Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/1390 Mon, 18 Dec 2017 14:50:23 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Dissecting Mayor De Blasio's Record As He Seeks Reelection http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7221:dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7221:dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection Mayor de Blasio Chirlane McCray City Hall Reelection Parade

Mayor Bill de Blasio & First Lady Chirlane McCray (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


As Mayor Bill de Blasio, a first-term Democrat, seeks reelection this fall, a close examination of his record is essential. De Blasio came into power promising to address inequlality in a variety of forms, including income, educational, policing, racial, and opportunity inequities he identified during his 2013 campaign. In this year's election de Blasio is running in part on his record, which is headlined by the implementation of his campaign promise to provide universal pre-kindergarten for the city's four-year-olds. But, there is much more to the mayor's record than UPK, which has clearly been his biggest success.

In this series, Gotham Gazette, with election coverage partners City Limits and WNYC radio, examines de Blasio's record on a variety of important issues. While this is not completely exhaustive, it should be helpful to voters and others seeking to evaluate de Blasio this fall. With our partners, Gotham Gazette will release articles and audio pieces on the following aspects of de Blasio's record -- those already published are linked below.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 7.

More to read/view/hear:

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Dissecting Mayor De Blasio's Record As He Seeks Reelection Wed, 01 Nov 2017 23:26:00 +0000
De Blasio's Record on Poverty and Inequality http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7280:de-blasio-s-record-on-poverty-and-inequality http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7280:de-blasio-s-record-on-poverty-and-inequality de Blasio equality shaking hands crowd

Mayor de Blasio at an announcement (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


This article is part of a series on Mayor de Blasio's first term record as he seeks reelection this fall, in partnership with WNYC radio and City Limits. Find all pieces of the series here.

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Bill 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.

He was elected overwhelmingly.

“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 inaugural address 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.”

Equity became the foundation of the de Blasio administration, enshrined in virtually every policy coming from City Hall and, more comprehensively, in the OneNYC roadmap for the city’s future, which sets poverty reduction and other goals to fulfill de Blasio’s promises.

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.”

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 roughly 21 percent -- or 1.74 million people -- when he took office.

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 set to jump 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).

According to five-year estimates from the American Community Survey for 2011-2015, about 20.6 percent of New York City residents lived below the federal poverty level. The latest one-year ACS supplemental estimates 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.

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 city estimates, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

“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.

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.

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.”

An encouraging trend, evinced from 2016 census data, is that median household income in 2016  was $58,856, up from $56,457 in 2015, and surpassing the pre-recession peak level of $56,982 in 2008, according to an analysis 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.

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.

“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.

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.

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.

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 State of the City speech this year, that “people are so fundamentally challenged by the affordability crisis that this city simply must do more and must do it quickly.”  

“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.”

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.

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.

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.”

In a report 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.

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.”

In an interview with The Daily News editorial board, 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.”

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.

The CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance devised the NYC Equality Score, 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.”

“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.

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.”

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.

“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.

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.

“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.”

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.

A Quinnipiac University Poll 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.

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.

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.

“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.”

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.

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.”

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This article is part of a series on Mayor de Blasio's first term record as he seeks reelection this fall, in partnership with WNYC radio and City Limits. Find all pieces of the series here.

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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De Blasio's Record on Poverty and Inequality Tue, 31 Oct 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Touted Bloomberg Anti-Poverty Incubator Sees New Life in De Blasio Era http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6499:touted-bloomberg-anti-poverty-incubator-sees-new-life-in-de-blasio-era http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6499:touted-bloomberg-anti-poverty-incubator-sees-new-life-in-de-blasio-era Bloomberg city of innovation speech

Above: Mayor Bloomberg speaks (Ed Reed). Below: Gibbs & Doar on panel


Data-driven Center for Economic Opportunity paves way for workforce development vision in Career Pathways

On July 14, former Bloomberg Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs and Robert Doar, former commissioner of anti-poverty efforts, participated in a panel discussion in Washington, D.C., fielding questions about the poverty-fighting efforts they led through New York City’s Center for Economic Opportunity. It came just after their written series on the CEO and the Bloomberg approach to reducing poverty in New York, in which they argue for it as a national model.

Two-and-a-half years after Mayor Michael Bloomberg left office, the two former officials wrote in Washington Monthly of the Center for Economic Opportunity’s role in pioneering a disruptive, systemic, data-driven approach to reducing poverty and creating opportunity, claiming impressive results: the city, from 2000 to 2013, reported a declining poverty rate as comparable American cities saw a 36% spike and nationwide figures climbed from 11.3% to 14.8%, they wrote.

A representative for Gibbs reported that the New York City poverty rate dropped from 21.2% to 20.3% over Bloomberg’s full tenure. Though a modest decline, relative to the poverty-rate growth elsewhere, New York City was a positive outlier, and in their series, Gibbs and Doar aimed to encourage a national fight against poverty modeled after CEO efforts.

Bloomberg’s successor, current Mayor Bill de Blasio, came into office promising to address socioeconomic inequities, and appears to have seen the positives of CEO. De Blasio’s anti-poverty campaign employs many of the same tactics that CEO popularized. While CEO is no longer the same standalone program incubator it was, it is still part of the city’s anti-poverty efforts and de Blasio administration has adopted a data-centric workforce development vision that takes a similarly holistic approach to tackling the underlying sources of unemployment.

The most recent newsletter from CEO, published August 26, says the center has released two new evaluation reports detailing the progress of municipal identification program IDNYC and the New York Times-heralded career advancement program, WorkAdvance.

Originated in 2006 as a commission evaluating the root causes of poverty, the aptly-abbreviated CEO was institutionalized within the Mayor’s Office in 2007 to pilot programs to address the working poor, young adults aged 16-24, and families with children. Bloomberg - the billionaire entrepreneur mayor - tasked Gibbs, then Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services, to define the shape and scope of the anti-poverty incubator, with assistance from Doar, the Human Resources Administration (HRA) Commissioner.

The CEO team collaborated with agencies and advisors to implement, manage, and evaluate the efficacy of its programs, taking an experimental approach aimed at finally designing initiatives that really work.

Success was measured in the context of CEO's precedent-setting, citywide poverty data measures, which were developed in-house. These evaluations were designed to improve on a federal model that did not take into account changes in the economy, demographic trends, and public policies, and were made possible through collaboration with partners like nonprofit research organizations MDRC and the IT-training Per Scholas.

Keen on informed risk-taking, the center pioneered both divisive flameouts like the conditional cash transfer Family Rewards program and nationally-replicated breakthroughs like the Obama-cited CUNY Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) initiative, which provides a support network of counselors and peer engagement groups, along with stipends for supplementary funding for books, transportation, and tuition not covered by financial aid. Over eight years, CEO launched over 60 initiatives. In its infancy, the center found its footing in accomplishments like the Office of Financial Empowerment. Soon, the center created successful job training and education programs like WorkAdvance and Project Rise that would continue operating through Bloomberg’s tenure and into the current administration.

"Through these programs, we are providing evidence of what works, and we hope that through these investments we will find the key to break the pattern of poverty that still persists despite all the opportunity our city offers," Bloomberg said at a 2007 press conference celebrating a first year of program launches.

In their recent series reflecting on CEO, Gibbs and Doar write: “The story of New York’s success to date is one of repeated experimentation, a willingness to take risks and the occasional failure. Most significantly, New York’s experience confirms that solid evidence can trump the liberal-versus-conservative stalemate when the welfare of the country’s most vulnerable people is at stake.”

Today, Mayor de Blasio has based his entire administration on reducing inequality, creating opportunity for those who have not had it, and treating the ills of a New York that has worked for those at the top of the socioeconomic ladder, but not many others.

De Blasio has outlined a plan to lift 800,000 New Yorkers out of poverty and near poverty by 2025; the course of action in his OneNYC plan hinges on the transformative potential of a $15 per hour minimum wage and a combination of equity-focused initiatives to expand prekindergarten enrollment, construct affordable housing, and improve access to 21st-century essentials like broadband, transportation, and childcare.

Much like in other areas, the de Blasio administration has a different anti-poverty approach than its predecessor. Under de Blasio, the Center for Economic Opportunity has indeed been deemphasized as a program creator. Instead, this administration has adopted a set of workforce development initiatives through “Career Pathways,” which is inspired by aspects of CEO, like attacking the root causes of poverty and unemployment and employing strict data accountability.

Today, CEO is primarily used for its quantitative capabilities, evaluating new initiatives and streamlining existing ones while expanding its role in data analytics. Both Gibbs and current CEO Executive Director Matthew Klein, hired in 2014, are enthusiastic about de Blasio’s efforts.

In an interview with Gotham Gazette, Klein explained the ways in which the center has evolved. “The mayor has a strong focus on broad, big-scale change,” Klein explained of his boss, de Blasio. This means adjusting to the mayor's priorities: the CEO is now working closely alongside the Department of Education to monitor the implementation of the universal pre-kindergarten program, which Klein described as an "all hands on deck effort across the administration." Klein also appeared at the American Enterprise Institute panel to detail CEO’s new direction.

The city’s new Career Pathways approach, one that has been adopted at federal, state, and local levels across the country, relies on a network of industry partnerships that unites public and private stakeholders to design and develop curricula and training programs that match workforce shortages. In short, Career Pathways provides the skill development and Industry Partnerships provides the jobs: Career Pathways the supply, Industry Partnerships the demand.

The Office Of Workforce Development, formerly the Office of Human Capital Development, has assumed a coordinating role to oversee the complex maze of agencies, providers, funders, and stakeholders that the plan requires to produce its anti-poverty and workforce development programs.

By shifting to Career Pathways, the administration abandoned an old model of rapidly pairing workers with available jobs (“rapid-attachment”), instead investing in the skill building and education that produce lasting employment. The de Blasio administration is making an informed decision: the Career Pathways model has received support from The US Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, as well as the US Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education.

At the beginning of de Blasio’s term, the CEO poverty rate was at 20.7%, with 45.2% of New Yorkers living in near poverty - a term identifying the population living below 150% of the CEO poverty line. The administration claims that new training, entrepreneurship, and “bridge programs” have already served over 18,000 residents as of December 2015. There were also significant increases in youth employment, with the Summer Youth Employment Program expanding to reach 54,000 participants.

The new de Blasio strategy hinges on a dramatic redirection of the Human Resources Administration, which has been under the direction of Steve Banks since de Blasio appointed him in 2014. Moving away from pre-existing job placement initiatives, the agency now instead prioritizes redirected HRA programs and new bridge programs that provide low-skill job seekers with education and remedial training to find career-track employment in needy job sectors.

Like those of CEO, these programs are held accountable by data collection. The de Blasio administration calls these evaluatory statistics "common metrics," outlined in its original OneNYC plan, designed to align data and definitions to create a shared data collection system across all workforce programs.

While the Career Pathways approach has a place for successful CEO programs like WorkAdvance and Project Rise, the only CEO program highlighted in the OneNYC workforce development vision is the star CUNY ASAP initiative. The de Blasio administration has decided to chart his own path, with its own programmatic approach, instead of relying on the experimental nature of CEO.

So far, the Career Pathways vision has proven to be unwieldy for the same reasons it is heralded. The large web of new and redesigned education and training programs are more intensive and expensive than the preceding placement programs. In addition, the common metrics that provide accountability are in place, but somewhat disorganized: over a year into the approach common metrics have not been fully coordinated and integrated. The CEO is collaborating with the current administration to coordinate this data collection.

If the budding Career Pathways strategy succeeds, the current administration will, in part, have Bloomberg’s groundbreaking CEO to thank.

Bloomberg’s Incubator
A brainchild of a 2006 poverty commission, the "laboratory for experimentation" known as the Center for Economic Opportunity took advantage of a $100 million budget to pilot over 60 unconventional anti-poverty programs, each subjected to statistical evaluations that would determine its longevity.

Under the initial direction of executive director Veronica M. White, the CEO’s center’s initial funding came from a public-private partnership comprised of a new investment of tax dollars and philanthropic partners; the philosophy was indicative of the larger Bloomberg approach to government: infuse private sector principles to the public sector.

Gibbs Doar panel 1Over time, CEO’s staunchly quantitative approach to anti-poverty reform fostered what Gibbs describes as "an accountability for outcomes and evaluation.” It’s data-centric design was a reaction to its environment, typical of the slow-to-change government that Bloomberg often railed against.

"People, particularly in the social services, fall behind many other sectors," former Deputy Mayor Gibbs told Gotham Gazette in a phone interview. "We do things because we believe they are the right thing to do, we believe they are good and virtuous and helping people in need, but we don't always give ourselves the same level of accountability for whether or not our great idea will actually produce good."

The CEO's Darwinian approach reflected the entrepreneurial mind of its captain, a mayor more than willing to experiment with city government.

One of CEOs early successes was the Office of Financial Empowerment. Created within the Department of Consumer Affairs in 2006, OFE fought to "make work pay" through expansions of income supplements, public health insurance, and the earned income tax credit, among other programs.

According to Gibbs and Doar, an early evaluation showed $3 million in savings for 22,000 clients, and $22.5 million in total debt reduction. In July, Gotham Gazette reported that OFE has been incrementally expanded during Mayor de Blasio’s tenure, now headed by Executive Director Debra-Ellen Glickstein, who signed on in 2015.

Other CEO initiatives, like WorkAdvance, provided vulnerable New Yorkers with occupational skill training and industry-recognized certifications before coordinating placement in high-demand sectors. This humanistic approach included both pre-employment and job retention services to ensure effectiveness and instill confidence in job seekers. The program was hand-picked for national replication through a partnership with the Social Innovation Fund (SIF): a public-private partnership identifying evidence-based approaches to social challenges.

At the American Enterprise Institute panel with Gibbs and Doar, Gordon Berlin, president of MDRC, emphasized the significance of the grant, citing the "cross city partnership" it created. "The SIF really helped secure the CEO's future, role, and position in the national debate about federal poverty policy," Berlin said.

Tested in New York, Northeast Ohio, and Oklahoma, the expanded WorkAdvance program boasted two-year advantages at all sites (when compared to a control group) of 31% in training completion and 12-41% in sectoral employment, along with instances of earnings boosts up to 26%, according to an MDRC report.

The only CEO program highlighted in Mayor de Blasio’s OneNYC Career Pathways workforce development vision is the aforementioned CUNY ASAP, now available to 17,000 full-time students across 24 campuses. The CUNY program helps students earn associate degrees by providing supplemental financial and personal assistance with the goal of increasing credits earned and lowering cost per degree.

The effort rose to national fame when President Obama mentioned ASAP by name in a 2015 address regarding a proposal to offer free tuition for more community college students. Creating an educated, debt-free workforce could have significant anti-poverty ramifications: a 2015 ASAP study claims that by 2020, an estimated 35% of job openings will require a bachelor’s degree, and 30% more will require a college or associate’s degree. The country’s student debt crisis is well documented.

As of June, the program claims a 53% to 23% (control group) advantage in graduation rates. The current incarnation of CUNY ASAP, located at all six city community colleges, reported a Spring enrollment of over 8,000 students, and projects to double that total this Fall. CEO Deputy Executive Director Carson Hicks told Gotham Gazette that the program is on track to reach 25,000 students by the 2018-2019 academic year.

Expanded Vision
Mayor de Blasio hopes the Career Pathways approach, made possible by strategic industry partnerships, will build on the CEO legacy of impactful training and education programs held accountable by stringent data collection and evaluation.

Three new HRA programs include CareerAdvance, CareerCompass, and YouthPathways, which replaced programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

A Center for an Urban Future analysis of Career Pathways, released last month, commends the change, observing that old TANF initiatives were both low-paying and unaligned with the career goals of clients. There was also a lack of individualized assessment, made evident by the fact that the programs did not take into account the age of their clients.

De Blasio also cites Computer Science for All as an early success and part of long-term plans to create opportunity and reduce poverty. Launched in 2015, the program aims to deliver computer science education to public school students through elementary, middle, and high school. The administration says it will make the program available to all students by 2025 in order to accommodate a job market that increasingly rewards the technically proficient (CSFA references a 57% tech employment hike 2007-2014).

Computer Science for All is funded by a public-private partnership with the New York City Foundation for Computer Science Education and the Robin Hood Foundation, and is part of the mayor’s Equity and Excellence agenda, which includes AP for All: a program designed to provide students at all 400 city high schools with access to five AP courses by 2021. Both programs intend to address the troubling disparity between education opportunities for many black and Hispanic youth and their more privileged counterparts.

The administration has also overseen a new investment in bridge programs that provide remedial training for skill-deficient workers. The CEO was brought in to develop programs connecting participants with healthcare training opportunities, also collaborating with CUNY to launch the Building Bridges Professional Development course that gathered over 50 community-based organizations in summer of 2015. That same winter, The NYC Bridge Bank was established to provide program curricula, design manuals, and teacher guides for Career Pathways implementation.

Across workforce development, the de Blasio administration is operating with increased capital: according to the same Center for an Urban Future report, the city has increased its annual spending budget for workforce services from $500 million in fiscal year 2014 to just over $600 million in fiscal year 2016. Mayor de Blasio has committed to increasing occupational and training programs to $100 million and bridge programs to $60 million annually by 2020.

To coordinate these moving parts, the administration converted the once-perfunctory Office of Human Capital Development into the Office of Workforce Development to serve the essential role of guiding and coordinating with the three main agencies that together control almost all of the money that flows into workforce development: the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), the Department of Small Business Services (SBS), and the Human Resources Administration (HRA), according to Christian Gonzalez-Rivera, a senior researcher at the Center for an Urban Future.

Lazar Treschan, director of youth policy at Community Service Society, a nonprofit focused on poverty reduction, is supportive of the new Career Pathways direction. “The reforms have been terrific in terms of vision, planning, ideas,” Treschan told Gotham Gazette. “One thing that is missing is additional investment,” he added. “Ideas will only take you so far. At some point we do need the money.” Treschan noted that new money would come from the city, as current workforce money largely comes from the state and federal government.

Reality Check
Despite the promising launch of initiatives like HireNYC, a targeted hiring program that connects job seekers to positions created by the city’s purchases and investments, there has not been enough permanent funding in the workforce system and investment in provider organizations to bring about the advanced system of referrals and partnerships that the nascent Career Pathways strategy requires, analysts say.

"The new system really shows a lot of promise to consolidate programs that once existed in silence," Rivera said. Published in July, Rivera conducted a comprehensive evaluation of Career Pathways, informed by interviews with over 30 workforce development experts. "The city for the first time is actually investing in bridge programs…it's really on the ground level right now. So a lot of investment has been made already. A lot of shift in culture has happened," Rivera said.

However, Rivera wonders about whether the de Blasio administration has overreached. "When you look at all levels, there is not enough money to serve all the people who need to be served with these higher touch expensive programs…the bridge programs are at least one-and-a-half or even two times more expensive as regular adult basic education programs. We're going to need more investment in order to make this happen."

In his report, Rivera uncovered why there isn't enough money flowing into Career Pathways initiatives. "The programs tend to be funded at least in part through private philanthropic dollars and to operate on a limited scale. Public investment is hampered at the federal level by restrictions and rules imposed by funding sources, and at the local level by a limited understanding on part of city agencies of the needs of community-based organizations in the cost structures of the programs they run."

Data Accountability
Another key shortcoming of the Career Pathways rollout involves the coordinating office, which is, as of April, headed by Executive Director Barbara Chang. In its current incarnation, the Office of Workforce Development (WKDEV) has limited power and influence to make programming and funding decisions, according to Rivera.

Unlike the CEO model where design, evaluation, and funding are all consolidated into one adaptable, independent body, WKDEV purely serves a guiding role. "CEO actually has money to pilot programs, the Office of Workforce Development just has enough to basically pay salaries," Rivera explained. "That's one of the problems: basically, it's a coordinating agency, it should be an agency that should have more control over program development, but it doesn't." Rivera’s critique, which relates to CEO, boils down to: "Work-dev [WKDEV] can advise, but in the end they are not accountable."

One of the Office of Workforce Development's chief responsibilities is to create a set of common metrics to measure performance of Career Pathways programs. However, Rivera reports that WKDEV is only now sitting down with the different agencies (HRA, SBS, DYDC) to catalog outcome measures, compare definitions, and determine relevant measures for integration into each program.

Rivera explained why this will be a difficult process. "Even a measure like number of people served can have a different definition from one agency to the next," he explained. "The other problem is that programs work with very different populations. You can’t expect an organization that serves community college students to have the same outcomes as one that serves high school dropouts who read at less than the sixth grade level."

The avoidable disorder of data systems begs the obvious question: why weren't common metrics squared away earlier? "That was actually a question I asked the director of the Mayor's Office of Workforce Development,” Rivera said. “Why start with programs instead of the common metrics?" His answer? The decision had less to do with accountability and more with self-preservation.

"These agencies depend on meeting certain outcomes to continue receiving money. So, HRA has to prove to the federal government that it did what the federal government wanted it to do in order to continue receiving money and not get penalties. And so any kind of outside evaluation that shows that maybe they are not doing their job as well as they said they are, or basically if you measure them with a different yardstick that says they're not doing as well, anything like that, can potentially be threatening. So it's very dicey. It's very political, for that reason."

There is the obvious comparison to the way the CEO closely monitored its initiatives. "These are (CEO) programs that still have an evaluation component, and they basically represent the gold standard for how these (Career Pathways) programs should be measured.”

"In fact," Rivera added, "that's part of the inspiration that work-dev took in order to start measuring common metrics."

Today’s Driver
Today, the Center for Economic Opportunity is less of an active player than it was under Bloomberg, assuming a supporting role in the current administration. The center still manages to conduct annual poverty measures and build on existing initiatives like the redesigned Young Adult Literacy Program, while spearheading others like an upcoming mental health service integration project made possible by a 2015 Social Impact Fund grant.

Mayor de Blasio is eager to capitalize on the CEO's analytical capabilities: Executive Director Klein reported at the American Enterprise Institute panel that there are 39 CEO evaluations either launched, underway, or completed within the last two years.

Klein also detailed CEO’s role in establishing common metrics among the dissimilar Career Pathways programs. When challenged on the rollout, Klein emphasized that the right plan was there from the beginning, even if execution faltered somewhat. “Common metrics was largely set in terms of the definitions of the metrics themselves by the time the (Career Pathways) report was issued," Klein said, before offering an addendum. "There may have been one or two areas that needed final refinement to align across agencies."

“It sounds very simple, but it’s a complex undertaking…you’re talking about a changed management approach across multiple agencies and dozens of funding streams with old legacy data systems,” Klein said. “I don’t feel that bad about the timeline that we’re on.”

By large, de Blasio's appreciation for the CEO approach is evident in the way he conducts his anti-poverty and workforce development reform. Even former Deputy Mayor Gibbs spoke with warmth when describing the current mayor's efforts.

"We very much hoped that the de Blasio administration would continue with the CEO as an institution, and a framework, and also hoped that we could share the lessons so that others could do it as well, so we were super excited when de Blasio did exactly that," Gibbs said. "He embraced it and continued it, and I think what's really great is that he made it his own as well.”

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by Benjamin Jurney for Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Touted Bloomberg Anti-Poverty Incubator Sees New Life in De Blasio Era Mon, 29 Aug 2016 04:00:00 +0000
The Week That Was in New York Politics, September 14-18 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5894:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-september-14-18 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5894:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-september-14-18 week in review bus readers

photo: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York


Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday 

PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: Mayor de Blasio delivers an education speech, via The Mayor's Office on flickr; NYPD Commissioner Bratton is briefed as the city prepares for the Pope's visit next week, via NYPD; the Mayor's administration faced off with the City Council in softball, via John Kenny

BdB edu speech

bratton briefing

bdb mmv softball

TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK:

1. De Blasio Education Announcement: The mayor gave an "Equity and Excellence" education speech Wednesday, outlining a wide-ranging education policy plan that will commit about $186 million per year to enhance the performance and readiness of the city's students. Key elements include expanding computer science and advanced placement courses and adding reading specialists. The pieces will work in conjunction with previously announced de Blasio education initiatives including pre-kindergarten and community schools.

2. Cuomo Commits $ to Hudson Rail Tunnel: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie sent a letter to President Obama offering to fund half of the Hudson River rail tunnel project if the federal government pledges to pay for the other half. The project could cost up to $20 billion and has been the source of tension between federal and local officials.

3. Crackdown on K2: On Wednesday, authorities announced that they had dismantled an international ring responsible for manufacturing and distributing synthetic marijuana, known as K2 or spice, which drug officials say has caused a public-health crisis. The mayor has designed a multi-agency strategy to combat the proliferation of K2 and several bills have been introduced into the City Council.

4. Papal Visit, UN General Assembly Create Security Challenge: Pope Francis' visit next week coincides with the annual U.N. General Assembly, which will bring 170 world leaders to the city, creating what Police Commissioner William Bratton called "the largest security challenge the department and this city have ever faced." Federal and city agencies are preparing for the security and transit logistics.

5. Bharara Investigates Cuomo's Buffalo Billion: U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is reportedly investigating Gov. Cuomo's controversial Buffalo Billion revitalization project, according to The New York Post. The investigation focuses on the multimillion-dollar contracts awarded to build facilities for high-tech, drug-development, and clean-energy businesses.

THIS WEEK'S NUMBERS:

  • $60 billion was spent on education in the 2013-14 school year in New York State, averaging $21,812 for each of the state’s 3 million students.
  • Up to $20 million in federal funds will be given to New York City as part of a pilot program to decrease traffic injuries. As many as 10,000 vehicles will be fitted with smart devices designed to reduce traffic injuries, congestion, and pollution by 2017, and traffic lights will also be set up to beam information.
  • 20.9% is New York City's poverty rate, according data released by the Census Bureau on Wednesday, meaning that the poverty rate has not lowered at all since last year.

THE GLORY AND THE GOAT:

  • It was a good week for Columbia Law School Professor Tim Wu, who joined Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office while he is on sabbatical. Wu, who coined the phrase "net neutrality," will serve as a senior lawyer and special adviser to Schneiderman focusing on technology and the law. Wu was a candidate for Lieutenant Governor in 2014.
  • It was a bad week for former Assemblymember Bill Scarborough, a Democrat, who was sentenced to 13 months in prison and two years of supervised release after he pleaded guilty to state and federal corruption charges.

THE FLASH:

  • Around this time 95 years ago, on September 16, 1920, Wall Street was hit by a bomb blast outside the headquarters of J.P. Morgan. The blast killed several dozen people and injured hundreds more. Authorities believed it was the work of anarchists, but the bombers were never found.
  • Around this time 23 years ago, on September 16, 1992, thousands of off-duty police officers stormed City Hall to protest Mayor David Dinkins' support for an all-civilian police complaint review board.
  • Around this time 4 years ago, on September 17, 2011, a demonstration calling itself "Occupy Wall Street" began in New York.

GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK:

Cautious Optimism Ahead of Hearing on Citywide Ferry System, by Christian Zhang

Rumored Scheme Brings Scrutiny to Bronx Political Machine, by David Howard King

Did Bill De Blasio's Tirade Help Andrew Cuomo Get His Groove Back? by David Howard King

How To Become A New York City Council Member, by Catie Edmondson

MORE FOR THE WEEKEND:

  • Gotham Gazette's David King appeared on The Capitol Connection to discuss the latest with Governor Cuomo and more.
  • The Economist looks at how Mayor de Blasio is "doin'."
  • New Quinnipiace poll results show how New Yorkers are feeling about their elected officials and more.

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NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle @GothamGazette.

If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com

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 the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here. And have a great weekend!

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by Meg O'Connor and Ben Max

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The Week That Was in New York Politics, September 14-18 Fri, 18 Sep 2015 16:25:20 +0000