with New York Communities for Change, is hosting a workers’ forum with leading government officials on Wednesday, December 14 at 7pm at New York Law School to discuss how to defend economic security for immigrant workers under the Trump administration.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/mtr_pic_somos_hermanas_kid_march.jpg" alt="mtr pic somos hermanas kid march" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>photo: Make The Road New York</p> <hr /> <p>The symbolism of Donald Trump’s nomination of fast-food CEO Andy Puzder for U.S. Secretary of Labor could not be clearer: at a time when fast food workers are leading the fight for fair pay and dignified working conditions in this country, President-elect Trump has decided to declare war on the Fight for $15 movement. And here in New York, workers like me are ready to fight back.</p> <p>Puzder has <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/andy-puzder-minimum-wage-maximum-politics-1412543682" target="_blank">fought attempts</a> to raise the minimum wage, argued against expanding eligibility for overtime pay, and <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/08/us/politics/andrew-puzder-labor-secretary-trump.html" target="_blank">supports repealing</a> the Affordable Care Act. At a time when corporations have been working hard to fight minimum wage increases and roll back workers’ rights through forced arbitration of employee grievances, misclassifying workers, and automation, they could find no better ally in harming workers than Puzder.</p> <p>Like President-elect Trump, Puzder <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/2016/10/17/ceo-for-trump-i-pay-attention-to-economic-creds-not-tabloid-fodder.html" target="_blank">peddles his preferred policies</a> as trickle-down-economics: more money for CEOs equals more jobs for working people. But these ideas have been discredited for decades -- they’re the reason that wages for workers like me have stagnated for so long. And, they’re rooted in the offensive assumption that some people -- service workers, immigrants, and people of color -- deserve to live in poverty no matter how hard they work, while corporate CEOs deserve to get rich off their labor.</p> <p>A Puzder appointment is bad news for all working people, but the situation is even more precarious for immigrant workers, who already experience on-the-job exploitation like wage theft <a href="http://www.epi.org/blog/wage-theft-by-employers-is-costing-u-s-workers-billions-of-dollars-a-year/" target="_blank">at triple the rate</a> of the rest of the workforce. A CEO-led Department of Labor, coupled with the nativist agenda of Donald Trump, sends a clear message to employers to ramp up a strategy they have long-used to try to subjugate immigrant workers: weaponizing immigration status to retaliate and intimidate.</p> <p>Immigrant workers in New York have been leading the labor movement for decades, most recently winning historic increases in the state minimum wage, some of the strongest legal protections against wage theft in the country, and collective bargaining rights in industries, like carwashes, considered “unorganizable.” We remain ready ready to fight, but we will need energetic allies in our city and state governments and creative new strategies to ensure that we protect against the worst of what comes out of Washington, D.C. and continue to win victories closer to home.</p> <p>First on the agenda will be making sure that the state’s $15 minimum wage victory becomes a reality for all New Yorkers, especially those who will be most vulnerable during a Trump presidency. This means shortening the timetable for reaching $15 upstate, raising tipped workers to the full minimum wage, and implementing new strategies for combating wage theft and employee misclassification. Workers, especially low-wage workers, also need fair scheduling rights in order to better plan their lives and support their families; legislation has been introduced at the City level and should be explored throughout the state.</p> <p>There’s an old labor movement saying that sometimes management is the best organizer, meaning a bad boss can be the best incentive to organize. While working people in New York, and throughout the country, certainly have our work cut out for us under a Trump administration, Andrew Puzder’s offensive agenda could make him our best organizer yet. We will fight, and we will win.</p> <p>***<br />Daniel Cortéz is a member of Make the Road New York (MRNY), which, with New York Communities for Change, is hosting a workers’ forum with leading government officials on Wednesday, December 14 at 7pm at New York Law School to discuss how to defend economic security for immigrant workers under the Trump administration.</p> <p>

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

</p>
Assessing the Aftermath: Top Takeaways for NYC from 2016 Albany Session 2016-06-29T04:00:00+00:00 2016-06-29T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6421:assessing-the-aftermath-top-takeaways-for-nyc-from-2016-albany-session Amanda Sherwin <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/12177959134_17e9103a99_z.jpg" alt="de blasio cuomo 2014 presser" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>De Blasio and Cuomo in 2014; photo via The Governor's Office</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio has made it clear that he feels like he&rsquo;s often fighting for New York City&rsquo;s interests against both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Senate Republicans, with Assembly Democrats as his key allies. In his initial statement reacting to the recent end of the 2016 legislative session in Albany, de Blasio put a thank you to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and company at the forefront, never mentioned Cuomo, and gave his take on what he assessed as a mixed bag for the city.</p> <p>For his part, Cuomo argues that the city made out quite well and, in harshly worded statements to the media, his aides say that the governor, raised in Queens, very much looks out for the city, but has little respect for the mayor. It can often be hard to separate the mayor from his agenda and the interests of the city, and in assessing the outcomes of the legislative session for New York City, it&rsquo;s clear that de Blasio&rsquo;s rivalries with Cuomo and Senate Republicans affected policy decisions.</p> <p>Still, while de Blasio did see several disappointing results out of Albany this year, like another one-year extension of mayoral control of city schools, there was a lot for the city to celebrate, including wage and benefit legislation that the mayor and his fellow Democrats had wanted. The city appears to have made out much better in the state budget than in the post-budget portion of the session and final deals reached in mid-June.</p> <p>There are long lists of outcomes that de Blasio and his allies are pleased with and not; but what the six-month session made abundantly clear is that state lawmakers, including the governor, are nowhere near ready to relinquish the substantial powers they wield over the city. The session was marked by important policy debates; political rivalries; and the news of an investigation into de Blasio, his aides and allies, that originated with the state Board of Elections&rsquo; enforcement counsel. That counsel, Risa Sugarman, is a former Cuomo aide, leading to finger pointing and conspiracy theories from de Blasio - drama added to the already-fraught dynamics.</p> <p>As de Blasio regroups over the summer and state legislators prepare for fall elections, a look back at the 2016 legislative session in Albany shows the following top ten takeaways for New York City:</p> <p><strong>1. Gov. Cuomo is still able to bend Senate Republicans to pass progressive legislation.</strong> Mayor de Blasio and his progressive allies may have been somewhat shocked when the state budget, passed at the beginning of April, included a staggered minimum wage increase that could eventually reach $15 throughout the state and a paid family leave program. Both policies won Cuomo national accolades and appeared to many to be his attempt to coopt de Blasio&rsquo;s position as the top progressive in the state. To get both things done Cuomo had to convince and cajole Senate Republicans to go along with two policies opposed by many in their base (he&rsquo;d done this before, of course, with marriage equality and the SAFE Act). The minimum wage and paid family leave policies will have a major impact on New York City workers, especially those de Blasio has sought to lift up.</p> <p><strong>2. De Blasio is Cuomo&rsquo;s enemy and Senate Republicans&rsquo; boogeyman.</strong> It was clear early in session that Senate Republicans saw de Blasio as a perfect foil, but it wasn&rsquo;t clear how much ammo they would actually have or far they would go to deny him success in Albany. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan held fast in his stance on mayoral control of schools and in the end de Blasio was only granted a second straight one-year extension. After de Blasio&rsquo;s complaints on the subject, Cuomo shot back that the mayor was &ldquo;lucky&rdquo; to get one year. De Blasio had harsh words toward the governor at a recent press conference and Cuomo&rsquo;s press office has been highly critical of the mayor.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are outraged by revelations around de Blasio&rsquo;s 2014 efforts to flip the Senate to Democrats and plan to tie 2016 Democratic opponents to the mayor in most contested Senate races this summer and fall. Voters in contested districts are likely to hear a lot about the &ldquo;corrupt, liberal&rdquo; mayor who is looking to control the Senate and all of state government, to make the whole state like New York City. It&rsquo;s unlikely Cuomo will do much to help Senate Democrats, something de Blasio has been critical of in the past and in recent comments. Senate control has major implications for New York policy-making, of course, as de Blasio recently discussed in <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/harry-siegel-de-blasio-thinking-article-1.2687244" target="_blank">an interview with Harry Siegel</a> of the Daily News, where he said that New York could be like California, if Cuomo was to push for that.</p> <p><strong>3. Mayoral control of schools will be an election-year issue for de Blasio.</strong> Winning a one-year extension of mayoral control means de Blasio will have to look to Albany for another extension next year - as he faces reelection. With his poll numbers dropping and corruption investigations swirling it becomes more likely he will face a primary challenge. Expect de Blasio&rsquo;s handling of schools to be a hot topic in Albany and in the mayoral race. De Blasio&rsquo;s critics continue to point to his opposition to charter schools and raise questions about his handling of the city&rsquo;s most troubled schools.</p> <p><strong>4. De Blasio owes Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.</strong>&nbsp;The Democratic Assembly Speaker from the Bronx went to bat for de Blasio in the chamber&rsquo;s budget proposal - pushing a six-year extension of mayoral control of schools - and later appeared to hold up budget negotiations while fighting for renewal, until de Blasio relented to the compromise that was reached. In 2009 Heastie was the lead Assembly sponsor of a bill that would have crippled mayoral control, so it doesn&rsquo;t appear he was fighting for the renewal on principle. De Blasio will have to continue to nurture his relationship with Heastie as many other Democrat legislators express a similar refrain: &ldquo;it isn&rsquo;t easy being the mayor&rsquo;s friend.&rdquo;</p> <p>On a variety of issues it is clear that Heastie and his fellow Assembly Democrats from the city are the city&rsquo;s biggest advocates and the mayor&rsquo;s top allies. In reacting to the end of session, de Blasio released a statement saying, &ldquo;With the leadership and commitment of Speaker Heastie and his Assembly colleagues, New York City secured a series of important State commitments that will improve lives across our five boroughs.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>5. State leaders appear increasingly interested in curtailing the city&rsquo;s autonomy.</strong> In reaction to the city&rsquo;s plan to impose a five cent fee on paper and plastic bag shopping bags, the Senate moved legislation that would have banned any locality from instituting such a law. The Assembly was headed in that direction but Heastie cut a deal with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to delay implementation of the plan so that the Council could amend it to the Assembly&rsquo;s liking and explore other changes.</p> <p>Cuomo has moved to limit the city&rsquo;s ability to implement its affordable housing plans; instituted greater oversight of city homeless shelters; decided to open new state police barracks near City Hall; and created a <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/04/state-budget-establishes-controversial-construction-oversight-agency-033014" target="_blank">new agency</a> in the budget that could allow him to take over major capital projects. Critics see the new agency as an end run around the MTA board.</p> <p><strong>6. The feud between Cuomo and de Blasio leaves affordable and supportive housing in an unpredictable state.</strong> Cuomo won $1.9 billion in funding for supportive and affordable housing in the state budget, but <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6405-advocates-plan-to-keep-pressure-on-cuomo-over-housing-funds" target="_blank">only $150 million of those funds were released</a> in an agreement with legislative leaders by the end of session. Affordable and supportive housing advocates and providers say that without a long-term plan that details how the cash will be allocated in years to come it will be hard for builders to get funding for new construction.<br /><br />Additionally, the 421-a tax abatement program meant to spur developers to build rental housing with mandated affordable housing included was not renewed. De Blasio continues to insist that a proposal he put forth should be adopted, while Cuomo says the building trades unions must be included in negotiating a deal. The mayor&rsquo;s affordable housing plans are at risk without a new 421-a program.</p> <p><strong>7. The Assembly went to bat for the MTA.</strong> The governor&rsquo;s executive budget proposal would have put off funding the MTA&rsquo;s capital plan until the MTA ran out of current funding streams. The Assembly fought and won $2.9 billion in funding for the capital plan this year. It will be the first of four annual appropriations that will end up totalling $7.3 billion.</p> <p><strong>8. Major New York City-based infrastructure projects are on the move.</strong> It appears that major infrastructure projects, both inside and outside of New York City, will be key to Gov. Cuomo&rsquo;s legacy. In the city, the state is moving ahead with improving JFK Airport, redeveloping LaGuardia Airport and Penn Station, expanding the Javits Convention Center, and building new MetroNorth stations in the Bronx.</p> <p><strong>9. Education funding debates continue, with more money headed to New York City.</strong> While many in New York City, including de Blasio, continue to call on the state to meet its obligations under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court ruling, according to Gov. Cuomo&rsquo;s office, &ldquo;The FY 2017 Budget provides $24.8 billion in School Aid, the highest amount in history and a 6.5 percent increase over last year.&rdquo; Much of it is headed to New York City, home to more than 40 percent of the state&rsquo;s population. As part of the mayoral control extension deal, though, the city is now required to make its individual school funding formulas more available publicly.</p> <p><strong>10. Top city priorities left out.</strong> Less on de Blasio&rsquo;s agenda, but more on those of city-based state legislators, who are overwhelmingly Democratic, are issues like criminal justice reform and the DREAM Act, which saw no movement this year.</p> <p>Criminal justice issues were not a priority for Cuomo or Senate Republicans. While Cuomo's January State of the State address included mentions of the campaign to raise the age of adult criminal responsibility and efforts to encode into state law a special prosecutor in the case of police shootings of unarmed civilians, neither appeared to ever become a major priority for Cuomo, who focused on minimum wage and paid family leave at the start of session and a variety of other issues after the budget, while also dealing with the developing federal investigation into his economic development programs. Both criminal justice reform initiatives, among others, are largely popular in the Assembly and New York City, but not in the Senate.</p> <p>The DREAM Act, another priority of New York City Democrats, won&rsquo;t pass as long as Senate Republicans hold the chamber - or until Cuomo forces it through: Advocates for legislation to give undocumented students access to tuition assistance haven&rsquo;t given up their fight but they know Senate Republicans have touted their opposition to the bill successfully during the last few election cycles. They also know that Cuomo can move mountains when he wants to - the governor had included the DREAM Act in his budget bills, but has not campaigned on the issue since his 2014 reelection bid.</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed writing.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/12177959134_17e9103a99_z.jpg" alt="de blasio cuomo 2014 presser" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>De Blasio and Cuomo in 2014; photo via The Governor's Office</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio has made it clear that he feels like he&rsquo;s often fighting for New York City&rsquo;s interests against both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Senate Republicans, with Assembly Democrats as his key allies. In his initial statement reacting to the recent end of the 2016 legislative session in Albany, de Blasio put a thank you to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and company at the forefront, never mentioned Cuomo, and gave his take on what he assessed as a mixed bag for the city.</p> <p>For his part, Cuomo argues that the city made out quite well and, in harshly worded statements to the media, his aides say that the governor, raised in Queens, very much looks out for the city, but has little respect for the mayor. It can often be hard to separate the mayor from his agenda and the interests of the city, and in assessing the outcomes of the legislative session for New York City, it&rsquo;s clear that de Blasio&rsquo;s rivalries with Cuomo and Senate Republicans affected policy decisions.</p> <p>Still, while de Blasio did see several disappointing results out of Albany this year, like another one-year extension of mayoral control of city schools, there was a lot for the city to celebrate, including wage and benefit legislation that the mayor and his fellow Democrats had wanted. The city appears to have made out much better in the state budget than in the post-budget portion of the session and final deals reached in mid-June.</p> <p>There are long lists of outcomes that de Blasio and his allies are pleased with and not; but what the six-month session made abundantly clear is that state lawmakers, including the governor, are nowhere near ready to relinquish the substantial powers they wield over the city. The session was marked by important policy debates; political rivalries; and the news of an investigation into de Blasio, his aides and allies, that originated with the state Board of Elections&rsquo; enforcement counsel. That counsel, Risa Sugarman, is a former Cuomo aide, leading to finger pointing and conspiracy theories from de Blasio - drama added to the already-fraught dynamics.</p> <p>As de Blasio regroups over the summer and state legislators prepare for fall elections, a look back at the 2016 legislative session in Albany shows the following top ten takeaways for New York City:</p> <p><strong>1. Gov. Cuomo is still able to bend Senate Republicans to pass progressive legislation.</strong> Mayor de Blasio and his progressive allies may have been somewhat shocked when the state budget, passed at the beginning of April, included a staggered minimum wage increase that could eventually reach $15 throughout the state and a paid family leave program. Both policies won Cuomo national accolades and appeared to many to be his attempt to coopt de Blasio&rsquo;s position as the top progressive in the state. To get both things done Cuomo had to convince and cajole Senate Republicans to go along with two policies opposed by many in their base (he&rsquo;d done this before, of course, with marriage equality and the SAFE Act). The minimum wage and paid family leave policies will have a major impact on New York City workers, especially those de Blasio has sought to lift up.</p> <p><strong>2. De Blasio is Cuomo&rsquo;s enemy and Senate Republicans&rsquo; boogeyman.</strong> It was clear early in session that Senate Republicans saw de Blasio as a perfect foil, but it wasn&rsquo;t clear how much ammo they would actually have or far they would go to deny him success in Albany. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan held fast in his stance on mayoral control of schools and in the end de Blasio was only granted a second straight one-year extension. After de Blasio&rsquo;s complaints on the subject, Cuomo shot back that the mayor was &ldquo;lucky&rdquo; to get one year. De Blasio had harsh words toward the governor at a recent press conference and Cuomo&rsquo;s press office has been highly critical of the mayor.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are outraged by revelations around de Blasio&rsquo;s 2014 efforts to flip the Senate to Democrats and plan to tie 2016 Democratic opponents to the mayor in most contested Senate races this summer and fall. Voters in contested districts are likely to hear a lot about the &ldquo;corrupt, liberal&rdquo; mayor who is looking to control the Senate and all of state government, to make the whole state like New York City. It&rsquo;s unlikely Cuomo will do much to help Senate Democrats, something de Blasio has been critical of in the past and in recent comments. Senate control has major implications for New York policy-making, of course, as de Blasio recently discussed in <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/harry-siegel-de-blasio-thinking-article-1.2687244" target="_blank">an interview with Harry Siegel</a> of the Daily News, where he said that New York could be like California, if Cuomo was to push for that.</p> <p><strong>3. Mayoral control of schools will be an election-year issue for de Blasio.</strong> Winning a one-year extension of mayoral control means de Blasio will have to look to Albany for another extension next year - as he faces reelection. With his poll numbers dropping and corruption investigations swirling it becomes more likely he will face a primary challenge. Expect de Blasio&rsquo;s handling of schools to be a hot topic in Albany and in the mayoral race. De Blasio&rsquo;s critics continue to point to his opposition to charter schools and raise questions about his handling of the city&rsquo;s most troubled schools.</p> <p><strong>4. De Blasio owes Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.</strong>&nbsp;The Democratic Assembly Speaker from the Bronx went to bat for de Blasio in the chamber&rsquo;s budget proposal - pushing a six-year extension of mayoral control of schools - and later appeared to hold up budget negotiations while fighting for renewal, until de Blasio relented to the compromise that was reached. In 2009 Heastie was the lead Assembly sponsor of a bill that would have crippled mayoral control, so it doesn&rsquo;t appear he was fighting for the renewal on principle. De Blasio will have to continue to nurture his relationship with Heastie as many other Democrat legislators express a similar refrain: &ldquo;it isn&rsquo;t easy being the mayor&rsquo;s friend.&rdquo;</p> <p>On a variety of issues it is clear that Heastie and his fellow Assembly Democrats from the city are the city&rsquo;s biggest advocates and the mayor&rsquo;s top allies. In reacting to the end of session, de Blasio released a statement saying, &ldquo;With the leadership and commitment of Speaker Heastie and his Assembly colleagues, New York City secured a series of important State commitments that will improve lives across our five boroughs.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>5. State leaders appear increasingly interested in curtailing the city&rsquo;s autonomy.</strong> In reaction to the city&rsquo;s plan to impose a five cent fee on paper and plastic bag shopping bags, the Senate moved legislation that would have banned any locality from instituting such a law. The Assembly was headed in that direction but Heastie cut a deal with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to delay implementation of the plan so that the Council could amend it to the Assembly&rsquo;s liking and explore other changes.</p> <p>Cuomo has moved to limit the city&rsquo;s ability to implement its affordable housing plans; instituted greater oversight of city homeless shelters; decided to open new state police barracks near City Hall; and created a <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/04/state-budget-establishes-controversial-construction-oversight-agency-033014" target="_blank">new agency</a> in the budget that could allow him to take over major capital projects. Critics see the new agency as an end run around the MTA board.</p> <p><strong>6. The feud between Cuomo and de Blasio leaves affordable and supportive housing in an unpredictable state.</strong> Cuomo won $1.9 billion in funding for supportive and affordable housing in the state budget, but <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6405-advocates-plan-to-keep-pressure-on-cuomo-over-housing-funds" target="_blank">only $150 million of those funds were released</a> in an agreement with legislative leaders by the end of session. Affordable and supportive housing advocates and providers say that without a long-term plan that details how the cash will be allocated in years to come it will be hard for builders to get funding for new construction.<br /><br />Additionally, the 421-a tax abatement program meant to spur developers to build rental housing with mandated affordable housing included was not renewed. De Blasio continues to insist that a proposal he put forth should be adopted, while Cuomo says the building trades unions must be included in negotiating a deal. The mayor&rsquo;s affordable housing plans are at risk without a new 421-a program.</p> <p><strong>7. The Assembly went to bat for the MTA.</strong> The governor&rsquo;s executive budget proposal would have put off funding the MTA&rsquo;s capital plan until the MTA ran out of current funding streams. The Assembly fought and won $2.9 billion in funding for the capital plan this year. It will be the first of four annual appropriations that will end up totalling $7.3 billion.</p> <p><strong>8. Major New York City-based infrastructure projects are on the move.</strong> It appears that major infrastructure projects, both inside and outside of New York City, will be key to Gov. Cuomo&rsquo;s legacy. In the city, the state is moving ahead with improving JFK Airport, redeveloping LaGuardia Airport and Penn Station, expanding the Javits Convention Center, and building new MetroNorth stations in the Bronx.</p> <p><strong>9. Education funding debates continue, with more money headed to New York City.</strong> While many in New York City, including de Blasio, continue to call on the state to meet its obligations under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court ruling, according to Gov. Cuomo&rsquo;s office, &ldquo;The FY 2017 Budget provides $24.8 billion in School Aid, the highest amount in history and a 6.5 percent increase over last year.&rdquo; Much of it is headed to New York City, home to more than 40 percent of the state&rsquo;s population. As part of the mayoral control extension deal, though, the city is now required to make its individual school funding formulas more available publicly.</p> <p><strong>10. Top city priorities left out.</strong> Less on de Blasio&rsquo;s agenda, but more on those of city-based state legislators, who are overwhelmingly Democratic, are issues like criminal justice reform and the DREAM Act, which saw no movement this year.</p> <p>Criminal justice issues were not a priority for Cuomo or Senate Republicans. While Cuomo's January State of the State address included mentions of the campaign to raise the age of adult criminal responsibility and efforts to encode into state law a special prosecutor in the case of police shootings of unarmed civilians, neither appeared to ever become a major priority for Cuomo, who focused on minimum wage and paid family leave at the start of session and a variety of other issues after the budget, while also dealing with the developing federal investigation into his economic development programs. Both criminal justice reform initiatives, among others, are largely popular in the Assembly and New York City, but not in the Senate.</p> <p>The DREAM Act, another priority of New York City Democrats, won&rsquo;t pass as long as Senate Republicans hold the chamber - or until Cuomo forces it through: Advocates for legislation to give undocumented students access to tuition assistance haven&rsquo;t given up their fight but they know Senate Republicans have touted their opposition to the bill successfully during the last few election cycles. They also know that Cuomo can move mountains when he wants to - the governor had included the DREAM Act in his budget bills, but has not campaigned on the issue since his 2014 reelection bid.</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed writing.</p>
Cuomo’s 2016 Wins Shaped by Progressive Forces, Electoral Lessons 2016-04-12T03:52:05+00:00 2016-04-12T03:52:05+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6274:cuomo-s-2016-wins-shaped-by-progressive-forces-electoral-lessons Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/25964697070_8a3e2e2d06_z.jpg" alt="cuomo clinton et al celebrate" height="424" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo celebrates new progressie policies (photo:&nbsp;Don Pollard, Governor's Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched himself onto the national political stage this month by orchestrating a budget deal that made New York the first state to pass a $15 minimum wage and a paid family leave program. With Vice President Joe Biden at his side the governor pushed family leave; weeks later, Cuomo signed the package of “economic justice” legislation at a celebratory rally with Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton. He was subsequently congratulated by President Obama.</p> <p>All the while, labor union members cheered the governor who had, finally, made their agenda his.</p> <p>Unlike other major policy wins from earlier in his tenure that sprung the governor into the national spotlight, like marriage equality and gun control, the minimum wage and family leave bills speak directly to socioeconomic issues that some of the state’s liberal base felt Cuomo, a Democrat, had been insensitive to. Cuomo had indeed rejected as flights of fancy those very policies only months before announcing campaigns to support them, first saying that they would be non-starters with Republicans controlling one house of the Legislature, then pursuing them with the intensity Cuomo has given to his must-wins.</p> <p>Cuomo’s path to his moment as progressive trailblazer on economic issues was a winding one, mystifying some, including those calling political opportunism, while others point to the influence of four powerful figures: Mayor Bill de Blasio, gubernatorial challenger Zephyr Teachout, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, and Democratic voters who could deliver the governor a third term in 2018.</p> <p>On the way to a second term, Cuomo found himself in positions generally foreign to him: out-leveraged and outworked. First, Cuomo was humbled by the Working Families Party as it sought a 2014 alternative to a governor many of its members felt had betrayed their union members and progressive mission. Aided by de Blasio and making promises many now feel he did not intend to keep, Cuomo convinced the WFP to call off its third party challenge from Fordham Law Professor Zephyr Teachout.</p> <p>But then, the unknown, liberal Teachout, took Cuomo on in the Democratic primary, where the incumbent governor lost 30 counties and took home only 60 percent of the vote. Cuomo entered term two significantly weakened.</p> <p>For Cuomo, known for crippling his rivals and bullying major organizations into submission, these were positions he never wanted to be in again.</p> <p>It's a situation that insiders, pundits, and elected officials see as having given birth to the 2016 political environment in which Cuomo would fully embrace the Fight for $15 minimum wage campaign and launch his own paid family leave push, invoking the name of his recently deceased father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, in both efforts. Cuomo traveled the state in an RV plastered with the Fight for $15 slogan, picking up the mantle of an effort led by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and its labor and liberal allies that Cuomo has often distanced himself from on economic issues.</p> <p>“The original policy rests with de Blasio,” said Douglas Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College, of a liberal agenda. “The timing coincides with Teachout. But it leads to the governor deciding to tack left.”</p> <p>Critics, even some supporters, see the governor’s leftward lurch as evidence of political opportunism.</p> <p>“He doesn't give a damn about getting people out of poverty,” said Ed Cox, the chair of the New York Republican State Committee. “He cares about his own power. He had to do it to secure his political power, but in the end that kind of governing comes back to bite you.”</p> <p>Cox is speaking at a time when state Senate Republicans went along with Cuomo’s minimum wage program, albeit a “calibrated” one, as Cuomo called it, where they were able to lengthen and regionalize the phase-in.</p> <p>Congressional Rep. Chris Gibson, a Republican who has announced an exploratory committee for a 2018 gubernatorial run, also noticed the governor’s very public change of opinion. “You would have to talk to him to understand his motivation, but arguably the most persuasive critic against a $15 minimum wage is Governor Cuomo five minutes ago,” Gibson said.</p> <p>As Gibson prepares a potential bid to unseat Cuomo, the governor appears to have a clearer picture of the base he needs to withstand such a challenge.</p> <p>In Spring 2014, heads of the union-backed, left-leaning Working Families Party were ready to hand the powerful incumbent governor their endorsement but they had underestimated rank-and-file party members, activists turned off by what they saw as a fiscally conservative, transactional governor who cozied up to Senate Republicans, tussled with public employees unions, and generally thumbed his nose at the Democratic base.</p> <p>The governor appeared by video during the WFP convention in late May 2014, acceding to a list of party demands in an endorsement deal brokered by de Blasio. When party members weren’t satisfied Cuomo was forced to follow up with a phone call promising to back a Democratic Senate, a higher minimum wage, and a push to enact the DREAM Act.</p> <p>Cuomo looked forward to an easy reelection, whether he actually planned to follow through on his pledges to the WFP or not. But Teachout and many in the WFP didn’t get the memo, and the Democratic primary that followed was bruising and embarrassing for Cuomo as his campaign took on a bunker mentality while Teachout worked the base across the state.</p> <p>“If you needed any more evidence that in New York state leaders of organizations have no control over their followers you just need to look at that situation,” said Kenneth Sherrill, professor emeritus of political science at Hunter College. “The governor thought he was dealing with an interest group and he had won their support, but a lot of their members weren’t happy with the governor and in fact an awful lot of voters shared their view.”</p> <p>And what was that view exactly? “People’s lives aren’t good and they want them to be better,” said Sherrill, referring to working class voters.</p> <p>It was a message that Cuomo appeared slow to pick up on - he backed a variety of wage increases but balked at de Blasio’s plan to raise the minimum wage and allow the city to set its own in February of 2014, saying it would be “chaotic” to have different wages across the state. “God bless them — shoot for the stars,” Cuomo <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/cuomo-rejects-assembly-dems-plan-15-hour-minimum-wage-article-1.2146491" target="_blank">said</a> sarcastically in March, 2015, dismissing the Assembly Democrats’ plan to raise the state minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2018. During a public cabinet meeting in February, 2015, Cuomo said the Legislature had “no appetite” for paid family leave.</p> <p>Cuomo ran in 2010 as a leader who could provide competence to a capital that had seen one gubernatorial term split between Eliot Spitzer’s partisan bickering and scandal and David Paterson’s chaotic tenure characterized by a power struggle in the Senate and more scandal. The state was still reeling from the financial crisis and accustomed to late budgets and tax increases. Cuomo used his first term to prove he had a firm hand on the state’s finances and operations, negotiating tough deals with unions, delivering on-time budgets, instituting a property tax cap, and even delivering on socially liberal policy like marriage equality. But pundits say Cuomo missed a sea change in the electorate.</p> <p>“There's some academic research that indicates legislators misestimate their constituents’ thinking,” said Sherrill. “They tend to believe they are more conservative than they really are. So when confronted with public opinion from their district they are shocked how further left [constituents] really are. I think that’s what happened to the governor. He had no idea public opinion had shifted the way it had - and it was not just the governor. The good politician that he is, he made a wise strategic adjustment.”</p> <p>Howie Hawkins, who challenged Cuomo on the Green Party line in both 2010 and 2014, said he agrees with Sherrill. “I generally think constituents are more liberal than their representatives think, and I think the poll in this case being the votes in the primary and general elections showed [Cuomo] his mistake.”</p> <p>Cuomo’s “adjustment” involved a change in agenda and messaging. Suddenly the governor who was known for dismissing the “poetry” of campaigning that his father so embraced took to the stump using lines from his father’s famous speech from the 1984 Democratic National Convention:</p> <p>“But the hard truth is that not everyone is sharing in this city's splendor and glory. A shining city is perhaps all the President sees from the portico of the White House and the veranda of his ranch, where everyone seems to be doing well. But there's another city; there's another part to the shining the city; the part where some people can't pay their mortgages, and most young people can't afford one; where students can't afford the education they need, and middle-class parents watch the dreams they hold for their children evaporate.”</p> <p>The younger Cuomo used the speech excerpt in a television campaign for his wage push, leading to the official Mario Cuomo Campaign for Economic Justice, launched by Cuomo and labor leaders. The language and imagery mirrored the “Tale of Two Cities” motif de Blasio used for his 2013 mayoral campaign.</p> <p>Hawkins, who told Gotham Gazette he is prepared to run for Governor again depending on the circumstances, said he doesn’t believe Cuomo has changed his general approach to governing. “I think he’s making gestures, but look at the budget - it is still fiscal austerity, especially cities and towns. There are unfunded mandates and lack of aid from the state, and while he has provided more money for education it is less than the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement,” Hawkins said, referring to the 2006 court decision by which New York City is still owed billions according to advocates. “When [Assembly Speaker Carl] Heastie proposed a slightly progressive income tax he just rejected it. So he is not dealing with basic fiscal structure.”</p> <p>Hawkins said he believes Cuomo’s action on minimum wage and paid family leave will protect Cuomo from a challenge from inside the Democratic Party if the governor runs for a third term in 2018. Hawkins, who performed best in the Capital Region where Cuomo went to war with public worker unions early in his term, said he isn’t so sure the anger is going to be there again in 2018. “I don’t know that people are going to be that upset with him,” he said.</p> <p>Cuomo’s Republican opposition sees the governor’s support of the $15 minimum wage as a political calculation designed to undercut his Democratic rival, de Blasio, while boosting his national standing. They imagine the governor has sapped de Blasio’s momentum and hopes to use it to land the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention this year, or perhaps even the Vice Presidency or a major cabinet position.</p> <p>Political analysts call these scenarios unlikely. Cuomo has gone on the record saying he plans to win and serve a third term as Governor, unless, he says, he keels over from a heart attack induced by the Albany press corp. The governor’s office declined to comment for this story.</p> <p>“In 2010 he understood he had to run as a fiscal conservative,” said Cox, the chair of the New York Republican State Committee. “In 2013 Bill de Blasio wins saying he is the progressive leader of the free world. In 2014 Cuomo’s running in his own primary and he has to beg to get the backing of the Working Families Party and he only gets 60 percent as a sitting Governor in his own party’s primary.”</p> <p>Cox said that Cuomo slowly began taking on de Blasio’s positions, “just as Mrs. [Hillary] Clinton has done with Bernie Sanders.” And eventually “adopted the SEIU’s ‘Fight for 15’ campaign whole hock” to “avoid insulting his very important constituents in labor.”</p> <p>Meanwhile, Cox points out that Cuomo made a number of his major policy announcements alongside Vice President Joe Biden, who was very much thought to be a presidential contender at the time.</p> <p>Cox believes the governor’s minimum wage plan that embraces different phase-ins across the state - in direct contradiction to his previous statement calling such a system “chaotic” - will not only hurt the economy but leave the governor vulnerable to a Republican challenger.</p> <p>Rep. Gibson, the most likely such challenger at this point, said he would have liked to see a less “politicized process” that tied the wage to inflation and focused on growth across the state. “When my dad was out of work it was devastating,” said Gibson. “People want to work. But I believe this wage increase will prevent people from working. It will kill jobs.”</p> <p>Noting that a number of counties in his Congressional district border other states, Gibson said he believes businesses will soon flee across the border to avoid new mandates. Asked if he would look to slow the increase of the minimum wage should he be elected, Gibson said, “I need to look at any kind of action like that. I think it’s important to listen and to get the facts.”</p> <p>There are still some Albany observers who believe Cuomo is looking past re-election and is ready to enter the national scene on the back of his victories on minimum wage and paid family leave. Cuomo has embraced the praise of both Hillary Clinton and President Obama, who commended the passage of paid family leave. “There’s no doubt he has national ambitions, he wants to win with big numbers and not be embarrassed in his primary,” said Sherrill. “So he is relocating himself, perhaps more to his own feelings or maybe not. It is very difficult, especially with [U.S. Attorney] Preet Bharara watching, to satisfy the Senate Republicans he helped elect and his Democratic base.”</p> <p>Cuomo remains opposed to tax increases - he beat back an Assembly proposal for a new millionaire’s tax, passed a series of tax cuts this year, and is extremely sensitive to the notion that New York has some of the highest taxes in the nation. But Sherrill believes by being on the forefront of a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave the governor is part of a developing national trend that gets big business to pay without actually raising taxes. The paid family leave program also rests upon employee contributions.</p> <p>“Cuomo, like his father, supported very big liberal policies that don’t cost money - marriage equality, gun control doesn't cost money,” said Sherrill. “He chalks up these kind of wins in an age where you can’t raise taxes.”</p> <p>“A substantial number of voters want politicians to make their lives better, but they can't raise taxes,” Sherrill continued, explaining the broader political climate. “At some point the sheer number of voters outweighs the people with lots of money. You can't raise taxes, but you can do other things to make the wealthy pay, like raising the minimum wage. However, a lot of programs de Blasio and Cuomo are advocating are in fact ways to get money into people’s hands while raising the cost on the people who refuse to pay taxes,” said Sherrill. “At some point I think the business community just asks for its taxes to be raised because it will be better for them.”</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/25964697070_8a3e2e2d06_z.jpg" alt="cuomo clinton et al celebrate" height="424" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo celebrates new progressie policies (photo:&nbsp;Don Pollard, Governor's Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched himself onto the national political stage this month by orchestrating a budget deal that made New York the first state to pass a $15 minimum wage and a paid family leave program. With Vice President Joe Biden at his side the governor pushed family leave; weeks later, Cuomo signed the package of “economic justice” legislation at a celebratory rally with Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton. He was subsequently congratulated by President Obama.</p> <p>All the while, labor union members cheered the governor who had, finally, made their agenda his.</p> <p>Unlike other major policy wins from earlier in his tenure that sprung the governor into the national spotlight, like marriage equality and gun control, the minimum wage and family leave bills speak directly to socioeconomic issues that some of the state’s liberal base felt Cuomo, a Democrat, had been insensitive to. Cuomo had indeed rejected as flights of fancy those very policies only months before announcing campaigns to support them, first saying that they would be non-starters with Republicans controlling one house of the Legislature, then pursuing them with the intensity Cuomo has given to his must-wins.</p> <p>Cuomo’s path to his moment as progressive trailblazer on economic issues was a winding one, mystifying some, including those calling political opportunism, while others point to the influence of four powerful figures: Mayor Bill de Blasio, gubernatorial challenger Zephyr Teachout, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, and Democratic voters who could deliver the governor a third term in 2018.</p> <p>On the way to a second term, Cuomo found himself in positions generally foreign to him: out-leveraged and outworked. First, Cuomo was humbled by the Working Families Party as it sought a 2014 alternative to a governor many of its members felt had betrayed their union members and progressive mission. Aided by de Blasio and making promises many now feel he did not intend to keep, Cuomo convinced the WFP to call off its third party challenge from Fordham Law Professor Zephyr Teachout.</p> <p>But then, the unknown, liberal Teachout, took Cuomo on in the Democratic primary, where the incumbent governor lost 30 counties and took home only 60 percent of the vote. Cuomo entered term two significantly weakened.</p> <p>For Cuomo, known for crippling his rivals and bullying major organizations into submission, these were positions he never wanted to be in again.</p> <p>It's a situation that insiders, pundits, and elected officials see as having given birth to the 2016 political environment in which Cuomo would fully embrace the Fight for $15 minimum wage campaign and launch his own paid family leave push, invoking the name of his recently deceased father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, in both efforts. Cuomo traveled the state in an RV plastered with the Fight for $15 slogan, picking up the mantle of an effort led by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and its labor and liberal allies that Cuomo has often distanced himself from on economic issues.</p> <p>“The original policy rests with de Blasio,” said Douglas Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College, of a liberal agenda. “The timing coincides with Teachout. But it leads to the governor deciding to tack left.”</p> <p>Critics, even some supporters, see the governor’s leftward lurch as evidence of political opportunism.</p> <p>“He doesn't give a damn about getting people out of poverty,” said Ed Cox, the chair of the New York Republican State Committee. “He cares about his own power. He had to do it to secure his political power, but in the end that kind of governing comes back to bite you.”</p> <p>Cox is speaking at a time when state Senate Republicans went along with Cuomo’s minimum wage program, albeit a “calibrated” one, as Cuomo called it, where they were able to lengthen and regionalize the phase-in.</p> <p>Congressional Rep. Chris Gibson, a Republican who has announced an exploratory committee for a 2018 gubernatorial run, also noticed the governor’s very public change of opinion. “You would have to talk to him to understand his motivation, but arguably the most persuasive critic against a $15 minimum wage is Governor Cuomo five minutes ago,” Gibson said.</p> <p>As Gibson prepares a potential bid to unseat Cuomo, the governor appears to have a clearer picture of the base he needs to withstand such a challenge.</p> <p>In Spring 2014, heads of the union-backed, left-leaning Working Families Party were ready to hand the powerful incumbent governor their endorsement but they had underestimated rank-and-file party members, activists turned off by what they saw as a fiscally conservative, transactional governor who cozied up to Senate Republicans, tussled with public employees unions, and generally thumbed his nose at the Democratic base.</p> <p>The governor appeared by video during the WFP convention in late May 2014, acceding to a list of party demands in an endorsement deal brokered by de Blasio. When party members weren’t satisfied Cuomo was forced to follow up with a phone call promising to back a Democratic Senate, a higher minimum wage, and a push to enact the DREAM Act.</p> <p>Cuomo looked forward to an easy reelection, whether he actually planned to follow through on his pledges to the WFP or not. But Teachout and many in the WFP didn’t get the memo, and the Democratic primary that followed was bruising and embarrassing for Cuomo as his campaign took on a bunker mentality while Teachout worked the base across the state.</p> <p>“If you needed any more evidence that in New York state leaders of organizations have no control over their followers you just need to look at that situation,” said Kenneth Sherrill, professor emeritus of political science at Hunter College. “The governor thought he was dealing with an interest group and he had won their support, but a lot of their members weren’t happy with the governor and in fact an awful lot of voters shared their view.”</p> <p>And what was that view exactly? “People’s lives aren’t good and they want them to be better,” said Sherrill, referring to working class voters.</p> <p>It was a message that Cuomo appeared slow to pick up on - he backed a variety of wage increases but balked at de Blasio’s plan to raise the minimum wage and allow the city to set its own in February of 2014, saying it would be “chaotic” to have different wages across the state. “God bless them — shoot for the stars,” Cuomo <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/cuomo-rejects-assembly-dems-plan-15-hour-minimum-wage-article-1.2146491" target="_blank">said</a> sarcastically in March, 2015, dismissing the Assembly Democrats’ plan to raise the state minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2018. During a public cabinet meeting in February, 2015, Cuomo said the Legislature had “no appetite” for paid family leave.</p> <p>Cuomo ran in 2010 as a leader who could provide competence to a capital that had seen one gubernatorial term split between Eliot Spitzer’s partisan bickering and scandal and David Paterson’s chaotic tenure characterized by a power struggle in the Senate and more scandal. The state was still reeling from the financial crisis and accustomed to late budgets and tax increases. Cuomo used his first term to prove he had a firm hand on the state’s finances and operations, negotiating tough deals with unions, delivering on-time budgets, instituting a property tax cap, and even delivering on socially liberal policy like marriage equality. But pundits say Cuomo missed a sea change in the electorate.</p> <p>“There's some academic research that indicates legislators misestimate their constituents’ thinking,” said Sherrill. “They tend to believe they are more conservative than they really are. So when confronted with public opinion from their district they are shocked how further left [constituents] really are. I think that’s what happened to the governor. He had no idea public opinion had shifted the way it had - and it was not just the governor. The good politician that he is, he made a wise strategic adjustment.”</p> <p>Howie Hawkins, who challenged Cuomo on the Green Party line in both 2010 and 2014, said he agrees with Sherrill. “I generally think constituents are more liberal than their representatives think, and I think the poll in this case being the votes in the primary and general elections showed [Cuomo] his mistake.”</p> <p>Cuomo’s “adjustment” involved a change in agenda and messaging. Suddenly the governor who was known for dismissing the “poetry” of campaigning that his father so embraced took to the stump using lines from his father’s famous speech from the 1984 Democratic National Convention:</p> <p>“But the hard truth is that not everyone is sharing in this city's splendor and glory. A shining city is perhaps all the President sees from the portico of the White House and the veranda of his ranch, where everyone seems to be doing well. But there's another city; there's another part to the shining the city; the part where some people can't pay their mortgages, and most young people can't afford one; where students can't afford the education they need, and middle-class parents watch the dreams they hold for their children evaporate.”</p> <p>The younger Cuomo used the speech excerpt in a television campaign for his wage push, leading to the official Mario Cuomo Campaign for Economic Justice, launched by Cuomo and labor leaders. The language and imagery mirrored the “Tale of Two Cities” motif de Blasio used for his 2013 mayoral campaign.</p> <p>Hawkins, who told Gotham Gazette he is prepared to run for Governor again depending on the circumstances, said he doesn’t believe Cuomo has changed his general approach to governing. “I think he’s making gestures, but look at the budget - it is still fiscal austerity, especially cities and towns. There are unfunded mandates and lack of aid from the state, and while he has provided more money for education it is less than the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement,” Hawkins said, referring to the 2006 court decision by which New York City is still owed billions according to advocates. “When [Assembly Speaker Carl] Heastie proposed a slightly progressive income tax he just rejected it. So he is not dealing with basic fiscal structure.”</p> <p>Hawkins said he believes Cuomo’s action on minimum wage and paid family leave will protect Cuomo from a challenge from inside the Democratic Party if the governor runs for a third term in 2018. Hawkins, who performed best in the Capital Region where Cuomo went to war with public worker unions early in his term, said he isn’t so sure the anger is going to be there again in 2018. “I don’t know that people are going to be that upset with him,” he said.</p> <p>Cuomo’s Republican opposition sees the governor’s support of the $15 minimum wage as a political calculation designed to undercut his Democratic rival, de Blasio, while boosting his national standing. They imagine the governor has sapped de Blasio’s momentum and hopes to use it to land the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention this year, or perhaps even the Vice Presidency or a major cabinet position.</p> <p>Political analysts call these scenarios unlikely. Cuomo has gone on the record saying he plans to win and serve a third term as Governor, unless, he says, he keels over from a heart attack induced by the Albany press corp. The governor’s office declined to comment for this story.</p> <p>“In 2010 he understood he had to run as a fiscal conservative,” said Cox, the chair of the New York Republican State Committee. “In 2013 Bill de Blasio wins saying he is the progressive leader of the free world. In 2014 Cuomo’s running in his own primary and he has to beg to get the backing of the Working Families Party and he only gets 60 percent as a sitting Governor in his own party’s primary.”</p> <p>Cox said that Cuomo slowly began taking on de Blasio’s positions, “just as Mrs. [Hillary] Clinton has done with Bernie Sanders.” And eventually “adopted the SEIU’s ‘Fight for 15’ campaign whole hock” to “avoid insulting his very important constituents in labor.”</p> <p>Meanwhile, Cox points out that Cuomo made a number of his major policy announcements alongside Vice President Joe Biden, who was very much thought to be a presidential contender at the time.</p> <p>Cox believes the governor’s minimum wage plan that embraces different phase-ins across the state - in direct contradiction to his previous statement calling such a system “chaotic” - will not only hurt the economy but leave the governor vulnerable to a Republican challenger.</p> <p>Rep. Gibson, the most likely such challenger at this point, said he would have liked to see a less “politicized process” that tied the wage to inflation and focused on growth across the state. “When my dad was out of work it was devastating,” said Gibson. “People want to work. But I believe this wage increase will prevent people from working. It will kill jobs.”</p> <p>Noting that a number of counties in his Congressional district border other states, Gibson said he believes businesses will soon flee across the border to avoid new mandates. Asked if he would look to slow the increase of the minimum wage should he be elected, Gibson said, “I need to look at any kind of action like that. I think it’s important to listen and to get the facts.”</p> <p>There are still some Albany observers who believe Cuomo is looking past re-election and is ready to enter the national scene on the back of his victories on minimum wage and paid family leave. Cuomo has embraced the praise of both Hillary Clinton and President Obama, who commended the passage of paid family leave. “There’s no doubt he has national ambitions, he wants to win with big numbers and not be embarrassed in his primary,” said Sherrill. “So he is relocating himself, perhaps more to his own feelings or maybe not. It is very difficult, especially with [U.S. Attorney] Preet Bharara watching, to satisfy the Senate Republicans he helped elect and his Democratic base.”</p> <p>Cuomo remains opposed to tax increases - he beat back an Assembly proposal for a new millionaire’s tax, passed a series of tax cuts this year, and is extremely sensitive to the notion that New York has some of the highest taxes in the nation. But Sherrill believes by being on the forefront of a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave the governor is part of a developing national trend that gets big business to pay without actually raising taxes. The paid family leave program also rests upon employee contributions.</p> <p>“Cuomo, like his father, supported very big liberal policies that don’t cost money - marriage equality, gun control doesn't cost money,” said Sherrill. “He chalks up these kind of wins in an age where you can’t raise taxes.”</p> <p>“A substantial number of voters want politicians to make their lives better, but they can't raise taxes,” Sherrill continued, explaining the broader political climate. “At some point the sheer number of voters outweighs the people with lots of money. You can't raise taxes, but you can do other things to make the wealthy pay, like raising the minimum wage. However, a lot of programs de Blasio and Cuomo are advocating are in fact ways to get money into people’s hands while raising the cost on the people who refuse to pay taxes,” said Sherrill. “At some point I think the business community just asks for its taxes to be raised because it will be better for them.”</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
An Imperfect Victory for New York Workers 2016-04-04T22:00:33+00:00 2016-04-04T22:00:33+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6264:an-imperfect-victory-for-new-york-workers Super User <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/15_rally.jpeg" alt="15 rally" height="361" width="600" /></p> <hr /> <p>Millions of New Yorkers are celebrating a deal this week to raise the state’s minimum wage. The deal puts a better future in sight for families around the state and sends a powerful signal to other states considering wage hikes of their own.</p> <p dir="ltr">The deal is a testament to the power of organizing. Today’s headlines would be unimaginable just a few years ago. When New York Communities for Change organized the first fast food worker strike – almost four years ago – people thought we were crazy.</p> <p dir="ltr">As the federal government repeatedly stalled on a meaningful increase to the nationwide minimum wage, it seemed that higher wages were out of reach.</p> <p dir="ltr">In response, fast-food and other low-wage workers rose up to fight for better wages and a better quality of life, sparking a movement that spread to cities and towns across the nation.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is no coincidence that the Fight for $15 began right here in New York City. The level of inequality in our city has long been one of the worst of the country – and has grown to historic proportions in recent years.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to a 2014 Census Bureau survey, the top 5 percent of Manhattan households <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/18/nyregion/gap-between-manhattans-rich-and-poor-is-greatest-in-us-census-finds.html" target="_blank">made 88 times</a> as much as the poorest 20 percent. And as of last year, workers earning minimum wage <a href="http://streeteasy.com/blog/the-high-burden-of-low-wages-how-renting-affordably-in-nyc-is-impossible-on-minimum-wage/" target="_blank">could not afford</a> median rent in a single neighborhood in New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr">Wages have long failed to keep pace with the growing cost of living. In fact, the Economic Policy Institute <a href="http://www.epi.org/publication/raising-new-york-state-minimum-wage-to-15/" target="_blank">found</a> that the statewide wage of $9.00 per hour was well below what it would be if it had simply kept pace with inflation since 1970. The same study found that, accounting for both inflation and a higher cost of living, the minimum wage today would match its 1970 value if it <a href="http://www.epi.org/publication/raising-new-york-state-minimum-wage-to-15/" target="_blank">reached</a> $14.27 per hour this year – nearly the level agreed on by the New York State Legislature.</p> <p dir="ltr">Governor Cuomo made the right move last year by mandating higher wages for fast-food workers – those on the front lines fighting for reform. But leading industry by industry risked neglecting too many workers. In order to truly create change, the rules must apply equally to everybody. Last week’s deal did that, letting workers across the economy finally dream bigger than the next paycheck.</p> <p dir="ltr">The deal is a victory for New York City workers. However, it bypasses hard-working families in Upstate New York. While over a million low-wage workers in the city will see their wages rise to $15 per hour by the end of 2018, those in Long Island will only reach $15 in almost six years and those upstate will need to wait five years only to reach $12.50. Although the deal allows wages to rise to $15 after that, the rate will depend on review and inflation and could take years.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is a painfully long stretch given the growing cost of living north of the city. The New York State Comptroller, for example, has <a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/housing/affordable_housing_ny_2014.pdf" target="_blank">found</a> housing costs skyrocketing, with at least one in five people in every county – including those far upstate like Warren and Monroe – spending more than a third of their salary on rent. In some counties half of residents must spend that much. With added expenses like utilities and food, it leaves little room to save up for college or retirement.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is imperative that legislators now finish the job and give all New Yorkers a chance at a living wage.</p> <p dir="ltr">Just days before Albany finalized its deal; California showed us that a $15 wage statewide is possible. Our state must fulfill the promise of Fight for $15 statewide and let all workers adequately provide for themselves and their families. Otherwise New Yorkers will continue doing what they have been doing for almost four years: risking everything to provide a better life for their families.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />JoEllen Chernow is Director of Economic Justice at Center for Popular Democracy. Jonathan Westin is Executive Director of New York Communities for Change. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/popdemoc" target="_blank">@popdemoc</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/nychange" target="_blank">@nychange</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/15_rally.jpeg" alt="15 rally" height="361" width="600" /></p> <hr /> <p>Millions of New Yorkers are celebrating a deal this week to raise the state’s minimum wage. The deal puts a better future in sight for families around the state and sends a powerful signal to other states considering wage hikes of their own.</p> <p dir="ltr">The deal is a testament to the power of organizing. Today’s headlines would be unimaginable just a few years ago. When New York Communities for Change organized the first fast food worker strike – almost four years ago – people thought we were crazy.</p> <p dir="ltr">As the federal government repeatedly stalled on a meaningful increase to the nationwide minimum wage, it seemed that higher wages were out of reach.</p> <p dir="ltr">In response, fast-food and other low-wage workers rose up to fight for better wages and a better quality of life, sparking a movement that spread to cities and towns across the nation.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is no coincidence that the Fight for $15 began right here in New York City. The level of inequality in our city has long been one of the worst of the country – and has grown to historic proportions in recent years.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to a 2014 Census Bureau survey, the top 5 percent of Manhattan households <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/18/nyregion/gap-between-manhattans-rich-and-poor-is-greatest-in-us-census-finds.html" target="_blank">made 88 times</a> as much as the poorest 20 percent. And as of last year, workers earning minimum wage <a href="http://streeteasy.com/blog/the-high-burden-of-low-wages-how-renting-affordably-in-nyc-is-impossible-on-minimum-wage/" target="_blank">could not afford</a> median rent in a single neighborhood in New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr">Wages have long failed to keep pace with the growing cost of living. In fact, the Economic Policy Institute <a href="http://www.epi.org/publication/raising-new-york-state-minimum-wage-to-15/" target="_blank">found</a> that the statewide wage of $9.00 per hour was well below what it would be if it had simply kept pace with inflation since 1970. The same study found that, accounting for both inflation and a higher cost of living, the minimum wage today would match its 1970 value if it <a href="http://www.epi.org/publication/raising-new-york-state-minimum-wage-to-15/" target="_blank">reached</a> $14.27 per hour this year – nearly the level agreed on by the New York State Legislature.</p> <p dir="ltr">Governor Cuomo made the right move last year by mandating higher wages for fast-food workers – those on the front lines fighting for reform. But leading industry by industry risked neglecting too many workers. In order to truly create change, the rules must apply equally to everybody. Last week’s deal did that, letting workers across the economy finally dream bigger than the next paycheck.</p> <p dir="ltr">The deal is a victory for New York City workers. However, it bypasses hard-working families in Upstate New York. While over a million low-wage workers in the city will see their wages rise to $15 per hour by the end of 2018, those in Long Island will only reach $15 in almost six years and those upstate will need to wait five years only to reach $12.50. Although the deal allows wages to rise to $15 after that, the rate will depend on review and inflation and could take years.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is a painfully long stretch given the growing cost of living north of the city. The New York State Comptroller, for example, has <a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/housing/affordable_housing_ny_2014.pdf" target="_blank">found</a> housing costs skyrocketing, with at least one in five people in every county – including those far upstate like Warren and Monroe – spending more than a third of their salary on rent. In some counties half of residents must spend that much. With added expenses like utilities and food, it leaves little room to save up for college or retirement.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is imperative that legislators now finish the job and give all New Yorkers a chance at a living wage.</p> <p dir="ltr">Just days before Albany finalized its deal; California showed us that a $15 wage statewide is possible. Our state must fulfill the promise of Fight for $15 statewide and let all workers adequately provide for themselves and their families. Otherwise New Yorkers will continue doing what they have been doing for almost four years: risking everything to provide a better life for their families.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />JoEllen Chernow is Director of Economic Justice at Center for Popular Democracy. Jonathan Westin is Executive Director of New York Communities for Change. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/popdemoc" target="_blank">@popdemoc</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/nychange" target="_blank">@nychange</a>.</p> New York City Interests Given Varied Priority in Three Albany Budget Plans 2016-03-15T22:33:16+00:00 2016-03-15T22:33:16+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6226:new-york-city-interests-given-varied-priority-in-three-albany-budget-plans Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/24980864236_5c6038abfd_z.jpg" alt="de blasio heastie albany" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio &amp; Heastie (Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio didn't need to see the Assembly and Senate one-house budgets to know where he stands with each chamber - Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is a close ally of the mayor, his fellow New York City Democrat, while Senate Republicans hold a major grudge against de Blasio for leading a failed effort to boot them from the majority two years ago. Most Republican legislators, who control the Senate but not the Assembly, are also philosophically opposed to much of de Blasio's agenda.</p> <p>Still, the documents give de Blasio - himself in the midst of a city budget process that depends quite a bit on state decisions - more clarity as budget negotiations truly heat up in the capital. With the governor's executive budget out for two months, plus the newly passed one-house budgets, de Blasio now has an idea of how hard a fight he and his allies have to get what they want.</p> <p>The Legislature uses one-house budgets to set chamber priorities after analyzing the governor's spending plan, which is typically issued at the start of the year. The budgets are non-binding but used to send clear messages about majority conferences' top priorities before entering final negotiations with the governor.</p> <p>While there are a variety of city-specific issues at play, de Blasio has made it clear that he is supportive of Cuomo's push for both a minimum wage increase toward $15 per hour over the next several years and a paid family leave policy. These are two major agenda items for the governor, where Cuomo laregly has Democratic support but must negotiate deals with Republicans.</p> <p>With all three budgets out, Mayor de Blasio, city officials and residents are all taking note of where things stand on several other major issues.</p> <p><strong>Mayoral Control of Schools</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's budget includes a three-year extension of mayoral control, which is fairly short compared to the seven-year extension Mayor Michael Bloomberg was able to win during his tenure. Last year Cuomo also proposed three years, but the three parties only agreed on a one-year extension in June, angering de Blasio and his allies. (The issue was bumped beyond the budget into legislative session last year, as it may again this year.)</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Mayor de Blasio's allies in the Assembly support a seven-year extension of mayoral control, which would make expiration June 30, 2023. Such a distant date would remove the issue from the political equation for years to come and prevent Cuomo and Senate Republicans from holding it over de Blasio's head, even through a potential second term for the mayor.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> While addressing the chamber before the vote on <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/sites/default/files/articles/attachments/fy_2017_nys_senate_one_house_resolution_fact_sheet.pdf" target="_blank">its one-house budget</a> on Monday, Majority Leader John Flanagan said that he didn't feel mayoral control was a budget issue. He indicated he expects to have relevant hearings later in the year where de Blasio will be asked to testify. When asked about attending hearings by Gotham Gazette de Blasio said on Monday that he had expected them and welcomes the chance to discuss mayoral control. He was quick to remind that he had already met with Flanagan and discussed the subject.</p> <p>"I've already sat down with him, obviously, and talked to him about this," de Blasio said on Monday at an unrelated press conference in Harlem, referring to the mayor's trip to Albany earlier this year. "I certainly made my case to him, it was a very good and respectful meeting. I think he heard my points. I'm not saying he agreed with all of them, but he heard them. He knows a lot about education, obviously, from his own work on the education committee in the Senate. And I will welcome a dialogue. I told him I will happily appear at a hearing any time."</p> <p><strong>CUNY and Medicaid Cost Shifts</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's budget could cost the city nearly a billion dollars in funding through plans that would see the city assume increasing costs for Medicaid and funding for CUNY. The governor insists that the city can afford to take on a greater share of the costs of both city-state programs.</p> <p>Facing criticism from de Blasio, his allies, and budget watchdogs who warned the shifts would devastate the city's finances, Cuomo insisted his budgeting would simply foster a joint cost-saving exercise that in the end wouldn't cost the city anything. However, no adjustments were made to the plan in the governor's 30-day budget amendments, leaving the cost shifts as an expensive bargaining chip. While aides to de Blasio and Cuomo have been in conversation, there has been no evidence of progress in finding such efficiencies.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Assembly Democrats rejected both cost shifts, winning the praise of the mayor and education groups who have turned up lobbying efforts in recent weeks. Advocates say the cost shifts would devastate CUNY and make it much harder to provide higher education, especially to those who can't afford private school tuition.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> Both proposals remain in the Senate plan. Debate over the CUNY shifts took a curious turn on Monday as Republican Sen. Cathy Young, the chair of the finance committee, offered a new rationale for the CUNY proposal: the cost shift as a punishment for recent anti-Semitic incidents at CUNY and what some lawmakers see as an inefficient response to them.</p> <p>"In light of recent anti-Semitic events at CUNY campuses," reads the Senate's budget summary, "the Senate denies additional funding for CUNY senior schools until it is satisfied that the administration has developed a plan to guarantee the safety of students of all faiths. The Senate fully understands the importance of the City University System, and supports the full restoration of State support when this difficult and atrocious situation is adequately addressed."</p> <p>Democrats were taken aback by the rationale. "Everyone agrees that anti-Semitism is bad. But the way you fight it is not by hurting the students," said Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky of Queens.</p> <p>"This administration has been outspoken in ensuring that NYC continues to be a model for other cities in combating anti-Semitism," de Blasio said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "Our institutions of higher education must be spaces where people of all faiths can thrive and feel safe, and CUNY must ensure that's the case. The best tool to combat hate is education - and we must be investing in it, not cutting it."</p> <p><strong>Tax-Exempt Affordable Housing Bonds</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's budget includes a proposal to give the state final say over housing projects financed by federal tax-exempt bonds the state distributes. The Public Authorities Control Board, made up of one appointee each from the Governor and legislative leaders, would have the ability to veto individual affordable housing projects. Cuomo touted the plan as lending transparency to the process, but contractors, housing advocates, Mayor de Blasio, and others expressed significant worry it would lead to instability, uncertainty, and delay to badly-needed affordable housing projects.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Rejects the plan.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> Rejects the plan.</p> <p>De Blasio appeared buoyed when asked about both chambers rejecting the plan. "I think in the democratic system that's a rather striking statement," the mayor told reporters on Monday afternoon. "We said from the beginning that we thought this would make it harder to create affordable housing, and would slow the process down. It's quite clear the Senate and the Assembly agree, and we appreciate their support and look forward to working with them, because we need to, in fact, speed up the supply of affordable housing, not slow it down."</p> <p><strong>Construction Takeover</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's budget proposes the creation of "The New York State Design and Construction Corp." that would be given oversight of public construction projects worth over $50 million. The DCC would be a subsidiary of the state's Dormitory Authority and would be headed by three commissioners, all appointed by the governor. Budget watchdogs and legislators see the plan as a power grab designed to give the Governor say in major construction projects headed by independent agencies such as the MTA.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Rejects the plan.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> Rejects the plan.</p> <p><strong>MTA Funding</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's plan technically provides $8.3 billion in funding for the MTA capital plan, per an earlier commitment Cuomo made in striking a deal with de Blasio over plugging a funding gap. However, the governor's budget only appropriates $1 billion for the MTA this year and puts off the rest of the funding until the MTA exhausts its current resources.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Rejecting Cuomo's condition that the MTA exhausts its current funding first, <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/Reports/WAM/20160314/2016_budget_summary.pdf" target="_blank">the Assembly plan</a> appropriates the remaining $7.3 billion Cuomo's plan puts off.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> Accepting most of Cuomo's funding plan, the Senate requires the state to provide $3.5 billion in additional funding to the Department of Transportation Capital Plan.</p> <p><strong>Tenant Protection Unit</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's budget recommends $4.4 million in funding for the agency he credits with restoring 50,000 units to the affordable housing rolls.&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Provides a $5.8 million appropriation for the unit.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> Denies funding for the unit.</p> <p><strong>Next Steps</strong><br />On Tuesday, the two houses of the Legislature convened a joint hearing to kick off the formal conference committee process whereby representatives of each house meet to hash out the differences in their plans. Leadership announced committee hearings on public protection, mental hygiene, higher education, general government, environment and housing, transportation, economic development, human services/labor, and education all to take place throughout the day on Wednesday.</p> <p>Cuomo, Heastie, and Flanagan are also expected to pick up their closed-door negotiations with the deadline for a final budget being April 1. When the state budget is decided, de Blasio will then have to weigh its impact on his budget negotiations with the City Council, with a final city budget due at the end of June.</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/24980864236_5c6038abfd_z.jpg" alt="de blasio heastie albany" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio &amp; Heastie (Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio didn't need to see the Assembly and Senate one-house budgets to know where he stands with each chamber - Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is a close ally of the mayor, his fellow New York City Democrat, while Senate Republicans hold a major grudge against de Blasio for leading a failed effort to boot them from the majority two years ago. Most Republican legislators, who control the Senate but not the Assembly, are also philosophically opposed to much of de Blasio's agenda.</p> <p>Still, the documents give de Blasio - himself in the midst of a city budget process that depends quite a bit on state decisions - more clarity as budget negotiations truly heat up in the capital. With the governor's executive budget out for two months, plus the newly passed one-house budgets, de Blasio now has an idea of how hard a fight he and his allies have to get what they want.</p> <p>The Legislature uses one-house budgets to set chamber priorities after analyzing the governor's spending plan, which is typically issued at the start of the year. The budgets are non-binding but used to send clear messages about majority conferences' top priorities before entering final negotiations with the governor.</p> <p>While there are a variety of city-specific issues at play, de Blasio has made it clear that he is supportive of Cuomo's push for both a minimum wage increase toward $15 per hour over the next several years and a paid family leave policy. These are two major agenda items for the governor, where Cuomo laregly has Democratic support but must negotiate deals with Republicans.</p> <p>With all three budgets out, Mayor de Blasio, city officials and residents are all taking note of where things stand on several other major issues.</p> <p><strong>Mayoral Control of Schools</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's budget includes a three-year extension of mayoral control, which is fairly short compared to the seven-year extension Mayor Michael Bloomberg was able to win during his tenure. Last year Cuomo also proposed three years, but the three parties only agreed on a one-year extension in June, angering de Blasio and his allies. (The issue was bumped beyond the budget into legislative session last year, as it may again this year.)</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Mayor de Blasio's allies in the Assembly support a seven-year extension of mayoral control, which would make expiration June 30, 2023. Such a distant date would remove the issue from the political equation for years to come and prevent Cuomo and Senate Republicans from holding it over de Blasio's head, even through a potential second term for the mayor.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> While addressing the chamber before the vote on <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/sites/default/files/articles/attachments/fy_2017_nys_senate_one_house_resolution_fact_sheet.pdf" target="_blank">its one-house budget</a> on Monday, Majority Leader John Flanagan said that he didn't feel mayoral control was a budget issue. He indicated he expects to have relevant hearings later in the year where de Blasio will be asked to testify. When asked about attending hearings by Gotham Gazette de Blasio said on Monday that he had expected them and welcomes the chance to discuss mayoral control. He was quick to remind that he had already met with Flanagan and discussed the subject.</p> <p>"I've already sat down with him, obviously, and talked to him about this," de Blasio said on Monday at an unrelated press conference in Harlem, referring to the mayor's trip to Albany earlier this year. "I certainly made my case to him, it was a very good and respectful meeting. I think he heard my points. I'm not saying he agreed with all of them, but he heard them. He knows a lot about education, obviously, from his own work on the education committee in the Senate. And I will welcome a dialogue. I told him I will happily appear at a hearing any time."</p> <p><strong>CUNY and Medicaid Cost Shifts</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's budget could cost the city nearly a billion dollars in funding through plans that would see the city assume increasing costs for Medicaid and funding for CUNY. The governor insists that the city can afford to take on a greater share of the costs of both city-state programs.</p> <p>Facing criticism from de Blasio, his allies, and budget watchdogs who warned the shifts would devastate the city's finances, Cuomo insisted his budgeting would simply foster a joint cost-saving exercise that in the end wouldn't cost the city anything. However, no adjustments were made to the plan in the governor's 30-day budget amendments, leaving the cost shifts as an expensive bargaining chip. While aides to de Blasio and Cuomo have been in conversation, there has been no evidence of progress in finding such efficiencies.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Assembly Democrats rejected both cost shifts, winning the praise of the mayor and education groups who have turned up lobbying efforts in recent weeks. Advocates say the cost shifts would devastate CUNY and make it much harder to provide higher education, especially to those who can't afford private school tuition.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> Both proposals remain in the Senate plan. Debate over the CUNY shifts took a curious turn on Monday as Republican Sen. Cathy Young, the chair of the finance committee, offered a new rationale for the CUNY proposal: the cost shift as a punishment for recent anti-Semitic incidents at CUNY and what some lawmakers see as an inefficient response to them.</p> <p>"In light of recent anti-Semitic events at CUNY campuses," reads the Senate's budget summary, "the Senate denies additional funding for CUNY senior schools until it is satisfied that the administration has developed a plan to guarantee the safety of students of all faiths. The Senate fully understands the importance of the City University System, and supports the full restoration of State support when this difficult and atrocious situation is adequately addressed."</p> <p>Democrats were taken aback by the rationale. "Everyone agrees that anti-Semitism is bad. But the way you fight it is not by hurting the students," said Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky of Queens.</p> <p>"This administration has been outspoken in ensuring that NYC continues to be a model for other cities in combating anti-Semitism," de Blasio said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "Our institutions of higher education must be spaces where people of all faiths can thrive and feel safe, and CUNY must ensure that's the case. The best tool to combat hate is education - and we must be investing in it, not cutting it."</p> <p><strong>Tax-Exempt Affordable Housing Bonds</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's budget includes a proposal to give the state final say over housing projects financed by federal tax-exempt bonds the state distributes. The Public Authorities Control Board, made up of one appointee each from the Governor and legislative leaders, would have the ability to veto individual affordable housing projects. Cuomo touted the plan as lending transparency to the process, but contractors, housing advocates, Mayor de Blasio, and others expressed significant worry it would lead to instability, uncertainty, and delay to badly-needed affordable housing projects.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Rejects the plan.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> Rejects the plan.</p> <p>De Blasio appeared buoyed when asked about both chambers rejecting the plan. "I think in the democratic system that's a rather striking statement," the mayor told reporters on Monday afternoon. "We said from the beginning that we thought this would make it harder to create affordable housing, and would slow the process down. It's quite clear the Senate and the Assembly agree, and we appreciate their support and look forward to working with them, because we need to, in fact, speed up the supply of affordable housing, not slow it down."</p> <p><strong>Construction Takeover</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's budget proposes the creation of "The New York State Design and Construction Corp." that would be given oversight of public construction projects worth over $50 million. The DCC would be a subsidiary of the state's Dormitory Authority and would be headed by three commissioners, all appointed by the governor. Budget watchdogs and legislators see the plan as a power grab designed to give the Governor say in major construction projects headed by independent agencies such as the MTA.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Rejects the plan.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> Rejects the plan.</p> <p><strong>MTA Funding</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's plan technically provides $8.3 billion in funding for the MTA capital plan, per an earlier commitment Cuomo made in striking a deal with de Blasio over plugging a funding gap. However, the governor's budget only appropriates $1 billion for the MTA this year and puts off the rest of the funding until the MTA exhausts its current resources.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Rejecting Cuomo's condition that the MTA exhausts its current funding first, <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/Reports/WAM/20160314/2016_budget_summary.pdf" target="_blank">the Assembly plan</a> appropriates the remaining $7.3 billion Cuomo's plan puts off.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> Accepting most of Cuomo's funding plan, the Senate requires the state to provide $3.5 billion in additional funding to the Department of Transportation Capital Plan.</p> <p><strong>Tenant Protection Unit</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's budget recommends $4.4 million in funding for the agency he credits with restoring 50,000 units to the affordable housing rolls.&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Provides a $5.8 million appropriation for the unit.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> Denies funding for the unit.</p> <p><strong>Next Steps</strong><br />On Tuesday, the two houses of the Legislature convened a joint hearing to kick off the formal conference committee process whereby representatives of each house meet to hash out the differences in their plans. Leadership announced committee hearings on public protection, mental hygiene, higher education, general government, environment and housing, transportation, economic development, human services/labor, and education all to take place throughout the day on Wednesday.</p> <p>Cuomo, Heastie, and Flanagan are also expected to pick up their closed-door negotiations with the deadline for a final budget being April 1. When the state budget is decided, de Blasio will then have to weigh its impact on his budget negotiations with the City Council, with a final city budget due at the end of June.</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
More Cities Should Do What States and Federal Government Aren't on Minimum Wage 2016-01-14T19:46:39+00:00 2016-01-14T19:46:39+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6090:more-cities-should-do-what-states-and-federal-government-arent-on-minimum-wage Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/23589013804_3bdd4cedec_z.jpg" alt="de blasio minimum wage announcement crowd" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Mayor de Blasio at his recent minimum wage announcement (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Early this month, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a guaranteed $15 minimum wage for all city government employees by the end of 2018. This is a big win for over 50,000 workers across the city struggling to provide for their families.</p> <p>Unlike in Seattle and Los Angeles, where city officials are empowered to raise the minimum wage for the entire workforce in their cities, Mayor de Blasio is unable to unilaterally raise wages for all New York City workers. That power lies with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature. The governor's efforts to lift the minimum wage to $15 are being hampered by a Republican-controlled state Senate.</p> <p>De Blasio's decision to raise wages for city employees is a crucial independent step towards a more equitable city - and should be seen as an inspiration for cities around the nation. It also reflects the power and momentum of a groundbreaking worker-led countrywide movement demanding higher wages.</p> <p>Even as state and federal administrations drag their feet on the inevitable question of a decent minimum wage for working families in the United States, de Blasio's gutsy move shows cities can and should take matters into their own hands.</p> <p>The mayor's minimum wage raise closely follows his announcement last month giving six weeks paid parental leave, and up to 12 weeks when combined with existing leave, to the city's 20,000 non-unionized employees. The mayor has now moved to negotiate the same benefits with municipal unions. Again, New York City private sector workers must look to Albany or Washington, D.C. to move on paid family leave for all.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio's recent actions support his goal of lifting 800,000 New Yorkers out of poverty over ten years. More than 20 percent of the city's population lives in poverty, a huge swath of a city commonly associated with extraordinary wealth.</p> <p>The last couple of years have seen unparalleled momentum from workers themselves - from New York City to Los Angeles and Chicago - calling for livable wages, resulting in minimum wage raises for fast food workers and other groups.</p> <p>Workers are not waiting patiently on government officials – they are organizing in an unprecedented way. Progressive mayors like de Blasio are responding with sound policy, while less responsive officials are being put on notice. Cities like Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago are paving the way, showing that it is possible to act independently of state and federal governments.</p> <p>In addition, laws raising the minimum wage to more than the pitiful federal standard of $7.25 an hour have passed in a number of states. There are now campaigns to raise the floor and standards for workers being led in 14 states and four cities. This momentum is building into a crescendo that will have deep implications for the 2016 presidential election.</p> <p>Nearly half of our country's workers earn less than $15 an hour and 43 million are forced to work or place their jobs at risk when sick or faced with a critical care-giving need. Now is the time for cities to listen to their workers and override state and federal passivity to allow millions of hard-working Americans to provide for their families.</p> <p>***<br />JoEllen Chernow is minimum wage and paid sick days campaign director at <a href="http://populardemocracy.org/" target="_blank">Center for Popular Democracy</a>. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/popdemoc" target="_blank">@popdemoc</a>.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/23589013804_3bdd4cedec_z.jpg" alt="de blasio minimum wage announcement crowd" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Mayor de Blasio at his recent minimum wage announcement (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Early this month, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a guaranteed $15 minimum wage for all city government employees by the end of 2018. This is a big win for over 50,000 workers across the city struggling to provide for their families.</p> <p>Unlike in Seattle and Los Angeles, where city officials are empowered to raise the minimum wage for the entire workforce in their cities, Mayor de Blasio is unable to unilaterally raise wages for all New York City workers. That power lies with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature. The governor's efforts to lift the minimum wage to $15 are being hampered by a Republican-controlled state Senate.</p> <p>De Blasio's decision to raise wages for city employees is a crucial independent step towards a more equitable city - and should be seen as an inspiration for cities around the nation. It also reflects the power and momentum of a groundbreaking worker-led countrywide movement demanding higher wages.</p> <p>Even as state and federal administrations drag their feet on the inevitable question of a decent minimum wage for working families in the United States, de Blasio's gutsy move shows cities can and should take matters into their own hands.</p> <p>The mayor's minimum wage raise closely follows his announcement last month giving six weeks paid parental leave, and up to 12 weeks when combined with existing leave, to the city's 20,000 non-unionized employees. The mayor has now moved to negotiate the same benefits with municipal unions. Again, New York City private sector workers must look to Albany or Washington, D.C. to move on paid family leave for all.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio's recent actions support his goal of lifting 800,000 New Yorkers out of poverty over ten years. More than 20 percent of the city's population lives in poverty, a huge swath of a city commonly associated with extraordinary wealth.</p> <p>The last couple of years have seen unparalleled momentum from workers themselves - from New York City to Los Angeles and Chicago - calling for livable wages, resulting in minimum wage raises for fast food workers and other groups.</p> <p>Workers are not waiting patiently on government officials – they are organizing in an unprecedented way. Progressive mayors like de Blasio are responding with sound policy, while less responsive officials are being put on notice. Cities like Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago are paving the way, showing that it is possible to act independently of state and federal governments.</p> <p>In addition, laws raising the minimum wage to more than the pitiful federal standard of $7.25 an hour have passed in a number of states. There are now campaigns to raise the floor and standards for workers being led in 14 states and four cities. This momentum is building into a crescendo that will have deep implications for the 2016 presidential election.</p> <p>Nearly half of our country's workers earn less than $15 an hour and 43 million are forced to work or place their jobs at risk when sick or faced with a critical care-giving need. Now is the time for cities to listen to their workers and override state and federal passivity to allow millions of hard-working Americans to provide for their families.</p> <p>***<br />JoEllen Chernow is minimum wage and paid sick days campaign director at <a href="http://populardemocracy.org/" target="_blank">Center for Popular Democracy</a>. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/popdemoc" target="_blank">@popdemoc</a>.</p> The Week That Was in New York Politics, Jan. 4-8 2016-01-08T17:08:56+00:00 2016-01-08T17:08:56+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6075:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-jan-4-8 Carmen Russo <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/week_in_review_bus_readers.jpg" alt="week in review bus readers" height="409" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;"><a href="http://blog.mcny.org/2012/04/24/a-ride-on-the-subway-in-1946-with-stanley-kubrick/" target="_blank">photo</a>: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York</span></p> <hr /> <p>Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday January 8</p> <p><strong>IMAGE OF THE WEEK:&nbsp;</strong>Penn Station rendering, <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/24135009201/in/dateposted/" target="_blank">via</a> Governor Cuomo's office on flickr; Mayor de Blasio's signs paid parental leave personnel order for nonunion city employees, <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/nycmayorsoffice/23942277090/" target="_blank">via</a> Ed Reed for the Mayor's Office</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/24135009201_6e65ab4e69_z.jpg" alt="Penn Station rendering via gov" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="289" width="400" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/23942277090_2cd9b54158_z.jpg" alt="bdb paid parental leave" height="266" width="400" /></p> <p><strong>TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK:</strong></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>1. New Deputy Mayor:</strong> On<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/06/nyregion/de-blasio-names-herminia-palacio-as-deputy-mayor-for-health-and-human-services.html" target="_blank"> Tuesday</a>, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Dr. Herminia Palacio will take over as Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, filling a position that had been vacant for four months. Homelessness is an especially key issue for Mayor de Blasio and his administration, as they work to remedy an increasing homelessness crisis.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>2. Cuomo’s Executive Order:</strong> Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an<a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/EO151.pdf" target="_blank"> executive order</a> on Sunday requiring all homeless people on the streets be moved into shelters when temperatures fall below freezing, and ordering homeless shelters to <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/244792/cuomo-signs-executive-order-to-address-homelessness/" target="_blank">extend their hours</a>. The move has been met with some <a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/fa7e928c6b1f4797b1e17e45c3604f04/ny-governor-orders-homeless-indoors-temps-fall" target="_blank">criticism</a>, in part because the city already provides much of the same protections to homeless people. [Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6061-something-cuomo-a-de-blasio-agree-on-city-shelters-need-improvement" target="_blank">Something Cuomo &amp; De Blasio Agree On: City Shelters Need Improvement</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>3. Cuomo’s 2016 Agenda:</strong> Speaking on <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2016/01/3/ethics-reform-in-albany-will-be-a-part-of-governor-s-annual-speech.html" target="_blank">NY1</a>, Gov. Cuomo said ethics reform will be on the top of his agenda: “I’m going to push the legislature very hard to adopt more aggressive ethics legislation, more disclosure, more enforcement.” Cuomo also mentioned economic development and “social justice,” namely the “high unemployment among young minority males,” as being important to him, and has also called to overhaul <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/gov-cuomo-to-back-a-penn-station-overhaul-1452030404" target="_blank">Penn Station</a> in an upgrade that could cost about $3 billion. The governor has spent the week unveiling key pieces of his agenda, including several infrastructure-related plans. [Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6067-corruption-elections-loom-over-2016-legislative-agenda" target="_blank">Corruption, Elections Loom Over Lengthy 2016 Legislative Agenda</a> &amp; <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6057-predictions-experts-look-ahead-to-new-york-politics-in-2016" target="_blank">Predictions! Experts Look Ahead to New York Politics in 2016</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>4. Minimum Wage Hikes:</strong> Mayor de Blasio <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2016/01/8587112/de-blasio-staking-progressive-claim-announces-wage-hike" target="_blank">announced</a> Wednesday that city employees, including workers contacted through nonprofits, will see their minimum wage increased to $15 an hour by 2018 in a move that will impact an estimated 50,000 workers. Governor Cuomo is expected to make a statewide $15 minimum wage one of the focuses of his State of the State speech next week.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>5. Paid Parental Leave Born:</strong> On <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#/0" target="_blank">Thursday</a>, Mayor de Blasio signed a personnel order to provide paid parental leave to roughly 20,000 New York City employees. The order provides six weeks of paid time off for parental leave. [Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6052-de-blasio-moves-on-paid-parental-leave" target="_blank">De Blasio Moves on Paid Parental Leave</a>]</p> <p><strong>THIS WEEK'S NUMBERS:<br /></strong><strong>$3 billion</strong> is the price tag for Gov. Cuomo’s push to remake Penn station, the<a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/penn-stations-latest-grand-plan-unveiled-1452131543" target="_blank"> Wall Street Journal</a> reports.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>22%</strong> decrease in traffic deaths since Mayor de Blasio launched Vision Zero, the<a href="http://nypost.com/2016/01/01/traffic-deaths-down-22-percent-since-launch-of-vision-zero-plan/" target="_blank"> New York Post</a> reports.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>1.7%</strong> overall decrease in major crime in New York City in 2015, according to<a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/nyc-officials-tout-new-low-in-crime-but-homicide-rape-robbery-rose-1451959203" target="_blank"> statistics released</a> by the NYPD, though certain categories were up, including murder.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>50,000</strong> city workers will earn $15 per hour by the end of 2018 under pay raises<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#q=mayor%20de%20blasio%20pay%20raise%2015%20city%20workers" target="_blank"> announced</a> by Mayor de Blasio on Wednesday.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>20,000</strong> nonunion municipal employees will be allowed up to 6 weeks of paid parental leave thanks to a new measure signed by Mayor de Blasio,<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6052-de-blasio-moves-on-paid-parental-leave" target="_blank"> Gotham Gazette</a>&nbsp;reports.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>450,000</strong> New Yorkers, give or take, will be able to save upwards of $400 a year on their public transportation expenses now that a new Commuter Benefits Law has gone into effect,<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6048-new-transit-program-called-win-win-for-many-commuters-employers" target="_blank"> Gotham Gazette</a> reports.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>26</strong> City Council members signed a letter asking Mayor de Blasio to have his agencies find ways to reduce spending by about 5% before he release his next preliminary budget,<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6072-majority-of-council-members-urge-mayor-to-identify-budget-savings" target="_blank">&nbsp;Gotham Gazette</a> reports.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>129</strong> bills vetoed by Cuomo in 2015, according to<a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/01/8586826/cuomo’s-2015-vetoes-numbers" target="_blank"> Politico New York</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>THE GLORY AND THE GOAT:<br /></strong><strong>It was a good week for</strong> Herminia Palacio, who became the<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/06/nyregion/de-blasio-names-herminia-palacio-as-deputy-mayor-for-health-and-human-services.html" target="_blank"> new</a> Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services (though it is also tough for Palacio in that she is taking one of the most challenging jobs in city government).</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>It was a bad week for</strong> City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who will pay a $7,000<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/nyc-council-speaker-fined-gifts-lobbyists-article-1.2487329" target="_blank"> fine</a> for accepting gifts from a consulting firm during her run for speaker (though it is also good for Mark-Viverito that the issue is being put behind her).</p> <p><strong>THE FLASH:<br /></strong><strong>Around this time 146 years ago</strong>, on January 3, 1870, ground was broken for the construction of the <a href="http://www.thecitydontsleep.com/blog/2016/1/3/this-day-in-nyc-history-ground-is-broken-for-new-yorks-most-historic-bridge" target="_blank">Brooklyn Bridge</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Around this time 50 years ago</strong>, on January 4, 1966, during the <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/transit-strike-with-side-of-smack-talk/" target="_blank">longest transit strike</a> in New York history (which shut down subways and buses for 12 days), Mike Quill, then-president of the transport workers union, criticized city officials during a press conference broadcast by <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#/ondemand/563779" target="_blank">WNYC</a>. He was arrested days later.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Around this time 69 years ago</strong>, on January 6, 1947, the Supreme Court upheld <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2016/01/6/january-6th-in-nyc-history.html" target="_blank">rent controls</a> when they refused to hear a case by New York landlords who wished to raise rents.</p> <p><strong>GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK:<br /></strong>Gotham Gazette Executive Editor Ben Max appeared on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show on Wednesday <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/new-york-politics-2016/">to discuss the year ahead in New York politics.</a></p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6060-40-questions-for-new-york-politics-in-2016">40 Questions for New York Politics in 2016</a>, by Ben Max</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6067-corruption-elections-loom-over-2016-legislative-agenda">Corruption, Elections Loom Over Lengthy 2016 Legislative Agenda</a>, by David Howard King</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6069-good-government-groups-want-legislators-to-pledge-to-fight-for-reform">Good Government Groups Want Legislators to Pledge to Fight for Reform</a>, by David Howard King</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6072-majority-of-council-members-urge-mayor-to-identify-budget-savings">Majority of Council Members Urge Mayor to Identify Budget Savings</a>, Samar Khurshid</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6074-city-to-open-gun-courts-to-expedite-prosecutions">City to Open Gun Courts to Expedite Prosecutions</a>, by Meg O’Connor</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6062-proposed-zoning-changes-raise-questions-about-small-businesses">Proposed Zoning Changes Raise Questions About Small Businesses</a>, by Colin O’Connor</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6061-something-cuomo-a-de-blasio-agree-on-city-shelters-need-improvement">Something Cuomo &amp; De Blasio Agree On: City Shelters Need Improvement</a>, by Ben Max</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6064-eyeing-diversity-new-push-for-demographic-data-on-community-board-members">Eyeing Diversity, New Push for Demographic Data on Community Board Members</a>, by Samar Khurshid</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6063-bill-mandates-review-of-criminal-justice-programs">Bill Mandates Review of Criminal Justice Programs</a>, by Samar Khurshid</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6068-at-homelessness-forum-manhattanites-voice-local-concerns-on-pressing-issue">At Homelessness Forum, Manhattanites Voice Local Concerns on Pressing Issue</a>, by Ryan Brady</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/6065-time-for-the-mayor-and-the-governor-to-work-together">Time for the Mayor and the Governor to Work Together</a>, by Ben Max (opinion)</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/6066-more-evidence-punitive-nypd-youth-programs-fail">More Evidence Punitive NYPD Youth Programs Fail</a>, by Alex S. Vitale (opinion)</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/6070-paid-family-leave-in-nyc-progressive-policy-regressive-plan">Paid Family Leave in NYC: Progressive Policy, Regressive Plan</a>, by Arthur Cheliotes (opinion)</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/6073-to-fix-penn-station-think-smaller">To Fix Penn Station, Think Smaller</a>, by Adrian Untermyer (opinion)</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/6071-a-new-york-new-years-resolution-end-the-aids-epidemic">A New York New Year's Resolution: End the AIDS Epidemic</a>, by Doug Wirth (opinion)</p> <p><strong>MORE FOR THE WEEKEND:<br /></strong>Police Commissioner Bill Bratton spoke about the city’s <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/commissioner-bratton/" target="_blank">falling crime rates and new gun courts</a> initiative with Brian Lehrer on WNYC.</p> <p dir="ltr">Incoming Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Herminia Palacio, discussed her <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/city-hall-newsmakers/2016/01/7/ny1-online--incoming-deputy-mayor-for-health-and-human-services-talks-new-role-at-city-hall.html" target="_blank">new role</a> at City Hall with Errol Louis on Inside City Hall.</p> <p><em>***<br />NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a>.</em></p> <p><em>If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a></em></p> <p><em>Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government" target="_blank">the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here</a>. And have a great weekend!</em></p> <p><em>***</em><br />by Meg O'Connor and Ben Max</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/week_in_review_bus_readers.jpg" alt="week in review bus readers" height="409" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;"><a href="http://blog.mcny.org/2012/04/24/a-ride-on-the-subway-in-1946-with-stanley-kubrick/" target="_blank">photo</a>: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York</span></p> <hr /> <p>Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday January 8</p> <p><strong>IMAGE OF THE WEEK:&nbsp;</strong>Penn Station rendering, <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/24135009201/in/dateposted/" target="_blank">via</a> Governor Cuomo's office on flickr; Mayor de Blasio's signs paid parental leave personnel order for nonunion city employees, <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/nycmayorsoffice/23942277090/" target="_blank">via</a> Ed Reed for the Mayor's Office</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/24135009201_6e65ab4e69_z.jpg" alt="Penn Station rendering via gov" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="289" width="400" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/23942277090_2cd9b54158_z.jpg" alt="bdb paid parental leave" height="266" width="400" /></p> <p><strong>TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK:</strong></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>1. New Deputy Mayor:</strong> On<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/06/nyregion/de-blasio-names-herminia-palacio-as-deputy-mayor-for-health-and-human-services.html" target="_blank"> Tuesday</a>, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Dr. Herminia Palacio will take over as Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, filling a position that had been vacant for four months. Homelessness is an especially key issue for Mayor de Blasio and his administration, as they work to remedy an increasing homelessness crisis.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>2. Cuomo’s Executive Order:</strong> Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an<a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/EO151.pdf" target="_blank"> executive order</a> on Sunday requiring all homeless people on the streets be moved into shelters when temperatures fall below freezing, and ordering homeless shelters to <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/244792/cuomo-signs-executive-order-to-address-homelessness/" target="_blank">extend their hours</a>. The move has been met with some <a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/fa7e928c6b1f4797b1e17e45c3604f04/ny-governor-orders-homeless-indoors-temps-fall" target="_blank">criticism</a>, in part because the city already provides much of the same protections to homeless people. [Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6061-something-cuomo-a-de-blasio-agree-on-city-shelters-need-improvement" target="_blank">Something Cuomo &amp; De Blasio Agree On: City Shelters Need Improvement</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>3. Cuomo’s 2016 Agenda:</strong> Speaking on <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2016/01/3/ethics-reform-in-albany-will-be-a-part-of-governor-s-annual-speech.html" target="_blank">NY1</a>, Gov. Cuomo said ethics reform will be on the top of his agenda: “I’m going to push the legislature very hard to adopt more aggressive ethics legislation, more disclosure, more enforcement.” Cuomo also mentioned economic development and “social justice,” namely the “high unemployment among young minority males,” as being important to him, and has also called to overhaul <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/gov-cuomo-to-back-a-penn-station-overhaul-1452030404" target="_blank">Penn Station</a> in an upgrade that could cost about $3 billion. The governor has spent the week unveiling key pieces of his agenda, including several infrastructure-related plans. [Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6067-corruption-elections-loom-over-2016-legislative-agenda" target="_blank">Corruption, Elections Loom Over Lengthy 2016 Legislative Agenda</a> &amp; <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6057-predictions-experts-look-ahead-to-new-york-politics-in-2016" target="_blank">Predictions! Experts Look Ahead to New York Politics in 2016</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>4. Minimum Wage Hikes:</strong> Mayor de Blasio <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2016/01/8587112/de-blasio-staking-progressive-claim-announces-wage-hike" target="_blank">announced</a> Wednesday that city employees, including workers contacted through nonprofits, will see their minimum wage increased to $15 an hour by 2018 in a move that will impact an estimated 50,000 workers. Governor Cuomo is expected to make a statewide $15 minimum wage one of the focuses of his State of the State speech next week.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>5. Paid Parental Leave Born:</strong> On <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#/0" target="_blank">Thursday</a>, Mayor de Blasio signed a personnel order to provide paid parental leave to roughly 20,000 New York City employees. The order provides six weeks of paid time off for parental leave. [Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6052-de-blasio-moves-on-paid-parental-leave" target="_blank">De Blasio Moves on Paid Parental Leave</a>]</p> <p><strong>THIS WEEK'S NUMBERS:<br /></strong><strong>$3 billion</strong> is the price tag for Gov. Cuomo’s push to remake Penn station, the<a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/penn-stations-latest-grand-plan-unveiled-1452131543" target="_blank"> Wall Street Journal</a> reports.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>22%</strong> decrease in traffic deaths since Mayor de Blasio launched Vision Zero, the<a href="http://nypost.com/2016/01/01/traffic-deaths-down-22-percent-since-launch-of-vision-zero-plan/" target="_blank"> New York Post</a> reports.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>1.7%</strong> overall decrease in major crime in New York City in 2015, according to<a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/nyc-officials-tout-new-low-in-crime-but-homicide-rape-robbery-rose-1451959203" target="_blank"> statistics released</a> by the NYPD, though certain categories were up, including murder.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>50,000</strong> city workers will earn $15 per hour by the end of 2018 under pay raises<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#q=mayor%20de%20blasio%20pay%20raise%2015%20city%20workers" target="_blank"> announced</a> by Mayor de Blasio on Wednesday.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>20,000</strong> nonunion municipal employees will be allowed up to 6 weeks of paid parental leave thanks to a new measure signed by Mayor de Blasio,<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6052-de-blasio-moves-on-paid-parental-leave" target="_blank"> Gotham Gazette</a>&nbsp;reports.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>450,000</strong> New Yorkers, give or take, will be able to save upwards of $400 a year on their public transportation expenses now that a new Commuter Benefits Law has gone into effect,<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6048-new-transit-program-called-win-win-for-many-commuters-employers" target="_blank"> Gotham Gazette</a> reports.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>26</strong> City Council members signed a letter asking Mayor de Blasio to have his agencies find ways to reduce spending by about 5% before he release his next preliminary budget,<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6072-majority-of-council-members-urge-mayor-to-identify-budget-savings" target="_blank">&nbsp;Gotham Gazette</a> reports.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>129</strong> bills vetoed by Cuomo in 2015, according to<a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/01/8586826/cuomo’s-2015-vetoes-numbers" target="_blank"> Politico New York</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>THE GLORY AND THE GOAT:<br /></strong><strong>It was a good week for</strong> Herminia Palacio, who became the<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/06/nyregion/de-blasio-names-herminia-palacio-as-deputy-mayor-for-health-and-human-services.html" target="_blank"> new</a> Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services (though it is also tough for Palacio in that she is taking one of the most challenging jobs in city government).</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>It was a bad week for</strong> City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who will pay a $7,000<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/nyc-council-speaker-fined-gifts-lobbyists-article-1.2487329" target="_blank"> fine</a> for accepting gifts from a consulting firm during her run for speaker (though it is also good for Mark-Viverito that the issue is being put behind her).</p> <p><strong>THE FLASH:<br /></strong><strong>Around this time 146 years ago</strong>, on January 3, 1870, ground was broken for the construction of the <a href="http://www.thecitydontsleep.com/blog/2016/1/3/this-day-in-nyc-history-ground-is-broken-for-new-yorks-most-historic-bridge" target="_blank">Brooklyn Bridge</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Around this time 50 years ago</strong>, on January 4, 1966, during the <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/transit-strike-with-side-of-smack-talk/" target="_blank">longest transit strike</a> in New York history (which shut down subways and buses for 12 days), Mike Quill, then-president of the transport workers union, criticized city officials during a press conference broadcast by <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#/ondemand/563779" target="_blank">WNYC</a>. He was arrested days later.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Around this time 69 years ago</strong>, on January 6, 1947, the Supreme Court upheld <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2016/01/6/january-6th-in-nyc-history.html" target="_blank">rent controls</a> when they refused to hear a case by New York landlords who wished to raise rents.</p> <p><strong>GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK:<br /></strong>Gotham Gazette Executive Editor Ben Max appeared on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show on Wednesday <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/new-york-politics-2016/">to discuss the year ahead in New York politics.</a></p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6060-40-questions-for-new-york-politics-in-2016">40 Questions for New York Politics in 2016</a>, by Ben Max</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6067-corruption-elections-loom-over-2016-legislative-agenda">Corruption, Elections Loom Over Lengthy 2016 Legislative Agenda</a>, by David Howard King</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6069-good-government-groups-want-legislators-to-pledge-to-fight-for-reform">Good Government Groups Want Legislators to Pledge to Fight for Reform</a>, by David Howard King</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6072-majority-of-council-members-urge-mayor-to-identify-budget-savings">Majority of Council Members Urge Mayor to Identify Budget Savings</a>, Samar Khurshid</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6074-city-to-open-gun-courts-to-expedite-prosecutions">City to Open Gun Courts to Expedite Prosecutions</a>, by Meg O’Connor</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6062-proposed-zoning-changes-raise-questions-about-small-businesses">Proposed Zoning Changes Raise Questions About Small Businesses</a>, by Colin O’Connor</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6061-something-cuomo-a-de-blasio-agree-on-city-shelters-need-improvement">Something Cuomo &amp; De Blasio Agree On: City Shelters Need Improvement</a>, by Ben Max</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6064-eyeing-diversity-new-push-for-demographic-data-on-community-board-members">Eyeing Diversity, New Push for Demographic Data on Community Board Members</a>, by Samar Khurshid</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6063-bill-mandates-review-of-criminal-justice-programs">Bill Mandates Review of Criminal Justice Programs</a>, by Samar Khurshid</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6068-at-homelessness-forum-manhattanites-voice-local-concerns-on-pressing-issue">At Homelessness Forum, Manhattanites Voice Local Concerns on Pressing Issue</a>, by Ryan Brady</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/6065-time-for-the-mayor-and-the-governor-to-work-together">Time for the Mayor and the Governor to Work Together</a>, by Ben Max (opinion)</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/6066-more-evidence-punitive-nypd-youth-programs-fail">More Evidence Punitive NYPD Youth Programs Fail</a>, by Alex S. Vitale (opinion)</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/6070-paid-family-leave-in-nyc-progressive-policy-regressive-plan">Paid Family Leave in NYC: Progressive Policy, Regressive Plan</a>, by Arthur Cheliotes (opinion)</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/6073-to-fix-penn-station-think-smaller">To Fix Penn Station, Think Smaller</a>, by Adrian Untermyer (opinion)</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/6071-a-new-york-new-years-resolution-end-the-aids-epidemic">A New York New Year's Resolution: End the AIDS Epidemic</a>, by Doug Wirth (opinion)</p> <p><strong>MORE FOR THE WEEKEND:<br /></strong>Police Commissioner Bill Bratton spoke about the city’s <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/commissioner-bratton/" target="_blank">falling crime rates and new gun courts</a> initiative with Brian Lehrer on WNYC.</p> <p dir="ltr">Incoming Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Herminia Palacio, discussed her <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/city-hall-newsmakers/2016/01/7/ny1-online--incoming-deputy-mayor-for-health-and-human-services-talks-new-role-at-city-hall.html" target="_blank">new role</a> at City Hall with Errol Louis on Inside City Hall.</p> <p><em>***<br />NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a>.</em></p> <p><em>If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a></em></p> <p><em>Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government" target="_blank">the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here</a>. And have a great weekend!</em></p> <p><em>***</em><br />by Meg O'Connor and Ben Max</p> Corruption, Elections Loom Over Lengthy 2016 Legislative Agenda 2016-01-06T22:17:26+00:00 2016-01-06T22:17:26+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6067:corruption-elections-loom-over-2016-legislative-agenda Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/24195066305_18221d13db_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo announcement infrastructure" height="393" width="600" /></p> <p>Cuomo (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)</p> <hr /> <p>Lawmakers returning to Albany this week to kick off the 2016 legislative session are faced with a litany of unresolved issues from last year and the spectre of the recent convictions of two former legislative leaders.</p> <p>Add to that impending elections for all 213 legislative seats, some of which will be critical for the future of state Senate control and the prospect of future indictments hinted at by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and you have a recipe for potential paralysis.</p> <p>Familiar issues like raising the minimum wage, paid family leave, juvenile justice and criminal justice reforms are all on the table. Newer issues like regulating fantasy sports gambling and tweaks to the state's health insurance marketplace will also be up for discussion.</p> <p>Complicating some issues will be Gov. Andrew Cuomo's repeated 2015 use of executive action, which irked some legislators and, according to some advocates, let the air out of pushes for major legislation. But the elephant in the room remains how to deal with the plague of corruption that has dogged the capitol for years.</p> <p>There is a little extra motivation for the legislature to move on more comprehensive ethics fixes - when session ended in June, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Majority Leader Dean Skelos had merely been indicted on federal corruption charges, six months later both men have been convicted and will soon face sentencing. Further, their trials exposed how major donors are able to exploit the state's campaign finance system and how both Silver and Skelos were able to use their influence to pressure entities with business before the state to provide them and their associates with financial benefit.</p> <p>Cuomo has promised that ethics reform will be at the top of his 2016 agenda.</p> <p>Aside from the unprecedented legislative scandal, both houses of the legislature will also be preparing for an election season that many see as do or die for control of the state Senate, currently led by Republicans. Upcoming electoral contests could motivate leaders from both houses to compromise, or it could create more strife, legislative paralysis, and a blame game that will play out in the elections.</p> <p>Still, there are a variety of major policy issues at play as 2016 session begins, including:</p> <p><strong>Full-Time Legislature</strong><br />A number of good government groups, as well as Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and even U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, have posited that a better paid, full-time legislature might reduce certain kinds of corruption. Better pay might reduce the temptation to take bribes and with outside income banned it would be much harder for legislators to hide any ill-gotten gains.</p> <p>A number of Assembly Democrats say their conference has seriously discussed the possibility of advocating for a full-time legislative body. In a Dec. 7 <a href="http://www.bronxnet.org/tv/bronxtalk/viewvideo/6546/bronxtalk/bronxtalk--dec-7th-2015" target="_blank">interview</a> with Gary Axelbank of BronxTalk, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he wanted to see how stricter income disclosure rules passed last year work before he advocates a total ban on outside income.</p> <p>Heastie told Axelbank a full-time legislature would have to be paid considerably more. "Is the public ready to pay legislators $150,000-$160,000 a year?" Heastie asked. "If you're going to have people go full time, there's going to have to be a hefty pay raise from $79,500." Legislators haven't had a raise in 15 years, though a new commission is examining the rates and will issue recommendations.</p> <p>Majority Leader John Flanagan has repeatedly said he is steadfastly opposed to a full-time legislature. He said it on Wednesday's first session day, and last month he <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2015/12/flanagan-remains-opposed-to-full-time-legislature/" target="_blank">told reporters</a>, "We are ostensibly supposed to have, or legally supposed to have, a citizen Legislature or a part-time Legislature. I want the people with a depth of background. I think it's useful to have people from varying walks of life."</p> <p>Still, upon replacing Skelos, Flanagan gave up his second job, a move he explained Wednesday as important because of his time commitment as Senate leader, which comes with a stipend.</p> <p>Gov. Andrew Cuomo has noted that the constitution calls for a part-time legislature and Republican opposition to going full-time, but called the idea "something worth talking about." It's more likely that legislators compromise on a significant cap on outside income and additional rules.</p> <p><strong>LLC Loophole</strong><br />The now-infamous LLC loophole was featured during the Silver and Skelos corruption trials, but has been a cause of consternation among reformers for quite some time. In practice, the loophole allows anyone to game the campaign finance system by setting up multiple LLCs, or limited liability corporations, from which to donate to candidates for office.</p> <p>Cries to close the loophole reached fever pitch last session, but in the wake of the Silver and Skelos trials have become even louder. Glenwood Management, a Manhattan real estate firm at the center of the Silver and Skelos cases, used the loophole to subvert the state's campaign donation limits by creating a number of front companies. The firm has been the largest contributor in the state for years. The Assembly moved to close the loophole last year but the Senate refused to vote on the issue. The Assembly is poised to move again on the issue but it appears that they might face opposition not only from Senate Republicans but from Cuomo as well.</p> <p>Speaking with reporters in Manhattan on Dec. 13, Cuomo said that closing the LLC Loophole was "a priority." However, on Dec. 21, Cuomo said in a WNYC radio interview that closing the loophole would be ineffective because of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allows for independent expenditures on behalf of candidates.</p> <p>"You need people in office who are going to use their best judgment in office," Cuomo said on WNYC, "because you're not going to change the campaign finance system because of Citizens United."</p> <p>Cuomo also refused to return over a million dollars in donations from Glenwood Management. "If I believed that I could be influenced by a million dollars, or a thousand dollars, or fifty dollars, then I'm in the wrong place and I should resign immediately," <a href="http://www.newsday.com/news/region-state/cuomo-plans-ethics-bills-but-won-t-close-llc-loophole-1.11251226" target="_blank">he explained</a>.</p> <p><strong>Minimum Wage Hike</strong><br />Cuomo kicked off the rollout of his 2016 agenda with another rally for an eventual $15 hourly statewide minimum wage and by extending a path toward $15 per hour to 28,000 SUNY employees. Cuomo has promised to push the legislature to adopt his plan to get all workers across the state to at least $15 per hour over the next several years.</p> <p>Cuomo rapidly evolved his position on the minimum wage last year after opposing a hike to $13 per hour proposed by Democratic legislators. But, he utilized the state's wage board provision to boost the minimum wage plan for fast food workers to an eventual $15 per hour and has rallied across the state to push the legislature to support the same figure.</p> <p>The Assembly pushed for an eventual $15 minimum wage for New York City in its single-house budget last year and is expected to support Cuomo's push. There are some Democratic members from Upstate and Western New York who are concerned about backlash from business groups. Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has not written off the possibility of a path toward a $15 minimum wage and there are some who think he will look to compromise with Cuomo on the timeline for full implementation of the raise as a way to take the debate off the table before election season.</p> <p>Cuomo has already begun outlining tax reform, especially to reduce the burden on small businesses, which many see as part of the plan to get the minimum wage hike passed. A heightened minimum wage is popular around the state and has endeared the governor with many of his erstwhile liberal friends.</p> <p><strong>Tax on the Rich</strong><br />With one sentence of his remarks on the opening day of session, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie changed the expected dynamics of negotiations to come. "We will fight for a tax structure that promotes fairness, equity, common sense," Heastie said, adding that he wanted tax cuts for the working class and to ask "wealthy New Yorkers" to pay their "fair share."</p> <p>Cuomo has repeatedly rejected calls for a tax on the highest earners over the last few years - especially when the calls came from Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014. It isn't clear how hard Heastie will push on the issue but if it takes off it could eventually be used as leverage toward enacting a full minimum wage increase.</p> <p><strong>Criminal Justice Reform</strong><br />Last month the Cuomo administration made good on a promised executive action when it unveiled a plan to move 16- and 17-year-old inmates with medium and minimum security classifications to a juvenile facility in Hudson. The move is expected to impact up to 100 inmates. However, advocates are not satisfied. New York is still one of two states to treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults upon arrest.</p> <p>Criminal justice experts want the entire process changed in state law, something Cuomo has backed and tried to enact last year to no avail.</p> <p>While advocates plan to continue to push, and held a press conference on the first day of session to resume doing so, Cuomo's executive action may have reduced the legislature's appetite to act. A number of Senate Republicans were concerned about housing teens in adult prisons but are not convinced the entire criminal justice process should be altered. Meanwhile, Cuomo and Democrats from the Senate and Assembly have disagreed on exactly how the 16- and 17-year-olds should be processed by the courts.</p> <p>Meanwhile, having failed to build a consensus with the legislature on how to revamp the criminal justice system to address concerns about how police shootings of citizens are investigated, Cuomo issued an executive order last summer allowing the Attorney General to name a special prosecutor in such cases.</p> <p>The move angered some district attorneys and members of law enforcement but gave the governor a boost with progressive activists. However, Cuomo promised to evaluate how the order worked and return to the legislature with a plan to change the law.</p> <p>Members of the Assembly Majority are anxious to tackle the issue but Senate Republicans are unlikely to want to touch it - especially in an election year. A good gauge of where the issue stands in the pecking order will be to see what kind of mention it gets, if any, in Cuomo's State of the State address. A number of legislators say they expect Cuomo to declare victory on both of these criminal justice issues by pointing to his executive actions and thereby avoid any major legislative battles.</p> <p><strong>Car Service Apps</strong><br />In 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio decided he wanted to limit the expansion of Uber, the most popular car-service app, citing concerns about congestion. It was as if the mayor stepped on a landmine. Uber quickly mobilized its drivers and users and rolled out an effective public relations campaign, even enlisting Cuomo - who may not have needed much prodding to contradict de Blasio.</p> <p>The mayor walked away limping but with plans to return to the issue. Now the state has to decide how to handle Uber and Lyft's push to be allowed in New York, including in upstate cities. In late October, Cuomo indicated that he thinks the state should issue regulations as a whole. "You can't do Uber city by city," <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/10/8580407/cuomo-hints-new-de-blasio-fight-time-over-uber" target="_blank">Cuomo said</a>. Cuomo's former top advisor Matt Wing is now in charge of communications for Uber in the Northeast.</p> <p>Localities would need to give up oversight of transportation insurance and allow Uber to pool insurance for its drivers. The taxi industry, which is steadfastly opposed to Uber, is currently regulated city by city.</p> <p><strong>Fantasy Sports Gambling</strong><br />A number of Assembly Democrats are chomping at the bit to address the issue of fantasy sports betting sites like Draftkings and FanDuel, which were recently sued by AG Schneiderman for being illegal gambling in violation of New York law. Schneiderman then amended the suit to ask the companies to return all money it made from New Yorkers. Democratic Assemblymember Gary Pretlow told Gotham Gazette that he plans to come up with regulations, oversight, and consumer protections that could keep the sites alive should they be found illegal in the court battle.</p> <p>Meanwhile, a number of Senate Republicans are interested in ending any ambiguity about the legality of the sites by passing a bill stating that it is a game of skill and not of chance. Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer introduced such a bill in December. He told The Buffalo News in November that he hadn't spoken to representatives of the sites but was motivated by what he saw as Schneiderman's "overreach."</p> <p>"It's just once again. New York shouldn't have Uber, shouldn't have mixed martial arts, or sports betting. When all this commerce and activities is allowed in many other states, it just seems like one issue after another in New York," Ranzenhofer <a href="http://www.buffalonews.com/city-region/state/ranzenhofer-bill-would-make-fantasy-sports-legal-in-new-york-20151116" target="_blank">told the Buffalo News</a>.</p> <p><strong>A Variety of Others</strong><br />Expect a major push from both houses of the legislature to restore education funding cuts.</p> <p>The Ultimate Fighting Championship is advancing a court case to force New York to allow them to hold events in the state and has even booked a spring date at Madison Square Garden to hold its mixed martial arts bouts (MMA). The legislature could intercede before the case is settled.</p> <p>Cuomo has already revealed a number of infrastructure related plans. Senate Republicans are looking to increase investment in the state's roads and bridges upstate while a number of city-based Democrats want to see the governor better invest in the MTA and do more to relieve congestion.</p> <p>A number of Assembly Democrats are looking for partners in the Senate Majority for <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5950-as-cuomo-pushes-for-federal-action-on-guns-new-york-measures-await-his-support" target="_blank">bills that would encourage guns are stored safely</a>. There are several other bills that address implementing employee training and stricter checks and balances for gun stores as well as ones that would allow police to take away guns belonging to perpetrators of domestic violence.</p> <p>Cuomo has been focused on national solutions to gun violence as of late but some Assembly Democrats think there is room <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5950-as-cuomo-pushes-for-federal-action-on-guns-new-york-measures-await-his-support" target="_blank">to pass smaller pieces of legislation</a> this year.</p> <p>The Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act, or GENDA, appears to have lost a great deal of momentum after Cuomo enacted a number of its tenets through executive order earlier this fall. The Empire State Pride Agenda, which had been backing the bill, announced it is closing its policy operations because it feels it has completed much of its work, but some advocates point out that Cuomo's GENDA order could quickly be undone by the next governor.</p> <p>The DREAM Act is another long-standing Democratic priority that many are unsure of its place in this year's agenda, which may be determined by whether Cuomo features it in his State of the State and budget.</p> <p>The Assembly and Senate majorities and the Independent Democratic Conference will have to settle their differences over how to implement paid family leave before they look to negotiate a final bill with the governor. "I'm always optimistic," IDC head Sen. Jeff Klein said of a resolution on paid family leave in November. "It is an extremely important issue resonates with residents across the state." Klein brought the policy up again in his opening remarks on the Senate floor, and Flanagan said a conversation would happen, but that the details must be determined. Heastie said the Assembly would again bass a paid family leave bill this year, as it has several years in a row.</p> <p>Generally speaking, Flanagan succinctly summed up his conference's priorities with his opening remarks on Wednesday, saying its focus will be "jobs, jobs, and jobs."</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/24195066305_18221d13db_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo announcement infrastructure" height="393" width="600" /></p> <p>Cuomo (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)</p> <hr /> <p>Lawmakers returning to Albany this week to kick off the 2016 legislative session are faced with a litany of unresolved issues from last year and the spectre of the recent convictions of two former legislative leaders.</p> <p>Add to that impending elections for all 213 legislative seats, some of which will be critical for the future of state Senate control and the prospect of future indictments hinted at by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and you have a recipe for potential paralysis.</p> <p>Familiar issues like raising the minimum wage, paid family leave, juvenile justice and criminal justice reforms are all on the table. Newer issues like regulating fantasy sports gambling and tweaks to the state's health insurance marketplace will also be up for discussion.</p> <p>Complicating some issues will be Gov. Andrew Cuomo's repeated 2015 use of executive action, which irked some legislators and, according to some advocates, let the air out of pushes for major legislation. But the elephant in the room remains how to deal with the plague of corruption that has dogged the capitol for years.</p> <p>There is a little extra motivation for the legislature to move on more comprehensive ethics fixes - when session ended in June, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Majority Leader Dean Skelos had merely been indicted on federal corruption charges, six months later both men have been convicted and will soon face sentencing. Further, their trials exposed how major donors are able to exploit the state's campaign finance system and how both Silver and Skelos were able to use their influence to pressure entities with business before the state to provide them and their associates with financial benefit.</p> <p>Cuomo has promised that ethics reform will be at the top of his 2016 agenda.</p> <p>Aside from the unprecedented legislative scandal, both houses of the legislature will also be preparing for an election season that many see as do or die for control of the state Senate, currently led by Republicans. Upcoming electoral contests could motivate leaders from both houses to compromise, or it could create more strife, legislative paralysis, and a blame game that will play out in the elections.</p> <p>Still, there are a variety of major policy issues at play as 2016 session begins, including:</p> <p><strong>Full-Time Legislature</strong><br />A number of good government groups, as well as Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and even U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, have posited that a better paid, full-time legislature might reduce certain kinds of corruption. Better pay might reduce the temptation to take bribes and with outside income banned it would be much harder for legislators to hide any ill-gotten gains.</p> <p>A number of Assembly Democrats say their conference has seriously discussed the possibility of advocating for a full-time legislative body. In a Dec. 7 <a href="http://www.bronxnet.org/tv/bronxtalk/viewvideo/6546/bronxtalk/bronxtalk--dec-7th-2015" target="_blank">interview</a> with Gary Axelbank of BronxTalk, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he wanted to see how stricter income disclosure rules passed last year work before he advocates a total ban on outside income.</p> <p>Heastie told Axelbank a full-time legislature would have to be paid considerably more. "Is the public ready to pay legislators $150,000-$160,000 a year?" Heastie asked. "If you're going to have people go full time, there's going to have to be a hefty pay raise from $79,500." Legislators haven't had a raise in 15 years, though a new commission is examining the rates and will issue recommendations.</p> <p>Majority Leader John Flanagan has repeatedly said he is steadfastly opposed to a full-time legislature. He said it on Wednesday's first session day, and last month he <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2015/12/flanagan-remains-opposed-to-full-time-legislature/" target="_blank">told reporters</a>, "We are ostensibly supposed to have, or legally supposed to have, a citizen Legislature or a part-time Legislature. I want the people with a depth of background. I think it's useful to have people from varying walks of life."</p> <p>Still, upon replacing Skelos, Flanagan gave up his second job, a move he explained Wednesday as important because of his time commitment as Senate leader, which comes with a stipend.</p> <p>Gov. Andrew Cuomo has noted that the constitution calls for a part-time legislature and Republican opposition to going full-time, but called the idea "something worth talking about." It's more likely that legislators compromise on a significant cap on outside income and additional rules.</p> <p><strong>LLC Loophole</strong><br />The now-infamous LLC loophole was featured during the Silver and Skelos corruption trials, but has been a cause of consternation among reformers for quite some time. In practice, the loophole allows anyone to game the campaign finance system by setting up multiple LLCs, or limited liability corporations, from which to donate to candidates for office.</p> <p>Cries to close the loophole reached fever pitch last session, but in the wake of the Silver and Skelos trials have become even louder. Glenwood Management, a Manhattan real estate firm at the center of the Silver and Skelos cases, used the loophole to subvert the state's campaign donation limits by creating a number of front companies. The firm has been the largest contributor in the state for years. The Assembly moved to close the loophole last year but the Senate refused to vote on the issue. The Assembly is poised to move again on the issue but it appears that they might face opposition not only from Senate Republicans but from Cuomo as well.</p> <p>Speaking with reporters in Manhattan on Dec. 13, Cuomo said that closing the LLC Loophole was "a priority." However, on Dec. 21, Cuomo said in a WNYC radio interview that closing the loophole would be ineffective because of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allows for independent expenditures on behalf of candidates.</p> <p>"You need people in office who are going to use their best judgment in office," Cuomo said on WNYC, "because you're not going to change the campaign finance system because of Citizens United."</p> <p>Cuomo also refused to return over a million dollars in donations from Glenwood Management. "If I believed that I could be influenced by a million dollars, or a thousand dollars, or fifty dollars, then I'm in the wrong place and I should resign immediately," <a href="http://www.newsday.com/news/region-state/cuomo-plans-ethics-bills-but-won-t-close-llc-loophole-1.11251226" target="_blank">he explained</a>.</p> <p><strong>Minimum Wage Hike</strong><br />Cuomo kicked off the rollout of his 2016 agenda with another rally for an eventual $15 hourly statewide minimum wage and by extending a path toward $15 per hour to 28,000 SUNY employees. Cuomo has promised to push the legislature to adopt his plan to get all workers across the state to at least $15 per hour over the next several years.</p> <p>Cuomo rapidly evolved his position on the minimum wage last year after opposing a hike to $13 per hour proposed by Democratic legislators. But, he utilized the state's wage board provision to boost the minimum wage plan for fast food workers to an eventual $15 per hour and has rallied across the state to push the legislature to support the same figure.</p> <p>The Assembly pushed for an eventual $15 minimum wage for New York City in its single-house budget last year and is expected to support Cuomo's push. There are some Democratic members from Upstate and Western New York who are concerned about backlash from business groups. Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has not written off the possibility of a path toward a $15 minimum wage and there are some who think he will look to compromise with Cuomo on the timeline for full implementation of the raise as a way to take the debate off the table before election season.</p> <p>Cuomo has already begun outlining tax reform, especially to reduce the burden on small businesses, which many see as part of the plan to get the minimum wage hike passed. A heightened minimum wage is popular around the state and has endeared the governor with many of his erstwhile liberal friends.</p> <p><strong>Tax on the Rich</strong><br />With one sentence of his remarks on the opening day of session, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie changed the expected dynamics of negotiations to come. "We will fight for a tax structure that promotes fairness, equity, common sense," Heastie said, adding that he wanted tax cuts for the working class and to ask "wealthy New Yorkers" to pay their "fair share."</p> <p>Cuomo has repeatedly rejected calls for a tax on the highest earners over the last few years - especially when the calls came from Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014. It isn't clear how hard Heastie will push on the issue but if it takes off it could eventually be used as leverage toward enacting a full minimum wage increase.</p> <p><strong>Criminal Justice Reform</strong><br />Last month the Cuomo administration made good on a promised executive action when it unveiled a plan to move 16- and 17-year-old inmates with medium and minimum security classifications to a juvenile facility in Hudson. The move is expected to impact up to 100 inmates. However, advocates are not satisfied. New York is still one of two states to treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults upon arrest.</p> <p>Criminal justice experts want the entire process changed in state law, something Cuomo has backed and tried to enact last year to no avail.</p> <p>While advocates plan to continue to push, and held a press conference on the first day of session to resume doing so, Cuomo's executive action may have reduced the legislature's appetite to act. A number of Senate Republicans were concerned about housing teens in adult prisons but are not convinced the entire criminal justice process should be altered. Meanwhile, Cuomo and Democrats from the Senate and Assembly have disagreed on exactly how the 16- and 17-year-olds should be processed by the courts.</p> <p>Meanwhile, having failed to build a consensus with the legislature on how to revamp the criminal justice system to address concerns about how police shootings of citizens are investigated, Cuomo issued an executive order last summer allowing the Attorney General to name a special prosecutor in such cases.</p> <p>The move angered some district attorneys and members of law enforcement but gave the governor a boost with progressive activists. However, Cuomo promised to evaluate how the order worked and return to the legislature with a plan to change the law.</p> <p>Members of the Assembly Majority are anxious to tackle the issue but Senate Republicans are unlikely to want to touch it - especially in an election year. A good gauge of where the issue stands in the pecking order will be to see what kind of mention it gets, if any, in Cuomo's State of the State address. A number of legislators say they expect Cuomo to declare victory on both of these criminal justice issues by pointing to his executive actions and thereby avoid any major legislative battles.</p> <p><strong>Car Service Apps</strong><br />In 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio decided he wanted to limit the expansion of Uber, the most popular car-service app, citing concerns about congestion. It was as if the mayor stepped on a landmine. Uber quickly mobilized its drivers and users and rolled out an effective public relations campaign, even enlisting Cuomo - who may not have needed much prodding to contradict de Blasio.</p> <p>The mayor walked away limping but with plans to return to the issue. Now the state has to decide how to handle Uber and Lyft's push to be allowed in New York, including in upstate cities. In late October, Cuomo indicated that he thinks the state should issue regulations as a whole. "You can't do Uber city by city," <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/10/8580407/cuomo-hints-new-de-blasio-fight-time-over-uber" target="_blank">Cuomo said</a>. Cuomo's former top advisor Matt Wing is now in charge of communications for Uber in the Northeast.</p> <p>Localities would need to give up oversight of transportation insurance and allow Uber to pool insurance for its drivers. The taxi industry, which is steadfastly opposed to Uber, is currently regulated city by city.</p> <p><strong>Fantasy Sports Gambling</strong><br />A number of Assembly Democrats are chomping at the bit to address the issue of fantasy sports betting sites like Draftkings and FanDuel, which were recently sued by AG Schneiderman for being illegal gambling in violation of New York law. Schneiderman then amended the suit to ask the companies to return all money it made from New Yorkers. Democratic Assemblymember Gary Pretlow told Gotham Gazette that he plans to come up with regulations, oversight, and consumer protections that could keep the sites alive should they be found illegal in the court battle.</p> <p>Meanwhile, a number of Senate Republicans are interested in ending any ambiguity about the legality of the sites by passing a bill stating that it is a game of skill and not of chance. Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer introduced such a bill in December. He told The Buffalo News in November that he hadn't spoken to representatives of the sites but was motivated by what he saw as Schneiderman's "overreach."</p> <p>"It's just once again. New York shouldn't have Uber, shouldn't have mixed martial arts, or sports betting. When all this commerce and activities is allowed in many other states, it just seems like one issue after another in New York," Ranzenhofer <a href="http://www.buffalonews.com/city-region/state/ranzenhofer-bill-would-make-fantasy-sports-legal-in-new-york-20151116" target="_blank">told the Buffalo News</a>.</p> <p><strong>A Variety of Others</strong><br />Expect a major push from both houses of the legislature to restore education funding cuts.</p> <p>The Ultimate Fighting Championship is advancing a court case to force New York to allow them to hold events in the state and has even booked a spring date at Madison Square Garden to hold its mixed martial arts bouts (MMA). The legislature could intercede before the case is settled.</p> <p>Cuomo has already revealed a number of infrastructure related plans. Senate Republicans are looking to increase investment in the state's roads and bridges upstate while a number of city-based Democrats want to see the governor better invest in the MTA and do more to relieve congestion.</p> <p>A number of Assembly Democrats are looking for partners in the Senate Majority for <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5950-as-cuomo-pushes-for-federal-action-on-guns-new-york-measures-await-his-support" target="_blank">bills that would encourage guns are stored safely</a>. There are several other bills that address implementing employee training and stricter checks and balances for gun stores as well as ones that would allow police to take away guns belonging to perpetrators of domestic violence.</p> <p>Cuomo has been focused on national solutions to gun violence as of late but some Assembly Democrats think there is room <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5950-as-cuomo-pushes-for-federal-action-on-guns-new-york-measures-await-his-support" target="_blank">to pass smaller pieces of legislation</a> this year.</p> <p>The Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act, or GENDA, appears to have lost a great deal of momentum after Cuomo enacted a number of its tenets through executive order earlier this fall. The Empire State Pride Agenda, which had been backing the bill, announced it is closing its policy operations because it feels it has completed much of its work, but some advocates point out that Cuomo's GENDA order could quickly be undone by the next governor.</p> <p>The DREAM Act is another long-standing Democratic priority that many are unsure of its place in this year's agenda, which may be determined by whether Cuomo features it in his State of the State and budget.</p> <p>The Assembly and Senate majorities and the Independent Democratic Conference will have to settle their differences over how to implement paid family leave before they look to negotiate a final bill with the governor. "I'm always optimistic," IDC head Sen. Jeff Klein said of a resolution on paid family leave in November. "It is an extremely important issue resonates with residents across the state." Klein brought the policy up again in his opening remarks on the Senate floor, and Flanagan said a conversation would happen, but that the details must be determined. Heastie said the Assembly would again bass a paid family leave bill this year, as it has several years in a row.</p> <p>Generally speaking, Flanagan succinctly summed up his conference's priorities with his opening remarks on Wednesday, saying its focus will be "jobs, jobs, and jobs."</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p> Hearing Will Examine Pay for Workers Serving City’s Most Vulnerable 2015-10-30T01:29:13+00:00 2015-10-30T01:29:13+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5960:hearing-will-examine-pay-for-workers-serving-citys-most-vulnerable Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/rosenthal_contracts_alatriste.jpg" alt="rosenthal contracts alatriste" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Council Member Rosenthal (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>For six years, a particular group of workers employed through contracts with the city, and filling important roles, saw their wages stagnate. In May of this year, however, Mayor de Blasio<a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/05/8567732/city-budget-raises-salaries-35000-private-workers" target="_blank"> announced</a> that his Executive Budget for the 2016 fiscal year, beginning July 1, 2015, would provide a 2.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment increase and an $11.50 per hour wage floor for some of New York City's human services providers - workers who staff senior centers, homeless shelters, foster care agencies, and more.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though the wage adjustments have been hailed as a much-needed step and heralded as part of the mayor’s equity agenda, an upcoming City Council oversight hearing will explore the process for implementing them and ways in which wages can be raised even further.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Monday morning, Council members and advocates intend to discuss ways to raise the wages of a human services workforce that is increasingly in need of the types of provisions and programs - such as food stamps - that they help provide for others. One aspect of this is ensuring that the mayor’s promise materializes, part of the impetus behind the hearing, according to Contracts Committee Chair Helen Rosenthal, one of two City Council members who will preside over the hearing - which comes five months after de Blasio’s announcement.</p> <p dir="ltr">Previewing the hearing, Rosenthal told Gotham Gazette, “It’s truly an opportunity for the administration to explain how they’re implementing this policy goal and I think we’ll learn a lot of critical details and answers to questions we've been asking for the last few months."</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayoral spokesperson Amy Spitalnick told Gotham Gazette in a statement that "The City is actively working with the non-profit service provider community and the appropriate City agencies to ensure that implementation covers all the intended employees and programs, and that it is done in an efficient manner that doesn’t place any undue burden on providers. It will be retroactive to July 1."</p> <p dir="ltr">Human services nonprofit organizations, which employ these workers and contract with the city, have seen years of cuts in funding. The wage floor and cost of living adjustment announced by de Blasio came much to the relief of the sector’s many low-wage workers, Michelle Jackson, associate director and general counsel of the Human Services Council, a coalition of nonprofit human service providers, told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">"Our workforce has been chronically underfunded for years. During the recession, there was divestment, and [prior to this year] we hadn't seen a reinvestment since the recession. Since 2010, there had been about $1 billion in cuts to human services across the state," Jackson said.</p> <p dir="ltr">"I think there’s a misperception that people who work for nonprofits do it as volunteer work - these are crucial services that government is not providing, that they have contracted out to nonprofits," Jackson explained. "Looking at state and city cost of living adjustments over the last few years up until this year, human services workers have been forgotten about. We’re about 15 percent of the state’s workforce, and it's the government’s job to make sure that human services workers are compensated fairly because they are employed through contracts."</p> <p dir="ltr">These human services workers provide a range of <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/mocs/downloads/pdf/2014%20Annual%20Procurement%20Indicators.pdf" target="_blank">critical programs</a> to some of the city’s most vulnerable populations, including in foster care, senior services, early childhood education, after-school programs, homeless shelters, job training and placement, and community health services. Nonprofit organizations on human services contracts delivered about $2.3 billion in services to New York City in fiscal 2015, according to the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/mocs/downloads/pdf/IndicatorsReport/2015%20Agency%20Procurement%20Indicators.pdf" target="_blank">Mayor’s Office of Contract Services</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Monday, November 2, the City Council Committee on Contracts, in conjunction with the Committee on Community Development, will hold <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=441615&amp;GUID=18F0E910-876E-4AF3-B42C-69C5456B63C2&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank">an oversight hearing</a> to evaluate the administration's progress in implementing the policy change and allocating funding for the wage floor and the cost of living adjustment.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Rosenthal told Gotham Gazette that she expects representatives of the de Blasio administration to come to the hearing "with a clean and easy-to-understand explanation of how the money is being allocated. We want to find out which agencies and which programs within each agency is being affected, how many employees are getting the increase, and what the cost is per program.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Although the mayor set aside a certain amount of money in the budget to pay for the wage adjustments, Rosenthal explained, "the budget did not dictate exactly which agencies and which contracts and which programs would get that pay increase. So, it's my understanding that what's been happening over the last three or four months is that city has been collecting information from contract service providers about the workers they have, the titles, and how much they’re currently being paid in order to now allocate the lump sum of money to the specific agencies."</p> <p dir="ltr">Allocating the funds can be a complicated process, given that in Fiscal Year 2015, eight City agencies, including the Department of Youth and Community Development, the Administration for Children's Services, and the Department of Homeless Services, registered 16,524 contract actions, <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/mocs/downloads/pdf/IndicatorsReport/2015%20Agency%20Procurement%20Indicators.pdf" target="_blank">according to the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services</a>. In the human services industry, those contracts are awarded to vendors, predominantly nonprofits, for the purpose of providing programs such as day care, housing and shelter assistance, and counseling services.</p> <p dir="ltr">The 2.5 percent increase for approximately 35,000 of the city's 125,000 contracted human services workers and the wage floor for roughly<a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/05/8567732/city-budget-raises-salaries-35000-private-workers"> 10,000</a> social services employees fall short of salary adjustments advocates<a href="https://humanservicescouncil.wordpress.com/2015/06/11/2-5-cost-of-living-adjustment-for-new-york-citys-human-services-workers/" target="_blank"> were pushing for</a>, but are still generally viewed as a significant step in the right direction.</p> <p dir="ltr">"It really is a crucial first step and shows a real commitment from the mayor in investing in human services workers," Jackson told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">Going forward, human services advocates plan to push for continued investment into the sector. "We want to see the cost of living adjustment systematized so it's not the case that every five years, groups have to advocate for one," Jackson said, "there should be consistency in how cost-of-living adjustments are applied for nonprofits."</p> <p dir="ltr">Rosenthal said she also hopes the hearing will "help to give us a sense of how much money it would cost to get these workers up to $15 an hour. As we understand that, we can start to advocate for that increase in the budget for next year - I think we'll learn a lot more about the details of getting us there from this hearing."</p> <p dir="ltr">Governor Andrew Cuomo has recently come out in support of a<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5923-progressive-critics-largely-convinced-by-cuomos-wage-push" target="_blank"> statewide $15 hourly minimum wage</a> for all workers, calling for the wage to be<a href="http://labor.ny.gov/pressreleases/2015/july-22-2015-1.shtm" target="_blank"> phased in</a> by 2019 in New York City and by 2021 across the state. The move is part of a nationwide push to raise the minimum wage, as cities like <a href="http://murray.seattle.gov/minimumwage/" target="_blank">Seattle</a> ($15 by 2021), <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#page=1" target="_blank">Los Angeles</a> ($15 by 2020), <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2014/11/05/news/san-francisco-increased-minimum-wage/" target="_blank">San Francisco</a> ($15 by 2018), and <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2014/12/02/news/economy/chicago-minimum-wage-hike/" target="_blank">Chicago</a> ($13 by 2019) have passed legislation to phase in a minimum wage increase.</p> <p dir="ltr">Just last week, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner increased the minimum wage for the city's employees to $15 an hour. The raise affects about 69 employees, including laborers and information aides, some of whom had previously made as little as $8.75 an hour (the state’s current minimum wage), <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/22/nyregion/syracuse-leader-raises-citys-hourly-wage-to-15-immediately.html" target="_blank">The New York Times</a> reported.</p> <p dir="ltr">Some have wondered why Cuomo, who said during his minimum wage <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/rush-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-push-raise-new-yorks-minimum-wage-15-hour" target="_blank">announcement</a> last month, “every working man and woman in the state of New York deserves $15 an hour as a minimum wage,” doesn’t lead the way by raising the wages of state employees, more than 15,000 of whom make less than $15 an hour living wage, according to a <a href="http://nypost.com/2015/07/13/thousands-on-new-york-payroll-make-below-living-wage/" target="_blank">New York Post</a> review of records kept by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.</p> <p dir="ltr">There is room to ask the same of de Blasio with those on the city payroll or working through city contracts.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though the human service nonprofit sector would indeed be affected by a statewide minimum wage increase, Jackson told Gotham Gazette, nonprofits under contract with the government would need more funding in order to pay their employees higher wages since, unlike businesses, human service nonprofits cannot simply raise the price of their services to cover the costs of paying their employees more. "We would need the increase to be covered in contracts. The government would need to pay that," Jackson said, explaining that when Mayor de Blasio wanted human services workers to have a higher wage floor, for example, he increased funding for contracts in order to pay for that increase.</p> <p dir="ltr">Human services workers are not the only ones who would benefit from higher wages. <a href="http://www.irle.berkeley.edu/research/livingwage/sfo_mar03.pdf" target="_blank">Research</a> <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.0019-8676.2004.00376.x/full" target="_blank">has shown</a> that higher wages sharply reduce employee turnover. “We [human services workers] have a very high turnover rate,” Jackson said. “There’s a consequence of that turnover rate on the people in need of services. You want to retain talented workers. These are people who do really important jobs in the community - taking care of your children, your parents, people with mental health issues and substance abuse problems.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Raising the wages of human services workers by increasing funding in the human service nonprofit sector would contribute to the city’s efforts to reduce homelessness and inequality, since outreach programs, supportive housing, drop-in centers, and other programs are more successful with greater consistency and quality of service.</p> <p dir="ltr">“These are workers who basically work for the city,” Rosenthal told Gotham Gazette. “The city is having these workers provide services for our residents, whether it's in homeless services, senior services, or as caregivers. I think it’s critical that we pay our workers $15 an hour, and for many years, these workers have languished without any salary increases.”</p> <p>***<br />by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/megoconnor13" target="_blank">@MegOConnor13<br /></a><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/rosenthal_contracts_alatriste.jpg" alt="rosenthal contracts alatriste" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Council Member Rosenthal (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>For six years, a particular group of workers employed through contracts with the city, and filling important roles, saw their wages stagnate. In May of this year, however, Mayor de Blasio<a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/05/8567732/city-budget-raises-salaries-35000-private-workers" target="_blank"> announced</a> that his Executive Budget for the 2016 fiscal year, beginning July 1, 2015, would provide a 2.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment increase and an $11.50 per hour wage floor for some of New York City's human services providers - workers who staff senior centers, homeless shelters, foster care agencies, and more.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though the wage adjustments have been hailed as a much-needed step and heralded as part of the mayor’s equity agenda, an upcoming City Council oversight hearing will explore the process for implementing them and ways in which wages can be raised even further.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Monday morning, Council members and advocates intend to discuss ways to raise the wages of a human services workforce that is increasingly in need of the types of provisions and programs - such as food stamps - that they help provide for others. One aspect of this is ensuring that the mayor’s promise materializes, part of the impetus behind the hearing, according to Contracts Committee Chair Helen Rosenthal, one of two City Council members who will preside over the hearing - which comes five months after de Blasio’s announcement.</p> <p dir="ltr">Previewing the hearing, Rosenthal told Gotham Gazette, “It’s truly an opportunity for the administration to explain how they’re implementing this policy goal and I think we’ll learn a lot of critical details and answers to questions we've been asking for the last few months."</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayoral spokesperson Amy Spitalnick told Gotham Gazette in a statement that "The City is actively working with the non-profit service provider community and the appropriate City agencies to ensure that implementation covers all the intended employees and programs, and that it is done in an efficient manner that doesn’t place any undue burden on providers. It will be retroactive to July 1."</p> <p dir="ltr">Human services nonprofit organizations, which employ these workers and contract with the city, have seen years of cuts in funding. The wage floor and cost of living adjustment announced by de Blasio came much to the relief of the sector’s many low-wage workers, Michelle Jackson, associate director and general counsel of the Human Services Council, a coalition of nonprofit human service providers, told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">"Our workforce has been chronically underfunded for years. During the recession, there was divestment, and [prior to this year] we hadn't seen a reinvestment since the recession. Since 2010, there had been about $1 billion in cuts to human services across the state," Jackson said.</p> <p dir="ltr">"I think there’s a misperception that people who work for nonprofits do it as volunteer work - these are crucial services that government is not providing, that they have contracted out to nonprofits," Jackson explained. "Looking at state and city cost of living adjustments over the last few years up until this year, human services workers have been forgotten about. We’re about 15 percent of the state’s workforce, and it's the government’s job to make sure that human services workers are compensated fairly because they are employed through contracts."</p> <p dir="ltr">These human services workers provide a range of <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/mocs/downloads/pdf/2014%20Annual%20Procurement%20Indicators.pdf" target="_blank">critical programs</a> to some of the city’s most vulnerable populations, including in foster care, senior services, early childhood education, after-school programs, homeless shelters, job training and placement, and community health services. Nonprofit organizations on human services contracts delivered about $2.3 billion in services to New York City in fiscal 2015, according to the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/mocs/downloads/pdf/IndicatorsReport/2015%20Agency%20Procurement%20Indicators.pdf" target="_blank">Mayor’s Office of Contract Services</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Monday, November 2, the City Council Committee on Contracts, in conjunction with the Committee on Community Development, will hold <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=441615&amp;GUID=18F0E910-876E-4AF3-B42C-69C5456B63C2&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank">an oversight hearing</a> to evaluate the administration's progress in implementing the policy change and allocating funding for the wage floor and the cost of living adjustment.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Rosenthal told Gotham Gazette that she expects representatives of the de Blasio administration to come to the hearing "with a clean and easy-to-understand explanation of how the money is being allocated. We want to find out which agencies and which programs within each agency is being affected, how many employees are getting the increase, and what the cost is per program.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Although the mayor set aside a certain amount of money in the budget to pay for the wage adjustments, Rosenthal explained, "the budget did not dictate exactly which agencies and which contracts and which programs would get that pay increase. So, it's my understanding that what's been happening over the last three or four months is that city has been collecting information from contract service providers about the workers they have, the titles, and how much they’re currently being paid in order to now allocate the lump sum of money to the specific agencies."</p> <p dir="ltr">Allocating the funds can be a complicated process, given that in Fiscal Year 2015, eight City agencies, including the Department of Youth and Community Development, the Administration for Children's Services, and the Department of Homeless Services, registered 16,524 contract actions, <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/mocs/downloads/pdf/IndicatorsReport/2015%20Agency%20Procurement%20Indicators.pdf" target="_blank">according to the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services</a>. In the human services industry, those contracts are awarded to vendors, predominantly nonprofits, for the purpose of providing programs such as day care, housing and shelter assistance, and counseling services.</p> <p dir="ltr">The 2.5 percent increase for approximately 35,000 of the city's 125,000 contracted human services workers and the wage floor for roughly<a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/05/8567732/city-budget-raises-salaries-35000-private-workers"> 10,000</a> social services employees fall short of salary adjustments advocates<a href="https://humanservicescouncil.wordpress.com/2015/06/11/2-5-cost-of-living-adjustment-for-new-york-citys-human-services-workers/" target="_blank"> were pushing for</a>, but are still generally viewed as a significant step in the right direction.</p> <p dir="ltr">"It really is a crucial first step and shows a real commitment from the mayor in investing in human services workers," Jackson told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">Going forward, human services advocates plan to push for continued investment into the sector. "We want to see the cost of living adjustment systematized so it's not the case that every five years, groups have to advocate for one," Jackson said, "there should be consistency in how cost-of-living adjustments are applied for nonprofits."</p> <p dir="ltr">Rosenthal said she also hopes the hearing will "help to give us a sense of how much money it would cost to get these workers up to $15 an hour. As we understand that, we can start to advocate for that increase in the budget for next year - I think we'll learn a lot more about the details of getting us there from this hearing."</p> <p dir="ltr">Governor Andrew Cuomo has recently come out in support of a<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5923-progressive-critics-largely-convinced-by-cuomos-wage-push" target="_blank"> statewide $15 hourly minimum wage</a> for all workers, calling for the wage to be<a href="http://labor.ny.gov/pressreleases/2015/july-22-2015-1.shtm" target="_blank"> phased in</a> by 2019 in New York City and by 2021 across the state. The move is part of a nationwide push to raise the minimum wage, as cities like <a href="http://murray.seattle.gov/minimumwage/" target="_blank">Seattle</a> ($15 by 2021), <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#page=1" target="_blank">Los Angeles</a> ($15 by 2020), <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2014/11/05/news/san-francisco-increased-minimum-wage/" target="_blank">San Francisco</a> ($15 by 2018), and <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2014/12/02/news/economy/chicago-minimum-wage-hike/" target="_blank">Chicago</a> ($13 by 2019) have passed legislation to phase in a minimum wage increase.</p> <p dir="ltr">Just last week, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner increased the minimum wage for the city's employees to $15 an hour. The raise affects about 69 employees, including laborers and information aides, some of whom had previously made as little as $8.75 an hour (the state’s current minimum wage), <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/22/nyregion/syracuse-leader-raises-citys-hourly-wage-to-15-immediately.html" target="_blank">The New York Times</a> reported.</p> <p dir="ltr">Some have wondered why Cuomo, who said during his minimum wage <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/rush-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-push-raise-new-yorks-minimum-wage-15-hour" target="_blank">announcement</a> last month, “every working man and woman in the state of New York deserves $15 an hour as a minimum wage,” doesn’t lead the way by raising the wages of state employees, more than 15,000 of whom make less than $15 an hour living wage, according to a <a href="http://nypost.com/2015/07/13/thousands-on-new-york-payroll-make-below-living-wage/" target="_blank">New York Post</a> review of records kept by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.</p> <p dir="ltr">There is room to ask the same of de Blasio with those on the city payroll or working through city contracts.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though the human service nonprofit sector would indeed be affected by a statewide minimum wage increase, Jackson told Gotham Gazette, nonprofits under contract with the government would need more funding in order to pay their employees higher wages since, unlike businesses, human service nonprofits cannot simply raise the price of their services to cover the costs of paying their employees more. "We would need the increase to be covered in contracts. The government would need to pay that," Jackson said, explaining that when Mayor de Blasio wanted human services workers to have a higher wage floor, for example, he increased funding for contracts in order to pay for that increase.</p> <p dir="ltr">Human services workers are not the only ones who would benefit from higher wages. <a href="http://www.irle.berkeley.edu/research/livingwage/sfo_mar03.pdf" target="_blank">Research</a> <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.0019-8676.2004.00376.x/full" target="_blank">has shown</a> that higher wages sharply reduce employee turnover. “We [human services workers] have a very high turnover rate,” Jackson said. “There’s a consequence of that turnover rate on the people in need of services. You want to retain talented workers. These are people who do really important jobs in the community - taking care of your children, your parents, people with mental health issues and substance abuse problems.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Raising the wages of human services workers by increasing funding in the human service nonprofit sector would contribute to the city’s efforts to reduce homelessness and inequality, since outreach programs, supportive housing, drop-in centers, and other programs are more successful with greater consistency and quality of service.</p> <p dir="ltr">“These are workers who basically work for the city,” Rosenthal told Gotham Gazette. “The city is having these workers provide services for our residents, whether it's in homeless services, senior services, or as caregivers. I think it’s critical that we pay our workers $15 an hour, and for many years, these workers have languished without any salary increases.”</p> <p>***<br />by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/megoconnor13" target="_blank">@MegOConnor13<br /></a><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p>