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Citizens Union
 

Reinvent Albany

Reinvent Albany

  • gov and cuomo coughlin votes

    (Photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)


    The State Board of Elections voted on Wednesday to hobble the subpoena powers of Chief Enforcement Counsel Risa Sugarman, dealing a significant blow to one of the state’s only election law watchdogs.

    The new rules, which were voted on by the board at a commissioners’ meeting in Albany, would require Sugarman to obtain permission from the board members (two Democrats, two Republicans) for each subpoena she plans to issue in a probe, and for the “circumstances of the investigation”

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  • govcuomo speakerheastie

    Speaker Heastie, left, and Governor Cuomo (photo via the Governor's Office)


    Amid open conflict with Governor Andrew Cuomo, a second-term Democrat, the Republican-controlled state Senate recently passed a package of bills aimed at shedding light on taxpayer-funded economic development projects, among other reform measures. The move helped reignite attention on the legislation and put pressure on the Democrat-led Assembly to pass bills it has previously supported.

    The legislation includes the Procurement Integrity Act, which would restore

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  • City Council Cabrera Vallone

    CMs Cabrera, left, and Vallone (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)


    How does the New York City Council check city government agencies without legislating agency operations, which it sometimes does not have the power to do? Reporting bills.

    The Council often passes legislation that requires an agency under the direction of the mayor to produce a report, like Local Law 47, which compels the NYPD to compile data on subway fare-beating arrests. This bill, and the NYPD’s response, quickly became another flash point in tensions between city agencies and the

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  • m bdb first lady chirlane

    Mayor de Blasio & the Mayor's Fund (photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayoral Photo Office)


    A government reform group is urging Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Charter Revision Commission to explore stronger restrictions on donations to nonprofits affiliated with city agencies, building on a raft of laws passed through the New York City Council and signed by the mayor in 2016, which are set to go into effect next year.

    Reinvent Albany, an organization focused on government transparency and accountability, is advocating for greater disclosure

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  • Fernando Cabrera

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


    A day after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced initial appointments to a Charter Revision Commission that he is convening to examine the city’s campaign finance laws, Public Advocate Letitia James and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer testified before the City Council on their own alternative proposal to create a Commission to examine the structure of city government.

    The Charter is the city’s seminal governing document, laying out the powers and functions of every level of

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  • andrew cuomo buffalo

    Gov. Cuomo in Buffalo (photo via The Governor's Office)


    New York State and local governments spend over $8 billion annually in taxpayer money, giving subsidies to businesses through tax abatements and credits, low or no interest loans, grants, and capital investments like building factories. Eight billion dollars could otherwise pay for the MTA Subway Action Plan in addition to the entire 5-year capital plan for New York City Housing Authority

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  • Cuomo Long Island flag

    (photo: The Governor's Office)


    New York’s leading government reform groups reacted to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2018 State of the State agenda on Thursday in Albany, holding a press conference to urge the governor and legislative leaders to adopt a package of reforms to help restore public confidence in state government.

    Despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that Cuomo failed to pass any of the reforms he promised in the wake of the alleged bid-rigging schemes associated with his signature economic development programs, government ethics

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  • Cuomo jobs western new york

    Gov. Cuomo (photo: Governor's Office)


    As federal corruption trials loom for several associates of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the administration is forging ahead with Buffalo Billion II, the second phase in an ambitious plan to revitalize Buffalo’s beleaguered economy and help transform Upstate New York into a hub of technology innovation and jobs. The first phase saw the massive alleged bid-rigging and kickback scandal that rocked state politics when outlined in September 2016 by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office and will loom over

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  • de Blasio public hearing City Council bills

    De Blasio at a public hearing (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


    Four government transparency bills that were passed by the City Council on October 31 aged into law on Friday, having gone 30 days without any action in favor or against them by Mayor Bill de Blasio. The bills all relate to increased disclosure by the administration of billions in city government spending and have been praised by good government advocates.

    Among the bills was one that ...

  • Cuomo announcement open for business

    Governor Cuomo (via the Governor's Office)


    With just a few weeks before the 2018 legislative session, Governor Andrew Cuomo must soon sign or veto the outstanding legislation that passed both houses earlier this year.

    Among over 100 pieces of legislation headed for the governor’s desk over the next month is a bill that aims to strengthen the Freedom of Information Law, drafted with the input of many good government and media interests, ...

  • 34868772685 4a41dee04d z

    Howard Zemsky in Buffalo (via Governor's Office)


    Ahead of the 2018 legislative session, the New York State Assembly’s Economic Development Committee held a hearing Monday in Albany to evaluate the progress of the state’s multitude of economic development programs and hear testimony from companies and organizations that have benefited from state grants.

    Taking center stage was Howard Zemsky, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s economic development czar as president and CEO of Empire State Development, who defended the state’s jobs programs and was

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  • new queens democrats

    The New Queens Democrats recently formed (photo via NQD on Facebook)


    When Sahand Shahrabani moved to Forest Hills, Queens in 2013, the recent college graduate had one goal: to get involved in local politics. But a Google search turned up eerily sparse results for Democratic clubs in the borough and no trace of the Queens County Democratic Party.

    “They don't have Facebook and there’s no website. I was definitely surprised and disappointed by the lack of web presence,” said Shahrabani, now 29.

    During the 2016 presidential race,

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  • Cuomo podium

    Gov. Cuomo (photo: The Governor's Office)


    Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order Monday expanding the list of New York State agencies required to provide voter registration assistance and creating a task force to oversee implementation of the program.

    While current state and federal law requires the forms to be available at the Department of Motor Vehicles and certain social service agencies, Cuomo’s

    Cuomo budget presentation

    (photo: The Governor's Office)


    A new state budget was passed in April in typical Albany fashion: with almost no time for public scrutiny of the bills or proper review by the legislators who quickly voted them through. Since the $153.1 billion budget was passed, watchdogs both in and out of government have released analyses, helping to better inform citizens and increase accountability.

    The budget was adopted a

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  • bill signing Cuomo

    (photo: Philip Kamrass/Governor's Office)


    A bill that would greatly strengthen New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), already vetoed once by Governor Andrew Cuomo, has again passed both houses of the Legislature -- with some minor adjustments.

    The bipartisan legislation, which passed the

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  • Kaloyeros infrastructure

    Alain Kaloyeros in 2016 (photo: The Governor's Office)


    A coalition of budget and transparency watchdog groups are calling on the Legislature to pass, and for Governor Cuomo to sign, comprehensive “clean contracting” legislation in response to the bid-rigging scandal that rocked the state Capitol last year and continues to reverberate.

    Specifically, at a Wednesday press conference the groups called for restoration of reviewing powers to State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli for all state contracts exceeding $250,000, an end to non-academic

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  • 24722286022 fc206fafab z

    Council Member Ben Kallos (Photo: William Alatriste/New York City Council)


    A critical study by a fiscal watchdog on the city’s annual performance report has led to renewed calls for city agencies to base their budgets on the efficiency of services.

    The Citizens Budget Commission, an independent nonprofit, released an analysis earlier this month of the Mayor’s Management Report (MMR),

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  • berger council

    Henry Berger testifying (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    The City Council heard testimony Monday on a broad package of bills that would prevent conflicts of interest between elected officials and political nonprofits, limit the electoral influence of those who do business with the city, and make it easier for first-time candidates to navigate the city’s campaign finance system.

    The Council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics heard 14 bills on Monday in what was the current Council’s first hearing of the committee focused on legislation. Of the 14, the headlining bill,

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  • Cuomo gaggle teacher award night

    Gov. Cuomo (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


    A day after United States Attorney Preet Bharara unveiled a myriad of corruption charges against two of his closest allies and some of his biggest donors related to their abuse of the state’s economic development programs, Gov. Andrew Cuomo traveled to Buffalo to announce he was expanding the program that sparked Bharara’s investigation.

    Cuomo publicly acknowledged the “truly disappointing” allegations and told the gathered crowd that his

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  • cuomo topping off buffalo

    Cuomo in Buffalo (photo via The Governor's Office on Flickr)


    After laying out multiple corruption and bribery charges against nine players involved with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature economic development program, including his former aide and close friend Joe Percoco, family friend and confidante Todd Howe, and a number of major developers and Cuomo donors, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara refused to say whether the governor is a target in the probe or if it is reasonable to hold him accountable for the conduct of the people he empowered.

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  • cuomo dinapoli flags state of the state

    Cuomo, left, and DiNapoli, middle, in 2012 (photo: The Governor's Office)


    Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent assertion that Comptroller Tom DiNapoli should “educate himself” and that the comptroller’s audits on state economic development projects are “dead wrong” and “opinion” drew a lot of attention. Many Albany observers took it as a sign of Cuomo’s growing sensitivity to criticism about his signature projects.

    Those projects, like the Buffalo Billion, are the subject of a

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  • cuomo buffalo main st

    Gov. Cuomo (photo: The Governor's Office)


    It has been two months since Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that Bart Schwartz would conduct an “independent review” of the state’s signature Buffalo Billion economic development program and yet Schwartz’s contract with the state remains either unfinished or under wraps. On April 29, following the news that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara had subpoenaed some of Cuomo’s closest allies in conjunction with an investigation into bid-rigging and other possible improprieties, Cuomo and Schwartz released a joint

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  • cuomo budget mujica

    Gov. Cuomo & his budget director, Robert Mujica (photo: The Governor's Office)


    Gov. Andrew Cuomo appears to have given up on the state Legislature taking action to close the notorious LLC loophole, which allows wealthy donors to subvert campaign finance laws by creating multiple limited liability corporations that can each give more than $60,000 to a candidate’s campaign.

    According to The New York Times, Cuomo said this weekend that it would be up to the public to close the loophole through a constitutional convention.

    In

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  • three men at a table

    Heastie, Cuomo, Flanagan (l-r) (photo via The Governor's Office)


    "Top of my agenda is going to be ethics reform," said Governor Andrew Cuomo, speaking on NY1 on Jan. 3. "We have done a lot in Albany, but we haven't done enough. And I'm going to push the legislature very hard to adopt more aggressive ethics legislation, more disclosure, more enforcement, etcetera."

    While the governor

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  • cuomo nyu ethics speech

    Gov. Cuomo gives an ethics reform speech in 2015 (Governor's Office via flickr)


    The state's independent ethics commission took the first official ethics-related action in Albany since the convictions of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos on Tuesday when it appointed a man with ties to both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders as its new executive director.

    Seth Agata, who JCOPE - the Joint Commission on Public Ethics - says it hired after a nine-month,

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