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/public-advocate 2017-10-17T20:51:01+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Public Advocate Debate Shows Stark Differences Between James and Polanco 2017-10-17T01:23:06+00:00 2017-10-17T01:23:06+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7256:public-advocate-debate-shows-stark-differences-between-james-and-polanco Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/tish_and_jc_debate_via_nyc_votes.jpg" alt="Tish James JC Polanco public advocate debate via nyc votes" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>James &amp; Polanco at their debate (photo: @NYCVotes)</p> <hr /> <p>Public Advocate Letitia James, a Democrat running for reelection, squared off against her Republican opponent, J.C. Polanco, in a friendly yet competitive debate on Monday that highlighted substantive differences, and some shared opinions, between the two candidates on a range of policy issues. Given the race features an incumbent, the debate centered in large part on James’ record as public advocate over the last four years, especially her performance in holding the mayoral administration accountable.</p> <p>Hosted at the CUNY Graduate Center in front of a small, closed audience, the debate was the first and only to be held in the public advocate race leading up to Election Day, November 7. It was held at James’ discretion -- she agreed to debate Polanco despite his failure to meet the financial thresholds to qualify for an official Campaign Finance Board-sponsored debate.</p> <p>The two candidates butted heads, albeit respectfully, through the hurried hour-long debate, articulating sharp contrasting opinions on rent regulations, charter schools, criminal justice issues, and the overarching role of the public advocate’s office as an ombudsman for the city. While James touted her record, Polanco referenced his qualifications stemming from his work for the state Assembly minority conference and his past role as president of the city Board of Elections. He called himself a “common sense” Republican.</p> <p>Early on, Polanco sought to paint James as a too-close ally of Mayor Bill de Blasio who has failed to stand up to the mayor and the progressive-dominated City Council, a pitch that has been at the center of his campaign along with proposals to strengthen the independence of the public advocate’s office. Polanco believes the office should have investigative and subpoena powers over city agencies, which would require a city charter revision approved by voters, as well as funding equivalent to the much larger comptroller’s office.</p> <p>James, an experienced litigator, has used her legal skills to inform the core functions of her office. Over the last four years, she said she has worked “to transform the office into a vehicle for social and economic justice for all,” claiming to have resolved more than 30,000 constituent complaints and touting the passage of more legislation than all her four predecessors together. She highlighted her signature legislative achievement: a new law that bans employers from asking job candidates their salary histories, which is aimed at closing the gender pay gap.</p> <p>James has sued the city 11 times, but has been bounced from several cases for lack of standing. James had to defend her approach early on in the debate when asked by moderator and NY1 anchor Errol Louis whether she sought to win those lawsuits or just make headlines by filing suits.</p> <p>“I make no apologies for standing up for those without a voice,” James responded, insisting that she would continue to do so and noting that she is working with members of the City Council on a potential legislative solution to codify her ability to sue the city and its agencies. She also cited several instances where she had been victorious, including a lawsuit to make Department of Education School Leadership Team meetings open to the public and another in favor of seniors who were being denied rent increase exemptions by the city.</p> <p>Polanco agreed that the public advocate should have broader standing in the right to sue the city administration, but pointed out that James would continue to fail until given the statutory authority. Himself an attorney, Polanco sharply stated that it was obvious that James did not have standing in cases. “You’ve had over two million minutes in office, I know in my first minute, as soon as I get there, that we have to work very closely on a public education campaign to get this question on the ballot so that cases stop getting thrown out of court,” he said.</p> <p>It was one of the few issues the two candidates agreed on. James has called for subpoena power for the office in the past, which she repeated Monday, and said the mayor “should not hold the purse strings to the office of the public advocate.”</p> <p>Both candidates disagreed with debate moderator Brian Lehrer from WNYC, when he suggested that perhaps the public advocate might be more effective if they represented a different political party than the mayor. James has been a close ally of de Blasio and endorsed him for reelection. “I stand with the mayor when I agree with him, and I oppose him when he’s wrong,” she said, pointing out instances when she has critiqued his administration, such as when the mayor opposed creating a stand-alone agency for veterans affairs or when she challenged him over the lack of air-conditioned buses for disabled school children.</p> <p>“I don’t think that Tish has been as independent of the mayor as she claims,” said Polanco, stressing that he had heard little consternation from James when the mayor and his administration were embroiled in a pay-to-play scandal. “There’s a whole myriad of times where I think this public advocate has been very quiet and silent to make sure that the mayor’s on her good side and that the voters who are constantly with the mayor are with her in four years.” He said he would have no problem “going toe-to-toe with Republicans” if he were in the office.</p> <p>Neither James nor Polanco supports de Blasio’s homelessness-fighting plan that includes opening 90 new shelters while halting the use of hotels and cluster site apartments. Polanco was direct, blaming the mayor’s mismanagement for the problem and insisting that new shelters would burden neighborhoods that are already inundated with shelters. “This is gonna just help two people,” Polanco said, “One, the mayor because he’s gonna get this problem off his back. And two, wealthy developers that are gonna benefit from building these new shelters.”</p> <p>James, on the other hand, delivered a meandering response that delved into the need for “bold leadership” and housing bond legislation to encourage the creation of affordable housing in the city. When NY1’s Louis sought more clarity, she said, “I think at this point in time what we really need to do is look for other initiatives in the city of New York to address homelessness...what we really need to do is think bolder and we need to make sure that the two individuals, the governor and the mayor of the city of New York, two individuals with oversized egos, resolve this issue so that we don’t have countless numbers of individuals that are homeless this evening.”</p> <p>“So I’m gonna take that as a ‘no’ on the 90 shelters,” Louis noted.</p> <p>A clear distinction emerged between the two candidates on how they view the public advocate’s office as a voice in police accountability. James has been a vocal proponent of criminal justice reform and she recounted her efforts to unseal the grand jury transcripts from the Eric Garner case, touted her support for reforming the grand jury system, for releasing the disciplinary records of officers charged with misconduct, and for advocating for the NYPD’s body camera program and shot-spotter technology. She noted that she led the movement for the city’s pension funds to divest from gun retailers as well.</p> <p>“It’s really critically important that we be a voice in the criminal justice system,” she said. She also said that she is still reviewing the City Council’s long-proposed Right to Know Act -- that would require officers to identify themselves during certain street stops and inform people of their right to refuse a search in some instances -- but said she supports its objectives.</p> <p>Polanco sought yet again to tie James to de Blasio, critiquing the mayor for creating a hostile attitude toward the NYPD and criticizing James for standing with him. “Frankly, this city has gone through an enormous political campaign against police,” he said, “including adding all of these layers and layers of actually monitoring their job performance, which really strangles the police from active policing.” He did concede that in cases where an officer violates a person’s constitutional rights, the release of disciplinary records is warranted.</p> <p>The candidates had an opportunity to cross-examine each other, which Polanco seized on to question James’ support for de Blasio despite his proximity to lobbyists and consultants with clients who had business with the city. “How could you in good conscience endorse the mayor for reelection?” he asked. James deflected, speaking of the larger issue of campaign finance reform and the need to repeal the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. (Polanco jokingly praised her masterful deflection. “That was good, how you did that,” he chuckled.)<br /> <br />James asked Polanco about his position on workers’ rights, and whether he would picket with the employees of Spectrum, currently in the seventh month of a strike against their parent employer Charter Communications, which owns NY1. Polanco agreed that labor unions have the right to strike, but said elected officials should stay out of this case, which involves a private union.</p> <p>Asked about the rent freezes that de Blasio has repeatedly touted as one of his biggest achievements for low-income New Yorkers, Polanco called them a mistake and made a forceful argument against rent regulations and other policies, referencing what he called the city’s “army of social engineers” that he said have exacerbated problems. He said the city’s policies were disincentivizing landlords who are “hard-working people just like ourselves” and that not all of them are “evil landlords” that should be put on a list, taking a sly dig at the public advocate, whose office famously puts out the “100 Worst Landlords” list every year. “We really have to take a look at the way we’re getting involved in engineering the market to create a social outcome,” Polanco said, offering a somewhat typical conservative assessment of meddling in the free market.</p> <p>While James agreed with Polanco that the city needs to reform the system of tax breaks given to luxury developers in exchange for creating affordable housing, she staunchly backed the rent freezes enacted under de Blasio’s administration. “I think it’s really critically important that we stand up and strike back against market forces and gentrification,” she said.</p> <p>The issue that divided James and Polanco the most was charter schools. Earlier, the debate briefly veered into the issue when Polanco suggested James’ opposition to them was because of her partisan affiliation with the mayor. James insisted, “All I want charter schools to do is play by the same rules and to be held accountable and obviously to be accessible to all children in the city of New York.” She later criticized charter networks that have zero-tolerance discipline policies and high staff turnover, and that tend to exclude homeless and disabled students. She emphasized instead that the state should live up to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court ruling and provide sufficient funding to all public schools.</p> <p>Polanco, a long-time educator, disagreed. “This is not an issue about money, this is an issue about the culture of education in our inner cities,” he said. He decried the “ultra-left” city leadership, particularly the City Council, that he said conflates discipline with racism. Polanco promised that as public advocate he would push for a major expansion of charter schools. James said she has been supportive of some charter schools in the past and is a proponent of school choice, but that she maintains her critiques of some charter schools and networks.</p> <p>There were some moments of levity at the debate, particularly during a lightning round of mostly “yes” or “no” questions near its conclusion. Polanco said that in November he will vote for a constitutional convention while James said it was “too risky.” Both were critical of district attorneys being allowed to accept campaign donations from people with business before them. James supports the legalization of small amounts of marijuana while Polanco opposes it. And while James had never voted for a member of the opposite party, Polanco said he had.</p> <p>“Wanna tell us who?” Louis ventured.</p> <p>“Tish!” Polanco said, with a wry smile, eliciting laughs from the entire room.</p> <p>The exchange was perhaps telling of the fact that Democrats have a massive enrollment advantage in the city. Combined with her immense lead in fundraising, James is a heavy favorite to win a second term come November, though Polanco has proven a substantive and thoughtful candidate. Other public advocate candidates who will be on the ballot include Green Party nominee James Lane, Libertarian Devin Balkind, and Conservative Party nominee Michael O’Reilly.</p> <p>The James-Polanco debate concluded much as it had begun, with James stressing the importance of the checks and balances provided by her office. “You can get work done and be quite effective, but you need to reimagine the office,” she said. For Polanco, winning the office itself will be a battle, in a city where there are six registered Democrats to every registered Republican. He readily acknowledged that Monday night. Everyone knows trying to win citywide office as a Republican is an uphill battle, he said, but it’s much more challenging than that. “This is climbing Mount Everest in December,” he said, “This is tough.”</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/tish_and_jc_debate_via_nyc_votes.jpg" alt="Tish James JC Polanco public advocate debate via nyc votes" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>James &amp; Polanco at their debate (photo: @NYCVotes)</p> <hr /> <p>Public Advocate Letitia James, a Democrat running for reelection, squared off against her Republican opponent, J.C. Polanco, in a friendly yet competitive debate on Monday that highlighted substantive differences, and some shared opinions, between the two candidates on a range of policy issues. Given the race features an incumbent, the debate centered in large part on James’ record as public advocate over the last four years, especially her performance in holding the mayoral administration accountable.</p> <p>Hosted at the CUNY Graduate Center in front of a small, closed audience, the debate was the first and only to be held in the public advocate race leading up to Election Day, November 7. It was held at James’ discretion -- she agreed to debate Polanco despite his failure to meet the financial thresholds to qualify for an official Campaign Finance Board-sponsored debate.</p> <p>The two candidates butted heads, albeit respectfully, through the hurried hour-long debate, articulating sharp contrasting opinions on rent regulations, charter schools, criminal justice issues, and the overarching role of the public advocate’s office as an ombudsman for the city. While James touted her record, Polanco referenced his qualifications stemming from his work for the state Assembly minority conference and his past role as president of the city Board of Elections. He called himself a “common sense” Republican.</p> <p>Early on, Polanco sought to paint James as a too-close ally of Mayor Bill de Blasio who has failed to stand up to the mayor and the progressive-dominated City Council, a pitch that has been at the center of his campaign along with proposals to strengthen the independence of the public advocate’s office. Polanco believes the office should have investigative and subpoena powers over city agencies, which would require a city charter revision approved by voters, as well as funding equivalent to the much larger comptroller’s office.</p> <p>James, an experienced litigator, has used her legal skills to inform the core functions of her office. Over the last four years, she said she has worked “to transform the office into a vehicle for social and economic justice for all,” claiming to have resolved more than 30,000 constituent complaints and touting the passage of more legislation than all her four predecessors together. She highlighted her signature legislative achievement: a new law that bans employers from asking job candidates their salary histories, which is aimed at closing the gender pay gap.</p> <p>James has sued the city 11 times, but has been bounced from several cases for lack of standing. James had to defend her approach early on in the debate when asked by moderator and NY1 anchor Errol Louis whether she sought to win those lawsuits or just make headlines by filing suits.</p> <p>“I make no apologies for standing up for those without a voice,” James responded, insisting that she would continue to do so and noting that she is working with members of the City Council on a potential legislative solution to codify her ability to sue the city and its agencies. She also cited several instances where she had been victorious, including a lawsuit to make Department of Education School Leadership Team meetings open to the public and another in favor of seniors who were being denied rent increase exemptions by the city.</p> <p>Polanco agreed that the public advocate should have broader standing in the right to sue the city administration, but pointed out that James would continue to fail until given the statutory authority. Himself an attorney, Polanco sharply stated that it was obvious that James did not have standing in cases. “You’ve had over two million minutes in office, I know in my first minute, as soon as I get there, that we have to work very closely on a public education campaign to get this question on the ballot so that cases stop getting thrown out of court,” he said.</p> <p>It was one of the few issues the two candidates agreed on. James has called for subpoena power for the office in the past, which she repeated Monday, and said the mayor “should not hold the purse strings to the office of the public advocate.”</p> <p>Both candidates disagreed with debate moderator Brian Lehrer from WNYC, when he suggested that perhaps the public advocate might be more effective if they represented a different political party than the mayor. James has been a close ally of de Blasio and endorsed him for reelection. “I stand with the mayor when I agree with him, and I oppose him when he’s wrong,” she said, pointing out instances when she has critiqued his administration, such as when the mayor opposed creating a stand-alone agency for veterans affairs or when she challenged him over the lack of air-conditioned buses for disabled school children.</p> <p>“I don’t think that Tish has been as independent of the mayor as she claims,” said Polanco, stressing that he had heard little consternation from James when the mayor and his administration were embroiled in a pay-to-play scandal. “There’s a whole myriad of times where I think this public advocate has been very quiet and silent to make sure that the mayor’s on her good side and that the voters who are constantly with the mayor are with her in four years.” He said he would have no problem “going toe-to-toe with Republicans” if he were in the office.</p> <p>Neither James nor Polanco supports de Blasio’s homelessness-fighting plan that includes opening 90 new shelters while halting the use of hotels and cluster site apartments. Polanco was direct, blaming the mayor’s mismanagement for the problem and insisting that new shelters would burden neighborhoods that are already inundated with shelters. “This is gonna just help two people,” Polanco said, “One, the mayor because he’s gonna get this problem off his back. And two, wealthy developers that are gonna benefit from building these new shelters.”</p> <p>James, on the other hand, delivered a meandering response that delved into the need for “bold leadership” and housing bond legislation to encourage the creation of affordable housing in the city. When NY1’s Louis sought more clarity, she said, “I think at this point in time what we really need to do is look for other initiatives in the city of New York to address homelessness...what we really need to do is think bolder and we need to make sure that the two individuals, the governor and the mayor of the city of New York, two individuals with oversized egos, resolve this issue so that we don’t have countless numbers of individuals that are homeless this evening.”</p> <p>“So I’m gonna take that as a ‘no’ on the 90 shelters,” Louis noted.</p> <p>A clear distinction emerged between the two candidates on how they view the public advocate’s office as a voice in police accountability. James has been a vocal proponent of criminal justice reform and she recounted her efforts to unseal the grand jury transcripts from the Eric Garner case, touted her support for reforming the grand jury system, for releasing the disciplinary records of officers charged with misconduct, and for advocating for the NYPD’s body camera program and shot-spotter technology. She noted that she led the movement for the city’s pension funds to divest from gun retailers as well.</p> <p>“It’s really critically important that we be a voice in the criminal justice system,” she said. She also said that she is still reviewing the City Council’s long-proposed Right to Know Act -- that would require officers to identify themselves during certain street stops and inform people of their right to refuse a search in some instances -- but said she supports its objectives.</p> <p>Polanco sought yet again to tie James to de Blasio, critiquing the mayor for creating a hostile attitude toward the NYPD and criticizing James for standing with him. “Frankly, this city has gone through an enormous political campaign against police,” he said, “including adding all of these layers and layers of actually monitoring their job performance, which really strangles the police from active policing.” He did concede that in cases where an officer violates a person’s constitutional rights, the release of disciplinary records is warranted.</p> <p>The candidates had an opportunity to cross-examine each other, which Polanco seized on to question James’ support for de Blasio despite his proximity to lobbyists and consultants with clients who had business with the city. “How could you in good conscience endorse the mayor for reelection?” he asked. James deflected, speaking of the larger issue of campaign finance reform and the need to repeal the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. (Polanco jokingly praised her masterful deflection. “That was good, how you did that,” he chuckled.)<br /> <br />James asked Polanco about his position on workers’ rights, and whether he would picket with the employees of Spectrum, currently in the seventh month of a strike against their parent employer Charter Communications, which owns NY1. Polanco agreed that labor unions have the right to strike, but said elected officials should stay out of this case, which involves a private union.</p> <p>Asked about the rent freezes that de Blasio has repeatedly touted as one of his biggest achievements for low-income New Yorkers, Polanco called them a mistake and made a forceful argument against rent regulations and other policies, referencing what he called the city’s “army of social engineers” that he said have exacerbated problems. He said the city’s policies were disincentivizing landlords who are “hard-working people just like ourselves” and that not all of them are “evil landlords” that should be put on a list, taking a sly dig at the public advocate, whose office famously puts out the “100 Worst Landlords” list every year. “We really have to take a look at the way we’re getting involved in engineering the market to create a social outcome,” Polanco said, offering a somewhat typical conservative assessment of meddling in the free market.</p> <p>While James agreed with Polanco that the city needs to reform the system of tax breaks given to luxury developers in exchange for creating affordable housing, she staunchly backed the rent freezes enacted under de Blasio’s administration. “I think it’s really critically important that we stand up and strike back against market forces and gentrification,” she said.</p> <p>The issue that divided James and Polanco the most was charter schools. Earlier, the debate briefly veered into the issue when Polanco suggested James’ opposition to them was because of her partisan affiliation with the mayor. James insisted, “All I want charter schools to do is play by the same rules and to be held accountable and obviously to be accessible to all children in the city of New York.” She later criticized charter networks that have zero-tolerance discipline policies and high staff turnover, and that tend to exclude homeless and disabled students. She emphasized instead that the state should live up to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court ruling and provide sufficient funding to all public schools.</p> <p>Polanco, a long-time educator, disagreed. “This is not an issue about money, this is an issue about the culture of education in our inner cities,” he said. He decried the “ultra-left” city leadership, particularly the City Council, that he said conflates discipline with racism. Polanco promised that as public advocate he would push for a major expansion of charter schools. James said she has been supportive of some charter schools in the past and is a proponent of school choice, but that she maintains her critiques of some charter schools and networks.</p> <p>There were some moments of levity at the debate, particularly during a lightning round of mostly “yes” or “no” questions near its conclusion. Polanco said that in November he will vote for a constitutional convention while James said it was “too risky.” Both were critical of district attorneys being allowed to accept campaign donations from people with business before them. James supports the legalization of small amounts of marijuana while Polanco opposes it. And while James had never voted for a member of the opposite party, Polanco said he had.</p> <p>“Wanna tell us who?” Louis ventured.</p> <p>“Tish!” Polanco said, with a wry smile, eliciting laughs from the entire room.</p> <p>The exchange was perhaps telling of the fact that Democrats have a massive enrollment advantage in the city. Combined with her immense lead in fundraising, James is a heavy favorite to win a second term come November, though Polanco has proven a substantive and thoughtful candidate. Other public advocate candidates who will be on the ballot include Green Party nominee James Lane, Libertarian Devin Balkind, and Conservative Party nominee Michael O’Reilly.</p> <p>The James-Polanco debate concluded much as it had begun, with James stressing the importance of the checks and balances provided by her office. “You can get work done and be quite effective, but you need to reimagine the office,” she said. For Polanco, winning the office itself will be a battle, in a city where there are six registered Democrats to every registered Republican. He readily acknowledged that Monday night. Everyone knows trying to win citywide office as a Republican is an uphill battle, he said, but it’s much more challenging than that. “This is climbing Mount Everest in December,” he said, “This is tough.”</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate JC Polanco 2017-09-18T04:00:00+00:00 2017-09-18T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7201:max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-jc-polanco Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/max-murphy-housing.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p><strong>September 18, 2017 - Max &amp; Murphy with Public Advocate Candidate JC Polanco<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/podcast/jcpolanco-277.jpg" alt="jcpolanco 277" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />JC Polanco, a Republican running for Public Advocate, joined Max &amp; Murphy to discuss his candidacy, explaining a variety of policy proposals and his overall mission to reform the position itself to give it more power, funding, and teeth. Polanco is attempting to run a campaign on issues and policy, like his proposals to allow some NYCHA residents the opportunity to buy their apartments and expand charter schools, but he is also criticizing incumbent Letitia James, a Democrat seeking reelection, for not being a tough enough voice in holding Mayor de Blasio and the City Council accountable.</p> <p>Discussing his attempts to unseat James in a very Democratic city where it is challenging to get people to even pay attention to the race for public advocate, Polanco explained that "this is not uphill, this is Mount Everest," and again acknoweldged how hard it is to raise money, in part because he is "not your average, run of the mill Republican" and has not been a supporter of Donald Trump.</p> <p><a href="https://twitter.com/brigidbergin" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://twitter.com/brigidbergin&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1504707509323000&amp;usg=AFQjCNGJ8lV_jRWGxDYe4YL8OqEjlPEvIA"><span style="color: #000000;">Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter </span></a><a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@jarrettmurphy</a>. You can hear the episode through the embedded audio below or download it wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/342916163&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%" height="168" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/max-murphy-housing.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p><strong>September 18, 2017 - Max &amp; Murphy with Public Advocate Candidate JC Polanco<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/podcast/jcpolanco-277.jpg" alt="jcpolanco 277" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />JC Polanco, a Republican running for Public Advocate, joined Max &amp; Murphy to discuss his candidacy, explaining a variety of policy proposals and his overall mission to reform the position itself to give it more power, funding, and teeth. Polanco is attempting to run a campaign on issues and policy, like his proposals to allow some NYCHA residents the opportunity to buy their apartments and expand charter schools, but he is also criticizing incumbent Letitia James, a Democrat seeking reelection, for not being a tough enough voice in holding Mayor de Blasio and the City Council accountable.</p> <p>Discussing his attempts to unseat James in a very Democratic city where it is challenging to get people to even pay attention to the race for public advocate, Polanco explained that "this is not uphill, this is Mount Everest," and again acknoweldged how hard it is to raise money, in part because he is "not your average, run of the mill Republican" and has not been a supporter of Donald Trump.</p> <p><a href="https://twitter.com/brigidbergin" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://twitter.com/brigidbergin&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1504707509323000&amp;usg=AFQjCNGJ8lV_jRWGxDYe4YL8OqEjlPEvIA"><span style="color: #000000;">Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter </span></a><a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@jarrettmurphy</a>. You can hear the episode through the embedded audio below or download it wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/342916163&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%" height="168" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate David Eisenbach 2017-08-28T04:00:00+00:00 2017-08-28T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7158:max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-david-eisenbach Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/max-murphy-housing.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p><strong>August 28, 2017 - Democratic Public Advocate Candidate David Eisenbach<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/public-adv-candidate-david-eisenbach277px.jpg" alt="public adv candidate david eisenbach277px" width="277" height="143" style="float: left; margin-right: 10px;" />David Eisenbach is a history professor at Columbia University seeking to unseat incumbent Public Advocate Letitia James in this year's Demcratic primary. Eisenbach, who has raised minimal funds for his campaign, believes that James has not been a strong enough voice in addressing ethics problems in the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio. He also believes James has not been active enough in addressing the city's small business crisis.</p> <p>On the Max &amp; Murphy podcast, Eisenbach discusses several of the reasons why he is running, what he believes in, and how he would approach the job of public advocate.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy">@jarrettmurphy</a>, and guest <a href="https://twitter.com/Eisenbach4NY" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@Eisenbach4NY</a>. You can hear the conversation&nbsp;through the embedded audio below or download it wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/339865806&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%" height="168" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/max-murphy-housing.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p><strong>August 28, 2017 - Democratic Public Advocate Candidate David Eisenbach<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/public-adv-candidate-david-eisenbach277px.jpg" alt="public adv candidate david eisenbach277px" width="277" height="143" style="float: left; margin-right: 10px;" />David Eisenbach is a history professor at Columbia University seeking to unseat incumbent Public Advocate Letitia James in this year's Demcratic primary. Eisenbach, who has raised minimal funds for his campaign, believes that James has not been a strong enough voice in addressing ethics problems in the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio. He also believes James has not been active enough in addressing the city's small business crisis.</p> <p>On the Max &amp; Murphy podcast, Eisenbach discusses several of the reasons why he is running, what he believes in, and how he would approach the job of public advocate.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy">@jarrettmurphy</a>, and guest <a href="https://twitter.com/Eisenbach4NY" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@Eisenbach4NY</a>. You can hear the conversation&nbsp;through the embedded audio below or download it wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/339865806&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%" height="168" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
James Wins Battle in Long War Over Public Advocate's Legal Standing 2016-09-08T04:00:00+00:00 2016-09-08T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6518:james-wins-battle-in-long-war-over-public-advocate-s-legal-standing Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/Tish_James_presser_vets.jpg" alt="Tish James presser vets" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Public Advocate Letitia James (photo via @TishJames)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">The Public Advocate&rsquo;s office was created in 1993 to give a voice to everyday New Yorkers and act as checks on the authority of the Mayor and the function of city agencies. Letitia James, the fourth New York City Public Advocate, has made litigation a major tool in her attempt to fulfill the office&rsquo;s mandates. James, who has a background as an attorney and has hired several lawyers to her staff since taking office in 2014, has fought the city and its agencies in the courts with mixed success. James&rsquo; aggressive use of litigation has raised the question of what legal standing the Public Advocate has on behalf of all New Yorkers.</p> <p dir="ltr">After multiple occasions where she was either bumped from lawsuits for lack of standing or she withdrew, within the last few weeks James declared victory in two cases where judges recognized her capacity to sue the city. The decisions have served to embolden James in her commitment to legal action and also possibly set a precedent for the powers of her office.</p> <p dir="ltr">The debate and the proceedings over the legal powers of the Public Advocate are far from over, though, as the de Blasio administration plans its appeals and is likely to move to dismiss legal action from James in the future. Mayor Bill de Blasio, a political ally of James and James&rsquo; predecessor as Public Advocate, is also not ready to accept the Public Advocate&rsquo;s blanket ability to sue the city.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s case by case, that&rsquo;s my understanding,&rdquo; de Blasio said Sept. 6 when asked by Gotham Gazette at a news conference about the most recent decision. &ldquo;That was not a blanket assessment, that was about that case,&rdquo; he added.</p> <p dir="ltr">James doesn&rsquo;t agree with de Blasio though. "By its very nature, a judge's ruling sets precedent for the future and this most recent decision affirms the Public Advocate's capacity to sue to protect the rights of New Yorkers,&rdquo; the public advocate said in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">Future cases will either cement the litigious powers of the office or not. Meanwhile, former office holders and legal experts are mixed on the extent to which the Public Advocate can litigate against the City.</p> <p dir="ltr">The two court rulings that have bolstered James, though, were delivered in August in separate lawsuits initiated by James against the New York City Department of Education and the City of New York. They affirmed and reinforced the legal capacity of the Public Advocate to sue the city.</p> <p dir="ltr">The most recent decision came on August 30 when a New York County Supreme Court judge issued a ruling on the viability of a lawsuit brought by James against the Department of Education over the lack of air-conditioning on school buses for students with disabilities. The court found that the Public Advocate&rsquo;s mandate &ldquo;would include an obligation to explore a serious health problem affecting disabled children of the City and attempt, with the help of the Court, to remedy that problem.&rdquo; It held that the case could move forward since James had the legal capacity to sue, which the de Blasio administration had argued against in seeking to dismiss the case.</p> <p dir="ltr">A Law Department spokesperson confirmed that the City will appeal the court&rsquo;s decision that favored the Public Advocate&rsquo;s right to sue on behalf of New Yorkers and in conducting the office&rsquo;s duties. &ldquo;The DOE is committed to ensuring air-conditioned buses to all students who require them and that any concerns are immediately addressed," the spokesperson said in a statement.</p> <p dir="ltr">Earlier, on August 11, James hailed another court decision that found her office could compel the DOE to respond to her concerns over its failure to effectively track the needs of students with disabilities in the city&rsquo;s school system.</p> <p dir="ltr">These are only the latest in a number of judicial decisions over the years that have in turns enhanced the powers of the Public Advocate and also defined the limits of the office&rsquo;s jurisdiction in certain cases. James&rsquo; litigation, largely aimed at the de Blasio administration, puts the mayor and former public advocate in the unique position of regularly opposing his successor&rsquo;s claims and even right to sue. The current dynamic is also the first time in the history of the Public Advocate office that the Mayor and Public Advocate are of the same party -- de Blasio and James are both Democrats.</p> <p dir="ltr">Public Advocates have often used <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5856-suing-the-hand-that-feeds-you-tish-james-de-blasio" target="_blank">litigation as a tool</a> to take the city and its many agencies to task, and in doing so have managed to expand the jurisdiction of the office, which remains unchanged in the City Charter. The charter does not expressly give the public advocate the right to bring a lawsuit, but it does not forbid it either.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mark Green, the city&rsquo;s first Public Advocate, depended on his experience as a lawyer to bring suits against the City. During his tenure, he won two major victories that established precedent for the Public Advocate&rsquo;s capacity to bring legal action. James has cited these rulings in court to push back against the City&rsquo;s attempts to dismiss her cases.</p> <p dir="ltr">The first was <a href="http://www.leagle.com/decision/1997574174Misc2d400_1505.xml/MATTER%20OF%20GREEN%20v.%20SAFIR" target="_blank">Green v. Safir</a> in 1997, in which Green sued then-NYPD Commissioner Howard Safir for access to the police department&rsquo;s disciplinary case files for officers with substantiated complaints against them. An appellate court that ruled in Green&rsquo;s favor held that he had standing to do so to further an investigation.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the second case, <a href="http://www.leagle.com/decision/2000325187Misc2d138_1322/MATTER%20OF%20GREEN%20v.%20GIULIANI" target="_blank">Green v. Giuliani</a> in 2000, the public advocate sought a judicial inquiry into then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for disclosing information from the sealed juvenile record of an unarmed African-American man who was shot dead by an NYPD officer. The New York County Supreme court stated in that case that the Public Advocate is an independently elected official with the capacity to sue.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Those two cases, especially, confirmed that the Public Advocate could bring lawsuits in order to exercise its power as the city&rsquo;s ombudsman,&rdquo; said Green, in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;That doesn&rsquo;t mean the Public Advocate can sue anybody for anything, but can, as we did in the Green v. Safir case, compel the city government to disclose information that should be in the public arena.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">In a later case involving Long Island College Hospital, which was initiated by de Blasio when he was Public Advocate, the Kings County Supreme Court ruled that the Public Advocate had the right to intervene and help choose the next operator of the facility since it was in the community&rsquo;s interest. The case was inherited by James.&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Over the course of several public advocates, the office has, however, hit walls in certain instances, showing the limits of its power. When former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum sought to intervene in a <a href="https://www.nycourts.gov/press/MSG%20v%20MTA.6-05.pdf" target="_blank">legal dispute</a> involving the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), a court ruled that she did not have the capacity to challenge decisions made by a state entity. And when Public Advocate James tried to compel the release of grand jury transcripts in the Eric Garner case by suing then-Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, she was denied on the grounds that her charter duties do not extend to criminal investigations. There have been other lawsuits that James has been involved in that were also unsuccessful, wherein she either withdrew or was dismissed.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Public Advocate office over the years has been defined by its holder and each has opted to use litigation as a tool, to varying degrees. The office has a relatively small budget, which was actually cut under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and partially restored since de Blasio has been Mayor. Some <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6373-independent-budgeting-a-little-used-practice-for-city-watchdog-agencies" target="_blank">have called for the office to receive so-called independent budgeting</a> wherein it receives a set percentage of the overall city budget and is therefore not susceptible to an unfriendly mayor or City Council.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The office of the public advocate almost always reflects the personality and priorities of the incumbent,&rdquo; said Green. &ldquo;So I did turn it into a sort of Nader&rsquo;s Raiders public interest organization reflecting my history,&rdquo; he said, referring to his role in a volunteer activist group of law students created by former independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader. But Green insisted that litigation was not necessarily the &ldquo;major tool&rdquo; of the office. &ldquo;The ability to bring lawsuits is important but not the core function of the Public Advocate&rsquo;s office, which is monitoring city agencies, answering complaints on city government and proposing new laws and ideas to make city government more accountable.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">James has been more active in her use of litigation. Now in the third year of her first term, she has been a plaintiff in 11 lawsuits so far and filed numerous amicus briefs in other cases. In contrast, de Blasio initiated only three suits while he held the post for one term, according to a spokesperson for the public advocate.</p> <p dir="ltr">James has brought to bear her experience as an assistant attorney general and public interest litigator, initiating action on the behalf of members of the public to challenge the performance of city agencies. She said she has redesigned the office of the Public Advocate, raising awareness of its role and capacity in advocating for New Yorkers through a three-pronged approach.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;When I was elected, my vision was advocacy work, litigation and investigatory work,&rdquo; James told Gotham Gazette. Feeling good about the advocacy and litigation efforts thus far, she said, &ldquo;In my next term, I want to advance the investigative power of the office including forensic audits to determine the effective of city agencies and programs.&rdquo; James is up for reelection in 2017.</p> <p dir="ltr">She points to the victories won by Green and de Blasio as affirmation of her office&rsquo;s broader ambit, and is bolstered by the recent decisions in her favor as evidence of the effectiveness of litigation. Following the August 11 decision, she told Gotham Gazette, her office is better placed to bring legal action that could also be recognized by higher courts. &ldquo;I would imagine that a lot of judges will look to that as paramount to our ability to bring lawsuits,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">The de Blasio administration has attempted to stymie many of James&rsquo; lawsuits by arguing that cases be dismissed because they are out of the Public Advocate&rsquo;s purview. It was the same tactic that de Blasio was on the other side of in the Long Island College Hospital case.</p> <p dir="ltr">Judicial decisions show that the office&rsquo;s charter-mandated authority is open to interpretation even if its architects did not intend for it to be so. The City Charter establishes the role of the public advocate in monitoring city agencies and their response to complaints from the public; proposing means of improving response to complaints; and fielding, investigating, and redressing individual complaints as well.</p> <p dir="ltr">One expert on the City Charter said the language in the section that states the Public Advocate&rsquo;s duties could construe broader authority for the office and that legal standing for lawsuits would exist in cases involving those core powers. &ldquo;Tish James has been very structured in her approach,&rdquo; said the expert, who requested anonymity to remain out of public legal and political disputes. &ldquo;Her view and interpretation of her office&rsquo;s role includes legal advocacy and impact litigation.&rdquo; (This legal expert also noted a peculiar conflict in the way the Public Advocate&rsquo;s office relates to the city&rsquo;s Corporation Counsel, the head of the Law Department, pointing out that the Corporation Counsel is the attorney on record for both the City of New York and the Public Advocate, and is often on the opposing side of litigation brought by the Public Advocate.)</p> <p dir="ltr">But Eric Lane, dean of Hofstra Law School, doesn&rsquo;t believe the Public Advocate&rsquo;s duties can be interpreted broadly. Lane was executive director and counsel to the New York City Charter Revision Commission between 1986 and 1989 and oversaw the very provisions that established the powers of the public advocate.</p> <p>Lane said the Public Advocate&rsquo;s job should be to oversee and report on the system, to be the &ldquo;public critic&rdquo; who should only use legal action to further the completion of his or her duties. &ldquo;I agree that [James] has the right to sue to gain access to information to allow her to fulfill her oversight obligations under the Charter, but I don't believe that Charter provides the Public Advocate with the authority to sue &lsquo;to protect the rights of all New Yorkers,&rsquo;&rdquo; Lane told Gotham Gazette, referring to <a href="http://pubadvocate.nyc.gov/news/articles/major-court-ruling-affirms-public-advocate&rsquo;s-capacity-sue" target="_blank">a statement</a> put out by the public advocate&rsquo;s office after the August 30 ruling. &ldquo;I think this is inconsistent with the Charter scope of her job and problematic,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/Tish_James_presser_vets.jpg" alt="Tish James presser vets" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Public Advocate Letitia James (photo via @TishJames)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">The Public Advocate&rsquo;s office was created in 1993 to give a voice to everyday New Yorkers and act as checks on the authority of the Mayor and the function of city agencies. Letitia James, the fourth New York City Public Advocate, has made litigation a major tool in her attempt to fulfill the office&rsquo;s mandates. James, who has a background as an attorney and has hired several lawyers to her staff since taking office in 2014, has fought the city and its agencies in the courts with mixed success. James&rsquo; aggressive use of litigation has raised the question of what legal standing the Public Advocate has on behalf of all New Yorkers.</p> <p dir="ltr">After multiple occasions where she was either bumped from lawsuits for lack of standing or she withdrew, within the last few weeks James declared victory in two cases where judges recognized her capacity to sue the city. The decisions have served to embolden James in her commitment to legal action and also possibly set a precedent for the powers of her office.</p> <p dir="ltr">The debate and the proceedings over the legal powers of the Public Advocate are far from over, though, as the de Blasio administration plans its appeals and is likely to move to dismiss legal action from James in the future. Mayor Bill de Blasio, a political ally of James and James&rsquo; predecessor as Public Advocate, is also not ready to accept the Public Advocate&rsquo;s blanket ability to sue the city.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s case by case, that&rsquo;s my understanding,&rdquo; de Blasio said Sept. 6 when asked by Gotham Gazette at a news conference about the most recent decision. &ldquo;That was not a blanket assessment, that was about that case,&rdquo; he added.</p> <p dir="ltr">James doesn&rsquo;t agree with de Blasio though. "By its very nature, a judge's ruling sets precedent for the future and this most recent decision affirms the Public Advocate's capacity to sue to protect the rights of New Yorkers,&rdquo; the public advocate said in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">Future cases will either cement the litigious powers of the office or not. Meanwhile, former office holders and legal experts are mixed on the extent to which the Public Advocate can litigate against the City.</p> <p dir="ltr">The two court rulings that have bolstered James, though, were delivered in August in separate lawsuits initiated by James against the New York City Department of Education and the City of New York. They affirmed and reinforced the legal capacity of the Public Advocate to sue the city.</p> <p dir="ltr">The most recent decision came on August 30 when a New York County Supreme Court judge issued a ruling on the viability of a lawsuit brought by James against the Department of Education over the lack of air-conditioning on school buses for students with disabilities. The court found that the Public Advocate&rsquo;s mandate &ldquo;would include an obligation to explore a serious health problem affecting disabled children of the City and attempt, with the help of the Court, to remedy that problem.&rdquo; It held that the case could move forward since James had the legal capacity to sue, which the de Blasio administration had argued against in seeking to dismiss the case.</p> <p dir="ltr">A Law Department spokesperson confirmed that the City will appeal the court&rsquo;s decision that favored the Public Advocate&rsquo;s right to sue on behalf of New Yorkers and in conducting the office&rsquo;s duties. &ldquo;The DOE is committed to ensuring air-conditioned buses to all students who require them and that any concerns are immediately addressed," the spokesperson said in a statement.</p> <p dir="ltr">Earlier, on August 11, James hailed another court decision that found her office could compel the DOE to respond to her concerns over its failure to effectively track the needs of students with disabilities in the city&rsquo;s school system.</p> <p dir="ltr">These are only the latest in a number of judicial decisions over the years that have in turns enhanced the powers of the Public Advocate and also defined the limits of the office&rsquo;s jurisdiction in certain cases. James&rsquo; litigation, largely aimed at the de Blasio administration, puts the mayor and former public advocate in the unique position of regularly opposing his successor&rsquo;s claims and even right to sue. The current dynamic is also the first time in the history of the Public Advocate office that the Mayor and Public Advocate are of the same party -- de Blasio and James are both Democrats.</p> <p dir="ltr">Public Advocates have often used <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5856-suing-the-hand-that-feeds-you-tish-james-de-blasio" target="_blank">litigation as a tool</a> to take the city and its many agencies to task, and in doing so have managed to expand the jurisdiction of the office, which remains unchanged in the City Charter. The charter does not expressly give the public advocate the right to bring a lawsuit, but it does not forbid it either.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mark Green, the city&rsquo;s first Public Advocate, depended on his experience as a lawyer to bring suits against the City. During his tenure, he won two major victories that established precedent for the Public Advocate&rsquo;s capacity to bring legal action. James has cited these rulings in court to push back against the City&rsquo;s attempts to dismiss her cases.</p> <p dir="ltr">The first was <a href="http://www.leagle.com/decision/1997574174Misc2d400_1505.xml/MATTER%20OF%20GREEN%20v.%20SAFIR" target="_blank">Green v. Safir</a> in 1997, in which Green sued then-NYPD Commissioner Howard Safir for access to the police department&rsquo;s disciplinary case files for officers with substantiated complaints against them. An appellate court that ruled in Green&rsquo;s favor held that he had standing to do so to further an investigation.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the second case, <a href="http://www.leagle.com/decision/2000325187Misc2d138_1322/MATTER%20OF%20GREEN%20v.%20GIULIANI" target="_blank">Green v. Giuliani</a> in 2000, the public advocate sought a judicial inquiry into then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for disclosing information from the sealed juvenile record of an unarmed African-American man who was shot dead by an NYPD officer. The New York County Supreme court stated in that case that the Public Advocate is an independently elected official with the capacity to sue.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Those two cases, especially, confirmed that the Public Advocate could bring lawsuits in order to exercise its power as the city&rsquo;s ombudsman,&rdquo; said Green, in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;That doesn&rsquo;t mean the Public Advocate can sue anybody for anything, but can, as we did in the Green v. Safir case, compel the city government to disclose information that should be in the public arena.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">In a later case involving Long Island College Hospital, which was initiated by de Blasio when he was Public Advocate, the Kings County Supreme Court ruled that the Public Advocate had the right to intervene and help choose the next operator of the facility since it was in the community&rsquo;s interest. The case was inherited by James.&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Over the course of several public advocates, the office has, however, hit walls in certain instances, showing the limits of its power. When former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum sought to intervene in a <a href="https://www.nycourts.gov/press/MSG%20v%20MTA.6-05.pdf" target="_blank">legal dispute</a> involving the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), a court ruled that she did not have the capacity to challenge decisions made by a state entity. And when Public Advocate James tried to compel the release of grand jury transcripts in the Eric Garner case by suing then-Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, she was denied on the grounds that her charter duties do not extend to criminal investigations. There have been other lawsuits that James has been involved in that were also unsuccessful, wherein she either withdrew or was dismissed.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Public Advocate office over the years has been defined by its holder and each has opted to use litigation as a tool, to varying degrees. The office has a relatively small budget, which was actually cut under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and partially restored since de Blasio has been Mayor. Some <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6373-independent-budgeting-a-little-used-practice-for-city-watchdog-agencies" target="_blank">have called for the office to receive so-called independent budgeting</a> wherein it receives a set percentage of the overall city budget and is therefore not susceptible to an unfriendly mayor or City Council.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The office of the public advocate almost always reflects the personality and priorities of the incumbent,&rdquo; said Green. &ldquo;So I did turn it into a sort of Nader&rsquo;s Raiders public interest organization reflecting my history,&rdquo; he said, referring to his role in a volunteer activist group of law students created by former independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader. But Green insisted that litigation was not necessarily the &ldquo;major tool&rdquo; of the office. &ldquo;The ability to bring lawsuits is important but not the core function of the Public Advocate&rsquo;s office, which is monitoring city agencies, answering complaints on city government and proposing new laws and ideas to make city government more accountable.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">James has been more active in her use of litigation. Now in the third year of her first term, she has been a plaintiff in 11 lawsuits so far and filed numerous amicus briefs in other cases. In contrast, de Blasio initiated only three suits while he held the post for one term, according to a spokesperson for the public advocate.</p> <p dir="ltr">James has brought to bear her experience as an assistant attorney general and public interest litigator, initiating action on the behalf of members of the public to challenge the performance of city agencies. She said she has redesigned the office of the Public Advocate, raising awareness of its role and capacity in advocating for New Yorkers through a three-pronged approach.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;When I was elected, my vision was advocacy work, litigation and investigatory work,&rdquo; James told Gotham Gazette. Feeling good about the advocacy and litigation efforts thus far, she said, &ldquo;In my next term, I want to advance the investigative power of the office including forensic audits to determine the effective of city agencies and programs.&rdquo; James is up for reelection in 2017.</p> <p dir="ltr">She points to the victories won by Green and de Blasio as affirmation of her office&rsquo;s broader ambit, and is bolstered by the recent decisions in her favor as evidence of the effectiveness of litigation. Following the August 11 decision, she told Gotham Gazette, her office is better placed to bring legal action that could also be recognized by higher courts. &ldquo;I would imagine that a lot of judges will look to that as paramount to our ability to bring lawsuits,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">The de Blasio administration has attempted to stymie many of James&rsquo; lawsuits by arguing that cases be dismissed because they are out of the Public Advocate&rsquo;s purview. It was the same tactic that de Blasio was on the other side of in the Long Island College Hospital case.</p> <p dir="ltr">Judicial decisions show that the office&rsquo;s charter-mandated authority is open to interpretation even if its architects did not intend for it to be so. The City Charter establishes the role of the public advocate in monitoring city agencies and their response to complaints from the public; proposing means of improving response to complaints; and fielding, investigating, and redressing individual complaints as well.</p> <p dir="ltr">One expert on the City Charter said the language in the section that states the Public Advocate&rsquo;s duties could construe broader authority for the office and that legal standing for lawsuits would exist in cases involving those core powers. &ldquo;Tish James has been very structured in her approach,&rdquo; said the expert, who requested anonymity to remain out of public legal and political disputes. &ldquo;Her view and interpretation of her office&rsquo;s role includes legal advocacy and impact litigation.&rdquo; (This legal expert also noted a peculiar conflict in the way the Public Advocate&rsquo;s office relates to the city&rsquo;s Corporation Counsel, the head of the Law Department, pointing out that the Corporation Counsel is the attorney on record for both the City of New York and the Public Advocate, and is often on the opposing side of litigation brought by the Public Advocate.)</p> <p dir="ltr">But Eric Lane, dean of Hofstra Law School, doesn&rsquo;t believe the Public Advocate&rsquo;s duties can be interpreted broadly. Lane was executive director and counsel to the New York City Charter Revision Commission between 1986 and 1989 and oversaw the very provisions that established the powers of the public advocate.</p> <p>Lane said the Public Advocate&rsquo;s job should be to oversee and report on the system, to be the &ldquo;public critic&rdquo; who should only use legal action to further the completion of his or her duties. &ldquo;I agree that [James] has the right to sue to gain access to information to allow her to fulfill her oversight obligations under the Charter, but I don't believe that Charter provides the Public Advocate with the authority to sue &lsquo;to protect the rights of all New Yorkers,&rsquo;&rdquo; Lane told Gotham Gazette, referring to <a href="http://pubadvocate.nyc.gov/news/articles/major-court-ruling-affirms-public-advocate&rsquo;s-capacity-sue" target="_blank">a statement</a> put out by the public advocate&rsquo;s office after the August 30 ruling. &ldquo;I think this is inconsistent with the Charter scope of her job and problematic,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Independent Budgeting a Little-Used Practice for City Watchdog Agencies 2016-06-02T04:00:00+00:00 2016-06-02T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6373:independent-budgeting-a-little-used-practice-for-city-watchdog-agencies Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/14139383374_9b21a28f39_z_1.jpg" alt="de blasio budget presentation independent budgeting" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio makes a budget presentation (photo via Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">During the annual budget process, city agencies and entities are at the mercy of the Mayor and the City Council, who ultimately set the budget. But unlike many, the several agencies and officials who regularly monitor, regulate, or litigate against the mayoral administration are put in an awkward situation, annually appealing for funding in a dynamic that can hamper their ability to carry out charter-mandated duties and, in some cases, lead to politically-motivated budget cuts.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Public Advocate, for example, is meant to act as a watchdog over the mayor, but relies on the mayor to determine the office’s budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">Representatives of the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board, tasked with training and regulating city employees including the Mayor and City Council members, have said this spring that their agency is underfunded but that repeated requests for additional funding have been turned down by the city’s Office of Management and Budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">Independent budgeting for oversight or autonomous entities, which include Borough Presidents, the Public Advocate, Comptroller, Department of Investigation, District Attorneys, and Conflict of Interest Board, is a solution that was once widely promoted by members of the public and government officials alike. Under independent budgeting, offices would receive a fixed annual amount scaled to the budget for a larger pertinent office or some set percentage of the city’s overall expense budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Independent Budget Office is the only city agency with fully independent budgeting, a position it enjoys because of its unique oversight duties. Rather than have its budget set by the Mayor, IBO receives "no less than" 12.5 percent of the annual budget of the Office of Management and Budget. The Campaign Finance Board also has a somewhat-independent budget—the Mayor must include an annual amount suggested by the CFB in the Executive Budget without adjusting it, but that amount is subject to recommendations made by the Borough Presidents, Comptroller, and Mayor, and can be amended by the City Council.</p> <p dir="ltr">Support for independent budgeting seems to have peaked during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, seemingly fueled by dissatisfaction with an especially thin budget. According to a <a href="http://www.citizensunion.org/www/cu/site/hosting/Reports/0610CU_Charter_Revision_Report&amp;Recommendations.pdf" target="_blank">2010 report</a> by government reform group Citizens Union, “most” of the borough presidents, the Conflict of Interest Board, former Public Advocates Mark Green and Betsy Gotbaum, and then Public Advocate Bill de Blasio had requested independent budgeting for their respective agencies by that year.</p> <p dir="ltr">“In this current structure, there is simply no way for a borough president to be a truly independent voice,” Marty Markowitz, then-borough president of Brooklyn, said in a 2010 testimony before the city Charter Revision Commission. “We go in and ‘pitch’ as if we were a nonprofit community group or cultural organization hoping upon hope that in the end, we get the funding we need for the staff and resources to do our Charter-mandated jobs.”</p> <p dir="ltr">That Charter Revision Commission did not reach a conclusion regarding independent budgeting, but vaguely urged future commissions to “devote significant resources to studying the roles of both COIB and various elected officials so as to make an intelligent assessment of their fiscal needs” and “assure the independence and stability of such entities.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In the years that followed, however, the $59.5 billion adopted budget for fiscal year 2010 swelled to an $82.2 billion executive budget for fiscal 2017 (the budget currently being finalized), and calls for independent budgeting waned. Between those two budgets, borough presidents’ combined operational budgets increased from $24.2 million to $26.7 million, the public advocate’s budget increased from $1.8 million to $3.3 million, and the five district attorneys combined budgets increased from $259 million to $324 million.</p> <p dir="ltr">Under the current administration, officials are loathe to call for independent budgeting. Last week, Public Advocate Letitia James declined to comment on the prospect of independent budgeting via a spokesperson. In a statement to Gotham Gazette, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams did not say he supported independent budgeting, but that he “would be interested in reviewing any proposal” that he deemed fair. The other four borough presidents either declined to comment or did not respond to repeated requests for comment, as did the five district attorneys.</p> <p dir="ltr">One remaining proponent of independent budgeting is the Conflict of Interest Board, which has been especially vocal in recent years. The board first <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/conflicts/downloads/pdf2/charter_revision/chap_68_revisions_8_3_2009.pdf" target="_blank">proposed an amendment</a> to the city charter to establish independent budgeting in 2009. At the time, COIB said that its ability to fairly judge and regulate city officials was impeded by its place in the annual budgeting process, and requested that it receive no less than seven thousandths of one percent (0.00007%) of the city’s annual expense budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last year, COIB <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/126-city/6215-underfunded-conflicts-of-interest-board-struggles-to-meet-mandates" target="_blank">reiterated its proposal</a> with its request adjusted to four thousandths of one percent (0.00004%) of the city budget—a proposal that it stood by this year. The reduction corresponds to the Board’s decision to drop its request for investigative authority. Four thousandths of one percent of this year’s $82.2 billion Executive Budget would have given COIB $3.3 million; instead, it is allocated $2.33 million.</p> <p dir="ltr">Because COIB is an independent ethics agency without a source of revenue or set constituency, the Board’s argument goes, it should not have to rely on the officials it regulates to pass on the board’s funding. COIB has cited similar independent budgeting systems already in place for the state of Michigan’s Civil Service Commission, New Orleans’ Ethics Review Board, and Philadelphia’s Board of Ethics.</p> <p dir="ltr">Despite reiterations of this proposal by COIB every year, the city administration has not moved toward a charter amendment despite support from some City Council members. COIB Executive Director Carolyn Miller told Gotham Gazette that in her view, this inaction likely stemmed from administrative reluctance to increase the number of agencies not centrally monitored and controlled for financial reasons, which she acknowledged was “reasonable.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“There hasn't been that much receptivity generally,” Miller said. “I think probably it's more of an administration issue than a Council issue.”</p> <p dir="ltr">City Council Member Alan Maisel, chair of the Committee on Standards and Ethics, which has oversight of COIB, told Gotham Gazette that he agrees COIB should have independent budgeting.</p> <p dir="ltr">“They should not be dependent on a particular budget item because then of course there's always the implication that they're being prevented from doing their absolute necessary job,” Maisel said. “But it's not getting much traction. I think when it comes down to assigning dollars to different agencies this is not a priority.”</p> <p dir="ltr">COIB’s proposal is primarily an ethical one—although its independent budgeting proposal would increase the Board’s funding, Miller says COIB would still be underfunded. The board’s budget has been markedly anemic even after a 2010 charter amendment <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/conflicts/downloads/pdf2/annual_reports/final_report_2015.pdf" target="_blank">mandated that COIB provide biannual ethics training to all city employees</a>. That year, the Board’s supervisors took two percent pay cuts in order to maximize training personnel, and although COIB’s adopted budget increased from $1.88 million for fiscal 2010 to $2.22 million for fiscal 2016, those pay cuts have not been reversed, according to Miller. Meanwhile, the city employee headcount continues to swell, giving COIB more people to train and assist with ethical quandaries.</p> <p dir="ltr">This year, COIB testified at a preliminary budget hearing that it was underfunded and had made repeated requests to the city’s budget office for more funding. After being denied several times, COIB wrote a letter to the city budget office requesting just $26,000 in additional funds for its “most critical budget needs,” which was granted. Mayor de Blasio said he was unaware of the board’s financial struggle when asked about it by Gotham Gazette at a May 15 press conference, but <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6343-mayor-pledges-to-re-examine-conflicts-of-interest-board-funding" target="_blank">promised to reexamine</a> the board’s funding.</p> <p dir="ltr">Although calls for independent budgeting seem aimed at an agency’s financial stability, arguments for independent budgeting are rooted in the ability to regulate, monitor, or prosecute independently. Independent budgeting would provide protection for agencies like COIB, the Comptroller, Department of Investigation, Public Advocate, and District Attorneys—all of whom are ostensibly watchdogs of the mayoral administration—against vindictive mayors who might seek to hobble their effectiveness for political reasons.</p> <p dir="ltr">When the Independent Budget Office upset Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in 1998, its independent budget ultimately saved it from his <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1998/04/02/nyregion/giuliani-sued-over-access-to-city-data.html?scp=1&amp;sq=&quot;giuliani%20sued&quot;&amp;st=cse" target="_blank">attempts to defund the agency in retaliation</a>. IBO had charged the mayor with violating the City Charter by withholding city finance information from the budget office, and Giuliani, a Republican, called IBO “the most partisan group of Democrats” and implied the agency should be abolished. Because of IBO’s independent budget, however, Giuliani was unable to weaken the budget office’s funding in subsequent years.</p> <p dir="ltr">“IBO would not have come into being were it not for the guaranteed budget line, and it certainly would not have remained in business...Why would the Mayor or Speaker [of the City Council] want the city to fund an agency over which they had no control? You can understand the political calculus,” IBO Director Ronnie Lowenstein told Gotham Gazette. “In the past, borough presidents and public advocates have also fought with similar logic to get a budget guarantee.</p> <p dir="ltr">Throughout his time in office, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent, made his displeasure with the office of the Public Advocate clear in word and deed, <a href="http://gothamist.com/2009/10/13/bloomberg_public_advocate_fat_waste.php" target="_blank">calling</a> it a “total waste of everybody’s money” even after reducing its budget from $2.9 million to $1.8 million. Last year, former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum told Gotham Gazette that mechanisms should have been in place to protect her office from Bloomberg’s personal motivations.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The mayor…should not be controlling the budget of the person who’s looking over their shoulder,” Gotbaum said. “Because [Bloomberg] would get furious at me and then come June, July, he’d cut the budget.” (All four public advocates, including the current one, Letitia James, have been Democrats.)</p> <p dir="ltr">As the first former public advocate to be elected mayor, de Blasio quickly increased the public advocate’s budget to $3.2 million for fiscal 2015 and then to $3.4 million for fiscal 2016. James took advantage of the budget increase to <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5856-suing-the-hand-that-feeds-you-tish-james-de-blasio" target="_blank">carve out an enhanced, especially litigious role</a> for her office. While taking on certain issues and criticizing specific city agencies, James has not been publicly critical of de Blasio. She has also not called for independent budgeting.</p> <p dir="ltr">Maisel sees the public advocate’s current power and budget as tenuous. “The job of the public advocate is to look into everything and try to correct the things that need to be corrected. Some people take it personally, like mayors,” Maisel said. “Betsy Gotbaum was not a malicious individual, she saw a need for her to do certain things. And Giuliani and Bloomberg both belittled whoever the public advocate was.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Maisel’s view is in line with the 2010 Citizens Union report, which concluded that it “undermines honesty and integrity in our elected officials if they feel the need to couch their remarks and opinions for fear of having their budget cut.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan, independent budget watchdog organization, does not have a stance on independent budgeting according to Vice President Maria Doulis, who added in a statement to Gotham Gazette that CBC does “caution against dedicated formulas” for funding agencies.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Comptroller and Department of Investigation are also responsible for weeding out fraud and abuse among city officials, but have not undergone the same level of financial turbulence from administration to administration as the public advocate. While the Comptroller’s funding has increased steadily from $66 million in the fiscal 2010 adopted budget to $96 million in this year’s executive budget, DOI funding has increased by nearly 43 percent in the past year to $47 million in this year’s executive budget, which scales with a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6212-government-investigator-explains-43-budget-bump" target="_blank">newly proactive role</a> the department has taken on. Spokespeople for both the Comptroller and DOI declined to comment on the prospect of independent budgeting.</p> <p dir="ltr">Like the Public Advocate, who regularly files suits against the de Blasio administration, District Attorneys are responsible for pursuing public corruption cases against city and state officials. In a notable recent example of such action, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance subpoenaed City Hall last month as part of his investigation into the fundraising activities of Mayor de Blasio and his allies.</p> <p dir="ltr">Some have pointed to a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6310-vance-has-ties-to-several-in-de-blasio-probe" target="_blank">web of political connections</a> between Vance and de Blasio, one strand being the simple fact that de Blasio sets the annual budget for Vance’s office. A spokesperson for Vance declined to comment on the topic of independent budgeting. All five district attorney offices <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6351-district-attorneys-city-council-agree-mayor-is-underfunding-das" target="_blank">recently testified at a City Council budget hearing</a> that they are in need of more funds.</p> <p>“In most cases you wouldn't have the investigative agency at the mercy of the executive when the executive is going to be the subject of the investigation, that makes no sense,” Maisel said. “There should be some impartial way of determining how much money a District Attorney gets so it's not subject to the whims of who happens to be in the administration doing the budget.”</p> <p>

***
by Aaron Holmes, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been corrected to reflect that IBO receives no less than 12.5% of the OMB budget, not 10% as previously stated.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/14139383374_9b21a28f39_z_1.jpg" alt="de blasio budget presentation independent budgeting" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio makes a budget presentation (photo via Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">During the annual budget process, city agencies and entities are at the mercy of the Mayor and the City Council, who ultimately set the budget. But unlike many, the several agencies and officials who regularly monitor, regulate, or litigate against the mayoral administration are put in an awkward situation, annually appealing for funding in a dynamic that can hamper their ability to carry out charter-mandated duties and, in some cases, lead to politically-motivated budget cuts.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Public Advocate, for example, is meant to act as a watchdog over the mayor, but relies on the mayor to determine the office’s budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">Representatives of the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board, tasked with training and regulating city employees including the Mayor and City Council members, have said this spring that their agency is underfunded but that repeated requests for additional funding have been turned down by the city’s Office of Management and Budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">Independent budgeting for oversight or autonomous entities, which include Borough Presidents, the Public Advocate, Comptroller, Department of Investigation, District Attorneys, and Conflict of Interest Board, is a solution that was once widely promoted by members of the public and government officials alike. Under independent budgeting, offices would receive a fixed annual amount scaled to the budget for a larger pertinent office or some set percentage of the city’s overall expense budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Independent Budget Office is the only city agency with fully independent budgeting, a position it enjoys because of its unique oversight duties. Rather than have its budget set by the Mayor, IBO receives "no less than" 12.5 percent of the annual budget of the Office of Management and Budget. The Campaign Finance Board also has a somewhat-independent budget—the Mayor must include an annual amount suggested by the CFB in the Executive Budget without adjusting it, but that amount is subject to recommendations made by the Borough Presidents, Comptroller, and Mayor, and can be amended by the City Council.</p> <p dir="ltr">Support for independent budgeting seems to have peaked during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, seemingly fueled by dissatisfaction with an especially thin budget. According to a <a href="http://www.citizensunion.org/www/cu/site/hosting/Reports/0610CU_Charter_Revision_Report&amp;Recommendations.pdf" target="_blank">2010 report</a> by government reform group Citizens Union, “most” of the borough presidents, the Conflict of Interest Board, former Public Advocates Mark Green and Betsy Gotbaum, and then Public Advocate Bill de Blasio had requested independent budgeting for their respective agencies by that year.</p> <p dir="ltr">“In this current structure, there is simply no way for a borough president to be a truly independent voice,” Marty Markowitz, then-borough president of Brooklyn, said in a 2010 testimony before the city Charter Revision Commission. “We go in and ‘pitch’ as if we were a nonprofit community group or cultural organization hoping upon hope that in the end, we get the funding we need for the staff and resources to do our Charter-mandated jobs.”</p> <p dir="ltr">That Charter Revision Commission did not reach a conclusion regarding independent budgeting, but vaguely urged future commissions to “devote significant resources to studying the roles of both COIB and various elected officials so as to make an intelligent assessment of their fiscal needs” and “assure the independence and stability of such entities.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In the years that followed, however, the $59.5 billion adopted budget for fiscal year 2010 swelled to an $82.2 billion executive budget for fiscal 2017 (the budget currently being finalized), and calls for independent budgeting waned. Between those two budgets, borough presidents’ combined operational budgets increased from $24.2 million to $26.7 million, the public advocate’s budget increased from $1.8 million to $3.3 million, and the five district attorneys combined budgets increased from $259 million to $324 million.</p> <p dir="ltr">Under the current administration, officials are loathe to call for independent budgeting. Last week, Public Advocate Letitia James declined to comment on the prospect of independent budgeting via a spokesperson. In a statement to Gotham Gazette, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams did not say he supported independent budgeting, but that he “would be interested in reviewing any proposal” that he deemed fair. The other four borough presidents either declined to comment or did not respond to repeated requests for comment, as did the five district attorneys.</p> <p dir="ltr">One remaining proponent of independent budgeting is the Conflict of Interest Board, which has been especially vocal in recent years. The board first <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/conflicts/downloads/pdf2/charter_revision/chap_68_revisions_8_3_2009.pdf" target="_blank">proposed an amendment</a> to the city charter to establish independent budgeting in 2009. At the time, COIB said that its ability to fairly judge and regulate city officials was impeded by its place in the annual budgeting process, and requested that it receive no less than seven thousandths of one percent (0.00007%) of the city’s annual expense budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last year, COIB <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/126-city/6215-underfunded-conflicts-of-interest-board-struggles-to-meet-mandates" target="_blank">reiterated its proposal</a> with its request adjusted to four thousandths of one percent (0.00004%) of the city budget—a proposal that it stood by this year. The reduction corresponds to the Board’s decision to drop its request for investigative authority. Four thousandths of one percent of this year’s $82.2 billion Executive Budget would have given COIB $3.3 million; instead, it is allocated $2.33 million.</p> <p dir="ltr">Because COIB is an independent ethics agency without a source of revenue or set constituency, the Board’s argument goes, it should not have to rely on the officials it regulates to pass on the board’s funding. COIB has cited similar independent budgeting systems already in place for the state of Michigan’s Civil Service Commission, New Orleans’ Ethics Review Board, and Philadelphia’s Board of Ethics.</p> <p dir="ltr">Despite reiterations of this proposal by COIB every year, the city administration has not moved toward a charter amendment despite support from some City Council members. COIB Executive Director Carolyn Miller told Gotham Gazette that in her view, this inaction likely stemmed from administrative reluctance to increase the number of agencies not centrally monitored and controlled for financial reasons, which she acknowledged was “reasonable.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“There hasn't been that much receptivity generally,” Miller said. “I think probably it's more of an administration issue than a Council issue.”</p> <p dir="ltr">City Council Member Alan Maisel, chair of the Committee on Standards and Ethics, which has oversight of COIB, told Gotham Gazette that he agrees COIB should have independent budgeting.</p> <p dir="ltr">“They should not be dependent on a particular budget item because then of course there's always the implication that they're being prevented from doing their absolute necessary job,” Maisel said. “But it's not getting much traction. I think when it comes down to assigning dollars to different agencies this is not a priority.”</p> <p dir="ltr">COIB’s proposal is primarily an ethical one—although its independent budgeting proposal would increase the Board’s funding, Miller says COIB would still be underfunded. The board’s budget has been markedly anemic even after a 2010 charter amendment <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/conflicts/downloads/pdf2/annual_reports/final_report_2015.pdf" target="_blank">mandated that COIB provide biannual ethics training to all city employees</a>. That year, the Board’s supervisors took two percent pay cuts in order to maximize training personnel, and although COIB’s adopted budget increased from $1.88 million for fiscal 2010 to $2.22 million for fiscal 2016, those pay cuts have not been reversed, according to Miller. Meanwhile, the city employee headcount continues to swell, giving COIB more people to train and assist with ethical quandaries.</p> <p dir="ltr">This year, COIB testified at a preliminary budget hearing that it was underfunded and had made repeated requests to the city’s budget office for more funding. After being denied several times, COIB wrote a letter to the city budget office requesting just $26,000 in additional funds for its “most critical budget needs,” which was granted. Mayor de Blasio said he was unaware of the board’s financial struggle when asked about it by Gotham Gazette at a May 15 press conference, but <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6343-mayor-pledges-to-re-examine-conflicts-of-interest-board-funding" target="_blank">promised to reexamine</a> the board’s funding.</p> <p dir="ltr">Although calls for independent budgeting seem aimed at an agency’s financial stability, arguments for independent budgeting are rooted in the ability to regulate, monitor, or prosecute independently. Independent budgeting would provide protection for agencies like COIB, the Comptroller, Department of Investigation, Public Advocate, and District Attorneys—all of whom are ostensibly watchdogs of the mayoral administration—against vindictive mayors who might seek to hobble their effectiveness for political reasons.</p> <p dir="ltr">When the Independent Budget Office upset Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in 1998, its independent budget ultimately saved it from his <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1998/04/02/nyregion/giuliani-sued-over-access-to-city-data.html?scp=1&amp;sq=&quot;giuliani%20sued&quot;&amp;st=cse" target="_blank">attempts to defund the agency in retaliation</a>. IBO had charged the mayor with violating the City Charter by withholding city finance information from the budget office, and Giuliani, a Republican, called IBO “the most partisan group of Democrats” and implied the agency should be abolished. Because of IBO’s independent budget, however, Giuliani was unable to weaken the budget office’s funding in subsequent years.</p> <p dir="ltr">“IBO would not have come into being were it not for the guaranteed budget line, and it certainly would not have remained in business...Why would the Mayor or Speaker [of the City Council] want the city to fund an agency over which they had no control? You can understand the political calculus,” IBO Director Ronnie Lowenstein told Gotham Gazette. “In the past, borough presidents and public advocates have also fought with similar logic to get a budget guarantee.</p> <p dir="ltr">Throughout his time in office, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent, made his displeasure with the office of the Public Advocate clear in word and deed, <a href="http://gothamist.com/2009/10/13/bloomberg_public_advocate_fat_waste.php" target="_blank">calling</a> it a “total waste of everybody’s money” even after reducing its budget from $2.9 million to $1.8 million. Last year, former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum told Gotham Gazette that mechanisms should have been in place to protect her office from Bloomberg’s personal motivations.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The mayor…should not be controlling the budget of the person who’s looking over their shoulder,” Gotbaum said. “Because [Bloomberg] would get furious at me and then come June, July, he’d cut the budget.” (All four public advocates, including the current one, Letitia James, have been Democrats.)</p> <p dir="ltr">As the first former public advocate to be elected mayor, de Blasio quickly increased the public advocate’s budget to $3.2 million for fiscal 2015 and then to $3.4 million for fiscal 2016. James took advantage of the budget increase to <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5856-suing-the-hand-that-feeds-you-tish-james-de-blasio" target="_blank">carve out an enhanced, especially litigious role</a> for her office. While taking on certain issues and criticizing specific city agencies, James has not been publicly critical of de Blasio. She has also not called for independent budgeting.</p> <p dir="ltr">Maisel sees the public advocate’s current power and budget as tenuous. “The job of the public advocate is to look into everything and try to correct the things that need to be corrected. Some people take it personally, like mayors,” Maisel said. “Betsy Gotbaum was not a malicious individual, she saw a need for her to do certain things. And Giuliani and Bloomberg both belittled whoever the public advocate was.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Maisel’s view is in line with the 2010 Citizens Union report, which concluded that it “undermines honesty and integrity in our elected officials if they feel the need to couch their remarks and opinions for fear of having their budget cut.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan, independent budget watchdog organization, does not have a stance on independent budgeting according to Vice President Maria Doulis, who added in a statement to Gotham Gazette that CBC does “caution against dedicated formulas” for funding agencies.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Comptroller and Department of Investigation are also responsible for weeding out fraud and abuse among city officials, but have not undergone the same level of financial turbulence from administration to administration as the public advocate. While the Comptroller’s funding has increased steadily from $66 million in the fiscal 2010 adopted budget to $96 million in this year’s executive budget, DOI funding has increased by nearly 43 percent in the past year to $47 million in this year’s executive budget, which scales with a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6212-government-investigator-explains-43-budget-bump" target="_blank">newly proactive role</a> the department has taken on. Spokespeople for both the Comptroller and DOI declined to comment on the prospect of independent budgeting.</p> <p dir="ltr">Like the Public Advocate, who regularly files suits against the de Blasio administration, District Attorneys are responsible for pursuing public corruption cases against city and state officials. In a notable recent example of such action, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance subpoenaed City Hall last month as part of his investigation into the fundraising activities of Mayor de Blasio and his allies.</p> <p dir="ltr">Some have pointed to a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6310-vance-has-ties-to-several-in-de-blasio-probe" target="_blank">web of political connections</a> between Vance and de Blasio, one strand being the simple fact that de Blasio sets the annual budget for Vance’s office. A spokesperson for Vance declined to comment on the topic of independent budgeting. All five district attorney offices <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6351-district-attorneys-city-council-agree-mayor-is-underfunding-das" target="_blank">recently testified at a City Council budget hearing</a> that they are in need of more funds.</p> <p>“In most cases you wouldn't have the investigative agency at the mercy of the executive when the executive is going to be the subject of the investigation, that makes no sense,” Maisel said. “There should be some impartial way of determining how much money a District Attorney gets so it's not subject to the whims of who happens to be in the administration doing the budget.”</p> <p>

***
by Aaron Holmes, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been corrected to reflect that IBO receives no less than 12.5% of the OMB budget, not 10% as previously stated.</p>
Private Sector Retirement Security Plans Become Next Progressive Cause 2016-02-24T23:31:50+00:00 2016-02-24T23:31:50+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6192:private-sector-retirement-security-plans-become-next-progressive-cause Carmen Russo <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/24196245184_5db4274f0d_z.jpg" alt="de blasio state of the city" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">De Blasio delivers his State of the City (photo:&nbsp;Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)</span>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>Experts warn that the entire country could be headed for a financial crisis caused by the fact that an aging workforce has not been saving for retirement.</p> <p>Whether due to cutbacks of public pensions, the lack of retirement plans offered by private employers, or workers forced to raid their savings, it appears to a growing number of advocates and politicians that many Americans will be forced to keep working far into old age or attempt to survive on below-poverty-level support from Social Security and local welfare programs.</p> <p>"If we don't make sure something is in place to prevent this, the city and state will have a catastrophe on their hands," Beth Finkel, director of AARP's New York office, told Gotham Gazette. "Ultimately these people are going to turn to the state and city to survive."</p> <p>City officials cite stark <a href="http://www.economicpolicyresearch.org/images/docs/retirement_security_background/NYC_Retirement_Readiness_Report.pdf" target="_blank">statistics</a> - only 43 percent of working New Yorkers have access to a retirement plan and 40 percent of New Yorkers between the ages of 50 and 64 have less than $10,000 saved for retirement.</p> <p>It appears to be an issue that is keeping New York's political leaders up at night. It also presents an opportunity for elected officials to lead on another progressive policy matter.</p> <p>Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio both announced plans to confront the issue in their recent annual addresses - Cuomo's State of the State, de Blasio's <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6148-de-blasio-stresses-neighborhood-health-in-one-city-vision" target="_blank">State of the City</a>. Cuomo appointed SUNY Chairman Carl McCall to head a commission to study the issue, while de Blasio <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6148-de-blasio-stresses-neighborhood-health-in-one-city-vision" target="_blank">said he plans to work on legislation</a> with the City Council that would allow the city to offer retirement plans to private sector workers who are not offered plans by their employer. He outlined the framework in his Feb. 4 speech.</p> <p>De Blasio's plan would make the city the first in the country to offer such a retirement program, although a few states have adopted legislation to create something similar.</p> <p>Many see the issue of government-backed retirement for private sector workers as the next progressive push, after minimum wage and paid family leave. De Blasio said as much during <a href="http://am970theanswer.com/pages/wide/bill-samuels" target="_blank">a recent appearance</a> on Bill Samuel's Effective Radio program. "So this is our contribution to New York City towards what I hope will be a much bigger forward march of history and it certainly aligns with what we've done on the other issues you've talked about like paid sick leave and affordable housing, pre-K, et cetera," said de Blasio. "This is a package of things that have to change urgently, not just at the local level, but up to the federal level."</p> <p>De Blasio's retirement plan would require employers with 10 or more employees to offer voluntary access to a city-run retirement plan. The city would cover upfront costs of starting the plan and a board would be appointed to implement it. Employees would have their contributions automatically deducted from their paychecks. Neither the city nor the state would contribute to the plans.</p> <p>Businesses would not be able to drop plans they currently offer. The bill will be crafted by the de Blasio administration in collaboration with the offices of City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, Public Advocate Tish James, and Comptroller Scott Stringer. Representatives of the de Blasio administration did not respond when asked about a timeline to introduce a bill.</p> <p>"[I]t's something the city would manage and we would put some initial investment into," the mayor told Samuels during his Sunday radio appearance. "And it would give every worker the opportunity to join a retirement security plan that they could really depend on, would not evaporate because it would be supported and backed by the City of New York, and it would mean putting their own resources into it," de Blasio said.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration has also asked the federal government to act to ease burdens and liabilities the city could face in managing retirement accounts. However, not many involved in the issue expect Washington to take action anytime soon. The Department of Labor has been giving guidance to states that have attempted to implement similar programs, but has yet to issue a full set of guidelines. It is likely that the state would have to approve any city-backed retirement program.</p> <p>The mayor is set to hold a press conference on the plan Thursday afternoon at City Hall at which Stringer, James, and Mark-Viverito will each also speak.</p> <p>Stringer was one of the first New York officials to take on the issue, constructing a working group of nationally recognized academics to study the retirement crisis in February of last year. The group, which features academics from across the political spectrum, is expected to issue recommendations this spring.</p> <p>"There's no question we have a looming crisis on our hands when it comes to retirement security – in New York and the nation," Stringer said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "Today, 57 percent of New Yorkers lack access to a workplace retirement plan, which has huge implications both for city services and for the ability of our seniors to live out their lives in dignity."</p> <p>Citing a "need to recognize that one size does not fit all when it comes to retirement security," Stringer said that his "office has been working over the past year with a diverse group of some of the nation's top academics to put together thoughtful, innovative proposals to increase retirement savings options and protect the City's budget."</p> <p>Public Advocate James proposed <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2230890&amp;GUID=3AD3FADB-656A-476A-AF40-A7D84B70CD49&amp;Options=ID|Text|&amp;Search=Int+0692-2015" target="_blank">a bill</a> in February of last year that would have established a review commission to study the feasibility of a city-backed pension fund for private workers. The bill hasn't made it out of committee, but de Blasio's plan appears to be making it obsolete. James issued <a href="http://pubadvocate.nyc.gov/sites/advocate.nyc.gov/files/publicadvocate-_pension_report.pdf" target="_blank">a study</a> about the impending retirement crisis.</p> <p>"There are so many major players who are committed to this that it is hard to imagine we won't get something done, but the devil is in the details," said Finkel of AARP. "I think the major players understand the urgency. Every year we put off is another year people aren't saving."</p> <p>Samuels, head of public policy think tank Effective NY, said he has been lobbying top state and city leaders on the issue for a few years. Now, he said, even with interest from Cuomo, de Blasio, and a host of other city officials known to compete with each other, "There is a cooperative environment at this point." Samuels says that a number of the leaders involved in the issue have been meeting to hash out a sensible solution.</p> <p>It is unclear how a state plan might interact with a city plan - whether one would override the other, or if it would make sense to have two if the state acts. Some insiders see de Blasio and Cuomo focused on an issue and wonder when the competition and skullduggery will start. Some hope that city officials will unite around one plan that will then be used by the Cuomo administration as a blueprint. De Blasio administration officials said they would welcome action by the state.</p> <p>Samuels said he was first moved to address the issue during a trip to his hometown of Canandaigua, in Western New York, while talking to his old friends about their children. "Their kids, even if they had a 401K, they had to raid it for an emergency, so they have nothing for retirement. It was an eye-opener," explained Samuels.</p> <p>"There is a real national problem and it's not going to get solved in Washington. We have a startling number of people heading into retirement in poverty," Samuels told Gotham Gazette. "I worked for a company that put 15 percent of my salary into retirement. Reagan convinced people they should manage their own money. So What happened was 401Ks were set up and almost all companies stopped putting any money in toward retirement."</p> <p>There is debate among politicians, academics, advocates, and business leaders about how to offer a retirement plan that actually helps workers save without hurting small businesses. Issues in play include: what size of businesses to target, how to manage employee deductions, what kind of plans make sense for workers, and how to make sure plans are transferable should an employee find a new job or move. There will also be questions about management of the program, as there always are about public pension funds.</p> <p>The Partnership for New York City, a leading city business group, is supportive of the idea behind de Blasio's plan. The group's president, Kathryn Wylde, said in an interview that the issue is extremely complicated and that she has concerns. "Frankly, I'd rather have the federal government or the state do something broader," Wylde told Gotham Gazette, whiling stressing that she supports de Blasio's action.</p> <p>Wylde said businesses in different locales would have more of an equal footing if a retirement plan was offered by the federal or state government. She also pointed to underlying economic issues. "I'm not sure that simply providing a plan is a magic bullet," Wylde said. "People living on subsistence wages aren't suddenly going to have enough money to save. So I'm not sure there is a way to make this work without some sort of subsidy."</p> <p>Mike Durant, state director for the National Federation for Independent Business, said that his members are concerned about having the state get involved in the issue, given their current fight against New York Democrats' push for a higher minimum wage and paid family leave.</p> <p>"From the small employer perspective, we balloted our members on this topic last Fall with 85 percent of respondents opposed, with wide-ranging fears," Durant told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Durant said members are concerned about liability issues, and "yet another mandate handed down by government that could potentially fail to recognize the significant differences between Main Street and big business." Costs for managing contributions could be prohibitive to small "mom and pop" businesses that operate without a formal human resources office, Durant said.</p> <p>"Simply, these proposals are concerning and have many moving parts and there is definitely not a simple solution across the spectrum of business," said Durant. "Albany has definitely not proven it is capable of acknowledging the complex differences between big and small business through legislation, which adds to our concerns."</p> <p>A number of states have passed legislation to implement state-backed private sector retirement plans in a variety of ways.</p> <p>California adopted such a plan in 2012. There, the bill requires employers of five or more that don't offer a retirement plan to offer a savings plan similar to an IRA that is backed by the California Public Employees' Retirement System.</p> <p>Illinois adopted a plan in 2014 that requires employers that do not offer a retirement plan, have been in business for more than two years, and employ 25 or more to automatically enroll employees in a state-managed plan that offers a variety of investment plans and payroll deduction levels.</p> <p>Connecticut <a href="http://www.pensionrights.org/issues/legislation/connecticut-secure-retirement-plan" target="_blank">has dedicated</a> $400,000 to the creation of a board to study and create a state-based retirement security plan. The plan must be submitted to the state by April of this year.</p> <p>None of these states have begun accepting contributions to their plans and many are waiting for more guidance from the federal government.</p> <p>Samuels, of EffectiveNY, said that the wide variety of opinions on how to implement a plan, the number of principles involved, and the scope of the debate are encouraging to him. "Everyone is on the same page that this is an important issue," he said. "There is lots of overlap but we are headed toward a solution. The reason I pushed the city first is I felt it would be tough to get through in the state, but the politics have changed and now Cuomo has named a commission."</p> <p>Finkel of AARP said that she expects New York City will lead on the issue and that cities and other states across the country will follow.</p> <p>"Studies tell us that people are 15 times more likely to save if they have something automatically deducted from their paycheck. It's low-hanging fruit and I would hope that New York City will be the first city in the country to implement this kind of plan."</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/24196245184_5db4274f0d_z.jpg" alt="de blasio state of the city" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">De Blasio delivers his State of the City (photo:&nbsp;Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)</span>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>Experts warn that the entire country could be headed for a financial crisis caused by the fact that an aging workforce has not been saving for retirement.</p> <p>Whether due to cutbacks of public pensions, the lack of retirement plans offered by private employers, or workers forced to raid their savings, it appears to a growing number of advocates and politicians that many Americans will be forced to keep working far into old age or attempt to survive on below-poverty-level support from Social Security and local welfare programs.</p> <p>"If we don't make sure something is in place to prevent this, the city and state will have a catastrophe on their hands," Beth Finkel, director of AARP's New York office, told Gotham Gazette. "Ultimately these people are going to turn to the state and city to survive."</p> <p>City officials cite stark <a href="http://www.economicpolicyresearch.org/images/docs/retirement_security_background/NYC_Retirement_Readiness_Report.pdf" target="_blank">statistics</a> - only 43 percent of working New Yorkers have access to a retirement plan and 40 percent of New Yorkers between the ages of 50 and 64 have less than $10,000 saved for retirement.</p> <p>It appears to be an issue that is keeping New York's political leaders up at night. It also presents an opportunity for elected officials to lead on another progressive policy matter.</p> <p>Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio both announced plans to confront the issue in their recent annual addresses - Cuomo's State of the State, de Blasio's <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6148-de-blasio-stresses-neighborhood-health-in-one-city-vision" target="_blank">State of the City</a>. Cuomo appointed SUNY Chairman Carl McCall to head a commission to study the issue, while de Blasio <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6148-de-blasio-stresses-neighborhood-health-in-one-city-vision" target="_blank">said he plans to work on legislation</a> with the City Council that would allow the city to offer retirement plans to private sector workers who are not offered plans by their employer. He outlined the framework in his Feb. 4 speech.</p> <p>De Blasio's plan would make the city the first in the country to offer such a retirement program, although a few states have adopted legislation to create something similar.</p> <p>Many see the issue of government-backed retirement for private sector workers as the next progressive push, after minimum wage and paid family leave. De Blasio said as much during <a href="http://am970theanswer.com/pages/wide/bill-samuels" target="_blank">a recent appearance</a> on Bill Samuel's Effective Radio program. "So this is our contribution to New York City towards what I hope will be a much bigger forward march of history and it certainly aligns with what we've done on the other issues you've talked about like paid sick leave and affordable housing, pre-K, et cetera," said de Blasio. "This is a package of things that have to change urgently, not just at the local level, but up to the federal level."</p> <p>De Blasio's retirement plan would require employers with 10 or more employees to offer voluntary access to a city-run retirement plan. The city would cover upfront costs of starting the plan and a board would be appointed to implement it. Employees would have their contributions automatically deducted from their paychecks. Neither the city nor the state would contribute to the plans.</p> <p>Businesses would not be able to drop plans they currently offer. The bill will be crafted by the de Blasio administration in collaboration with the offices of City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, Public Advocate Tish James, and Comptroller Scott Stringer. Representatives of the de Blasio administration did not respond when asked about a timeline to introduce a bill.</p> <p>"[I]t's something the city would manage and we would put some initial investment into," the mayor told Samuels during his Sunday radio appearance. "And it would give every worker the opportunity to join a retirement security plan that they could really depend on, would not evaporate because it would be supported and backed by the City of New York, and it would mean putting their own resources into it," de Blasio said.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration has also asked the federal government to act to ease burdens and liabilities the city could face in managing retirement accounts. However, not many involved in the issue expect Washington to take action anytime soon. The Department of Labor has been giving guidance to states that have attempted to implement similar programs, but has yet to issue a full set of guidelines. It is likely that the state would have to approve any city-backed retirement program.</p> <p>The mayor is set to hold a press conference on the plan Thursday afternoon at City Hall at which Stringer, James, and Mark-Viverito will each also speak.</p> <p>Stringer was one of the first New York officials to take on the issue, constructing a working group of nationally recognized academics to study the retirement crisis in February of last year. The group, which features academics from across the political spectrum, is expected to issue recommendations this spring.</p> <p>"There's no question we have a looming crisis on our hands when it comes to retirement security – in New York and the nation," Stringer said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "Today, 57 percent of New Yorkers lack access to a workplace retirement plan, which has huge implications both for city services and for the ability of our seniors to live out their lives in dignity."</p> <p>Citing a "need to recognize that one size does not fit all when it comes to retirement security," Stringer said that his "office has been working over the past year with a diverse group of some of the nation's top academics to put together thoughtful, innovative proposals to increase retirement savings options and protect the City's budget."</p> <p>Public Advocate James proposed <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2230890&amp;GUID=3AD3FADB-656A-476A-AF40-A7D84B70CD49&amp;Options=ID|Text|&amp;Search=Int+0692-2015" target="_blank">a bill</a> in February of last year that would have established a review commission to study the feasibility of a city-backed pension fund for private workers. The bill hasn't made it out of committee, but de Blasio's plan appears to be making it obsolete. James issued <a href="http://pubadvocate.nyc.gov/sites/advocate.nyc.gov/files/publicadvocate-_pension_report.pdf" target="_blank">a study</a> about the impending retirement crisis.</p> <p>"There are so many major players who are committed to this that it is hard to imagine we won't get something done, but the devil is in the details," said Finkel of AARP. "I think the major players understand the urgency. Every year we put off is another year people aren't saving."</p> <p>Samuels, head of public policy think tank Effective NY, said he has been lobbying top state and city leaders on the issue for a few years. Now, he said, even with interest from Cuomo, de Blasio, and a host of other city officials known to compete with each other, "There is a cooperative environment at this point." Samuels says that a number of the leaders involved in the issue have been meeting to hash out a sensible solution.</p> <p>It is unclear how a state plan might interact with a city plan - whether one would override the other, or if it would make sense to have two if the state acts. Some insiders see de Blasio and Cuomo focused on an issue and wonder when the competition and skullduggery will start. Some hope that city officials will unite around one plan that will then be used by the Cuomo administration as a blueprint. De Blasio administration officials said they would welcome action by the state.</p> <p>Samuels said he was first moved to address the issue during a trip to his hometown of Canandaigua, in Western New York, while talking to his old friends about their children. "Their kids, even if they had a 401K, they had to raid it for an emergency, so they have nothing for retirement. It was an eye-opener," explained Samuels.</p> <p>"There is a real national problem and it's not going to get solved in Washington. We have a startling number of people heading into retirement in poverty," Samuels told Gotham Gazette. "I worked for a company that put 15 percent of my salary into retirement. Reagan convinced people they should manage their own money. So What happened was 401Ks were set up and almost all companies stopped putting any money in toward retirement."</p> <p>There is debate among politicians, academics, advocates, and business leaders about how to offer a retirement plan that actually helps workers save without hurting small businesses. Issues in play include: what size of businesses to target, how to manage employee deductions, what kind of plans make sense for workers, and how to make sure plans are transferable should an employee find a new job or move. There will also be questions about management of the program, as there always are about public pension funds.</p> <p>The Partnership for New York City, a leading city business group, is supportive of the idea behind de Blasio's plan. The group's president, Kathryn Wylde, said in an interview that the issue is extremely complicated and that she has concerns. "Frankly, I'd rather have the federal government or the state do something broader," Wylde told Gotham Gazette, whiling stressing that she supports de Blasio's action.</p> <p>Wylde said businesses in different locales would have more of an equal footing if a retirement plan was offered by the federal or state government. She also pointed to underlying economic issues. "I'm not sure that simply providing a plan is a magic bullet," Wylde said. "People living on subsistence wages aren't suddenly going to have enough money to save. So I'm not sure there is a way to make this work without some sort of subsidy."</p> <p>Mike Durant, state director for the National Federation for Independent Business, said that his members are concerned about having the state get involved in the issue, given their current fight against New York Democrats' push for a higher minimum wage and paid family leave.</p> <p>"From the small employer perspective, we balloted our members on this topic last Fall with 85 percent of respondents opposed, with wide-ranging fears," Durant told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Durant said members are concerned about liability issues, and "yet another mandate handed down by government that could potentially fail to recognize the significant differences between Main Street and big business." Costs for managing contributions could be prohibitive to small "mom and pop" businesses that operate without a formal human resources office, Durant said.</p> <p>"Simply, these proposals are concerning and have many moving parts and there is definitely not a simple solution across the spectrum of business," said Durant. "Albany has definitely not proven it is capable of acknowledging the complex differences between big and small business through legislation, which adds to our concerns."</p> <p>A number of states have passed legislation to implement state-backed private sector retirement plans in a variety of ways.</p> <p>California adopted such a plan in 2012. There, the bill requires employers of five or more that don't offer a retirement plan to offer a savings plan similar to an IRA that is backed by the California Public Employees' Retirement System.</p> <p>Illinois adopted a plan in 2014 that requires employers that do not offer a retirement plan, have been in business for more than two years, and employ 25 or more to automatically enroll employees in a state-managed plan that offers a variety of investment plans and payroll deduction levels.</p> <p>Connecticut <a href="http://www.pensionrights.org/issues/legislation/connecticut-secure-retirement-plan" target="_blank">has dedicated</a> $400,000 to the creation of a board to study and create a state-based retirement security plan. The plan must be submitted to the state by April of this year.</p> <p>None of these states have begun accepting contributions to their plans and many are waiting for more guidance from the federal government.</p> <p>Samuels, of EffectiveNY, said that the wide variety of opinions on how to implement a plan, the number of principles involved, and the scope of the debate are encouraging to him. "Everyone is on the same page that this is an important issue," he said. "There is lots of overlap but we are headed toward a solution. The reason I pushed the city first is I felt it would be tough to get through in the state, but the politics have changed and now Cuomo has named a commission."</p> <p>Finkel of AARP said that she expects New York City will lead on the issue and that cities and other states across the country will follow.</p> <p>"Studies tell us that people are 15 times more likely to save if they have something automatically deducted from their paycheck. It's low-hanging fruit and I would hope that New York City will be the first city in the country to implement this kind of plan."</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
40 Stories, 40 Years: City Limits and the History of Today's New York City 2016-01-31T05:00:00+00:00 2016-01-31T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6132:40-stories-40-years-city-limits-and-the-history-of-todays-new-york-city Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/City_Limits_1983_February.jpg" alt="City Limits 1983 February" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" width="400" height="530" /></p> <p>History is always a summary. It weaves together disparate threads of individual experiences, and some threads color the pattern more than others. The conventional narrative of New York City after the 1970s fiscal crisis emphasizes what mayors, police commissioners, developers and other powerful people did.</p> <p>But that's not <em>the</em> story. It's just one.</p> <p>Since its founding 40 years ago this month, City Limits has told a different tale—one that has sometimes complemented, and other times contradicted the official version. That's because we talked about the New York seen by people like tenants, single mothers, strikers, prisoners, advocates, social workers, the homeless, the young and others who, when they strolled the traditional corridors of power, did so with a visitor's pass.</p> <p>As the excerpted stories below indicate, those New Yorkers had their own kind of power, and the city has been shaped by it. The stories are just snippets from our work over the past four decades. They reflect the history that City Limits saw and the New York it was founded to cover.</p> <p><em>For a look at those stories as City Limits hits its 40th anniversary, <a href="http://citylimits.org/2016/01/31/40-stories-40-years-city-limits-and-the-history-of-todays-new-york-city/" target="_blank">click here</a>.</em></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/City_Limits_1983_February.jpg" alt="City Limits 1983 February" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" width="400" height="530" /></p> <p>History is always a summary. It weaves together disparate threads of individual experiences, and some threads color the pattern more than others. The conventional narrative of New York City after the 1970s fiscal crisis emphasizes what mayors, police commissioners, developers and other powerful people did.</p> <p>But that's not <em>the</em> story. It's just one.</p> <p>Since its founding 40 years ago this month, City Limits has told a different tale—one that has sometimes complemented, and other times contradicted the official version. That's because we talked about the New York seen by people like tenants, single mothers, strikers, prisoners, advocates, social workers, the homeless, the young and others who, when they strolled the traditional corridors of power, did so with a visitor's pass.</p> <p>As the excerpted stories below indicate, those New Yorkers had their own kind of power, and the city has been shaped by it. The stories are just snippets from our work over the past four decades. They reflect the history that City Limits saw and the New York it was founded to cover.</p> <p><em>For a look at those stories as City Limits hits its 40th anniversary, <a href="http://citylimits.org/2016/01/31/40-stories-40-years-city-limits-and-the-history-of-todays-new-york-city/" target="_blank">click here</a>.</em></p> Little-Known Commission Expands Access to City Government 2015-12-09T00:35:11+00:00 2015-12-09T00:35:11+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6025:little-known-commission-expands-access-to-city-government Super User <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/tish_james_presser_childcare.jpg" alt="tish james presser childcare" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Public Advocate James (photo via @TishJames)</p> <hr /> <p>While government transparency can often be a vague concept, one concrete way to see what elected and appointed officials are doing is through live-streamed and archived video of public hearings.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Tuesday, Dec. 8, the little-known Commission on Public Information and Communication (COPIC) met for the final time this year at John Jay College in Manhattan. The meeting agenda was centered around the commission getting an update on the implementation of <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=657961&amp;GUID=7880F746-C597-416E-BD20-43175D0CD616&amp;Options=ID|Text|&amp;Search=0132" target="_blank">Local Law 103</a> of 2013, better known as the city’s webcasting law, which requires certain agencies to record all public meetings and make them available online.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the <a href="http://pubadvocate.nyc.gov/news/events/copic-meeting-0" target="_blank">meeting</a>, officials discussed progress on developing programs to provide training and equipment to municipal entities for webcasting; creating a central repository for municipal webcasts; and establishing COPIC’s own website.</p> <p dir="ltr">The goal of the commission, <a href="http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/nycode/NYC/47/1061" target="_blank">established</a> by the City Charter in 1989, is to improve public access to City information and to develop strategies for the use of new communications technologies to improve access to and distribution of city data. It is led by the Public Advocate, currently Letitia James, who has revived the commission since taking office in 2014.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to COPIC commissioners, programs to provide training and guidance to agencies looking to comply with the webcasting law are almost set, with the first “best practices workshop” likely to be held in February. The COPIC website should be operational mid- to late-January. The commission is still looking into better ways to provide webcasting equipment to agencies, and a venue to host a central archive of the city’s webcasts has yet to be determined.</p> <p dir="ltr">Nicholas Sbordone, a delegate to COPIC from the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, kicked off the meeting by asking Janet Choi, general manager at the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, for an update on the plans to provide training resources and technology aids for agencies looking to comply with the webcasting law.</p> <p dir="ltr">Choi said that since the last meeting, COPIC has explored how to go about “providing the best guidance for all of the organizations and agencies to help them comply with Local Law 103,” and has examined the potential creation of a “lending library” to provide equipment for webcasting.</p> <p dir="ltr">As of October 20, 2015, under the webcasting law, <a href="http://reinventalbany.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/10-20-COPIC-Meeting-Agency-Webcasting-Compliance.pdf" target="_blank">45 boards and commissions</a> must webcast public meetings. According to Sbordone, many agencies subject to the webcasting law are either in full compliance or are willing to comply.</p> <p dir="ltr">“For the most part,” Sbordone said, agencies that are not actively webcasting “have not yet met, or they have particular meetings that they have on specific topics that are not subject to webcasting...For instance, there’s the Master Electricians and Licensing Board,” which holds a number of meetings on “the details of specific licensee information, which would not be subject to public review anyway.”</p> <p dir="ltr">As for the “guidance” COPIC has been developing to help agencies comply with the webcasting law, Choi said COPIC is “about ready to host or continue to build the agenda and the training for a best practices workshop to be held in February, the first of what we hope will be a couple per year,” Choi said. “This is essentially to give the agencies and organizations who are looking for guidance tips, pointers, and best standards and practices for effective webcasting.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Given the rapid rate of technological development, Choi said, COPIC has determined that “there is no one best way to do anything. We can’t possibly say [to the agencies] ‘this is the equipment you should use’…we don’t want to give them information that is obsolete.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“So,” Choi continued, “We have concluded that the best thing we can do is show them what the goals are. We want clear and audible audio, we want a clear visual representation - everything that is needed to best fulfill the spirit of the law. There’s any number of ways you can accomplish this, and all we can do is provide guidance.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Regarding the creation of a “lending library” for webcasting equipment, Sbordone said COPIC is “culling and trying to refine a list of facilities that have good audio/visual capability and to the extent that they have WiFi or an internet connection.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“The thought was that if there is a number of places that the city has or has access to, we can put those into one place, a pool, and then have a calendar developed,” Sbordone continued, “so that agencies might have the ability to reserve certain dates and times and then have their webcasting calendar built out, so if agencies have a meeting, they would know the best place and date to go.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Public Advocate James, chair of COPIC, turned the discussion toward the establishment of a central repository for municipal webcasts and the use of the City Record.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The newly launched <a href="https://mspwvw-dcscpfvp.nyc.gov/CROLPublicFacingWeb/" target="_blank">City Record Online</a> has modules in each of the records that are submitted by the agencies, about a public meeting, where and when,” Sbordone said “it has a module that you could add a link to to a webcast version of the hearing.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Some agencies, Sbordone said, like the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), will add links to their entries on City Record, which will link to their webcasting archives. “Going forward,” Sbordone said, when the Taxi and Limousine Commission makes “submissions to the city record about upcoming commission hearings,” they will add the link to their webcasting archives.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We have a number of agencies that we’re conducting outreach to,” Sbordone added. “It’s very iterative, but it’s really starting to come together now where we have the new version of the City Record launched, that itself allows for the better proliferation and dissemination of webcasting materials through the actual technology.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Still addressing James’ question regarding the establishment of a “central portal” and the use of the City Record, Sbordone brought up finding “some type of central repository where all these archive webcast videos would reside. The City Record, ideally, would be a record that the meeting is taking place or has taken place. The link then would link back out to where this central repository is.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“I think one of the things that we maybe want to begin discussing for next year is how best to present this to the public,” Sbordone said, floating the idea of creating a place online - “for instance, ‘webcasting.nyc’” - where all of these archive records would reside. “So if someone was looking for everything in one place, they could find it, and that would also be the place that was linked out to from various sites.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“The shape and the form of what that takes is still yet to be determined,” Sbordone added, explaining that it could be something that the city hosts, or even a YouTube channel that contains all of New York City’s webcasting archives.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I know the last time [we met] Commissioner Toole had suggested that the Department of Records and Information Systems could also be a possible venue” for hosting the city’s webcasting archives, James suggested.</p> <p dir="ltr">Toole was unable to attend COPIC’s Dec. 8 meeting, though Sbordone said that she had mentioned “she would love to see, to the extent that it made sense, the government publications portal to play a role in this, again, as a central repository for all the reports and white papers, things like that, that are issued by city agencies across the board.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The discussion then shifted from the creation of a central repository for the city’s webcasts to the progress in updating COPIC’s own website. COPIC meeting announcements are currently available <a href="http://pubadvocate.nyc.gov/news/events/copic-meeting-0" target="_blank">within</a> the Public Advocate site.</p> <p dir="ltr">Sbordone passed out a mock-up of the website, which is not yet functional, and which, he said, was actually created at the request of a prior public advocate a number of years ago, though he wasn’t sure which. “We stood it up for them and it’s got basic functionality, as you can see, but the content was never updated.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The next step, Sbordone said, “between now and the next time we get together, is to try to work to get that content updated with recent information.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Due to the work of this commission over the past year now,” Sbordone continued, “we have a good amount of stuff to put up - meeting minutes, meeting agendas, what we’ve accomplished, we have information on webcasting, tips, maybe even links to the webcast hearings that we’ve had, so we have quite a bit we can update the site with.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“The idea is to institutionalize COPIC,” Umair Khan, Deputy Counsel to Public Advocate James, added, “by having a web presence for a body that’s purpose is to provide City information to the public.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“That is something that we’re eagerly working on and moving forward with. We hope by mid- to late-January to have a fully functioning operational website for people to access all of our COPIC records,” Khan said. “Over time, we can tweak it and adjust it make it more user-friendly, but at least start to get this information out and make it more accessible.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In addition to webcasting information, the website could also include information on “how [agencies] can get web cameras to use for their own proceedings,” Khan said, and “will have a mailbox, so people can communicate more directly with COPIC.”</p> <p dir="ltr">James added that the website should include a list of COPIC members with brief bios on each, then adjourned the meeting, with the next meeting tentatively set for February.</p> <p dir="ltr">Under James, COPIC is more active than it has been in previous years - COPIC held only <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2014/12/8558775/public-advocate-relaunch-public-information-commission" target="_blank">one meeting</a> during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s time as Public Advocate, according to Politico New York. Though COPIC may have made some strides toward the goal of improving access to City information under the webcasting law, issues remain with both the access to equipment for webcasting, and improving the dissemination of data.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Meg O’Connor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette<br /></a><a href="https://twitter.com/megoconnor13" target="_blank">@MegOConnor13</a></p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/tish_james_presser_childcare.jpg" alt="tish james presser childcare" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Public Advocate James (photo via @TishJames)</p> <hr /> <p>While government transparency can often be a vague concept, one concrete way to see what elected and appointed officials are doing is through live-streamed and archived video of public hearings.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Tuesday, Dec. 8, the little-known Commission on Public Information and Communication (COPIC) met for the final time this year at John Jay College in Manhattan. The meeting agenda was centered around the commission getting an update on the implementation of <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=657961&amp;GUID=7880F746-C597-416E-BD20-43175D0CD616&amp;Options=ID|Text|&amp;Search=0132" target="_blank">Local Law 103</a> of 2013, better known as the city’s webcasting law, which requires certain agencies to record all public meetings and make them available online.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the <a href="http://pubadvocate.nyc.gov/news/events/copic-meeting-0" target="_blank">meeting</a>, officials discussed progress on developing programs to provide training and equipment to municipal entities for webcasting; creating a central repository for municipal webcasts; and establishing COPIC’s own website.</p> <p dir="ltr">The goal of the commission, <a href="http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/nycode/NYC/47/1061" target="_blank">established</a> by the City Charter in 1989, is to improve public access to City information and to develop strategies for the use of new communications technologies to improve access to and distribution of city data. It is led by the Public Advocate, currently Letitia James, who has revived the commission since taking office in 2014.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to COPIC commissioners, programs to provide training and guidance to agencies looking to comply with the webcasting law are almost set, with the first “best practices workshop” likely to be held in February. The COPIC website should be operational mid- to late-January. The commission is still looking into better ways to provide webcasting equipment to agencies, and a venue to host a central archive of the city’s webcasts has yet to be determined.</p> <p dir="ltr">Nicholas Sbordone, a delegate to COPIC from the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, kicked off the meeting by asking Janet Choi, general manager at the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, for an update on the plans to provide training resources and technology aids for agencies looking to comply with the webcasting law.</p> <p dir="ltr">Choi said that since the last meeting, COPIC has explored how to go about “providing the best guidance for all of the organizations and agencies to help them comply with Local Law 103,” and has examined the potential creation of a “lending library” to provide equipment for webcasting.</p> <p dir="ltr">As of October 20, 2015, under the webcasting law, <a href="http://reinventalbany.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/10-20-COPIC-Meeting-Agency-Webcasting-Compliance.pdf" target="_blank">45 boards and commissions</a> must webcast public meetings. According to Sbordone, many agencies subject to the webcasting law are either in full compliance or are willing to comply.</p> <p dir="ltr">“For the most part,” Sbordone said, agencies that are not actively webcasting “have not yet met, or they have particular meetings that they have on specific topics that are not subject to webcasting...For instance, there’s the Master Electricians and Licensing Board,” which holds a number of meetings on “the details of specific licensee information, which would not be subject to public review anyway.”</p> <p dir="ltr">As for the “guidance” COPIC has been developing to help agencies comply with the webcasting law, Choi said COPIC is “about ready to host or continue to build the agenda and the training for a best practices workshop to be held in February, the first of what we hope will be a couple per year,” Choi said. “This is essentially to give the agencies and organizations who are looking for guidance tips, pointers, and best standards and practices for effective webcasting.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Given the rapid rate of technological development, Choi said, COPIC has determined that “there is no one best way to do anything. We can’t possibly say [to the agencies] ‘this is the equipment you should use’…we don’t want to give them information that is obsolete.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“So,” Choi continued, “We have concluded that the best thing we can do is show them what the goals are. We want clear and audible audio, we want a clear visual representation - everything that is needed to best fulfill the spirit of the law. There’s any number of ways you can accomplish this, and all we can do is provide guidance.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Regarding the creation of a “lending library” for webcasting equipment, Sbordone said COPIC is “culling and trying to refine a list of facilities that have good audio/visual capability and to the extent that they have WiFi or an internet connection.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“The thought was that if there is a number of places that the city has or has access to, we can put those into one place, a pool, and then have a calendar developed,” Sbordone continued, “so that agencies might have the ability to reserve certain dates and times and then have their webcasting calendar built out, so if agencies have a meeting, they would know the best place and date to go.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Public Advocate James, chair of COPIC, turned the discussion toward the establishment of a central repository for municipal webcasts and the use of the City Record.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The newly launched <a href="https://mspwvw-dcscpfvp.nyc.gov/CROLPublicFacingWeb/" target="_blank">City Record Online</a> has modules in each of the records that are submitted by the agencies, about a public meeting, where and when,” Sbordone said “it has a module that you could add a link to to a webcast version of the hearing.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Some agencies, Sbordone said, like the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), will add links to their entries on City Record, which will link to their webcasting archives. “Going forward,” Sbordone said, when the Taxi and Limousine Commission makes “submissions to the city record about upcoming commission hearings,” they will add the link to their webcasting archives.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We have a number of agencies that we’re conducting outreach to,” Sbordone added. “It’s very iterative, but it’s really starting to come together now where we have the new version of the City Record launched, that itself allows for the better proliferation and dissemination of webcasting materials through the actual technology.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Still addressing James’ question regarding the establishment of a “central portal” and the use of the City Record, Sbordone brought up finding “some type of central repository where all these archive webcast videos would reside. The City Record, ideally, would be a record that the meeting is taking place or has taken place. The link then would link back out to where this central repository is.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“I think one of the things that we maybe want to begin discussing for next year is how best to present this to the public,” Sbordone said, floating the idea of creating a place online - “for instance, ‘webcasting.nyc’” - where all of these archive records would reside. “So if someone was looking for everything in one place, they could find it, and that would also be the place that was linked out to from various sites.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“The shape and the form of what that takes is still yet to be determined,” Sbordone added, explaining that it could be something that the city hosts, or even a YouTube channel that contains all of New York City’s webcasting archives.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I know the last time [we met] Commissioner Toole had suggested that the Department of Records and Information Systems could also be a possible venue” for hosting the city’s webcasting archives, James suggested.</p> <p dir="ltr">Toole was unable to attend COPIC’s Dec. 8 meeting, though Sbordone said that she had mentioned “she would love to see, to the extent that it made sense, the government publications portal to play a role in this, again, as a central repository for all the reports and white papers, things like that, that are issued by city agencies across the board.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The discussion then shifted from the creation of a central repository for the city’s webcasts to the progress in updating COPIC’s own website. COPIC meeting announcements are currently available <a href="http://pubadvocate.nyc.gov/news/events/copic-meeting-0" target="_blank">within</a> the Public Advocate site.</p> <p dir="ltr">Sbordone passed out a mock-up of the website, which is not yet functional, and which, he said, was actually created at the request of a prior public advocate a number of years ago, though he wasn’t sure which. “We stood it up for them and it’s got basic functionality, as you can see, but the content was never updated.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The next step, Sbordone said, “between now and the next time we get together, is to try to work to get that content updated with recent information.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Due to the work of this commission over the past year now,” Sbordone continued, “we have a good amount of stuff to put up - meeting minutes, meeting agendas, what we’ve accomplished, we have information on webcasting, tips, maybe even links to the webcast hearings that we’ve had, so we have quite a bit we can update the site with.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“The idea is to institutionalize COPIC,” Umair Khan, Deputy Counsel to Public Advocate James, added, “by having a web presence for a body that’s purpose is to provide City information to the public.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“That is something that we’re eagerly working on and moving forward with. We hope by mid- to late-January to have a fully functioning operational website for people to access all of our COPIC records,” Khan said. “Over time, we can tweak it and adjust it make it more user-friendly, but at least start to get this information out and make it more accessible.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In addition to webcasting information, the website could also include information on “how [agencies] can get web cameras to use for their own proceedings,” Khan said, and “will have a mailbox, so people can communicate more directly with COPIC.”</p> <p dir="ltr">James added that the website should include a list of COPIC members with brief bios on each, then adjourned the meeting, with the next meeting tentatively set for February.</p> <p dir="ltr">Under James, COPIC is more active than it has been in previous years - COPIC held only <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2014/12/8558775/public-advocate-relaunch-public-information-commission" target="_blank">one meeting</a> during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s time as Public Advocate, according to Politico New York. Though COPIC may have made some strides toward the goal of improving access to City information under the webcasting law, issues remain with both the access to equipment for webcasting, and improving the dissemination of data.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Meg O’Connor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette<br /></a><a href="https://twitter.com/megoconnor13" target="_blank">@MegOConnor13</a></p> The Week Ahead in New York Politics, December 7 2015-12-06T21:57:46+00:00 2015-12-06T21:57:46+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6020:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-dec-7 Super User <p><img alt="New York City Hall" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/640px-New_York_City_Hall.jpg" height="450" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">New York City Hall</span></p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;<em style="text-align: center;">***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?<br /></em><em>E-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>***</em></p> <p><strong>What to watch for this week in New York politics:</strong></p> <p><strong>Monday<br /></strong>On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio will&nbsp;attend the memorial service for John E. Zuccotti. At 12:30 p.m., "the Mayor will deliver remarks at NYPD's Clergy All-In Conference at One Police Plaza." At about 2:45 p.m. at the Staten Island South Shore YMCA, "the Mayor and First Lady Chirlane McCray will host a press conference to make an announcement related to substance misuse."</p> <p>On Monday morning in Albany, leading experts on the New York State Constitution and the prospects for a Constitutional Convention will hold a media “boot camp.” The event will include Gerald Benjamin of SUNY New Paltz; constitutional scholars Christopher Bopst and Peter Galie; Richard Brodsky, senior fellow at Demos and former Assembly member; and Henry M. Greenberg, chair of the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on the New York State Constitution and former counsel to the New York State attorney general. “The event is sponsored by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government of the State University of New York, New York State Bar Association, Government Law Center of Albany Law School, state League of Women Voters, Siena Research Institute and New York News Publishers Association.”&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">On Monday at 10 a.m. at City Hall, the push for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) intensifies: “Public Advocate Letitia James, Council Member Donovan Richards, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and the “BRT For NYC” Coalition will co-host a press conference to announce increased community support for bringing high-quality bus rapid transit to Queens. The “BRT For NYC” Coalition will be represented by ABNY, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, New York League of Conservation Voters, Pratt Center for Community Development, Riders Alliance, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Transportation Alternatives, Transit Workers Union Local 100, and Working Families Party. Bus riders and members of the Queens community will also be in attendance.” [Read our recent look at the issue: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5991-all-aboard-the-brt-express" target="_blank">All Abord the BRT Express?</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr">At the <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">City Council</a> on Monday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m., the Committee on Finance will meet to discuss a bill about expanding the Metrotech Area Business Improvement District.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 11 a.m., the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections will meet, agenda TBD.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1:30 a.m. on Monday, the City Council will have a Stated Meeting, prefaced as always by the Speaker’s pre-stated press conference, set for 12:30 p.m.</li> </ul> <p>At noon, before the Council’s stated meeting, there will be a rally at City Hall to unveil “First-of-its-kind NYC Council legislation to be unveiled cracking down on deadbeat companies that stiff the city’s 1.3 million.” Members of the Freelancers Union, other labor reps including from the UFT and 32BJ, other activists, and several City Council members led Brad Lander, Laurie Cumbo, Rafael Espinal, Steve Levin, and Margaret Chin <a href="https://www.eventbrite.com/e/rally-to-pass-the-freelanceisntfree-bill-tickets-19690053480" target="_blank">will hold</a> a rally at the steps of City Hall to pass legislation protecting New York City’s freelancers. [Read our recent look at the issue: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5971-city-council-developing-new-protections-for-workers-in-gig-economy" target="_blank">City Council Developing New Protections for Workers in ‘Gig’ Economy</a>]&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">As the week begins, City Council Member Jumaane Williams is in Washington, DC from Sunday to Tuesday “attending the <a href="http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?f=0010IeYMMHdXPBAyOcAGg3NEDCUNLjJUcShnt4es7ggEhsxmGTvVxd9i4dP7E9fqaSntJn0Zs05visfv9iXepdtKq7jUg7nZZlZymx1TUl6meTlRnP0DHp__etemHeKTjEgmZuwbmu3_XzPNNZF05ge1xmgbdvocUvBa2g9ZOXEGB8=&amp;c=8cU0O04C-yHYB2Q34HXfzDAefTS6CTmx8r_0pitHUy2tW5hreIg4Jg==&amp;ch=bT-YamHPEc4TkA3BHSD8me6g6uh9wG3mnMf3qqWddZR2Qo4yHZcK7w==" target="_blank">Joint Center for Political &amp; Economic Studies</a>' bi-annual Roundtable Discussion being held at George Washington Law School.” It is a conference “for a select group of 25 elected officials of color from across the nation will feature discussions regarding policy innovations.”</p> <p dir="ltr">At the <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?sh=hear" target="_blank">State Legislature</a> on Monday: at 11 a.m., the Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation and the Assembly Climate Change Work Group will hold a joint hearing on climate change.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Monday at noon, The New York City Bar Association is hosting a “<a href="https://services.nycbar.org/iMIS/Events/Event_Display.aspx?EventKey=SEN120715&amp;WebsiteKey=f71e12f3-524e-4f8c-a5f7-0d16ce7b3314" target="_blank">Lunch and Public Policy Discussion</a>” with Gale A. Brewer, Manhattan Borough President.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Monday at 5:30 p.m. at Queens Borough Hall, “The Queens Borough Board, chaired by Borough President Katz, will hear details from the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP about the department’s new “Parks Without Borders” program, which aims to make New York City public parks more open, welcoming, and beautiful by focusing on improving park entrances and edges, and park-adjacent spaces.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Monday at 7 p.m. at The New School, “Politics and Policy: The Latino Vote and The 2016 US Presidential Election” with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, among others, offering “a fresh examination of the role of Latinos in the 2016 election. Featuring a panel of journalists, pollsters, and political insiders, we’ll explore political, demographic and economic trends that will shape the outcome in 2016.” <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#.VmSlpWSDGkq" target="_blank">The event</a> is organized by Feet in 2 Worlds, The Center for New York City Affairs and the Milano School.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Monday at 8 p.m., city Comptroller Scott Stringer will deliver remarks&nbsp;"at West Side Federation of Neighborhood and Block Associations Annual Holiday Party."</p> <p><strong>Tuesday</strong><br />At the <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">City Council</a> on Tuesday: at 10 a.m., the Committee on Public Safety will meet to discuss two bills related to New York City crossing guard deployment.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?sh=hear" target="_blank">New York State Legislature</a> on Tuesday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m. in Manhattan, a joint committee hearing on Daily Fantasy Sports in New York will be held by the Assembly Standing Committee on Racing and Wagering, the Assembly Standing Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection, and the Assembly Legislative Commission on Administrative Regulations Review.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 10:30 a.m. in Albany, a joint committee hearing about law-enforcement officials using body cameras will be held by the Assembly Standing Committee on Codes, the Assembly Standing Committee on Judiciary, and the Assembly Standing Committee on Governmental Operations.</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">Beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday, a “<a href="https://www.eventbrite.com/e/city-state-public-projects-forum-tickets-18909139746" target="_blank">Public Projects Forum</a>” hosted by City &amp; State NY will have Noam Bramson, Mayor of New Rochelle, NY; Reginald Spinello, Mayor of Glen Cove, NY; Commissioner Feniosky Pena-Mora, NYC Department of Design &amp; Construction; and Holly Leicht, Regional Administrator, Housing &amp; Urban Development; speak about the upcoming public projects in the tristate area.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. at Queens Borough Hall, “The Queens Borough Cabinet, chaired by Borough President Melinda Katz, will hear a briefing from the New York City Police Department (NYPD) on its current counterterrorism efforts in light of recent events in this county and abroad. The briefing will include a review of new counterterrorism technologies employed by the NYPD. In addition, the Fire Department of New York’s (FDNY’s) Fire Education Safety Team will deliver a presentation on how City residents can best keep their homes safe during the holiday season. Also, the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation will deliver a presentation on the implementation of the Neighborhoods.nyc domain, which has launched nearly 400 online hubs for civic engagement, information sharing and economic development.”&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Wednesday</strong><br />At 10 a.m. Wednesday,<a href="http://www.manhattancc.org/events/The-Manhattan-Chamber-of-Commerce-Quarterly-Chairman's-Breakfast-2050/details" target="_blank"> The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce Quarterly Chairman's Breakfast</a> will take on the presidential transition and the need for the most carefully planned transition in United States history in anticipation of January 20, 2017. [Read an op-ed on the subject from Manhattan Chamber of Commerce Chair Ken Biberaj and David Eagles of Partnership for Public Service: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/6012-lets-be-prepared-for-americas-biggest-corporate-takeover" target="_blank">Let’s Be Prepared for America’s Biggest Corporate Takeover</a>]&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">At the <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">City Council</a> on Wednesday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m., the Committee on Health will meet to discuss a bill to create two new health-focused city government bodies and another that would require the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene “to post a New York City map on its website of the clinics they run, comprehensive care and primary care facilities run by the Health and Hospitals Corporation, voluntary non-profit and publicly sponsored diagnostic and treatment centers, and federally qualified health centers.”</li> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m., the Committee on General Welfare will hold an oversight hearing on the city’s efforts to address “the homelessness crisis.” [Read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5994-as-homelessness-crisis-continues-shelter-siting-questions-intensify" target="_blank">our recent look at issues related to how and where homeless shelters are sited</a>.]</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m., the Committees on Aging and Finance will meet for a joint oversight hearing on the city’s “efforts to conduct outreach” and boost registration for the Rent Freeze Program; and on a new a bill that would “require the Department of Finance to include a notification regarding preferential rent on certain documents related to the NYC Rent Freeze Program.”</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m., the Committee on Civil Rights will meet to discuss four bills regarding the city’s human rights law.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m., the Committee on Immigration will have an oversight hearing about “Resources Available in New York City for Unaccompanied Minors.”</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">At the <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?sh=hear" target="_blank">New York State Legislature</a> on Wednesday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At noon in Manhattan, the Assembly Standing Committees on Labor and Small Business as well as the Assembly Commission on Skills Development and Careers Education will hold a joint oversight hearing on the state’s apprenticeship programs.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m. in Albany, the Assembly Standing Committee on Real Property Taxation will hold an oversight hearing on the 2015-2016 budget plan.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Thursday</strong><br />At the <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">City Council</a> on Thursday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m., the Committee on Housing and Buildings meet on three bills. The first would create a Department of Buildings-headed task force that would assess the dangers posed by construction sites to motorists and pedestrians and submit recommendations to the City Council and mayor about measures proposed to minimize the hazard. The other two bills would raise penalties for working without a permit and for violating stop work directives.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 10:30 a.m., the Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions will review two land use applications.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 11 a.m., the Committee on Land Use will review five applications.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m., the Committee on Civil Service and Labor and the Committee on Higher Education will have a joint oversight hearing on “Establishing the Murphy Institute as a new CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies.”</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">At the <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?sh=hear" target="_blank">New York State Legislature</a> on Thursday: at 10:30 a.m. in Manhattan, the Assembly Standing Committee on Election Law and the Assembly Standing Subcommittee on Election Day Operations and Voter Disenfranchisement will hold a joint oversight hearing about “Enhancing the voter experience, preventing voter disenfranchisement and improving emergency voting protocols.”</p> <p dir="ltr">At 8:30 a.m. at Civic Hall on Thursday, Scott Stringer’s <a href="https://twitter.com/scottmstringer/status/671474583002853377" target="_blank">Red Tape Commission</a> will meet in Manhattan to hear suggestions from small business owners and others.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Thursday, the Staten Island Borough Board is expected to vote on Mayor de Blasio's two rezoning amendment proposals. It will be the fifth borough to do so - the other four have voted against them, sometimes with lists of conditions that the advisory boards would like to see made to revised proposals.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 4 p.m. Thursday, the New York City Campaign Finance Board holds a “<a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/about/calendar/new-cfb-1" target="_blank">New to the CFB</a>” session.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6 p.m. Thursday: “Power Lines: Race, Class, The City &amp; Its Schools,” <a href="http://www.thegreenespace.org/events/thegreenespace/2015/dec/10/power-lines-race-class-city-its-schools/" target="_blank">a discussion</a> about segregation in New York City schools.</p> <p><strong>Friday and the weekend</strong><br />At the <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?sh=hear" target="_blank">New York State Legislature</a> on Friday: at 10:30 a.m. in Manhattan, a hearing of the Assembly Standing Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development regarding “Injuries in combative sports.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is launching a Manhattan Youth Council, and is holding an initial information session on Friday afternoon at her offices. “High school students from across Manhattan are invited to meet and talk with Borough President Gale Brewer about the issues that matter most to you...Young people who live, work, or attend school in Manhattan can <a href="https://go.madmimi.com/redirects/1449268325-d12c165ed357d5dc005c17a8f0bfdd20-98399a7?pa=35173649382" target="_blank">sign up here</a>.”</p> <p>***<br />Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>&nbsp;(please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).</p> <p>***<br />by Konstantine Beridze, Ryan Brady, and Ben Max<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p><img alt="New York City Hall" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/640px-New_York_City_Hall.jpg" height="450" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">New York City Hall</span></p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;<em style="text-align: center;">***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?<br /></em><em>E-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>***</em></p> <p><strong>What to watch for this week in New York politics:</strong></p> <p><strong>Monday<br /></strong>On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio will&nbsp;attend the memorial service for John E. Zuccotti. At 12:30 p.m., "the Mayor will deliver remarks at NYPD's Clergy All-In Conference at One Police Plaza." At about 2:45 p.m. at the Staten Island South Shore YMCA, "the Mayor and First Lady Chirlane McCray will host a press conference to make an announcement related to substance misuse."</p> <p>On Monday morning in Albany, leading experts on the New York State Constitution and the prospects for a Constitutional Convention will hold a media “boot camp.” The event will include Gerald Benjamin of SUNY New Paltz; constitutional scholars Christopher Bopst and Peter Galie; Richard Brodsky, senior fellow at Demos and former Assembly member; and Henry M. Greenberg, chair of the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on the New York State Constitution and former counsel to the New York State attorney general. “The event is sponsored by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government of the State University of New York, New York State Bar Association, Government Law Center of Albany Law School, state League of Women Voters, Siena Research Institute and New York News Publishers Association.”&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">On Monday at 10 a.m. at City Hall, the push for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) intensifies: “Public Advocate Letitia James, Council Member Donovan Richards, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and the “BRT For NYC” Coalition will co-host a press conference to announce increased community support for bringing high-quality bus rapid transit to Queens. The “BRT For NYC” Coalition will be represented by ABNY, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, New York League of Conservation Voters, Pratt Center for Community Development, Riders Alliance, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Transportation Alternatives, Transit Workers Union Local 100, and Working Families Party. Bus riders and members of the Queens community will also be in attendance.” [Read our recent look at the issue: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5991-all-aboard-the-brt-express" target="_blank">All Abord the BRT Express?</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr">At the <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">City Council</a> on Monday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m., the Committee on Finance will meet to discuss a bill about expanding the Metrotech Area Business Improvement District.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 11 a.m., the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections will meet, agenda TBD.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1:30 a.m. on Monday, the City Council will have a Stated Meeting, prefaced as always by the Speaker’s pre-stated press conference, set for 12:30 p.m.</li> </ul> <p>At noon, before the Council’s stated meeting, there will be a rally at City Hall to unveil “First-of-its-kind NYC Council legislation to be unveiled cracking down on deadbeat companies that stiff the city’s 1.3 million.” Members of the Freelancers Union, other labor reps including from the UFT and 32BJ, other activists, and several City Council members led Brad Lander, Laurie Cumbo, Rafael Espinal, Steve Levin, and Margaret Chin <a href="https://www.eventbrite.com/e/rally-to-pass-the-freelanceisntfree-bill-tickets-19690053480" target="_blank">will hold</a> a rally at the steps of City Hall to pass legislation protecting New York City’s freelancers. [Read our recent look at the issue: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5971-city-council-developing-new-protections-for-workers-in-gig-economy" target="_blank">City Council Developing New Protections for Workers in ‘Gig’ Economy</a>]&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">As the week begins, City Council Member Jumaane Williams is in Washington, DC from Sunday to Tuesday “attending the <a href="http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?f=0010IeYMMHdXPBAyOcAGg3NEDCUNLjJUcShnt4es7ggEhsxmGTvVxd9i4dP7E9fqaSntJn0Zs05visfv9iXepdtKq7jUg7nZZlZymx1TUl6meTlRnP0DHp__etemHeKTjEgmZuwbmu3_XzPNNZF05ge1xmgbdvocUvBa2g9ZOXEGB8=&amp;c=8cU0O04C-yHYB2Q34HXfzDAefTS6CTmx8r_0pitHUy2tW5hreIg4Jg==&amp;ch=bT-YamHPEc4TkA3BHSD8me6g6uh9wG3mnMf3qqWddZR2Qo4yHZcK7w==" target="_blank">Joint Center for Political &amp; Economic Studies</a>' bi-annual Roundtable Discussion being held at George Washington Law School.” It is a conference “for a select group of 25 elected officials of color from across the nation will feature discussions regarding policy innovations.”</p> <p dir="ltr">At the <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?sh=hear" target="_blank">State Legislature</a> on Monday: at 11 a.m., the Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation and the Assembly Climate Change Work Group will hold a joint hearing on climate change.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Monday at noon, The New York City Bar Association is hosting a “<a href="https://services.nycbar.org/iMIS/Events/Event_Display.aspx?EventKey=SEN120715&amp;WebsiteKey=f71e12f3-524e-4f8c-a5f7-0d16ce7b3314" target="_blank">Lunch and Public Policy Discussion</a>” with Gale A. Brewer, Manhattan Borough President.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Monday at 5:30 p.m. at Queens Borough Hall, “The Queens Borough Board, chaired by Borough President Katz, will hear details from the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP about the department’s new “Parks Without Borders” program, which aims to make New York City public parks more open, welcoming, and beautiful by focusing on improving park entrances and edges, and park-adjacent spaces.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Monday at 7 p.m. at The New School, “Politics and Policy: The Latino Vote and The 2016 US Presidential Election” with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, among others, offering “a fresh examination of the role of Latinos in the 2016 election. Featuring a panel of journalists, pollsters, and political insiders, we’ll explore political, demographic and economic trends that will shape the outcome in 2016.” <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#.VmSlpWSDGkq" target="_blank">The event</a> is organized by Feet in 2 Worlds, The Center for New York City Affairs and the Milano School.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Monday at 8 p.m., city Comptroller Scott Stringer will deliver remarks&nbsp;"at West Side Federation of Neighborhood and Block Associations Annual Holiday Party."</p> <p><strong>Tuesday</strong><br />At the <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">City Council</a> on Tuesday: at 10 a.m., the Committee on Public Safety will meet to discuss two bills related to New York City crossing guard deployment.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?sh=hear" target="_blank">New York State Legislature</a> on Tuesday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m. in Manhattan, a joint committee hearing on Daily Fantasy Sports in New York will be held by the Assembly Standing Committee on Racing and Wagering, the Assembly Standing Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection, and the Assembly Legislative Commission on Administrative Regulations Review.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 10:30 a.m. in Albany, a joint committee hearing about law-enforcement officials using body cameras will be held by the Assembly Standing Committee on Codes, the Assembly Standing Committee on Judiciary, and the Assembly Standing Committee on Governmental Operations.</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">Beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday, a “<a href="https://www.eventbrite.com/e/city-state-public-projects-forum-tickets-18909139746" target="_blank">Public Projects Forum</a>” hosted by City &amp; State NY will have Noam Bramson, Mayor of New Rochelle, NY; Reginald Spinello, Mayor of Glen Cove, NY; Commissioner Feniosky Pena-Mora, NYC Department of Design &amp; Construction; and Holly Leicht, Regional Administrator, Housing &amp; Urban Development; speak about the upcoming public projects in the tristate area.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. at Queens Borough Hall, “The Queens Borough Cabinet, chaired by Borough President Melinda Katz, will hear a briefing from the New York City Police Department (NYPD) on its current counterterrorism efforts in light of recent events in this county and abroad. The briefing will include a review of new counterterrorism technologies employed by the NYPD. In addition, the Fire Department of New York’s (FDNY’s) Fire Education Safety Team will deliver a presentation on how City residents can best keep their homes safe during the holiday season. Also, the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation will deliver a presentation on the implementation of the Neighborhoods.nyc domain, which has launched nearly 400 online hubs for civic engagement, information sharing and economic development.”&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Wednesday</strong><br />At 10 a.m. Wednesday,<a href="http://www.manhattancc.org/events/The-Manhattan-Chamber-of-Commerce-Quarterly-Chairman's-Breakfast-2050/details" target="_blank"> The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce Quarterly Chairman's Breakfast</a> will take on the presidential transition and the need for the most carefully planned transition in United States history in anticipation of January 20, 2017. [Read an op-ed on the subject from Manhattan Chamber of Commerce Chair Ken Biberaj and David Eagles of Partnership for Public Service: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/6012-lets-be-prepared-for-americas-biggest-corporate-takeover" target="_blank">Let’s Be Prepared for America’s Biggest Corporate Takeover</a>]&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">At the <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">City Council</a> on Wednesday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m., the Committee on Health will meet to discuss a bill to create two new health-focused city government bodies and another that would require the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene “to post a New York City map on its website of the clinics they run, comprehensive care and primary care facilities run by the Health and Hospitals Corporation, voluntary non-profit and publicly sponsored diagnostic and treatment centers, and federally qualified health centers.”</li> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m., the Committee on General Welfare will hold an oversight hearing on the city’s efforts to address “the homelessness crisis.” [Read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5994-as-homelessness-crisis-continues-shelter-siting-questions-intensify" target="_blank">our recent look at issues related to how and where homeless shelters are sited</a>.]</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m., the Committees on Aging and Finance will meet for a joint oversight hearing on the city’s “efforts to conduct outreach” and boost registration for the Rent Freeze Program; and on a new a bill that would “require the Department of Finance to include a notification regarding preferential rent on certain documents related to the NYC Rent Freeze Program.”</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m., the Committee on Civil Rights will meet to discuss four bills regarding the city’s human rights law.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m., the Committee on Immigration will have an oversight hearing about “Resources Available in New York City for Unaccompanied Minors.”</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">At the <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?sh=hear" target="_blank">New York State Legislature</a> on Wednesday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At noon in Manhattan, the Assembly Standing Committees on Labor and Small Business as well as the Assembly Commission on Skills Development and Careers Education will hold a joint oversight hearing on the state’s apprenticeship programs.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m. in Albany, the Assembly Standing Committee on Real Property Taxation will hold an oversight hearing on the 2015-2016 budget plan.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Thursday</strong><br />At the <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">City Council</a> on Thursday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m., the Committee on Housing and Buildings meet on three bills. The first would create a Department of Buildings-headed task force that would assess the dangers posed by construction sites to motorists and pedestrians and submit recommendations to the City Council and mayor about measures proposed to minimize the hazard. The other two bills would raise penalties for working without a permit and for violating stop work directives.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 10:30 a.m., the Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions will review two land use applications.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 11 a.m., the Committee on Land Use will review five applications.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m., the Committee on Civil Service and Labor and the Committee on Higher Education will have a joint oversight hearing on “Establishing the Murphy Institute as a new CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies.”</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">At the <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?sh=hear" target="_blank">New York State Legislature</a> on Thursday: at 10:30 a.m. in Manhattan, the Assembly Standing Committee on Election Law and the Assembly Standing Subcommittee on Election Day Operations and Voter Disenfranchisement will hold a joint oversight hearing about “Enhancing the voter experience, preventing voter disenfranchisement and improving emergency voting protocols.”</p> <p dir="ltr">At 8:30 a.m. at Civic Hall on Thursday, Scott Stringer’s <a href="https://twitter.com/scottmstringer/status/671474583002853377" target="_blank">Red Tape Commission</a> will meet in Manhattan to hear suggestions from small business owners and others.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Thursday, the Staten Island Borough Board is expected to vote on Mayor de Blasio's two rezoning amendment proposals. It will be the fifth borough to do so - the other four have voted against them, sometimes with lists of conditions that the advisory boards would like to see made to revised proposals.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 4 p.m. Thursday, the New York City Campaign Finance Board holds a “<a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/about/calendar/new-cfb-1" target="_blank">New to the CFB</a>” session.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6 p.m. Thursday: “Power Lines: Race, Class, The City &amp; Its Schools,” <a href="http://www.thegreenespace.org/events/thegreenespace/2015/dec/10/power-lines-race-class-city-its-schools/" target="_blank">a discussion</a> about segregation in New York City schools.</p> <p><strong>Friday and the weekend</strong><br />At the <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?sh=hear" target="_blank">New York State Legislature</a> on Friday: at 10:30 a.m. in Manhattan, a hearing of the Assembly Standing Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development regarding “Injuries in combative sports.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is launching a Manhattan Youth Council, and is holding an initial information session on Friday afternoon at her offices. “High school students from across Manhattan are invited to meet and talk with Borough President Gale Brewer about the issues that matter most to you...Young people who live, work, or attend school in Manhattan can <a href="https://go.madmimi.com/redirects/1449268325-d12c165ed357d5dc005c17a8f0bfdd20-98399a7?pa=35173649382" target="_blank">sign up here</a>.”</p> <p>***<br />Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>&nbsp;(please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).</p> <p>***<br />by Konstantine Beridze, Ryan Brady, and Ben Max<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> Assessing City Library Expansion After Budget Boost 2015-11-25T20:07:09+00:00 2015-11-25T20:07:09+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6008:assessing-city-library-expansion-after-budget-boost Super User <p dir="ltr"><img alt="van bramer six day library service" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/van_bramer_six_day_library_service.jpg" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">CM Van Bramer celebrates expanded library service (photo via @JimmyVanBramer)</span>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>This June, officials added $43 million in funding for New York City’s three public library systems to the fiscal year 2016 budget, allowing for expansion of branch operating hours and a return to six-day service for the first time in nearly a decade.</p> <p dir="ltr">At an oversight <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=443911&amp;GUID=B8E10C08-C195-4A8B-A3E8-6B2E59C4DCFE&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank">hearing</a> on Monday, November 30, City Council members will seek an update on the libraries’ progress implementing six-day service, with particular focus on staffing and how the added funds are being allocated, as well as outreach efforts to inform the public of the newly expanded hours.</p> <p dir="ltr">Just as the added budget funding was much-applauded when it was announced, the hearing will likely be a celebratory affair - according to interviews and information obtained by Gotham Gazette, expansion is moving quickly across the systems. This includes more six-day service, hiring of new staff, and more.</p> <p dir="ltr">The <a href="http://www.nypl.org/press/press-release/june-26-2015/historic-investment-new-york-city-allows-public-libraries-offer" target="_blank">historic</a> funding increase comes after a <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pr/062915lf.shtml" target="_blank">push</a> by advocates, City Council members, Public Advocate Letitia James, and others. The city’s three public library systems, the Brooklyn Public Library, the Queens Public Library, and the New York Public Library (which has branches in Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx), operate <a href="http://www.nypl.org/press/press-release/june-26-2015/historic-investment-new-york-city-allows-public-libraries-offer" target="_blank">217</a> local library branches and served <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/24/nyregion/denying-new-york-libraries-the-fuel-they-need.html?_r=0" target="_blank">37 million visitors</a> in fiscal year 2014 - more than all of the city's professional sports teams and other major cultural institutions combined.</p> <p dir="ltr">Today, New York’s public libraries are far more than a place to take out a book - they play a critical role in the lives of New Yorkers who are most in need of the services that libraries offer, like early childhood education, job training, technology classes, free tax assistance, and English classes.</p> <p dir="ltr">As Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer told Gotham Gazette, “Libraries are really the first line of defense when it comes to bridging the information gap and technology gap. Folks who are working class, working poor, they're working during the week, and so many of them can’t get to libraries during the week. Saturdays and Sundays are the only times they can get to the library.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Which is why, Van Bramer says, it is “really imperative to have libraries open on Saturdays. It’s absolutely essentially to reach every New Yorker and it is essential for every New Yorker to have access to library services, programs, and materials.”</p> <p dir="ltr">At the upcoming hearing, Van Bramer, Chair of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations, said he “will ask how the three library systems have ramped up, whether every library is at expanded hours at this point, and if not, when will they be expanded?”</p> <p dir="ltr">Making a few calls ahead of the hearing, which was postponed from an earlier date, Gotham Gazette was able to pull together some of that information.</p> <p dir="ltr">Since <a href="http://www.bklynlibrary.org/Expanded-Hours-of-Service" target="_blank">October 19</a>, all of the Brooklyn Public Library’s local branches are now open at least six days a week, while the Queens Public Library’s branches began six-day service <a href="http://www.queenslibrary.org/node/1891625" target="_blank">November 15</a>. The New York Public Library’s branches already had six-day service, so the added funding is being used to extend hours, bringing the total number of NYPL branches open on Sundays from three to seven.</p> <p dir="ltr">Van Bramer said he also intends to ask “how their hiring is going - obviously a large part of the funding we allocated to expand days of service goes toward staffing - so how many new librarians and new library workers have been hired? Have they hired everyone they need to hire, or are they still in the process of hiring to get to that staffing level they need for full six-day service? I want to know how much more do they have to do.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The added funding has “meant a big uptick in hiring,” Queens Public Library Interim President and CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey told Gotham Gazette. “We’ve hired over 100 positions.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The New York Public Library, meanwhile, has “hired 60 new librarians,” George Mihaltses, head of government affairs at NYPL, told Gotham Gazette. “And we’re planning to hire 36 more.”&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Even one new librarian can make a significant impact. According to the<a href="http://www.nypl.org/press/press-release/new-york-public-library-increase-staff-hours-and-sunday-service-following" target="_blank"> NYPL</a>, in fiscal year 2015, the library used added funds to hire a children's specialist for a branch in the Bronx. As a direct result of the librarian's arrival, NYPL says, children's programming attendance at that branch increased by about 60 percent.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Andy King, Chair of the Subcommittee on Libraries, co-hosting Monday’s hearing with Van Bramer’s committtee, told Gotham Gazette that the committees want to find out specifics about “how the libraries plan on rolling out six-day service. How are they going to be doing programs in the libraries, what services will be provided on that sixth day? What kind of outreach is being made to ensure people know about six-day service? Will we be having events to promote the rollout together? With the...millions that have been allocated to the library system, how will this money be spent?”</p> <p dir="ltr">In addition to increasing libraries’ hours of operation and hiring more librarians, those added millions will be used to bring more programs, books, and materials, to the NYPL’s branches, Mihaltses said. For the Queens library system, the added funds will be used enhance early literacy and afterschool programs, and to increase the library’s budget to purchase books, videos, e-books, and other materials by 30 percent, a library official told <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151006/jamaica/6-day-service-coming-all-queens-library-branches" target="_blank">DNAinfo</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member King told Gotham Gazette “making sure the libraries’ outreach is successful” is what he believed is the most important factor to consider when allocating resources to the many branches of New York City’s library systems. “We need to let people know that our libraries are open,” King said, “and we need to be prepared to receive them as they come into the doors.”</p> <p dir="ltr">As far as outreach goes, David Woloch, executive vice president of external affairs at the Brooklyn Public Library, told Gotham Gazette that much of their outreach would occur “over the next few weeks. We’re going to be communicating to our patrons at all of our branches, we have a very big email list and we’ll be communicating the new hours to our entire email list, and using social media. There’s a lot of pieces to it - basically on every front we want to be getting the word out there.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The Queens Public Library system took a more festive route to let the community know about the expanded hours, holding <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151103/jamaica/queens-library-kick-off-6-day-service-with-performances-animal-shows" target="_blank">celebrations</a> at about two dozen of its branches on Saturday, Nov. 21. “It’s all about making a big splash,” Quinn-Carey said. Scheduled events included meet-and-greets by eleven City Council members, as well as programs like face-painting, arts and crafts, storytelling, science labs, documentary screenings, and live music and dance performances.</p> <p dir="ltr">“There will be a lot of promotion,” Quinn-Carey added, “not just this Saturday, but ongoing. We’re encouraging our branches to do a lot of local outreach.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Overall, Monday’s hearing is a chance for city officials to “get some sense of accountability,” King said, adding he would like to know “what the plans are for the upcoming year, and how we all will profit from libraries being open six days a week.”</p> <p dir="ltr">For many, the expanded hours of service comes as a much-needed relief, giving struggling New Yorkers with hectic work schedules a chance to utilize helpful programs offered by libraries that they simply couldn’t make it to before.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Whenever we would go out into the communities to see people,” Quinn-Carey said, “they would always say, ‘We really want Saturday service or Sunday service - we need another day.’ Especially for two-parent working families or single-parent families, there really weren't many opportunities to get to the libraries. it just wasn’t convenient for them.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“More and more people are relying on the library to be the sole source of their internet connection, they rely on us for basic education classes, or preschool classes, or ESL classes. They have a fundamental need to get into the library and it needs to be convenient for them,” Quinn-Carey continued.</p> <p dir="ltr">“They want to get help for their children's homework. I think that's what so important - that, thanks to support from the city, we are now able...to open doors for the community. This is one of those things where you think to yourself, ‘the government is working for me,’ because it's a service they can see is being provided by public money.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Although the $43 million in funding added to this year’s budget has rightfully been lauded by library advocates, Council Members, and others, as Van Bramer points out, “six-day service should be the bare minimum. This should be baselined [in the budget] right away and not subject to any further cuts.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Large funding <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/View.ashx?M=F&amp;ID=3666504&amp;GUID=EDA7C1BB-DB45-4A8D-AC00-96D06FAD98CF" target="_blank">deficits</a> to the three library systems beginning in fiscal year 2011 required the City Council and the administration to restore funding, which the city began to do in fiscal year 2014. Van Bramer himself played a key role in securing the increased funds for this fiscal year.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We need the administration and Mayor de Blasio to baseline this funding,” Van Bramer said. “I do think libraries would love to see some additional funding, but I think, at a bare minimum, we need to baseline this funding and then we can talk about potential increases.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Even with the newly expanded hours, New York City still lags behind other major cities and even other New York counties in terms of how many hours per week public libraries are open, according to a <a href="https://nycfuture.org/research/publications/branches-of-opportunity" target="_blank">report</a> by the Center for an Urban Future. In Suffolk and Nassau counties, libraries are open 64 hours per week. In Rockland County, 60 hours per week; in Westchester, 54 hours per week; and in Onondaga County, 53 hours per week. Public libraries in San Antonio are open 57 hours per week, while those in Los Angeles are open 53 hours.</p> <p dir="ltr">Woloch said that by adding hours throughout the system, most Brooklyn Public Library branches are now open at least 48 hours a week. Mihaltses said the New York Public Library’s branches “will be open, on average, 50 hours a week per branch, up from 45 hours.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The eventual goal, City Council sources say, is to expand to seven-day service.</p> <p dir="ltr">To Jeanette Estima, a researcher from the Center for an Urban Future who helped put together the report on library hours, this much is clear: “Libraries are used <a href="https://nycfuture.org/data/info/nyc-libraries-by-the-numbers" target="_blank">more than ever</a> today. They’re used by people who are learning how to do computer programming, people who want to brush up on skills to make themselves more marketable, and when libraries are open for more hours, they are able to reach more people.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Libraries are tied to the development of human capital in New York City,” Estima continued. “Today’s market is a knowledge-based economy, and this is the only free resource to build these skills for New Yorkers.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Meg O’Connor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette<br /></a><a href="https://twitter.com/megoconnor13" target="_blank">@MegOConnor13</a></p> <p dir="ltr"><img alt="van bramer six day library service" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/van_bramer_six_day_library_service.jpg" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">CM Van Bramer celebrates expanded library service (photo via @JimmyVanBramer)</span>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>This June, officials added $43 million in funding for New York City’s three public library systems to the fiscal year 2016 budget, allowing for expansion of branch operating hours and a return to six-day service for the first time in nearly a decade.</p> <p dir="ltr">At an oversight <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=443911&amp;GUID=B8E10C08-C195-4A8B-A3E8-6B2E59C4DCFE&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank">hearing</a> on Monday, November 30, City Council members will seek an update on the libraries’ progress implementing six-day service, with particular focus on staffing and how the added funds are being allocated, as well as outreach efforts to inform the public of the newly expanded hours.</p> <p dir="ltr">Just as the added budget funding was much-applauded when it was announced, the hearing will likely be a celebratory affair - according to interviews and information obtained by Gotham Gazette, expansion is moving quickly across the systems. This includes more six-day service, hiring of new staff, and more.</p> <p dir="ltr">The <a href="http://www.nypl.org/press/press-release/june-26-2015/historic-investment-new-york-city-allows-public-libraries-offer" target="_blank">historic</a> funding increase comes after a <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pr/062915lf.shtml" target="_blank">push</a> by advocates, City Council members, Public Advocate Letitia James, and others. The city’s three public library systems, the Brooklyn Public Library, the Queens Public Library, and the New York Public Library (which has branches in Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx), operate <a href="http://www.nypl.org/press/press-release/june-26-2015/historic-investment-new-york-city-allows-public-libraries-offer" target="_blank">217</a> local library branches and served <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/24/nyregion/denying-new-york-libraries-the-fuel-they-need.html?_r=0" target="_blank">37 million visitors</a> in fiscal year 2014 - more than all of the city's professional sports teams and other major cultural institutions combined.</p> <p dir="ltr">Today, New York’s public libraries are far more than a place to take out a book - they play a critical role in the lives of New Yorkers who are most in need of the services that libraries offer, like early childhood education, job training, technology classes, free tax assistance, and English classes.</p> <p dir="ltr">As Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer told Gotham Gazette, “Libraries are really the first line of defense when it comes to bridging the information gap and technology gap. Folks who are working class, working poor, they're working during the week, and so many of them can’t get to libraries during the week. Saturdays and Sundays are the only times they can get to the library.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Which is why, Van Bramer says, it is “really imperative to have libraries open on Saturdays. It’s absolutely essentially to reach every New Yorker and it is essential for every New Yorker to have access to library services, programs, and materials.”</p> <p dir="ltr">At the upcoming hearing, Van Bramer, Chair of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations, said he “will ask how the three library systems have ramped up, whether every library is at expanded hours at this point, and if not, when will they be expanded?”</p> <p dir="ltr">Making a few calls ahead of the hearing, which was postponed from an earlier date, Gotham Gazette was able to pull together some of that information.</p> <p dir="ltr">Since <a href="http://www.bklynlibrary.org/Expanded-Hours-of-Service" target="_blank">October 19</a>, all of the Brooklyn Public Library’s local branches are now open at least six days a week, while the Queens Public Library’s branches began six-day service <a href="http://www.queenslibrary.org/node/1891625" target="_blank">November 15</a>. The New York Public Library’s branches already had six-day service, so the added funding is being used to extend hours, bringing the total number of NYPL branches open on Sundays from three to seven.</p> <p dir="ltr">Van Bramer said he also intends to ask “how their hiring is going - obviously a large part of the funding we allocated to expand days of service goes toward staffing - so how many new librarians and new library workers have been hired? Have they hired everyone they need to hire, or are they still in the process of hiring to get to that staffing level they need for full six-day service? I want to know how much more do they have to do.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The added funding has “meant a big uptick in hiring,” Queens Public Library Interim President and CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey told Gotham Gazette. “We’ve hired over 100 positions.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The New York Public Library, meanwhile, has “hired 60 new librarians,” George Mihaltses, head of government affairs at NYPL, told Gotham Gazette. “And we’re planning to hire 36 more.”&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Even one new librarian can make a significant impact. According to the<a href="http://www.nypl.org/press/press-release/new-york-public-library-increase-staff-hours-and-sunday-service-following" target="_blank"> NYPL</a>, in fiscal year 2015, the library used added funds to hire a children's specialist for a branch in the Bronx. As a direct result of the librarian's arrival, NYPL says, children's programming attendance at that branch increased by about 60 percent.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Andy King, Chair of the Subcommittee on Libraries, co-hosting Monday’s hearing with Van Bramer’s committtee, told Gotham Gazette that the committees want to find out specifics about “how the libraries plan on rolling out six-day service. How are they going to be doing programs in the libraries, what services will be provided on that sixth day? What kind of outreach is being made to ensure people know about six-day service? Will we be having events to promote the rollout together? With the...millions that have been allocated to the library system, how will this money be spent?”</p> <p dir="ltr">In addition to increasing libraries’ hours of operation and hiring more librarians, those added millions will be used to bring more programs, books, and materials, to the NYPL’s branches, Mihaltses said. For the Queens library system, the added funds will be used enhance early literacy and afterschool programs, and to increase the library’s budget to purchase books, videos, e-books, and other materials by 30 percent, a library official told <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151006/jamaica/6-day-service-coming-all-queens-library-branches" target="_blank">DNAinfo</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member King told Gotham Gazette “making sure the libraries’ outreach is successful” is what he believed is the most important factor to consider when allocating resources to the many branches of New York City’s library systems. “We need to let people know that our libraries are open,” King said, “and we need to be prepared to receive them as they come into the doors.”</p> <p dir="ltr">As far as outreach goes, David Woloch, executive vice president of external affairs at the Brooklyn Public Library, told Gotham Gazette that much of their outreach would occur “over the next few weeks. We’re going to be communicating to our patrons at all of our branches, we have a very big email list and we’ll be communicating the new hours to our entire email list, and using social media. There’s a lot of pieces to it - basically on every front we want to be getting the word out there.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The Queens Public Library system took a more festive route to let the community know about the expanded hours, holding <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151103/jamaica/queens-library-kick-off-6-day-service-with-performances-animal-shows" target="_blank">celebrations</a> at about two dozen of its branches on Saturday, Nov. 21. “It’s all about making a big splash,” Quinn-Carey said. Scheduled events included meet-and-greets by eleven City Council members, as well as programs like face-painting, arts and crafts, storytelling, science labs, documentary screenings, and live music and dance performances.</p> <p dir="ltr">“There will be a lot of promotion,” Quinn-Carey added, “not just this Saturday, but ongoing. We’re encouraging our branches to do a lot of local outreach.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Overall, Monday’s hearing is a chance for city officials to “get some sense of accountability,” King said, adding he would like to know “what the plans are for the upcoming year, and how we all will profit from libraries being open six days a week.”</p> <p dir="ltr">For many, the expanded hours of service comes as a much-needed relief, giving struggling New Yorkers with hectic work schedules a chance to utilize helpful programs offered by libraries that they simply couldn’t make it to before.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Whenever we would go out into the communities to see people,” Quinn-Carey said, “they would always say, ‘We really want Saturday service or Sunday service - we need another day.’ Especially for two-parent working families or single-parent families, there really weren't many opportunities to get to the libraries. it just wasn’t convenient for them.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“More and more people are relying on the library to be the sole source of their internet connection, they rely on us for basic education classes, or preschool classes, or ESL classes. They have a fundamental need to get into the library and it needs to be convenient for them,” Quinn-Carey continued.</p> <p dir="ltr">“They want to get help for their children's homework. I think that's what so important - that, thanks to support from the city, we are now able...to open doors for the community. This is one of those things where you think to yourself, ‘the government is working for me,’ because it's a service they can see is being provided by public money.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Although the $43 million in funding added to this year’s budget has rightfully been lauded by library advocates, Council Members, and others, as Van Bramer points out, “six-day service should be the bare minimum. This should be baselined [in the budget] right away and not subject to any further cuts.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Large funding <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/View.ashx?M=F&amp;ID=3666504&amp;GUID=EDA7C1BB-DB45-4A8D-AC00-96D06FAD98CF" target="_blank">deficits</a> to the three library systems beginning in fiscal year 2011 required the City Council and the administration to restore funding, which the city began to do in fiscal year 2014. Van Bramer himself played a key role in securing the increased funds for this fiscal year.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We need the administration and Mayor de Blasio to baseline this funding,” Van Bramer said. “I do think libraries would love to see some additional funding, but I think, at a bare minimum, we need to baseline this funding and then we can talk about potential increases.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Even with the newly expanded hours, New York City still lags behind other major cities and even other New York counties in terms of how many hours per week public libraries are open, according to a <a href="https://nycfuture.org/research/publications/branches-of-opportunity" target="_blank">report</a> by the Center for an Urban Future. In Suffolk and Nassau counties, libraries are open 64 hours per week. In Rockland County, 60 hours per week; in Westchester, 54 hours per week; and in Onondaga County, 53 hours per week. Public libraries in San Antonio are open 57 hours per week, while those in Los Angeles are open 53 hours.</p> <p dir="ltr">Woloch said that by adding hours throughout the system, most Brooklyn Public Library branches are now open at least 48 hours a week. Mihaltses said the New York Public Library’s branches “will be open, on average, 50 hours a week per branch, up from 45 hours.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The eventual goal, City Council sources say, is to expand to seven-day service.</p> <p dir="ltr">To Jeanette Estima, a researcher from the Center for an Urban Future who helped put together the report on library hours, this much is clear: “Libraries are used <a href="https://nycfuture.org/data/info/nyc-libraries-by-the-numbers" target="_blank">more than ever</a> today. They’re used by people who are learning how to do computer programming, people who want to brush up on skills to make themselves more marketable, and when libraries are open for more hours, they are able to reach more people.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Libraries are tied to the development of human capital in New York City,” Estima continued. “Today’s market is a knowledge-based economy, and this is the only free resource to build these skills for New Yorkers.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Meg O’Connor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette<br /></a><a href="https://twitter.com/megoconnor13" target="_blank">@MegOConnor13</a></p>