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/progressive-caucus 2018-09-19T03:23:53+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com City Council Progressive Caucus Urges Cuomo to Sign Bill Creating Prosecutorial Misconduct Commission 2018-07-11T04:00:00+00:00 2018-07-11T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7799:city-council-progressive-caucus-urges-cuomo-to-sign-bill-creating-prosecutorial-misconduct-commission Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/progressive-caucus-2009.jpg" alt="progressive caucus 2009" /></p> <p>City Council Progressive Caucus (photo via Progressive Caucus website)</p> <hr /> <p>The Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo urging him to sign a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7783-bill-to-create-prosecutorial-misconduct-commission-awaits-cuomo-decision" target="_blank" rel="noopener">bill</a>, passed at the end of the legislative session in June, which would create a new state commission on prosecutorial misconduct. The caucus, which includes 21 of the Council’s 51 members, referred to the bill as “the most substantive criminal justice reform passed in the state this year.”</p> <p>The state bill passed with bipartisan support in both the Assembly and the Senate, and awaits Cuomo’s signature or veto. The commission, consisting of eleven judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys appointed by the state’s chief judge, the governor, and legislative leaders, would be empowered to investigate and recommend disciplinary action against prosecutors in the state accused of misconduct. The commission would be similar in structure and purpose to a commission established in the 1970s to investigate misconduct claims by judges.</p> <p>Cuomo has not indicated whether he supports the legislation or not, and the state district attorneys association has called it unconstitutional and threatened to sue if the governor does sign it into law. The commission would have oversight of the state’s 62 district attorneys and their assistant district attorneys.</p> <p>The letter from the Council’s Progressive Caucus notes that, according to the University of Michigan’s National Registry of Exonerations, New York is fourth in the nation for wrongful convictions, behind California, Illinois, and Texas.</p> <p>“Across the United States there is a growing crisis of confidence in prosecutors as the role District Attorneys, historically, played in driving mass incarceration has become better understood by the public,” the letter reads. “The exonerations of wrongfully convicted people have sometimes exposed egregious misconduct by prosecutors, many of whom remain working as lawyers today.”</p> <p>Misconduct can take various forms, including failure to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense, intimidation of defendants or witnesses by police, and knowing submission of false testimony. Oftentimes, these occurrences can lead to false convictions, including for serious crimes that carry long sentences. In 2017, the National Registry of Exonerations recorded <a href="http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/detaillist.aspx?View=%7bfaf6eddb-5a68-4f8f-8a52-2c61f5bf9ea7%7d&amp;FilterField1=Exonerated&amp;FilterValue1=8_2017&amp;SortField=ST&amp;SortDir=Asc&amp;FilterField2=ST&amp;FilterValue2=NY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">13 exonerations</a> in New York State, for individuals who had served as little as one year to as long as 28 years for crimes they did not commit. So far in 2018, 12 exonerations have been recorded.</p> <p>False convictions are such an issue in New York that some district attorneys have formed entire units within their offices dedicated solely to examining past convictions and their validity. The Brooklyn DA’s <a href="http://brooklynda.org/conviction-review-unit/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Conviction Review Unit</a>, for instance, requested 24 exonerations for wrongfully-convicted defendants between its creation in February 2014 and December 2017.</p> <p>The bill is strongly supported by defense attorneys and criminal justice reform advocates, but is sharply opposed by district attorneys throughout the state. The Staten Island District Attorney told Gotham Gazette in June that oversight measures, such as grievance committees, already exist, and that the bill would hinder the ability of prosecutors to do their jobs and “potentially threaten the safety of those we are sworn to protect.”</p> <p>The grievance committees, which are bodies within appellate divisions that serve to investigate and censure both prosecutors and defense attorneys, have been characterized as toothless by advocates of the bill on both sides of the aisle, and criminal justice reform writ large. The Progressive Caucus wrote that the committee system in place has “not curbed bad behavior” among prosecutors, and that discipline is a rarity.</p> <p>“Public officials entrusted with incredible power should be held to the highest of standards,” reads the letter, signed by 12 members of the caucus. “Instead prosecutors have come to expect that there will be no punishment even following a judicial finding of egregious misconduct.”</p> <p>(Read the full letter <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#progressive-caucus" target="_self">here</a>)</p> <p>The grievance committees rarely discipline prosecutors, but frequently discipline defense attorneys or other attorneys in private practice. In 2016, the <a href="https://www.nycourts.gov/courts/ad1/committees&amp;programs/ddc/AnnualReport2016.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">First Appellate Division’s Grievance Committee</a>, which covers Manhattan and the Bronx, disbarred 30 attorneys, suspended ten, and publicly censured six; none were prosecutors. When prosecutors are disciplined, sanctioned, and disbarred, it tends to make the news, <a href="http://www.wwnytv.com/story/38533470/former-da-mary-rain-barred-from-practicing-law" target="_blank" rel="noopener">as occurred</a> with former St. Lawrence County DA Mary Rain.</p> <p>The Queens district attorney, Richard Brown, meanwhile, told Gotham Gazette that previous working groups, including one led by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, found no evidence of “rampant prosecutorial misconduct.”</p> <p>David Soares, the Albany District Attorney and the new president of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York (DAASNY), told host Susan Arbetter of the Capitol Pressroom radio show in June that DAASNY would sue the state if Cuomo signs the bill into law.</p> <p>For the Council’s Progressive Caucus, a majority in favor leads to an action like the letter. It was signed by caucus Co-chair Ben Kallos and fellow Council Members Jumaane Williams, Anonion Reynoso, Brad LAnder, Carlos Menchaca, Keith Powers, Deborah Rose, Daneek Miller, Justin Brannan, Steve Levin, Carlina Rivera, and Alicka Ampry-Samuel.</p> <p>Notably, the non-signers of the caucus include Council Speaker Corey Johnson, caucus co-chair Diana Ayala, and public safety committee chair Donovan Richards.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Richards told Gotham Gazette that Richards is in support of the bill, but was unable to sign it because Richards was out of town when the letter was sent. “I am absolutely in support of creating a state commission to look into prosecutorial misconduct,” he said. “In order to truly reform our criminal justice system, we must root out misconduct in all levels of law enforcement.”</p> <p>A representative for Johnson did not return a request for comment, while Ayala’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Representatives for Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Mark Levine, among the other members of the Progressive Caucus who did not sign the letter, told Gotham Gazette that they support the bill.</p> <p>Governor Cuomo has not signaled whether he intends to sign the bill or not. Cuomo spokesperson Tyrone Stevens said that the governor’s office is still reviewing it.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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</p> <p><a id="progressive-caucus"></a> </p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/progressive-caucus-2009.jpg" alt="progressive caucus 2009" /></p> <p>City Council Progressive Caucus (photo via Progressive Caucus website)</p> <hr /> <p>The Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo urging him to sign a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7783-bill-to-create-prosecutorial-misconduct-commission-awaits-cuomo-decision" target="_blank" rel="noopener">bill</a>, passed at the end of the legislative session in June, which would create a new state commission on prosecutorial misconduct. The caucus, which includes 21 of the Council’s 51 members, referred to the bill as “the most substantive criminal justice reform passed in the state this year.”</p> <p>The state bill passed with bipartisan support in both the Assembly and the Senate, and awaits Cuomo’s signature or veto. The commission, consisting of eleven judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys appointed by the state’s chief judge, the governor, and legislative leaders, would be empowered to investigate and recommend disciplinary action against prosecutors in the state accused of misconduct. The commission would be similar in structure and purpose to a commission established in the 1970s to investigate misconduct claims by judges.</p> <p>Cuomo has not indicated whether he supports the legislation or not, and the state district attorneys association has called it unconstitutional and threatened to sue if the governor does sign it into law. The commission would have oversight of the state’s 62 district attorneys and their assistant district attorneys.</p> <p>The letter from the Council’s Progressive Caucus notes that, according to the University of Michigan’s National Registry of Exonerations, New York is fourth in the nation for wrongful convictions, behind California, Illinois, and Texas.</p> <p>“Across the United States there is a growing crisis of confidence in prosecutors as the role District Attorneys, historically, played in driving mass incarceration has become better understood by the public,” the letter reads. “The exonerations of wrongfully convicted people have sometimes exposed egregious misconduct by prosecutors, many of whom remain working as lawyers today.”</p> <p>Misconduct can take various forms, including failure to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense, intimidation of defendants or witnesses by police, and knowing submission of false testimony. Oftentimes, these occurrences can lead to false convictions, including for serious crimes that carry long sentences. In 2017, the National Registry of Exonerations recorded <a href="http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/detaillist.aspx?View=%7bfaf6eddb-5a68-4f8f-8a52-2c61f5bf9ea7%7d&amp;FilterField1=Exonerated&amp;FilterValue1=8_2017&amp;SortField=ST&amp;SortDir=Asc&amp;FilterField2=ST&amp;FilterValue2=NY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">13 exonerations</a> in New York State, for individuals who had served as little as one year to as long as 28 years for crimes they did not commit. So far in 2018, 12 exonerations have been recorded.</p> <p>False convictions are such an issue in New York that some district attorneys have formed entire units within their offices dedicated solely to examining past convictions and their validity. The Brooklyn DA’s <a href="http://brooklynda.org/conviction-review-unit/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Conviction Review Unit</a>, for instance, requested 24 exonerations for wrongfully-convicted defendants between its creation in February 2014 and December 2017.</p> <p>The bill is strongly supported by defense attorneys and criminal justice reform advocates, but is sharply opposed by district attorneys throughout the state. The Staten Island District Attorney told Gotham Gazette in June that oversight measures, such as grievance committees, already exist, and that the bill would hinder the ability of prosecutors to do their jobs and “potentially threaten the safety of those we are sworn to protect.”</p> <p>The grievance committees, which are bodies within appellate divisions that serve to investigate and censure both prosecutors and defense attorneys, have been characterized as toothless by advocates of the bill on both sides of the aisle, and criminal justice reform writ large. The Progressive Caucus wrote that the committee system in place has “not curbed bad behavior” among prosecutors, and that discipline is a rarity.</p> <p>“Public officials entrusted with incredible power should be held to the highest of standards,” reads the letter, signed by 12 members of the caucus. “Instead prosecutors have come to expect that there will be no punishment even following a judicial finding of egregious misconduct.”</p> <p>(Read the full letter <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#progressive-caucus" target="_self">here</a>)</p> <p>The grievance committees rarely discipline prosecutors, but frequently discipline defense attorneys or other attorneys in private practice. In 2016, the <a href="https://www.nycourts.gov/courts/ad1/committees&amp;programs/ddc/AnnualReport2016.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">First Appellate Division’s Grievance Committee</a>, which covers Manhattan and the Bronx, disbarred 30 attorneys, suspended ten, and publicly censured six; none were prosecutors. When prosecutors are disciplined, sanctioned, and disbarred, it tends to make the news, <a href="http://www.wwnytv.com/story/38533470/former-da-mary-rain-barred-from-practicing-law" target="_blank" rel="noopener">as occurred</a> with former St. Lawrence County DA Mary Rain.</p> <p>The Queens district attorney, Richard Brown, meanwhile, told Gotham Gazette that previous working groups, including one led by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, found no evidence of “rampant prosecutorial misconduct.”</p> <p>David Soares, the Albany District Attorney and the new president of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York (DAASNY), told host Susan Arbetter of the Capitol Pressroom radio show in June that DAASNY would sue the state if Cuomo signs the bill into law.</p> <p>For the Council’s Progressive Caucus, a majority in favor leads to an action like the letter. It was signed by caucus Co-chair Ben Kallos and fellow Council Members Jumaane Williams, Anonion Reynoso, Brad LAnder, Carlos Menchaca, Keith Powers, Deborah Rose, Daneek Miller, Justin Brannan, Steve Levin, Carlina Rivera, and Alicka Ampry-Samuel.</p> <p>Notably, the non-signers of the caucus include Council Speaker Corey Johnson, caucus co-chair Diana Ayala, and public safety committee chair Donovan Richards.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Richards told Gotham Gazette that Richards is in support of the bill, but was unable to sign it because Richards was out of town when the letter was sent. “I am absolutely in support of creating a state commission to look into prosecutorial misconduct,” he said. “In order to truly reform our criminal justice system, we must root out misconduct in all levels of law enforcement.”</p> <p>A representative for Johnson did not return a request for comment, while Ayala’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Representatives for Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Mark Levine, among the other members of the Progressive Caucus who did not sign the letter, told Gotham Gazette that they support the bill.</p> <p>Governor Cuomo has not signaled whether he intends to sign the bill or not. Cuomo spokesperson Tyrone Stevens said that the governor’s office is still reviewing it.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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</p> <p><a id="progressive-caucus"></a> </p>
City Council Progressive Caucus Calls for Crisis Intervention Reforms 2018-04-18T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-18T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7622:city-council-progressive-caucus-calls-for-crisis-intervention-reforms Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mayornyc-james-o-neil.jpg" alt="mayornyc james o neil" width="640" height="428" /></p> <p>(Credit: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council Progressive Caucus is stepping up calls for Mayor Bill de Blasio to reconstitute a citywide task force to examine how emergency responders help people suffering from mental illness, and are insisting that the mayor consider creating a parallel response force of social workers and therapists that can answer calls rather than police officers.</p> <p>In a letter sent to the mayor last Wednesday, the 21 members of the Progressive Caucus said the mayor should act by the end of the month to revive the Mayoral Task Force on Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice, which was set up, and concluded its work, in 2014, or create a similar body.</p> <p>“As we’ve seen once again in the last week, the tragic costs of not acting in a sustained and focused manner are too high,” the members wrote, referring to the shooting death of Crown Heights resident Shaheed Vassell by NYPD officers who were not trained to respond to situations involving “emotionally disturbed persons.” The letter noted that since the last task force’s recommendations were put in place, in the summer of 2016, ten people in emotional crisis were killed by police.</p> <p>Late last year, City Council Member Jumaane Williams, a progressive caucus member, had led an effort calling on the mayor to do the same. He was among those who <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7603-council-members-renew-call-for-task-force-on-nypd-response-to-emotionally-disturbed-persons" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reiterated that request</a> after the death of Vassell. But though the NYPD says it is on board, the mayor continues to drag his feet. “It’s really a City Hall conversation,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner Susan Herman said at a Council hearing last month.</p> <p>The Progressive Caucus members’ latest request differs slightly from what has been previously sought.</p> <p>Rather than directing efforts at improving NYPD officer behavior, which they nonetheless hope the task force will do, they are calling for the mayor to support a new system that prioritizes professional mental health providers in emergency situations, where 911 operators can divert calls to social workers or therapists instead of the police and where therapists or trained peers can join police at the scene of an emergency. They also call for an expansion of mobile crisis teams and co-response teams that include mental health professionals paired with officers that have received Crisis Intervention Training. Just over 8,000 officers in the 36,000-strong police force have gone through CIT.&nbsp;</p> <p>"Too often, individuals with behavioral and mental health conditions are wrongly introduced to the criminal justice system. In order to improve their safety, we must consider comprehensive strategies that will prioritize preventive care and response tactics by mental health professionals,” said Council Member Diana Ayala, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus and chair of the Council’s Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities and Addiction, in a statement.</p> <p>The Progressive Caucus includes nearly half the 51 members of the City Council, and counts Council Speaker Corey Johnson among its ranks. Council Member Ben Kallos is co-chair with Ayala.</p> <p>Although the Council members praised the administration’s efforts that resulted from the recommendation of the previous task force, they noted that many initiatives stalled and also pointed to the weaknesses in the NYPD’s approach to CIT training as evidenced by a January 2017 report by the Office of the Inspector General for the NYPD.</p> <p>“The deaths of Dwayne Jeune, Saheed Vassell, and too many others have shown that there are fundamental flaws in the way our city handles EDP emergencies,” said Council Member Williams, in a statement.</p> <p>Steve Coe, CEO of Community Access, decried the “lack of leadership around this issue” despite the action plan put in place based on the 2014 task force’s recommendations. He commended the Progressive Caucus’ efforts, stressing that bringing stakeholders such as district attorneys, the city’s health department, NYPD officials, mental health experts and advocates was necessary “to assess what’s working, what’s not working, and develop diversion and treatment strategies that are effective and sustainable.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p> <p>Note- This article has been updated.&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mayornyc-james-o-neil.jpg" alt="mayornyc james o neil" width="640" height="428" /></p> <p>(Credit: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council Progressive Caucus is stepping up calls for Mayor Bill de Blasio to reconstitute a citywide task force to examine how emergency responders help people suffering from mental illness, and are insisting that the mayor consider creating a parallel response force of social workers and therapists that can answer calls rather than police officers.</p> <p>In a letter sent to the mayor last Wednesday, the 21 members of the Progressive Caucus said the mayor should act by the end of the month to revive the Mayoral Task Force on Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice, which was set up, and concluded its work, in 2014, or create a similar body.</p> <p>“As we’ve seen once again in the last week, the tragic costs of not acting in a sustained and focused manner are too high,” the members wrote, referring to the shooting death of Crown Heights resident Shaheed Vassell by NYPD officers who were not trained to respond to situations involving “emotionally disturbed persons.” The letter noted that since the last task force’s recommendations were put in place, in the summer of 2016, ten people in emotional crisis were killed by police.</p> <p>Late last year, City Council Member Jumaane Williams, a progressive caucus member, had led an effort calling on the mayor to do the same. He was among those who <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7603-council-members-renew-call-for-task-force-on-nypd-response-to-emotionally-disturbed-persons" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reiterated that request</a> after the death of Vassell. But though the NYPD says it is on board, the mayor continues to drag his feet. “It’s really a City Hall conversation,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner Susan Herman said at a Council hearing last month.</p> <p>The Progressive Caucus members’ latest request differs slightly from what has been previously sought.</p> <p>Rather than directing efforts at improving NYPD officer behavior, which they nonetheless hope the task force will do, they are calling for the mayor to support a new system that prioritizes professional mental health providers in emergency situations, where 911 operators can divert calls to social workers or therapists instead of the police and where therapists or trained peers can join police at the scene of an emergency. They also call for an expansion of mobile crisis teams and co-response teams that include mental health professionals paired with officers that have received Crisis Intervention Training. Just over 8,000 officers in the 36,000-strong police force have gone through CIT.&nbsp;</p> <p>"Too often, individuals with behavioral and mental health conditions are wrongly introduced to the criminal justice system. In order to improve their safety, we must consider comprehensive strategies that will prioritize preventive care and response tactics by mental health professionals,” said Council Member Diana Ayala, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus and chair of the Council’s Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities and Addiction, in a statement.</p> <p>The Progressive Caucus includes nearly half the 51 members of the City Council, and counts Council Speaker Corey Johnson among its ranks. Council Member Ben Kallos is co-chair with Ayala.</p> <p>Although the Council members praised the administration’s efforts that resulted from the recommendation of the previous task force, they noted that many initiatives stalled and also pointed to the weaknesses in the NYPD’s approach to CIT training as evidenced by a January 2017 report by the Office of the Inspector General for the NYPD.</p> <p>“The deaths of Dwayne Jeune, Saheed Vassell, and too many others have shown that there are fundamental flaws in the way our city handles EDP emergencies,” said Council Member Williams, in a statement.</p> <p>Steve Coe, CEO of Community Access, decried the “lack of leadership around this issue” despite the action plan put in place based on the 2014 task force’s recommendations. He commended the Progressive Caucus’ efforts, stressing that bringing stakeholders such as district attorneys, the city’s health department, NYPD officials, mental health experts and advocates was necessary “to assess what’s working, what’s not working, and develop diversion and treatment strategies that are effective and sustainable.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note- This article has been updated.&nbsp;</p>
Initial Johnson Move Signifies Changing of the Guard at City Council 2018-01-09T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-09T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7414:initial-johnson-move-signifies-changing-of-the-guard-at-the-city-council Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/38771479474_2c39e60427_z.jpg" alt="Speaker Corey Johnson press conference " width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Speaker Corey Johnson, at podium (photos: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Just after he was <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7401-corey-johnson-elected-speaker-of-the-city-council" target="_blank" rel="noopener">elected Speaker of the City Council</a>&nbsp;on January 3, Corey Johnson had some initial business to take care of: naming a temporary rules committee, including a chairperson. And in this first official decision in his new role, Johnson made a relatively small but important move that is emblematic of the broad shift in the City Council and larger city political dynamics at play in Johnson’s election.</p> <p>Toward the end of an emotional and intense initial meeting of the new City Council class, at which Johnson, a Democrat, won 48 of 49 votes to lead the 51-seat legislative body for the next four years, the new speaker nominated an interim rules committee, including himself, as is customary, to be led by Queens Council Member Rory Lancman.</p> <p>Johnson had just been elected speaker with the support of the Bronx County Democratic Party and the Queens County Democratic Party, which is led by Congressional Rep. Joe Crowley, whom he thanked profusely from the floor of the Council chambers as Crowley looked down from the balcony. The situation was unlike that of Johnson’s predecessor, Melissa Mark-Viverito, who became speaker in 2014 after winning the support of a unified Council Progressive Caucus, powerful labor unions, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and members of the Brooklyn Democratic County Party. Four years ago, Mark-Viverito named Brooklyn Council Member and Progressive Caucus co-founder Brad Lander as rules chair.</p> <p>The shift from Mark-Viverito to Johnson can also be seen in the change from Lander to Lancman, a former member of the state Assembly and stalwart player in the Queens County Party. While all four Democrats share political dispositions and most policy positions, the changing of the guard is evident, and other top committee posts appear likely to go to representatives of the county parties and individual members who backed Johnson’s ascension. It appears this will include the Bronx’s Rafael Salamanca as chair of the land use committee and a Queens Council member, possibly Danny Dromm, as chair of the finance committee, according to sources familiar with the process. Last time around Brooklyn's David Greenfield was named land use chair and Progressive Caucus member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland of Queens became chair of finance.</p> <p>Johnson, himself a member of the Progressive Caucus, has been meeting with his 50 Council member constituents and hearing from other stakeholders like the county party leaders, and is expected to outline committee chair and member nominations within the next ten days.</p> <p>The rules committee will then take up those nominations, approving the chairs and committee members of all of the Council’s 40-plus committees and subcommittees, including the permanent rules committee, before the full Council gives it approval. It is unclear if Lancman will remain rules chair, or whether he requested the position even on a temporary basis. A request to speak with the Council member was declined by a spokesperson.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/16191294597_378fed8f32_z.jpg" alt="City Council Rory Lancman" width="275" height="183" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />After approving committee assignments, the rules committee will then be responsible for considering and passing any changes to the Council’s internal rules -- there is a long <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7378-rules-reform-package-supported-by-33-current-and-incoming-city-council-members" target="_blank" rel="noopener">proposed rules reform agenda</a> that 33 members, including Johnson and Lancman (pictured), signed on to last month -- and vetting and approving nominees to about a dozen city boards and commissions, like the Board of Corrections and the City Planning Commission.</p> <p>"The Speaker has already met with almost all of his colleagues and is in active conversations with Council Members, stakeholders, city leaders and advocates to ensure the committee chairs best reflect the priorities of this Council and the diversity of our City," said City Council spokesperson Robin Levine, in an emailed statement. Levine did not directly respond to the question of how Lancman was selected as the initial rules chair. During the prior term Lancman, an attorney and regular critic of Mayor de Blasio, chaired the newly created Committee on Courts and Legal Services.</p> <p>Four years ago, Lander and Mark-Viverito ushered through landmark rules reforms that significantly altered how the Council functions, including how discretionary funding is allocated to individual members, bringing equity and transparency to a system that had been used by prior speakers to reward and punish.</p> <p>As he ran for speaker and since being elected, Johnson has championed additional reforms, including to the Council’s bill-drafting protocols. He wants to see changes so that members can no longer put indefinite holds on certain legislation and so that there is more information and awareness around who is working on what bills.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7378-rules-reform-package-supported-by-33-current-and-incoming-city-council-members" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The rules reform package</a> that has the backing of 33 members includes changes to the bill-drafting process but also a beefing up of the Council’s Oversight and Investigation Committee, “with dedicated investigative staff and a willingness to use the Council’s subpoena power when necessary.” It also includes increasing the Council’s budget and staff and staff salaries; and beefing up the land use division specifically, something Johnson has talked about a good deal during his bid for speaker and since being elected.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7331-city-council-speaker-candidates-address-power-reform-and-transparency" target="_blank" rel="noopener">At one speaker candidate forum</a> Johnson said that he thinks there is room for possibly eliminating some Council committees while also possibly creating new ones -- he said, for example, that the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee should be broken into two. He did not give any examples of committees that should be eliminated. The Council <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6216-city-council-deletes-one-committee-but-no-further-reforms-planned" target="_blank" rel="noopener">did delete one committee last term</a>, the Committee on Community Development, when its chair resigned from the Council, but most Council members, including Lander, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6216-city-council-deletes-one-committee-but-no-further-reforms-planned" target="_blank" rel="noopener">said at the time</a> that there were no plans to look at eliminating any others.</p> <p>Along with Lancman as chair and Johnson, the other members of the initial rules committee are Council Members Adrienne Adams, Margaret Chin, Robert Cornegy, Jr., Rafael Espinal, Karen Koslowitz, Steven Matteo, Ritchie Torres, and Mark Treyger.</p> <p>The package of reforms says toward the end that&nbsp;"A hearing should be held in the Rules Committee on these reforms – as well as any others proposed by&nbsp;good government groups or members of the public – in the first quarter of 2018. The reforms should&nbsp;then be converted into a Rules Resolution, and adopted by the Council by March 2018, but no later&nbsp;than June 2018."</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7331-city-council-speaker-candidates-address-power-reform-and-transparency" target="_blank" rel="noopener">City Council Speaker Candidates Address Power, Reform and Transparency]</a></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/38771479474_2c39e60427_z.jpg" alt="Speaker Corey Johnson press conference " width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Speaker Corey Johnson, at podium (photos: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Just after he was <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7401-corey-johnson-elected-speaker-of-the-city-council" target="_blank" rel="noopener">elected Speaker of the City Council</a>&nbsp;on January 3, Corey Johnson had some initial business to take care of: naming a temporary rules committee, including a chairperson. And in this first official decision in his new role, Johnson made a relatively small but important move that is emblematic of the broad shift in the City Council and larger city political dynamics at play in Johnson’s election.</p> <p>Toward the end of an emotional and intense initial meeting of the new City Council class, at which Johnson, a Democrat, won 48 of 49 votes to lead the 51-seat legislative body for the next four years, the new speaker nominated an interim rules committee, including himself, as is customary, to be led by Queens Council Member Rory Lancman.</p> <p>Johnson had just been elected speaker with the support of the Bronx County Democratic Party and the Queens County Democratic Party, which is led by Congressional Rep. Joe Crowley, whom he thanked profusely from the floor of the Council chambers as Crowley looked down from the balcony. The situation was unlike that of Johnson’s predecessor, Melissa Mark-Viverito, who became speaker in 2014 after winning the support of a unified Council Progressive Caucus, powerful labor unions, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and members of the Brooklyn Democratic County Party. Four years ago, Mark-Viverito named Brooklyn Council Member and Progressive Caucus co-founder Brad Lander as rules chair.</p> <p>The shift from Mark-Viverito to Johnson can also be seen in the change from Lander to Lancman, a former member of the state Assembly and stalwart player in the Queens County Party. While all four Democrats share political dispositions and most policy positions, the changing of the guard is evident, and other top committee posts appear likely to go to representatives of the county parties and individual members who backed Johnson’s ascension. It appears this will include the Bronx’s Rafael Salamanca as chair of the land use committee and a Queens Council member, possibly Danny Dromm, as chair of the finance committee, according to sources familiar with the process. Last time around Brooklyn's David Greenfield was named land use chair and Progressive Caucus member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland of Queens became chair of finance.</p> <p>Johnson, himself a member of the Progressive Caucus, has been meeting with his 50 Council member constituents and hearing from other stakeholders like the county party leaders, and is expected to outline committee chair and member nominations within the next ten days.</p> <p>The rules committee will then take up those nominations, approving the chairs and committee members of all of the Council’s 40-plus committees and subcommittees, including the permanent rules committee, before the full Council gives it approval. It is unclear if Lancman will remain rules chair, or whether he requested the position even on a temporary basis. A request to speak with the Council member was declined by a spokesperson.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/16191294597_378fed8f32_z.jpg" alt="City Council Rory Lancman" width="275" height="183" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />After approving committee assignments, the rules committee will then be responsible for considering and passing any changes to the Council’s internal rules -- there is a long <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7378-rules-reform-package-supported-by-33-current-and-incoming-city-council-members" target="_blank" rel="noopener">proposed rules reform agenda</a> that 33 members, including Johnson and Lancman (pictured), signed on to last month -- and vetting and approving nominees to about a dozen city boards and commissions, like the Board of Corrections and the City Planning Commission.</p> <p>"The Speaker has already met with almost all of his colleagues and is in active conversations with Council Members, stakeholders, city leaders and advocates to ensure the committee chairs best reflect the priorities of this Council and the diversity of our City," said City Council spokesperson Robin Levine, in an emailed statement. Levine did not directly respond to the question of how Lancman was selected as the initial rules chair. During the prior term Lancman, an attorney and regular critic of Mayor de Blasio, chaired the newly created Committee on Courts and Legal Services.</p> <p>Four years ago, Lander and Mark-Viverito ushered through landmark rules reforms that significantly altered how the Council functions, including how discretionary funding is allocated to individual members, bringing equity and transparency to a system that had been used by prior speakers to reward and punish.</p> <p>As he ran for speaker and since being elected, Johnson has championed additional reforms, including to the Council’s bill-drafting protocols. He wants to see changes so that members can no longer put indefinite holds on certain legislation and so that there is more information and awareness around who is working on what bills.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7378-rules-reform-package-supported-by-33-current-and-incoming-city-council-members" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The rules reform package</a> that has the backing of 33 members includes changes to the bill-drafting process but also a beefing up of the Council’s Oversight and Investigation Committee, “with dedicated investigative staff and a willingness to use the Council’s subpoena power when necessary.” It also includes increasing the Council’s budget and staff and staff salaries; and beefing up the land use division specifically, something Johnson has talked about a good deal during his bid for speaker and since being elected.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7331-city-council-speaker-candidates-address-power-reform-and-transparency" target="_blank" rel="noopener">At one speaker candidate forum</a> Johnson said that he thinks there is room for possibly eliminating some Council committees while also possibly creating new ones -- he said, for example, that the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee should be broken into two. He did not give any examples of committees that should be eliminated. The Council <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6216-city-council-deletes-one-committee-but-no-further-reforms-planned" target="_blank" rel="noopener">did delete one committee last term</a>, the Committee on Community Development, when its chair resigned from the Council, but most Council members, including Lander, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6216-city-council-deletes-one-committee-but-no-further-reforms-planned" target="_blank" rel="noopener">said at the time</a> that there were no plans to look at eliminating any others.</p> <p>Along with Lancman as chair and Johnson, the other members of the initial rules committee are Council Members Adrienne Adams, Margaret Chin, Robert Cornegy, Jr., Rafael Espinal, Karen Koslowitz, Steven Matteo, Ritchie Torres, and Mark Treyger.</p> <p>The package of reforms says toward the end that&nbsp;"A hearing should be held in the Rules Committee on these reforms – as well as any others proposed by&nbsp;good government groups or members of the public – in the first quarter of 2018. The reforms should&nbsp;then be converted into a Rules Resolution, and adopted by the Council by March 2018, but no later&nbsp;than June 2018."</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7331-city-council-speaker-candidates-address-power-reform-and-transparency" target="_blank" rel="noopener">City Council Speaker Candidates Address Power, Reform and Transparency]</a></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
City Council Progressive Caucus Sets 18 Policy Goals for 2018 2017-05-25T04:00:00+00:00 2017-05-25T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6956:city-council-progressive-caucus-sets-18-policy-goals-for-2018 Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/18_for_18_progressive_caucus.jpg" alt="18 for 18 progressive caucus" width="600" height="509" /></p> <p>The Progressive Caucus conference (photo: Daniel Altschuler‏)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council’s Progressive Caucus met this week to discuss its 2018 agenda, a <a href="https://nycprogressives.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/pwg_18-for-18-policy-platform-as-of-5-1-17.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">set of 18 policy proposals</a> that, its members say, pits them as direct adversaries to President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress.</p> <p>“Now more than ever, it is crucial for local progressive leadership in NYC to set the example for our country,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, in a statement.</p> <p>The 18 policy points were posted to the caucus’s website last month, but the group of 19 City Council members hosted a policy summit on Tuesday to share more detailed goals with the public. The agenda is focused on action New York City should take this year and includes some items already in the works, like closing the Rikers Island jail complex, and others that have been stalled, such as passing The Right to Know Act, which would mandate certain communication from police officers in certain encounters with civilians.</p> <p>Like Right to Know, several other items on the list are not supported by Mayor Bill de Blasio, himself an avowed progressive who has often been aligned with the Progressive Caucus, itself co-found by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, a close de Blasio ally. Like the caucus, Mark-Viverito has often outflanked de Blasio to his left, including on Rikers closure, on which her advocacy greatly contributed to the mayor’s recently-announced support for closing the complex in about ten years.</p> <p>Any differences with de Blasio are, however, fairly minor in comparison to those between the caucus and President Trump.</p> <p>The Progressive Caucus convened on the agenda with support from organizations such as the Working Families Party, Just Leadership USA, and Make the Road NY. The policy convening occurred on the same day as the release of the most recent budget proposal from the Trump administration, which stands at the opposite pole of the Caucus’, slashing funding for assistance programs such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as cutting federal funding for affordable housing.</p> <p>“In the age of a Trump administration, it is clear that the responsibilities of moving our country in the direction of progress will fall on the shoulders of our cities. Our new policy platform for 2018 is the Progressive Caucus’ pledge that we are up to the challenge,” said caucus co-chair Donovan Richards, a Democrat from Queens, in a statement.</p> <p>In a repudiation of positions from the Trump administration, the proposal calls for a “right to counsel” for the city’s immigrants facing deportation. In a compromise with the City Council, Mayor de Blasio announced a new legal defense fund for immigrants in his executive budget unveiled last month, but the progressive caucus’ proposal would enshrine a legal right rather than simply providing funding. The caucus agenda also calls for the preservation of the city’s status as a sanctuary city, meaning law enforcement won’t turn over undocumented immigrants to federal authorities such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for low-level offenses such as possession of marijuana. The Trump administration has proposed withholding federal funds from sanctuary cities.</p> <p>The caucus is also calling for expansion of reproductive services in the wake of threats to defund Planned Parenthood coming from the federal government.</p> <p>The Progressive Caucus has challenged the mayor from the left in each budget season on certain priorities while, in large part, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/government/5721-city-council-progressive-caucus-responds-to-de-blasios-executive-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">praising</a> him. Compromises are often reached for the final, adopted budget, which is due by July 1.</p> <p>Responding to criticisms that his mayoralty has not been as progressive as advertised, de Blasio, at a press conference in Queens on May 17, listed policies enacted during his tenure that he identified as progressive, including mandatory inclusionary zoning, the end of the “unconstitutional use” of stop-and-frisk, the end of arrests for low-level marijuana offenses, and implicit bias training for police officers.</p> <p>“All those things actually are happening right now,” de Blasio said. “So I'll challenge anyone, anytime on those facts and on how progressive those changes are. And if some people want us to go farther, I'll always be honest about where I think we can and should go. But this is a thoroughly progressive record and it's not talk, it's something that actually happened."</p> <p>The caucus’ proposal addresses areas of disagreement with the mayor, such as the “Fair Fares” proposal, which would provide half-priced subway and bus fares to low-income New Yorkers, and Citi Bike expansion to all corners of the city, using city funds if needed. These measures have been championed by the Council as means of transit equity, but de Blasio has pushed back, arguing that the state, which controls the MTA, should fund Fair Fares and that there is no plan to use public money for Citi Bike expansion. De Blasio has agreed, however, to eliminate some fees so that Citi Bike can expand to the South Bronx and Staten Island.</p> <p>The Progressive Caucus 2018 agenda also endorses the enfranchisement of approximately one million U.S. Permanent Residents to vote in all local elections, like that for Mayor and City Council. From 1968 until 2003, noncitizens were permitted to vote in school board elections in New York; the practice ended under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, despite the fact that he <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/open-government/1940-citizenship-and-voting" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">requested</a> then-Governor George Pataki to allow noncitizen voting in local elections that same year. It’s been argued that noncitizen voting can facilitate greater diversity of representation in government, given that certain ethnic groups, such as Asians, are more likely to be immigrants and thus have minimal representation in government despite making up a significant proportion of the population.</p> <p>This is a “valuable long-term policy objective” according to the progressive agenda, rather than an immediate concern, due to the Trump administration’s hostility towards immigrants. It has also mostly been implemented only in much smaller localities than New York, such as Takoma Park, Maryland and Cambridge, Massachusetts.</p> <p>The proposal calls for full funding for the Worker Cooperatives Business Development Initiative, which facilitates the creation and expansion of worker cooperatives, a business model where employees own and operate the business.</p> <p>The education planks are also ambitious. The “18 for 18” includes universal childcare from birth until age four, establishing a “Birth to Four” agency to “integrate early childhood services, better identify needs, and nurture children from delivery room to kindergarten.” The Caucus also proposes that the city provide three meals per day plus a snack to public school students, extensively building on a pilot program in middle schools providing free lunch to all students regardless of income level, eliminating the stigma associated with free lunches. A <a href="http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/iboreports/if-no-student-pays-cost-to-provide-free-lunch-for-all-of-new-york-citys-elementary-school-students.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">February IBO report</a> on the pilot program indicated that if federal funding of school lunches switches to block grants, as Trump has proposed, then the city “could face the choice of contributing more funding or scaling back the program” in the event of increasing costs of meals, or perhaps an economic downturn.</p> <p>The proposal also calls for school desegregation, something de Blasio has promised to tackle but been slow to act on; universal after-school and summer programs; and the restoration of free tuition at CUNY schools regardless of citizenship status, which will be free for families making under $125,000 per year under the Excelsior Scholarship.</p> <p>Regarding housing, the caucus has a plank requiring all new multifamily developments in the city be built with an undefined number of affordable units, and “all available public land designated to include housing units should only be used for permanent, affordable housing, including deeply-affordable units.” The Council has wrestled, and made many compromises, with de Blasio on affordable housing as the mayor has pushed forward new zoning rules and a 200,000-unit 10-year plan in partnership with the Council. There have been tensions, though, around levels of affordability and neighborhood and plot rezonings.</p> <p>The inclusion of a “Fair Work Week” plank pleased fast food union leaders, with new protections for industry workers such as “a right to request a flexible schedule,” a ban on “on-call” scheduling of hours, and a requirement that employers offer additional hours to existing employees before hiring new ones to fill those hours. It is one measure of the 18 that is already coming to fruition, similar to steps to end gender pay inequities that the Mayor, Council, and Public Advocate Letitia James have worked on together.</p> <p>“We are proud to support the New York City Council’s progressive caucus platform,” said Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU, one of the city’s largest and most influential labor unions. “Important initiatives like the Fair Work Week legislation that will provide important scheduling protections to fast-food workers and other workers across NYC are needed as soon as possible.</p> <p>The members of the City Council Progressive Caucus are Council Members:<br />Antonio Reynoso (Caucus Co-Chair, District 34)<br />Donovan Richards (Caucus Co-Chair, District 31)<br />Ben Kallos (Vice Chair, Policy, District 5)<br />Helen Rosenthal (Vice Chair, Budget Advocacy, District 6)<br />Melissa Mark-Viverito (Council Speaker, District 8)<br />Jimmy Van Bramer (Council Majority Leader, District 26)<br />Margaret Chin (District 1)<br />Corey Johnson (District 3)<br />Mark Levine (District 7)<br />Bill Perkins (District 9)<br />Ydanis Rodriguez (District 10)<br />Ritchie Torres (District 15)<br />Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (District 21)<br />Daneek Miller (District 27)<br />Steve Levin (District 33)<br />Carlos Menchaca (District 38)<br />Brad Lander (District 39)<br />Jumaane Williams (District 45)<br />Debi Rose (District 49)</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/18_for_18_progressive_caucus.jpg" alt="18 for 18 progressive caucus" width="600" height="509" /></p> <p>The Progressive Caucus conference (photo: Daniel Altschuler‏)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council’s Progressive Caucus met this week to discuss its 2018 agenda, a <a href="https://nycprogressives.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/pwg_18-for-18-policy-platform-as-of-5-1-17.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">set of 18 policy proposals</a> that, its members say, pits them as direct adversaries to President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress.</p> <p>“Now more than ever, it is crucial for local progressive leadership in NYC to set the example for our country,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, in a statement.</p> <p>The 18 policy points were posted to the caucus’s website last month, but the group of 19 City Council members hosted a policy summit on Tuesday to share more detailed goals with the public. The agenda is focused on action New York City should take this year and includes some items already in the works, like closing the Rikers Island jail complex, and others that have been stalled, such as passing The Right to Know Act, which would mandate certain communication from police officers in certain encounters with civilians.</p> <p>Like Right to Know, several other items on the list are not supported by Mayor Bill de Blasio, himself an avowed progressive who has often been aligned with the Progressive Caucus, itself co-found by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, a close de Blasio ally. Like the caucus, Mark-Viverito has often outflanked de Blasio to his left, including on Rikers closure, on which her advocacy greatly contributed to the mayor’s recently-announced support for closing the complex in about ten years.</p> <p>Any differences with de Blasio are, however, fairly minor in comparison to those between the caucus and President Trump.</p> <p>The Progressive Caucus convened on the agenda with support from organizations such as the Working Families Party, Just Leadership USA, and Make the Road NY. The policy convening occurred on the same day as the release of the most recent budget proposal from the Trump administration, which stands at the opposite pole of the Caucus’, slashing funding for assistance programs such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as cutting federal funding for affordable housing.</p> <p>“In the age of a Trump administration, it is clear that the responsibilities of moving our country in the direction of progress will fall on the shoulders of our cities. Our new policy platform for 2018 is the Progressive Caucus’ pledge that we are up to the challenge,” said caucus co-chair Donovan Richards, a Democrat from Queens, in a statement.</p> <p>In a repudiation of positions from the Trump administration, the proposal calls for a “right to counsel” for the city’s immigrants facing deportation. In a compromise with the City Council, Mayor de Blasio announced a new legal defense fund for immigrants in his executive budget unveiled last month, but the progressive caucus’ proposal would enshrine a legal right rather than simply providing funding. The caucus agenda also calls for the preservation of the city’s status as a sanctuary city, meaning law enforcement won’t turn over undocumented immigrants to federal authorities such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for low-level offenses such as possession of marijuana. The Trump administration has proposed withholding federal funds from sanctuary cities.</p> <p>The caucus is also calling for expansion of reproductive services in the wake of threats to defund Planned Parenthood coming from the federal government.</p> <p>The Progressive Caucus has challenged the mayor from the left in each budget season on certain priorities while, in large part, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/government/5721-city-council-progressive-caucus-responds-to-de-blasios-executive-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">praising</a> him. Compromises are often reached for the final, adopted budget, which is due by July 1.</p> <p>Responding to criticisms that his mayoralty has not been as progressive as advertised, de Blasio, at a press conference in Queens on May 17, listed policies enacted during his tenure that he identified as progressive, including mandatory inclusionary zoning, the end of the “unconstitutional use” of stop-and-frisk, the end of arrests for low-level marijuana offenses, and implicit bias training for police officers.</p> <p>“All those things actually are happening right now,” de Blasio said. “So I'll challenge anyone, anytime on those facts and on how progressive those changes are. And if some people want us to go farther, I'll always be honest about where I think we can and should go. But this is a thoroughly progressive record and it's not talk, it's something that actually happened."</p> <p>The caucus’ proposal addresses areas of disagreement with the mayor, such as the “Fair Fares” proposal, which would provide half-priced subway and bus fares to low-income New Yorkers, and Citi Bike expansion to all corners of the city, using city funds if needed. These measures have been championed by the Council as means of transit equity, but de Blasio has pushed back, arguing that the state, which controls the MTA, should fund Fair Fares and that there is no plan to use public money for Citi Bike expansion. De Blasio has agreed, however, to eliminate some fees so that Citi Bike can expand to the South Bronx and Staten Island.</p> <p>The Progressive Caucus 2018 agenda also endorses the enfranchisement of approximately one million U.S. Permanent Residents to vote in all local elections, like that for Mayor and City Council. From 1968 until 2003, noncitizens were permitted to vote in school board elections in New York; the practice ended under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, despite the fact that he <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/open-government/1940-citizenship-and-voting" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">requested</a> then-Governor George Pataki to allow noncitizen voting in local elections that same year. It’s been argued that noncitizen voting can facilitate greater diversity of representation in government, given that certain ethnic groups, such as Asians, are more likely to be immigrants and thus have minimal representation in government despite making up a significant proportion of the population.</p> <p>This is a “valuable long-term policy objective” according to the progressive agenda, rather than an immediate concern, due to the Trump administration’s hostility towards immigrants. It has also mostly been implemented only in much smaller localities than New York, such as Takoma Park, Maryland and Cambridge, Massachusetts.</p> <p>The proposal calls for full funding for the Worker Cooperatives Business Development Initiative, which facilitates the creation and expansion of worker cooperatives, a business model where employees own and operate the business.</p> <p>The education planks are also ambitious. The “18 for 18” includes universal childcare from birth until age four, establishing a “Birth to Four” agency to “integrate early childhood services, better identify needs, and nurture children from delivery room to kindergarten.” The Caucus also proposes that the city provide three meals per day plus a snack to public school students, extensively building on a pilot program in middle schools providing free lunch to all students regardless of income level, eliminating the stigma associated with free lunches. A <a href="http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/iboreports/if-no-student-pays-cost-to-provide-free-lunch-for-all-of-new-york-citys-elementary-school-students.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">February IBO report</a> on the pilot program indicated that if federal funding of school lunches switches to block grants, as Trump has proposed, then the city “could face the choice of contributing more funding or scaling back the program” in the event of increasing costs of meals, or perhaps an economic downturn.</p> <p>The proposal also calls for school desegregation, something de Blasio has promised to tackle but been slow to act on; universal after-school and summer programs; and the restoration of free tuition at CUNY schools regardless of citizenship status, which will be free for families making under $125,000 per year under the Excelsior Scholarship.</p> <p>Regarding housing, the caucus has a plank requiring all new multifamily developments in the city be built with an undefined number of affordable units, and “all available public land designated to include housing units should only be used for permanent, affordable housing, including deeply-affordable units.” The Council has wrestled, and made many compromises, with de Blasio on affordable housing as the mayor has pushed forward new zoning rules and a 200,000-unit 10-year plan in partnership with the Council. There have been tensions, though, around levels of affordability and neighborhood and plot rezonings.</p> <p>The inclusion of a “Fair Work Week” plank pleased fast food union leaders, with new protections for industry workers such as “a right to request a flexible schedule,” a ban on “on-call” scheduling of hours, and a requirement that employers offer additional hours to existing employees before hiring new ones to fill those hours. It is one measure of the 18 that is already coming to fruition, similar to steps to end gender pay inequities that the Mayor, Council, and Public Advocate Letitia James have worked on together.</p> <p>“We are proud to support the New York City Council’s progressive caucus platform,” said Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU, one of the city’s largest and most influential labor unions. “Important initiatives like the Fair Work Week legislation that will provide important scheduling protections to fast-food workers and other workers across NYC are needed as soon as possible.</p> <p>The members of the City Council Progressive Caucus are Council Members:<br />Antonio Reynoso (Caucus Co-Chair, District 34)<br />Donovan Richards (Caucus Co-Chair, District 31)<br />Ben Kallos (Vice Chair, Policy, District 5)<br />Helen Rosenthal (Vice Chair, Budget Advocacy, District 6)<br />Melissa Mark-Viverito (Council Speaker, District 8)<br />Jimmy Van Bramer (Council Majority Leader, District 26)<br />Margaret Chin (District 1)<br />Corey Johnson (District 3)<br />Mark Levine (District 7)<br />Bill Perkins (District 9)<br />Ydanis Rodriguez (District 10)<br />Ritchie Torres (District 15)<br />Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (District 21)<br />Daneek Miller (District 27)<br />Steve Levin (District 33)<br />Carlos Menchaca (District 38)<br />Brad Lander (District 39)<br />Jumaane Williams (District 45)<br />Debi Rose (District 49)</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Top 10 Accomplishments of Progressive Leadership & The Need to #ProtectProgress 2016-05-19T04:00:00+00:00 2016-05-19T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6344:top-10-accomplishments-of-progressive-leadership-the-need-to-protectprogress Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/img5724.jpg" alt="richards reynoso crowd city hall" height="410" width="600" /></p> <p>Council Members Richards, left, and Reynoso, the authors, address a crowd</p> <hr /> <p>As co-chairs of the New York City Council’s Progressive Caucus, we have worked closely with Mayor de Blasio since he took office. It is clear that the mayor has delivered for our constituents and all 8.4 million New Yorkers in transformative ways. From affordable housing to quality jobs to expanded educational programming, New Yorkers are doing better and the scale of the accomplishments is substantial.</p> <p>In partnership with our Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, and the City Council, Mayor de Blasio has been helping to create a more equitable New York City. But this progress did not happen by chance, and it’s no foregone conclusion that we will be able to sustain it. We cannot allow our momentum to be derailed, destabilized, or diminished.</p> <p>Under a boldly progressive mayor and Council speaker, New York is safer and public policy is more equitable than at any point in our lifetimes. We must protect our progress, join us as we launch our <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23ProtectProgress&amp;src=typd" target="_blank">#ProtectProgress</a> campaign, which includes the following highlights of this work, the Top 10 Accomplishments, by the Numbers:</p> <p><strong>1. Making Communities Safer:</strong> With two consecutive years of record low violent crime statistics, New York is the safest big city in the country.</p> <p><strong>2. Making Pre-K Universal:</strong> More than 68,500 children are getting the head start they deserve this year with full day pre-kindergarten classes for all of New York’s four-year-olds.</p> <p><strong>3. Developing and Preserving Affordable Housing:</strong> Over 100,000 New Yorkers have access to 40,000-plus new units of affordable housing. More affordable housing units were created in 2015 than in any year since the city’s housing department began.</p> <p><strong>4. Creating Economic Growth:</strong> More New York City jobs than ever before, totaling 4,296,100 across all five boroughs as of March 2016. This includes 254,900 new private sector jobs created during this administration, resulting in an unemployment rate of 6.1%, lower than other large cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. This is in part due to new legislation preventing discrimination against job seekers based on credit scores and prior convictions.</p> <p><strong>5. Improving Police-Community Relations:</strong> Reducing unlawful stop-and-frisks, which disproportionately affect African-American &amp; Latino New Yorkers with a 97% decline over four years.</p> <p><strong>6. Expanding Learning Time:</strong> The Mayor’s universal after-school program for 113,874 middle school students (double the number previously served) is providing quality programming during a critical time for childhood development.</p> <p><strong>7. Embracing Immigrant Communities:</strong> IDNYC enables non-citizens to participate in the civic and cultural life of the city, with 855,000-plus cardholders who have secured the peace of mind that comes from recognized government identification.</p> <p><strong>8. Extending New Yorkers’ Legal Right to Sick Leave:</strong> 3,400,000 private and nonprofit sector workers have access to paid sick leave thanks to an expansion created in partnership with the Council and the Mayor’s robust education campaign.</p> <p><strong>9. Making Streets Safer through Vision Zero:</strong> In 2015, New York City saw the fewest traffic fatalities in history, with a 22% reduction resulting from reduced speed limits and comprehensive safety plans.</p> <p><strong>10. Supporting a Living Wage:</strong> A $15 living wage is now guaranteed to every City worker and employee of nonprofit organizations contracted with the City, and the Mayor and Council have advocated for higher wages for all workers across the state.</p> <p>We must be proud of these accomplishments while we also build on them. Today, we call on progressives from Bushwick to Harlem, from the Rockaways to Riverdale to step and up and <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23ProtectProgress&amp;src=typd" target="_blank">#ProtectProgress</a>. Parents: tweet from your UPK sites that didn’t exist two years ago! Bicyclists: tweet images of your new protected lanes that are helping to save lives! IDNYC cardholders: tweet from wherever you are putting your card to use!</p> <p>Let’s get <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23ProtectProgress&amp;src=typd" target="_blank">#ProtectProgress</a> into the conversation, so that together we can promote real results that Mayor de Blasio and the City Council have delivered for New Yorkers.</p> <p>***<br />City Council Members Antonio Reynoso and Donovan Richards are co-chairs of the Council’s Progressive Caucus. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/DRichards13" target="_blank">@DRichards13</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/CMReynoso34" target="_blank">@CMReynoso34</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/img5724.jpg" alt="richards reynoso crowd city hall" height="410" width="600" /></p> <p>Council Members Richards, left, and Reynoso, the authors, address a crowd</p> <hr /> <p>As co-chairs of the New York City Council’s Progressive Caucus, we have worked closely with Mayor de Blasio since he took office. It is clear that the mayor has delivered for our constituents and all 8.4 million New Yorkers in transformative ways. From affordable housing to quality jobs to expanded educational programming, New Yorkers are doing better and the scale of the accomplishments is substantial.</p> <p>In partnership with our Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, and the City Council, Mayor de Blasio has been helping to create a more equitable New York City. But this progress did not happen by chance, and it’s no foregone conclusion that we will be able to sustain it. We cannot allow our momentum to be derailed, destabilized, or diminished.</p> <p>Under a boldly progressive mayor and Council speaker, New York is safer and public policy is more equitable than at any point in our lifetimes. We must protect our progress, join us as we launch our <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23ProtectProgress&amp;src=typd" target="_blank">#ProtectProgress</a> campaign, which includes the following highlights of this work, the Top 10 Accomplishments, by the Numbers:</p> <p><strong>1. Making Communities Safer:</strong> With two consecutive years of record low violent crime statistics, New York is the safest big city in the country.</p> <p><strong>2. Making Pre-K Universal:</strong> More than 68,500 children are getting the head start they deserve this year with full day pre-kindergarten classes for all of New York’s four-year-olds.</p> <p><strong>3. Developing and Preserving Affordable Housing:</strong> Over 100,000 New Yorkers have access to 40,000-plus new units of affordable housing. More affordable housing units were created in 2015 than in any year since the city’s housing department began.</p> <p><strong>4. Creating Economic Growth:</strong> More New York City jobs than ever before, totaling 4,296,100 across all five boroughs as of March 2016. This includes 254,900 new private sector jobs created during this administration, resulting in an unemployment rate of 6.1%, lower than other large cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. This is in part due to new legislation preventing discrimination against job seekers based on credit scores and prior convictions.</p> <p><strong>5. Improving Police-Community Relations:</strong> Reducing unlawful stop-and-frisks, which disproportionately affect African-American &amp; Latino New Yorkers with a 97% decline over four years.</p> <p><strong>6. Expanding Learning Time:</strong> The Mayor’s universal after-school program for 113,874 middle school students (double the number previously served) is providing quality programming during a critical time for childhood development.</p> <p><strong>7. Embracing Immigrant Communities:</strong> IDNYC enables non-citizens to participate in the civic and cultural life of the city, with 855,000-plus cardholders who have secured the peace of mind that comes from recognized government identification.</p> <p><strong>8. Extending New Yorkers’ Legal Right to Sick Leave:</strong> 3,400,000 private and nonprofit sector workers have access to paid sick leave thanks to an expansion created in partnership with the Council and the Mayor’s robust education campaign.</p> <p><strong>9. Making Streets Safer through Vision Zero:</strong> In 2015, New York City saw the fewest traffic fatalities in history, with a 22% reduction resulting from reduced speed limits and comprehensive safety plans.</p> <p><strong>10. Supporting a Living Wage:</strong> A $15 living wage is now guaranteed to every City worker and employee of nonprofit organizations contracted with the City, and the Mayor and Council have advocated for higher wages for all workers across the state.</p> <p>We must be proud of these accomplishments while we also build on them. Today, we call on progressives from Bushwick to Harlem, from the Rockaways to Riverdale to step and up and <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23ProtectProgress&amp;src=typd" target="_blank">#ProtectProgress</a>. Parents: tweet from your UPK sites that didn’t exist two years ago! Bicyclists: tweet images of your new protected lanes that are helping to save lives! IDNYC cardholders: tweet from wherever you are putting your card to use!</p> <p>Let’s get <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23ProtectProgress&amp;src=typd" target="_blank">#ProtectProgress</a> into the conversation, so that together we can promote real results that Mayor de Blasio and the City Council have delivered for New Yorkers.</p> <p>***<br />City Council Members Antonio Reynoso and Donovan Richards are co-chairs of the Council’s Progressive Caucus. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/DRichards13" target="_blank">@DRichards13</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/CMReynoso34" target="_blank">@CMReynoso34</a>.</p> <p>

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

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