Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/485 Sat, 21 Oct 2017 15:40:37 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Council Speaker Contenders Spread the Wealth to Colleagues http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7077:council-speaker-contenders-spread-the-wealth-to-colleagues http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7077:council-speaker-contenders-spread-the-wealth-to-colleagues 15418071831 7ded33d9b6 z

Speaker Mark-Viverito (center) and Council Member Johnson (r) (photo: William Alatriste/New York City Council)


A number of City Council Members who are jockeying to replace Melissa Mark-Viverito as the next Speaker of the City Council seem to be stepping up efforts to curry favor with their colleagues and other elected officials through strategic campaign donations.

The latest campaign finance disclosures filed on Monday show that Council Members Corey Johnson, Mark Levine, Ydanis Rodriguez and Jumaane Williams -- all contenders for Speaker of the 51-member legislative body -- have made significant contributions to fellow Council members and candidates running for open City Council seats. Other Speaker candidates -- Council Members Donovan Richards, Jimmy Van Bramer and Robert Cornegy -- also made similar, but smaller contributions.

The speaker, perhaps the second most powerful elected official in the city, is chosen through an internal vote of the Council every four years after an election. Current Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will be term-limited out of office at the end of the year. She won the post with the help of a coalition of progressive Council members and the active involvement of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who swayed Brooklyn Democrats to support her and in the process undercut the Bronx and Queens County machinery that had decided the speaker’s race in the past.

Council Member Johnson, a Manhattan Democrat and a prolific campaigner who is seen as one of the leading Speaker candidates, has so far contributed over $50,000 to other elected officials’ campaigns, far outpacing other speaker hopefuls.

According to Campaign Finance Board (CFB) filings, Johnson’s campaign has disbursed the maximum contribution of $2,750 to 15 Council members who are running for reelection and also to two Council candidates, for a total of $46,750. Those incumbents and potential future members of the Council could determine whether Johnson holds the Speaker’s gavel next year. Johnson also made three other donations collectively worth the mayoral contribution limit of $4,950 to Mayor Bill de Blasio, and contributed $2,500 to Comptroller Scott Stringer, for a total of 19 candidates who received donations from him. All are Democrats.

Johnson, who is not a participant in the city’s public matching funds program, has raised over $462,000 and spent about $271,000 this election cycle, making candidate contributions almost a fifth of his entire spending. He retains about $191,000 on hand. His Council donations were heavily weighted to outer-borough incumbents, with just two going to members from Manhattan. Five of Johnson’s donations went to Brooklyn members, four each to members in Queens and the Bronx, and one to a Staten Island member. Johnson has spent the last few months aggressively courting his colleagues, campaigning on their behalf in their districts. In one weekend in June, he made appearances with several Council Members across four boroughs.

[Related: Corey Johnson’s Very Busy Campaign Weekend]

Johnson also donated to State Assemblymember Francisco Moya, who is seeking to fill the Queens seat of Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who will step down at the end of the year. Ferreras-Copeland chairs the Council’s powerful finance committee and was considered one of the leading Speaker candidates before she announced she would not be running for reelection for personal reasons. Johnson’s other donation went to Carlina Rivera, a candidate for Council District 2 in Manhattan, which is currently occupied by term-limited member Rosie Mendez. Additionally, Johnson bundled almost $13,000 in donations for Rivera’s campaign. Johnson’s campaign did not respond to calls seeking comment.

The closest competitor in contributions is Council Member Mark Levine, whose campaign has given $31,000 to other candidates and colleagues. The contributions include 11 of the same incumbents and both Moya and Rivera. He also gave to Bronx Council Member Fernando Cabrera and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., for a total of 15 candidates. Levine has raised just over $376,000 in the campaign so far and has spent about $191,000, leaving him with about $185,000 on hand. He has also been actively campaigning for Speaker and is considered one of the top candidates for the position. Levine’s campaign did not respond to calls from Gotham Gazette.

Manhattan Council member Ydanis Rodriguez comes in third for his donations. His campaign has given $24,000 in 12 separate contributions of $2,000 to 11 Council incumbents and District 2 candidate Rivera. Rodriguez contributed to eight of the same Council candidates as Johnson and seven of the same candidates as Levine. His own campaign account holds about $94,000, after raising $247,000 and spending about $153,000.

Jumaane Williams personally gave $12,000 in 11 contributions, 8 of them to incumbent Council members and three to candidates, including Rivera. Williams’ contribution list differed somewhat, including four Council members that none of the other three top-contributing speaker candidates had given to.

All four gave to Council members Margaret Chin of Manhattan; Antonio Reynoso, of Brooklyn; and Rafael Salamanca, Jr., of the Bronx.

Among other speaker candidates, Donovan Richards personally gave $2,000 to two incumbents, $2,750 each to two Council candidates, including Rivera, and $500 to de Blasio, for a total of $8,000. Robert Cornegy gave $2,750 each to Moya and Queens Council member Elizabeth Crowley, plus $500 to District 41 candidate Henry Butler, for a total of $6,000. Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer gave $1,500 between two incumbents and $175 to Diana Ayala, who is running for Mark-Viverito’s seat in District 8.

The amounts involved appear to already dwarf the direct candidate contributions that current Speaker Mark-Viverito and her campaign made during the 2013 election cycle, after which she was elected speaker. According to CFB data, Mark-Viverito spent only $3,000 in candidate contributions that cycle.

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by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Council Speaker Contenders Spread the Wealth to Colleagues Fri, 21 Jul 2017 23:06:45 +0000
Council Members Aim Help at Parents Returning to Workforce http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5665:council-members-aim-help-at-parents-returning-to-workforce http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5665:council-members-aim-help-at-parents-returning-to-workforce  

kallos presser

Council Members Kallos (middle), Cumbo (left), & Cornegy (photo: @BenKallos)


NEW YORK - City Council Members Ben Kallos, Laurie Cumbo, and Robert Cornegy today introduced a bill and five-point plan to help working parents re-enter the workforce after temporary disruptions in employment.

The proposed legislation, of which Kallos is the lead sponsor and he introduced at the Council's Stated Meeting, would expand the city's "Workforce1" job training program and provide additional online resources for parents returning to work.

The five-point plan calls for training in technology, partnerships between public agencies and private companies, resume assistance, a proactive outreach campaign to spread the word about job training, and more online information for parents.

The council members announced the legislation earlier Tuesday at a press conference in front of City Hall, backed by supporters from women's rights groups. On the last day of Women's "Her-story" Month, said Council Member Cumbo, "We must recommit to the struggle that women face daily." Cumbo chairs the council's women's issues committee. She called attention to issues of gender pay equity, the lack of a paid family leave law at the state and federal levels, and the limited resources to help new parents transition back to work, all of which contribute to the loss of a "critical braintrust."

"Parent's should have our city's full support when they choose to return [to work]," Cumbo said.

The council members appear to be responding to a critical issue. Nearly 40 percent of women took significant time off for family-related reasons, as did 24 percent of men, according to the Pew Center for Research. Only 10 percent of men quit their jobs while 27 percent of women quit for those reasons. For 31 percent of mothers, time off hurt their careers; 18 percent of men felt the same.

"The fight for gender equity cannot be confined to just one month," said Council Member Kallos, echoing Cumbo's sentiment. "We must fight for gender equity every day of the year."

Kallos stressed the diversity of stay-at-home parents, who span all socio-economic classes and races, and the potential impact on the local economy from facilitating the transition back to the workforce. "We envision a city where any parent is confident that he or she has the support necessary to reenter the workforce and does not need to struggle to do so," he said.

The Workforce1 program's 18 career centers helped 40,000 people get jobs in 2013, according to Center for an Urban Future. Kallos hopes to increase the number next year by expanding the program with more technological training and making it a "one-stop shop for information and training, not just a way to connect to in-person resources."

Erica Cohen, a young parent and graduate student, worked with Kallos on this campaign. She has been unemployed for five years and has found it tough to find a job while being the primary caregiver for her daughter. "There are some skills that I don't have or I'm rusty at and I think any re-entry program that can help me with those skills and help me with the unique obstacles of returning to work," she said. "Whether you're a stay-at-home mother or father, there are unique challenges, I think this plan would help parents with these unique obstacles."

Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr. has been a strong supporter of women's equity and gender issues, and he is also chair of the Council's small business committee. Last year, Cornegy created the first community lactation station in his office in Bedford-Stuyvesant for mothers to breastfeed their infants in private. Today's bill, he said "acknowledges that the barriers that (women) face are real and have real consequence for their present economic security and their futures."

Representatives from advocacy groups including the Women's City Club of New York, The Lower Eastside Girls Club, Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro Choice, and New York Communities for Change also showed their support for the proposals.

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by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette
@samarkhurshid

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Council Members Aim Help at Parents Returning to Workforce Tue, 31 Mar 2015 18:46:17 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, March 23 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5644:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-march-23 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5644:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-march-23 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

We're getting close to the state budget deadline of April 1. This week will be full of both private negotiations and public sessions in Albany, where lawmakers attempt to come to a budget deal while showing significantly divergent takes on key issues - as well as central mechanisms related to the budget and policy. Governor Andrew Cuomo has jammed quite a bit of policy into his budget, attaching initiatives to appropriations in an attempt to strong-arm the Legislature into agreeing to his policy demands. This is especially true around ethics and educaiton reforms, but Cuomo has also used creative tactics to push compromise, tying an education tax credit favored by Republicans to the DREAM Act, which is favored by Democrats, for example. The Legislature is in session Monday through Thursday again this week.

Meanwhile, New York City officials await decisions in Albany (while also trying to affect those decisions, of course) and carry on their own budget work. The City Council will wrap up its month of preliminary budget hearings this week and then formulate a formal response to the mayor, who will then issue his Executive Budget in April, leading to another round of council hearings and a final budget deal by July 1. The City is eagerly awaiting word from Albany on things like funding for schools, homelessness prevention, public housing, and much more.

De Blasio is in Boston on Sunday and Monday, participating in the U.S. Conference of Mayors Cities of Opportunity Task Force Summit; on Monday, "there will be a press conference on transportation issues at 12:30pm" at Faneuil Hall; he'll return to New York City on Monday evening. De Blasio was in Albany on Saturday for the Somos el Futuro Conference, where he reiterated his push for full education funding from the State and other top priorities, and received "the Champion for Latinos Award at the dinner gala."

And the whole week builds to the annual Inner Circle Show this Friday (dress rehearsal) and Saturday, at which the press will roast the mayor, and vice versa.

There's plenty happening this week. See our day-by-day rundown below for more.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
E-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday
Monday morning, schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña will visit a "CTE program to make an announcement" at the Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Education High School in Queens.

Comptroller Scott Stringer's only public event scheduled for Monday is an 8:15 a.m. appearance on "Buen Día New York," WADO 1280 AM.

Also Monday morning, the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association will host a breakfast with United States Senator Charles Schumer at Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association’s headquarters.

At 10:30 Monday morning, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer "will issue a report, Small Business, Big Impact: Expanding Opportunity for Manhattan's Storefronters, with case studies and policy recommendations to help small businesses grow and thrive in New York City." At The Halal Guys on the Upper West Side, Brewer will be joined by Robert Cornegy, Chair, New York City Council Small Business Committee; The Halal Guys co-founders Muhammed Abouelenein, Ahmed Elsaka, and Abdelbaset Elsayed; and Noel Hidalgo, Executive Director, BetaNYC. The report's recommendations include "Take the pressure off lease renewals"; "Overhaul regulations and city policies governing street vending" and "Help established, successful small businesses threatened by rent increases by encouraging "condo-ization" of storefront space." [Read our recent report on key issues facing small business in New York City and the City's new efforts to help ease regulatory burdens]

On Monday’s Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC, three of the five borough presidents will appear together: “Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams talk about borough and city-wide issues facing Queens, Brooklyn and Bronx residents.

Monday at 10 a.m. at City Hall, preceding the relevant City Council preliminary budget hearing, "hundreds of New York City seniors and service providers were invited to descend upon City Hall's Council Chambers and make their voices heard at the Department for the Aging budget hearing to advocate for $33 million in critical funding for senior services."

At 11 a.m. on Monday at City Hall, Rep. Nydia Velázquez and other local leaders will release a report on how the Republican congressional budget would impact New York City: “From transportation, to housing, to health and human services, New York would be acutely affected by proposed cuts,” says a media advisory on the event.

At noon at City Hall, there will be a "Rally for action by Earth Day on plastic bag reduction bill" hosted by Council Members Brad Lander and Margaret Chin, who sponsor the relevant bill, and Council Member and Sanitation Committee Chair Antonio Reynoso, as well as other elected officials: "The bill (Int. 209) will reduce disposable bag use by requiring retail and grocery stores to charge 10 cents per single-use plastic or paper bag. Supporters of the bill turned out in large numbers at a public hearing before the Council's Sanitation Committee last fall, and will rally again for its passage by Earth Day (April 22)."

Monday’s City Council schedule consists of two preliminary budget hearings: a meeting of the Committee on Aging jointly with the Subcommittee on Senior Centers; and a meeting of the Committee on Health.

CUNY Journalism School's brown bag lunch series continues on Monday with a conversation between Errol Louis and Tom Robbins, both journalists and CUNY J-school professors. "Tom Robbins, investigative journalist in residence at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, will discuss his recent piece on the brutal beatings of former Attica Prison inmate George Williams...Errol Louis, director of the Urban Reporting Program and host of NY1's Inside City Hall, will pick Robbins' brain on the work that went into the nine-month project, as well as the larger issues of prison violence that it illuminated."

At 2 p.m. Monday, outside FDNY headquarters at MetroTech Center, Brooklyn BP Adams "will announce a borough-wide fire safety education campaign, following a fatal fire Saturday in Midwood that claimed the lives of seven siblings, aged five to 16, from the Sassoon family. His effort will include multilingual outreach and the distribution of free smoke detectors...Adams will call for the creation of a burn center in Brooklyn...Adams will be joined by local elected officials and Jewish leaders."

Also Monday, in Albany, Citizen Action of New York will hold Moral Monday to Raise the Wage: “Nearly 3 million workers – 37% of New York’s workforce – earn less than $15 an hour. Thirty-six percent of adults earn less than $15 an hour; 41% women earn less than $15 an hour, and 28% of workers with at least some college education earn less than $15 an hour. A full-time worker earning $9 an hour will bring home just $18,720 per year – still below the federal poverty line for a family of three. Under the Self-Sufficiency Standard guidelines, a more accurate measure of the cost of living in New York, the hourly wage that 2 full-time workers must each earn to meet basic budget needs ranges from $13.40 in Schenectady County, to $16.15 in New York City, to $20.73 in Suffolk County.”

Monday at noon, there will be meeting of the New York State Gaming Commission at the New York State Department of Labor.

Monday afternoon in Albany, the Senate Standing Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions will hold a hearing to consider several pieces of legislation.

Monday evening, “The Middle Class Action Project will host a candidates forum with Republican District Attorney Daniel Donovan and Democratic Councilman Vincent Gentile to discuss economic issues facing the middle class,” according to the Staten Island Advance.

Tuesday
Tuesday morning, the New York Bar Association will host Campaign Finance: The Current State of Affairs and Where We Go From Here: “Since the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United, campaign finance law has moved at a rapid pace, leading the way for the creation of various entities that facilitate the injection of billions of dollars into elections. And Congress just increased the power of political party committees by significantly increasing applicable campaign finance limits. This program will consist of three panels composed of top-tier campaign finance law experts, regulators, reporters and political consultants.” Panelists will include Nicholas Confessore from The New York Times; Dave Levinthal from the Center for Public Integrity; Eric Friedman from NYC Campaign Finance Board; Bill Hyers from Hilltop Public Solutions; Fritz Schwarz, Jr. from the Brennan Center; Douglas Kellner from the NYS Board of Elections; and Jerry Goldfeder from Stroock & Stroock & Lavan.

Tuesday’s City Council schedule will include a meeting of the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services for a preliminary budget hearing; a meeting of the Committee on Zoning and Franchises to review proposed Land Use Applications; and a meeting of the Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions to review land use applications.

Tuesday morning in Albany, the Senate Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation will hold a hearing to consider a variety of bills to amend the environmental conservation law; the Senate Standing Committee on Transportation will meet to consider several bills amending the highway law and the vehicle and traffic law; the Senate Standing Committee on Judiciary will meet to discuss the reappointments of several judges at the New York Court of Claims; and in the afternoon, the Senate Standing Committee on Codes will meet to discuss a series of act to amend the civil rights law and the penal law.

Tuesday evening, the YWCA will host its Women's History Month Reception 2015. The theme of this year's series of events is Leadership and Generosity: A Call to Action; and as it culminates on Tuesday, the YWCA is honoring Public Advocate Letitia James as "YW Woman of the Year" for her hard work toward gender and racial equity for women and girls. [Read our new profile of PA James as a recent history-maker, the first woman of color elected to city-wide office]

Tuesday evening, City Council Member Andy King and his staff will be hosting one in a series of Constituent Services Nights in different NYCHA housing developments. The program will include resources and solutions for housing, food stamps, immigration, Access-A-Ride and more.

Tuesday evening, Parsons DESIS Lab and Lower Manhattan HQ will host Public Space: New Ideas for Civic Life: “New York City has an abundance of public spaces rich in culture and design, from Central Park to the New York Public Library. However, despite these places’ role as the physical center of civic life, digital platforms have emerged as the preferred way for government to engage the public. How can we revitalize public spaces as places to enhance civic life and public participation in government?” Speakers will include Mary Rowe of Municipal Arts Society and Victoria Milne of the city's Department of Design and Construction.

Also Tuesday evening, Columbia School of International and Public Affairs presents Public Policy Challenges: Women’s Empowerment in NYC: “Come learn from and engage with leading practitioners on New York law, policy, and services related to violence against women.” The panel will include Ana Oliveira, President and CEO of the New York Women's Foundation; Rose Pierre-Louis, Commissioner of the NYC Mayor's Office to Combat Domestic Violence; and Maria Torres-Springer, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services.

Wednesday
Wednesday’s City Council schedule will include two preliminary budget hearings: a meeting of the Committee on Education and a meeting of the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management.

Wednesday morning in Albany, the Senate Standing Committee on Social Services will meet to discuss a variety of potential amendments to the social services law.

Wednesday at noon, the New York State Bar Association will host Human Trafficking in New York State: Legal Issues and Advocating for the Victim, “to educate attorneys across the country on how to identify potential victims of human trafficking.” [Read Manhattan DA Cy Vance's recent op-ed on the need to strengthen sex trafficking laws in New York]

Wednesday evening, the city's Panel on Educational Policy (PEP) will host a public meeting at Murry Bergtraum High School in Manhattan.

Also Wednesday, at 6:30 p.m., the Digital NYC Five Borough Tour will hit Queens. Panelists will include Kristin Hodgson, Communications Director at Meetup, and Jukay Hsu, Founder of Coalition for Queens.

Thursday
Thursday morning at Fordham University Lincoln Center Campus, “All alumni are invited to join us for the inaugural interview session and breakfast for the new Oral Archive on Governance in New York City: The Bloomberg Years” featuring Howard Wolfson, former Deputy Mayor for Government Affairs and Communications.

Thursday’s City Council schedule will include a meeting of the Committee on Public Housing for a preliminary budget hearing; a joint meeting of the Committee on Small Business and the Committee on Economic Development for a preliminary budget hearing; and a meeting of the Committee on Land Use to review all items reported out of the Subcommittee hearings.

Thursday evening, “Join us at Civic Hall – the new beautiful co-working space for civic tech and VRL’s new NY home! – for an evening of workshops and an engaging panel of women leaders.” The event is hosted by VoteRunLead, Veracity Media, Civic Hall, Republican Majority for Choice, Women's Information Network NYC (WIN NYC), She Should Run, Emerge America, Rising Stars and Greater NYC for Change.

Thursday at 5:30 p.m., CUNY Institute for Educational Policy at Roosevelt House will host Challenging the Tenure Laws in New York State: Why or Why Not?: “Davids vs. New York, a highly publicized lawsuit challenging New York's teacher tenure and seniority laws, is underway. Plaintiffs contend that the current laws violate children's constitutional right to a sound, basic education by keeping ineffective teachers in classrooms; defendants claim the lawsuit is a spurious attempt to destroy hard-won protections for the state's teaching profession.”

Thursday evening, Council Speaker Mark-Viverito and members of the Council's Irish caucus - Council Members Danny Dromm, Corey Johnson, Liz Crowley, and Jimmy Van Bramer - along with other council members, will host the Council's Irish Heritage and Culture celebration at City Hall. 

Also Thursday evening, City Council Members Donovan Richards and Member Daneek Miller, and the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs will host an IDNYC Community Meeting in Queens.

Thursday at 6 p.m., City and State will host Above and Beyond: Honoring Women of Public and Civic Mind: “Each year, City & State honors 25 women who exhibit exceptional leadership in their fields and have made important contributions to society."

Friday and the weekend
Friday at City Hall, the Committee on Contracts, the Committee on Courts and Legal Services, the Committee on Community Development and the Committee on Youth Services will all hold preliminary budget oversight hearings throughout the day.

Friday afternoon, in celebration of Women’s History Month, City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley will host a special film screening of a documentary on Geraldine Ferraro’s life titled “Geraldine Ferraro: Paving the Way,” the film about the life of the first female Vice Presidential nominee of a major political party.

Friday evening, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo, Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, District Leader Shirley Patterson and Green Earth Poets Café will host Shirley Chisholm Women of Excellence Awards and Reception: “Brooklynite Shirley Chisholm was a catalyst of change who made history by becoming the first African-American woman elected to Congress. Because of her values Barack Obama became the first African-American President in 2008. Senator Hamilton will continue her legacy by recognizing the achievements of iconic Brooklyn women on Friday, March 27th at the historic First Baptist Church in Crown Heights.”

Friday evening, the Inner Circle Show will hold its rehearsal; with the main event on Saturday night, both at the New York Hilton Hotel.

On Saturday at noon, Zephyr Teachout and others are holding a rally: "Gov. Cuomo has turned his back on our students. Join us as we rally outside his Midtown Office to demand that he fully fund our public schools, support struggling schools, not raise the cap on charter schools, and limit high-stakes testing!"

***
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: bmax@gothamgazette.com (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

***
by Rati Mukhuradze, Marco Poggio, and Ben Max
@GothamGazette

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The Week Ahead in New York Politics, March 23 Fri, 20 Mar 2015 15:41:48 +0000
Student Voter Registration Push Targets New York's Turnout Crisis http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5642:student-voter-registration-push-targets-new-yorks-turnout-crisis http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5642:student-voter-registration-push-targets-new-yorks-turnout-crisis Robert-Cornegy-Helen-Rosenthal

Council members and advocates rally for SVRD at City Hall (all photos: Cici Chen)


Only 11 percent of young New Yorkers voted in the last citywide elections. City residents between 18- and 30-years-old have the lowest voter turnout of any age or socioeconomic group. They are also least likely to be registered to vote. The Department of Education sends out 80,000 voter registration forms with diplomas each year, but there is no mechanism to monitor resulting registration numbers thereafter.

In response to these discouraging numbers, New York City Council Member Helen Rosenthal; several of her colleagues; NYC Votes, the voter outreach arm of the city's Campaign Finance Board; good government groups; and others have organized the city's first Student Voter Registration Day (SVRD) to be held at 25 schools across the five boroughs tomorrow, Friday, March 20.

The pilot program is being launched Friday to commemorate Democracy Day, when 18-year-olds gained the right to vote on March 23, 1971. Students 17- and 18-years-old will be encouraged to register in their classrooms. "What we're going to do is not only register these kids to vote, but we're going to help them understand the value of voting and so hopefully they'll actually go out and vote," said Council Member Rosenthal at a kickoff rally on the steps of City Hall Thursday.

The program will focus on civic engagement and youth involvement in politics. "Our challenge here is helping young people to connect the act of voting to their lives beyond the school walls," said Chyann Sapp, Youth Voter Coordinator for the Campaign Finance Board. NYC Votes and its Voter Assistance Advisory Committee have partnered with the Board of Elections, the Department of Education, the United Federation of Teachers, the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, civic engagement groups, and others to formulate a curriculum that will show young people "how their votes can affect issues like the price of college, student loans, affordable housing and finding a job," said Sapp.

The program is aimed at youth on the verge of becoming eligible voters, which is important in retaining them in the voting process throughout their lives, according to Board of Elections executive director Michael Ryan. "The inception of the voting process is registration," Ryan said, stressing that registration must be modernized to allow young people access to the voting system in a way that they feel comfortable with it.

Michael-J-Ryan-Helen-Rosenthal

BOE head Michael Ryan

An early adopter on the campaign was Brooklyn Council Member Robert Cornegy, who emphasized the importance of the history of protests for voting rights. "Elections are incredibly powerful mechanisms for change, perhaps the most powerful tools we have in a representative democracy," he said. "That's why people risked their lives in Selma," Cornegy said, referring to Civil Rights Movement protests in the South, recently commemorated at fifty years.

Council Member Mark Levine also spoke to history, and said that there is a need to change the current culture around voting in the city and the country. "The generation that came of age long after the Civil Rights Movement has taken this right for granted, this hard-fought right that many people marched for and some even died for. And if we're gonna change the culture, that has to start with young people and young leaders," he said.

Student Voter Registration Day will not only focus on eligible voters. Recognizing the large immigrant population in the city, it will also involve education about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and connecting young immigrant voters with their local representatives. "We need to not forget them," said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

[Related: Solving Our Voter Turnout Crisis]

The initiative also has the support of many good government groups including Common Cause, New York Public Interest Research Group, and Citizens Union.

"Public education was founded mainly to do three things: to teach people how to read, write, and to be active citizens," said Drew Lombardi from Generation Citizen, a civic education non-profit that works in city schools. Lombardi lamented that civic education has become a "secondary part" of school.

Citizens Union's Peggy Farber hopes that SRVD would become a permanent civics education program across city schools: "By registering students, educating them about the importance of becoming active citizens, and helping them understand how to use their political voice, this program establishes healthy civic habits that will last a lifetime."

photos from Thursday's rally (Cici Chen)

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by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette
@samarkhurshid

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Student Voter Registration Push Targets New York's Turnout Crisis Thu, 19 Mar 2015 18:44:05 +0000