Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/510 Tue, 13 Nov 2018 16:55:48 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Cuomo's Third Term Agenda Takes Shape http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8065-cuomo-s-third-term-agenda-takes-shape http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8065-cuomo-s-third-term-agenda-takes-shape Governor Cuomo third term

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


Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, was comfortably reelected to a third term on November 6, priding himself on having won a strong mandate from voters to carry out his agenda. But that agenda was far from clear during the campaign as Cuomo declined to articulate a cogent vision for the next four years and instead largely touted accomplishments from his first two terms in office and focused on fighting President Donald Trump and other Republicans in Washington, D.C.

At times, Cuomo also expressed support for broad progressive proposals that have languished under his watch for years, failures due to Republican control of the state Senate, he said, while campaigning for Democratic takeover of the upper chamber and thus entire Legislature, which occurred in convincing fashion when the votes were cast.

In the closing weeks of the election and in interviews afterwards, Cuomo has more directly laid out a policy roadmap and, with the state Senate soon to be in Democratic hands and an overwhelming Democratic majority in the Assembly, he will have even more ability than in the past to advance his priorities. On the other hand, the more moderate Cuomo may also have new battles on his hands with a Legislature controlled by his party-mates as opposed to the split control that allowed him to triangulate.

During two radio interviews that, along with his Trump-focused election night speech, made up his victory lap this past week, Cuomo asserted that his win margin and the help he gave to Senate candidates would give him more weight in Albany next year. “When you have a larger mandate electorally, the other elected officials know you’ve literally come into government with a stronger hand, and having a larger victory helps you governmentally, I believe that,” he said in a WVOX interview with Bill O’Shaughnessy. “It’s not determinative, but it does.”

Ahead of the September primary, facing a spirited challenge from actor and education activist Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo said little about concrete ideas for a third term. But early indications are that he will likely move ahead on a raft of socially progressive bills while maintaining his centrist approach to fiscal and economic policy. “We are going to be the most aggressive state in terms of progressive measures and the most intelligent and aggressive in terms of economic development,” Cuomo said in the WVOX interview, touting that he is able to be the best of both Democratic and Republican principles. As Cuomo suggested, most legislation will likely sail through both chambers of the state Legislature with ease. But there will undoubtedly be some issues that will prove divisive even among Democrats, particularly between suburban and upstate legislators on one hand and those representing New York City on the other, or between what legislative majorities get behind and what Cuomo prizes.

In the recent radio interviews, Cuomo spoke of several policies that he wants to advance immediately at the start of the legislative session in January, which will coincide with his annual State of the State address and Executive Budget presentation, setting out in much more concrete terms his priorities for the year. For now, Cuomo has highlighted measures including codifying new abortion protections into state law, passing voting and ethics reforms, expanded gun control measures, the DREAM Act, and the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. During the campaign, appearing with state Senate candidates in Long Island, the Hudson Valley and New York City, Cuomo signed several pledges along those lines as well.

“[N]one of these things could get done with a Republican Senate,” he said on WVOX. “We can now get them done with a Democratic Senate. And they are significant, they are issues that frankly have bothered me and a lot of other New Yorkers for years.”

During Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation proceedings to the Supreme Court, amid a national outcry over how it could affect abortion protections across the country, Cuomo promised to pass the Reproductive Health Act, which would codify the protections of Roe v. Wade, within the first 30 days of the legislative session. “I am going to do everything possible. I'm going to send up the bill as soon as the session starts,” he told radio host Alan Chartock on The Capitol Connection.

He also pledged to push for voting, government ethics, and campaign finance reforms. Though he has benefited greatly from campaign donations from limited liability companies, which do not have to disclose their ownership and are used to circumvent contribution limits, he has repeatedly expressed support for closing the LLC loophole and has promised to prioritize that measure. He also said he would push to make legislative positions full-time, banning outside income, which he has attempted to leverage over the Legislature in the past when an outside commission was exploring pay raises for state elected officials. A new commission created by Cuomo and legislative leaders last year is due with binding recommendations in the coming weeks, meaning the conversation around reforms attached to pay raises will be ripe for the start of the year.

Cuomo has expressed support for a public campaign finance system in the past, as have Democrats in the Legislature, so it is expected that he will also work to enact such a system in the new session.

Following another election administration debacle in New York City, there’s also expected to be quick movement on voting reforms, including establishing early voting and no-excuse absentee ballots, both items that Cuomo has pledged to advance. Cuomo even sought to fund a pilot program for early voting earlier this year, proposing $7 million in funding prior to the passage of the state budget, but the idea did not gain much traction, particularly among Senate Republicans.

Gun control has been a signature policy issue for Cuomo, who acted quickly following the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting to pass the SAFE Act in New York. He has proposed new measures for the next legislative session, including a Red Flag Gun Protection bill that would allow courts to order the seizure of guns from the homes of individuals deemed a safety risk to themselves or the public, and to prevent those individuals from purchasing any firearms. Cuomo attempted to pass the measure this year, launching a cross-state bus tour to advocate for it, but was unsuccessful. He’s also pledged to alter the background check wait period for gun purchases from three to ten days.

Cuomo has also been vocal about passing the Child Victims Act, which gives victims of child abuse greater legal recourse when they are adults by expanding the statute of limitations to bring civil lawsuits against their abusers or institutions. The legislation has repeatedly failed in the Republican-controlled Senate while passing in the Democrat-led Assembly.

Other criminal justice reforms are also expected to be on the docket as Cuomo has pushed for bail and speedy trial reform. A bill to eliminate cash bail and Kalief’s Law -- a speedy trial bill named for Bronx youth Kalief Browder who spent two years on Rikers Island without being convicted of a crime and later died by suicide after being released when the charges were dropped -- both passed the Assembly this year and would likely be approved by a Democratic Senate next year.

The governor prides himself on being a builder, in the vein of Robert Moses, and in two speeches ahead of the election to the Association for a Better New York and the Business Council of New York State, he touted his plan to invest $150 billion in infrastructure -- in state, local, federal, and private funding -- in projects spanning into his third term (he raised the estimate by $50 billion as he eyed the next four years and new investments). He pegged $66 billion to transportation projects and $32 billion to environmental facilities. The investments are meant to build on a $100 billion program that is already underway which includes modernizing airports, train and bus stations, and repairing and building bridges around the state. One essential goal of the coming years for Cuomo is figuring out funding for the Gateway project, the new tunnels to connect New York and New Jersey. Cuomo has recently pleaded with President Trump to return federal money to the table to fund half the project, with New York and New Jersey set to split the other half, after Trump had reneged on an Obama era commitment. 

Environmental conservation issues are also on the governor’s list and he has promised to advance his “Save Our Waters” bill to prohibit offshore drilling and exploration, and drilling infrastructure off the Long Island coast. Like on other issues, there are pending battles between Cuomo and legislators (and advocates) over environmental policy, including how quickly the state is moving to renewable energy and other efforts to take on climate change.

On the fiscal front, Cuomo, who prides himself on having passed eight on-time or nearly on-time budgets, has repeatedly vowed to continue the state’s 2 percent property tax cap and to keep state spending increases from going beyond 2 percent each year. Though Cuomo has used some budgeting gimmicks to account for the 2 percent annual growth, which has at times really been closer to 3 or 4 percent, he is largely praised by fiscal watchdogs for his restraint. Tax rates will, as always, be a topic of discussion in Albany in 2019, and while Cuomo is likely to insist on little movement and Democratic legislators are already explaining that they do not plan to raise taxes, as has been the warning about them from Republicans, the parties will at least have to deal with whether to extend the expiring “millionaires tax” that Cuomo and a split Legislature have passed multiple times, while reducing other rates over the years. The state is facing projected budget deficits and the impact of federal tax reform is yet to be seen in full. Cuomo's initial attempts to mitigate the negative effects of the tax overhaul and, specifically, its new cap on state and local tax deductions from federal taxes, have not panned out.

Cuomo will likely also revive legislation for a speed camera program in New York City that lapsed in the face of Republican recalcitrance in the Senate. The governor and elected officials in the city implemented a workaround for the program which required an executive order but Cuomo has since promised to push the bill, which provides for cameras in school zones, through the Legislature.

There are several issues on which Cuomo might find himself at odds with one or both houses of the Legislature, even if there is widespread agreement on overarching goals.

Cuomo has pushed for a comprehensive congestion pricing program to fund the MTA, arrest the decline of New York City’s subway system, and reduce the clog of Manhattan streets. But Democrats, particularly in the outer boroughs and in suburban areas around the city, are far from unanimous on the proposal. Cuomo seemed to recognize these differences in appearances in early October on Long Island and South Brooklyn. In Long Island, he pledged to make the city “pay its fair share for the MTA,” while at the Brooklyn event, he pledged to secure funding for the beleaguered transit authority through congestion pricing.

The fight for increased education funding occupies Albany each year and Cuomo has been criticized as failing to fully comply with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court ruling that would require billions more in state funds being sent to struggling public schools (he and his administration argue that they are in compliance and due funds have been allocated). Several Democrats elected to the Senate this year made fair student funding a part of their platform and will probably push for increased funding for urban districts from the governor, who has insisted each year that his administration is funding schools at record levels. There may be a more vigorous discussion this year about the exact formulas used for state school aid.

Charter schools, privately-run public schools, are an additional aspect of that debate. Senate Republicans hold a more favorable position on charters and have clashed with Democrats in the Assembly over providing them with increased per-pupil funding, not to mention increasing the cap on the number of charters that can be awarded to start new schools. But Cuomo has long been a charter school champion, and the charter sector has also donated large sums of money to his campaign, as much as $130,000 in the days leading up to the election. Cuomo has repeatedly stated that he supports charter schools and has in the past done a great deal to ensure their growth. The charter cap will be a subject of negotiation in 2019, and it may again be tied to mayoral control of New York City schools, which is again set to expire next year.

Perhaps the most contentious debate in next year’s session will come near the tail end when rent stabilization laws are set to expire. Real estate interests have been another particularly generous segment of donors to Cuomo, as well as to many state legislators, and though the governor has pledged to “protect and expand rent stabilization in New York City,” he’s likely to face strong lobbying and opposition from the industry. Within his own party, a slate of newly elected progressive Senators refused real estate donations when they ran for office and have promised to fight for stronger tenant protections and more affordable housing. As on many topics, the discussion among Cuomo and his fellow Democrats is likely to come down to how far they can agree to go as they move in a progressive direction.

While there will be a lot of like-mindedness in Albany come January, along with some of the contentious issues mentioned, there may also be more protracted battles over whether the state should move toward a single-payer health care system, legalize recreational marijuana, and provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. There may also be conflict around Cuomo's economic development spending with regard to how much influence the Legislature seeks and whether the Democratic majorities demand additional transparency and accountability in how the money is spent.

In January, Cuomo will present his State of the State address, setting the stage for the year ahead. It remains to be seen how ambitious he will be with his party controlling the entire state government and with no Republican obstruction that he can scapegoat for any failures.

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Cuomo's Third Term Agenda Takes Shape Sat, 10 Nov 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Agenda 2019: Major Policy Tests Ahead for State and City http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8061-agenda-2019-major-policy-tests-ahead-for-state-and-city http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8061-agenda-2019-major-policy-tests-ahead-for-state-and-city cuomo stewart-cousins democrats

Byron Brown, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Andrew Cuomo (photo: NY Democratic State Party)


This is the opening story in a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project: AGENDA 2019
Find the rest of the series here

The voting machines are back in storage, the “Vote Here” signs are gone, and politics in New York have entered the interregnum between Election Day and the start of the new term in Albany, when a newly-Democratic State Senate and a re-elected Democratic Assembly majority and Democratic governor will begin to set the direction of the Empire State in 2019 -- while a new Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives vies with a Republican U.S. Senate and President Trump over where and how to steer the nation.

The rhetoric, posturing, and proposals of the campaign will give way to the rhetoric and posturing -- and, ultimately, policymaking -- of government. It’s too early to know how the new balances of power will play out, but some of the newly powerful or electorally emboldened are already giving indications of some of their priorities, which, in combination with campaign trail promises, form the outline of what to expect in Albany in the year ahead. Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have quickly provided a sense of what they plan to tackle first and what might be on the backburner as the state governing session begins in January.

“I did better than I had done in my previous election which is normally unheard of,” Cuomo said the day after the election, on WVOX radio, “but we also won the Senate, which is very important and I worked very hard to make that happen, which it allows me to get all sorts of things done that we haven’t done before.”

As is always the case, so much of what happens in the state capital will impact New York City, and though there were no elections for city-level positions this year, those who live and work in the city have a great deal at stake as the new state government takes shape. Mayor Bill de Blasio and others are already laying out their priorities for 2019 in Albany, where the mayor and other city Democrats hope the atmosphere will be more friendly toward the five boroughs than in the past.

“[T]he fact that we not only have a Democratic majority in the State Senate but a resounding Democratic majority is going to allow for a host of progress for this state and going to allow some really important initiatives to finally be acted on that we’ve been waiting for, for years and in some cases decades,” de Blasio said on Wednesday. “Most especially reform to our election process, campaign finance reform, finally getting a solution for the MTA. Huge changes could come from the fact that we now have a strong, clear Democratic majority in the State Senate.”

Still, much will happen at the city level in the year ahead that is not necessarily a product of Albany decision-making. Even as he seeks legislative and funding changes in the state capital, de Blasio has city challenges to address, programs to implement, and major decisions to make. There is a Charter Revision Commission exploring sweeping changes to how city government operates, and there will be a handful of elections in the city, starting with a special election for Public Advocate, likely in February.

There will be a great deal at stake in 2019. Advocates, organizers, strategists, and elected and appointed officials have already provided a long list of topics and decisions that will come to the fore next year. So City Limits, Gotham Gazette, and other partners are teaming up over the next eight weeks to explore major policy issues where action is expected over the next 12 months.

Each week we will bring you an in-depth look at one issue area with comprehensive reporting, broadcast interviews, opinion columns, and other features to provide insight into the policies, politics, and people involved and set the stage for what will be an incredibly important year in New York City, New York State, and national politics.

First, an overview of what’s on hand.

Albany
The story begins in Albany. The 2019 landscape in the state capital will be unlike anything seen in roughly a decade: full Democratic control of the executive and legislative branches. This time around is likely to be far more functional than last, when the Senate Democratic conference quickly devolved into chaos and a weak governor was unable to keep his party-mates from disgracing themselves (several of those involved have served time in jail) and bringing legislative business to a long halt.

In 2019, Cuomo enters a third term with wind at his back, major infrastructure projects in motion, and a long to-do list; while Democratic majorities in the Assembly and Senate finally get the opportunity they’ve been waiting for to pass an agenda repeatedly stalled by Republicans in the upper chamber.

The questions that hang over this new arrangement include to what extent various Democrats with varied priorities are able to agree upon an order of operation and the specific details of policies they’ve championed but never actually had the power to pass into law without compromising with Republicans. Expected Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and others have already given indication of what they see as the top priorities with widespread agreement.

Cuomo, who has appeared mostly happy with a split Legislature, now faces the challenge of dictating terms to legislative majorities that may want to move faster and further left than he’s comfortable with, though Democrats also know that the next legislative elections are now less than two years away and their members from swing suburban districts need to be especially careful with ‘pocketbook’ issues. Taxpayers across the state will soon be adjusting to the full new reality of federal tax reforms, which capped state and local deductions and are of great concern to suburban homeowners. Plus, the state’s current “millionaires tax” is set to expire in 2019 and Cuomo hasn’t yet indicated his stance on renewing it, even as he faces upcoming budget deficits.

“I am a suburban legislator,” Stewart-Cousins of Westchester told Long Island-based Newsday. “I am very proud that New Yorkers have elected many great suburban legislators to take their place in the Senate Democratic Majority.”

Cuomo has been clear that he plans to continue the fiscal restraint and center-left governance of his first two terms. At the same time, he’s poised to push through many significant policies his critics have blamed him for not delivering, while addressing the twin crises of his second term: the failing New York City subways and the corruption that has continued to plague state government, recently in the governor’s own inner circle.

Cuomo wants to keep state spending increases to roughly two percent annually, to keep an annual cap on property tax growth everywhere outside New York City, and to take steps to mitigate the effects of federal tax reform, especially the new cap on state and local deductions. But he also has a lengthy professed agenda for 2019 and his larger third term, including voting reform, additional gun control regulations, the Child Victims Act, codifying Roe v. Wade abortion protections into state law, the Dream Act, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), and more. For the most part, the policy agenda Cuomo has laid out, which is noticeably light on new spending, should not be a heavy lift in either house of the Legislature with both under Democratic control.

There may very well be areas of conflict, however, even if legislators stay away from raising taxes or pursuing policies like single-payer health care that Cuomo has thrown cold water on. These include government ethics and campaign finance reform, funding the MTA, rent regulations, education funding, charter schools, criminal justice reform, and others. How to move the state ahead in combating climate change may also be a source of disagreement in terms of degree.

The governor knows he must -- and has promised to -- move ahead with congestion pricing for Manhattan travel as part of funding the MTA and the Fast Forward subway modernization plan that is ballparked at around $35 billion. It’s unclear where the rest of the needed money will come from, though Cuomo has already indicated he expects the New York City government to kick in more (de Blasio continues to call for an additional tax on high-earners, which Cuomo has mocked). The governor even got several Senate candidates on Long Island to sign a pledge that they’d squeeze the city for more transit money -- not the only episode of the fall campaign to raise the possibility that Cuomo is readying to continue to hold sway over policy-making in Albany no matter how other pieces may shift.

The governor is also frustrated with hearing about his failures on government ethics and campaign finance reform, and will likely look to put that talk to bed by the time a new state budget is passed at the end of March. The details of any such deals will be closely examined for whether they truly advance the causes of good government and provide the best possible circumstances for both preventing and punishing corruption.

A major unknown is whether some of the newly elected State Senate Democrats, especially those on Long Island, will feel more beholden to Cuomo than to the conference itself, and help him restrain the larger group. On the other hand, it is unclear how the new group of state senators who defeated members of what was the Independent Democratic Conference, some of whom cross-endorsed with Cynthia Nixon in her challenge to Cuomo, will approach the governor and raising their voices within the Senate majority.

During a Wednesday appearance on Spectrum’s Capitol Tonight, Stewart-Cousins was asked about unifying her new conference and finding agreement. “So people understand that there’s a lot of great hope in our ascension to power,” she said, “and in order to really fulfill those hopes, we have to move as a body. That means we’re going to have to find ways to get to the desired end...We must consider that it is one New York, but there are a lot of different places, a lot of different regions and areas and needs and interests, and if we do our job right we will be able to manage and take care of all of it.”

Democrats in the state Assembly, which is dominated by New York City members and led by Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx, may be itching to enact an agenda they have repeatedly passed that has not had Cuomo’s full support and that is not necessarily the same agenda as the new Senate Democratic majority. Assembly Democrats have spent years passing one-house bills and budgets advancing progressive priorities, including things like single-payer health care, higher taxes on top earners, tighter rent regulations, and sweeping criminal justice reforms.

Still, there is much that Democrats in the Assembly, Senate, and governor’s mansion agree on and will all-but-certainly find common ground to pass, starting with a handful of policies that Cuomo, Stewart-Cousins, and Heastie have already mentioned since the election results came in: voting reform, women’s reproductive choice, gun control, and more.

“There have been measures that I could not get done with a Republican Senate and I believe they were short-sighted,” Cuomo said Wednesday. “...And I worked so hard for a Democratic Senate, because these are pieces that I believe are essential to really move this state forward.”

“We need ethics reform and there's no reason not to pass it,” he continued, mentioning making legislative positions full-time with no outside income, campaign finance reform (including closure of the LLC loophole), and voting reform, including early voting.

“The women's right to choose has to be protected,” Cuomo said, referring to the Reproductive Health Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade into state law. He also mentioned the Dream Act, “gun safety” legislation, which would likely include a “red flag bill” to remove guns from the homes of potentially troubled young people and extending the background check wait time from three to ten days.

All of the issues listed by Cuomo are ones that Stewart-Cousins, members of her conference, and Heastie have mentioned in the first days after the election as top priorities.

While Cuomo appears ready to knock down any criticism that he is not a ‘real Democrat’ and create additional buzz around a possible presidential run, he always wants to move on his terms. A deal-maker who leverages his counterparts, the governor has clearly been sizing up the new dynamics he’s facing ahead of the state budget session that will kick off in January with his State of the State speech and Executive Budget presentation. Discussing the facts that he received the most votes of any governor ever and won this year by a bigger margin than in 2014, Cuomo said Wednesday that it “helps practically in governmentally when you have a larger mandate electorally, the other elected officials know you’ve literally come into government with a stronger hand, and having a larger victory helps you governmentally, I believe that.”

And even as Cuomo has pledged to serve another four-year term and there are very serious questions about his viability as a presidential candidate, he has regularly stoked the flames and after another resounding electoral victory, may be poised to flirt even more explicitly with a run for president.

One possibility is that Cuomo focuses intently on moving an aggressive progressive agenda through in the first few months of the Albany year, then takes his new list of accomplishments to a few of the necessary stops on a presidential exploration tour, such as New Hampshire.

Another uncertainty for the year ahead is exactly how Attorney General-elect Letitia James approaches her new role. James, a Democrat who is currently the New York City public advocate, will vacate that position and take charge of a vast and immensely powerful legal office. She has promised to continue the aggressive approach the office of attorney general has taken to President Trump, his administration and his other enterprises, while also taking on criminal justice reform in New York and working to root out public corruption, among other aspects of the role she has said she will embrace. In the face of skepticism about her closeness to Cuomo and other Democrats, James has promised to be an independent voice and to pursue wrongdoing wherever it may be.

There is no speculating that much of New York City’s policy agenda depends on legislative action in Albany. Speedy trial and bail reform legislation seen as vital to the effort to close Rikers island jails will be a top priority for progressives in the capital and City Hall. And the renewal of rent regulations presents a major opportunity to reduce the displacement pressures that dog de Blasio’s rezoning and development plans. There is almost guaranteed to be city-state tension in 2019 over funding the MTA, among other policy and budget issues.

Asked the day after the election about his top priorities for the Albany year ahead, de Blasio said, “One: strengthen rent regulations, protect affordable housing. Two: fix the MTA, provide a permanent funding source for our subways and buses. Three: continue our progress on education funding and on having the power to keep fixing our schools.”

New York City
Under normal circumstances, 2019 would be a quiet year in city politics—an off-year between the 2018 statewide elections and the presidential race in 2020, with municipal elections a full two years off in 2021.

But circumstances are not normal. A a citywide official is leaving her office vacant, a veteran district attorney is retiring, and big decisions on everything from charter revision to jail-siting and neighborhood rezoning are due.

As is always the case in the years after statewide elections, three district attorney races are on the docket in the city. All five of the city’s sitting district attorneys are Democrats. Incumbent Darcel Clark in the Bronx, who was elected in 2015 with 80 percent of the vote, is unlikely to be threatened. Staten Island's Michael McMahon won his post in 2015 with 55 percent of the vote, and could face a more competitive re-election contest. But the Queens DA's race is shaping up to be the most dramatic affair, with incumbent Richard Brown—who ran uncontested in '15 and has held his post since '91—likely to step down and a roster of well-known names (City Council Member Rory Lancman, former Council Member Peter Vallone, Jr., Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, State Senator Michael Gianaris) in the mix of declared or potential candidates.

Letitia James' victory in the race for attorney general means there'll be a special election to fill the post of public advocate. Brooklyn Council Member Jumaane Williams, fresh off his campaign for lieutenant governor, and Bronx Assembly Member Michael Blake are already in the mix for that post, along with a couple of others like Nomiki Konst and David Eisenbach, and a host of other names are considered possible candidates.

The special election to select an interim public advocate will be a nonpartisan affair held in early 2019; the winner of that could then face a primary in September before a general election in November 2019 to decide who serves the remainder of James' term. Worth noting: If someone currently in elected office wins the special election for public advocate, there will need to be another election to fill the slot the winner vacates. It could be a very special year.

Also expected to be on the ballot next November: the proposals from the City Council's 2019 charter revision commission. The hearings and meetings (and behind the scenes machinations) that will shape those proposals will be a significant story to watch in the city next year, because the changes on the table next November could be the most significant in 30 years. Already, the commission has been asked to consider ambitious alterations to how the city does budgeting and land-use planning.

Critical housing policy decisions will come throughout the year. The city's "Where We Live NYC" fair-housing planning process—a landmark examination of whether city housing programs have reduced or exacerbated segregation—is supposed to wrap up by the fall of 2019. A decision could come in the lawsuits over the fairness of the community preference policy and the property-tax system, and the property-tax reform commission empaneled by de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson is holding its final first-wave meetings in later November and December and could issue a report soon—with whatever plan emerges subject to intense debate, as well as legislation at both the city and state levels.

Major neighborhood rezonings of Bushwick, Gowanus, and Bay Street are likely, with action on Long Island City and the Southern Boulevard area of the Bronx also possible. And the Council and mayor will render decisions on the plans to build new jails to replace the facilities on Rikers Island.

Meanwhile, the NYCHA settlement with federal authorities awaits approval—and NYCHA families await another winter and the potential for heat and hot-water problems. The federal criminal investigation of NYCHA and its decision-makers is not over and could produce more news, and some housing advocates will bring more pressure on the mayor to build new senior housing on NYCHA land rather than market-rate units. De Blasio may name a permanent head of NYCHA, or keep the interim leader, Stan Brezenoff, in place. The city will also be looking to Washington for more funding help for public housing, and may put forward a revamped long-term plan for NYCHA that accelerates the pace of development on under-utilized NYCHA land as a way to bring in revenue.

2019 is the year when the hit from the Trump tax plan's capping of federal income tax deductions for state and local taxes will start to affect high earners—and it will be interesting to see if that encourages calls to rein in spending during the city's budget process. As one business advocate notes, "Only a relatively small number of high earners have to relocate to lower tax states for NYC to suffer major revenue losses." People in the top 1 percent – those in the 38,000 households making more than $713,000—earned about 35 percent of the city's income and contributed roughly 44 percent of total income-tax revenue in 2016. But keeping budget growth modest will be challenging, with the MTA, NYCHA, and the public hospital system in need of major investment.

The city's ability to implement the Fair Fares Metrocard subsidy program will be tested, and bus riders should get a glimpse of the newly redesigned bus routes coming under the MTA's Fast Forward plan. The rollout of the school desegregation effort in District 15 will continue as New Yorkers get more of a sense of whether and how Richard Carranza will put his stamp on the school system.

The x-factor in all these stories is how much power Bill de Blasio will have to shape these critical policy decisions, all of which will help sculpt his legacy.

The mayor did little to define a second-term agenda before he was re-elected in a landslide a year ago, and he's not done much to fill in those blanks over the past 12 months. His signature policy idea of 2018, the democracy initiative, has not had an auspicious start, though de Blasio did see the three ballot proposals from his charter revision commission approved by voters on Election Day. While the mayor has made substantive policy moves, on cybersecurity and guns for instance, they have been drowned out by a torrent of dreadful headlines about NYCHA, his school renewal plan, his beef with the Department of Investigations commissioner, and, of course, the "agent of the city" emails.

Some of that static is merely what comes with the territory of a second term in one of the toughest jobs in the country. But de Blasio's unusually acrimonious relationship with the press, his feud with a governor who was just resoundingly elected for a third time, the rise of a less-cooperative City Council and the pre-2021 positioning that is already taking place among his partners in government could combine to irreversibly weaken the mayor years before he ought to look like a lame duck. While that might sound like good news to those who dislike de Blasio, the fact is the city's interests in Albany or Washington depend on there being a strong figure in City Hall. Other players might claim some spotlight and gain some juice, but Bill de Blasio is alone at New York City's helm for another 1,150 days. That would be a long time to be adrift.

Washington, D.C.
And then there’s Washington. The new Democratic House could move a legislative agenda to try to limit the impact of the limitations on SALT deductions, support infrastructure spending, shore up the Affordable Care Act, and take steps to thwart the president’s harshest moves on immigration -- all of which would have direct impact on New York City and State. But with Republicans maintaining control of the Senate and the White House, Democrats will not be able to move anything through Congress without major compromise. It’s unclear who will lead the House Democrats or what their strategy over the next year will be: seeking a deal with centrist Republicans, or even with the mercurial president himself, to create new policy, or instead maintaining a more combative posture until the 2020 presidential election resets the country.

The Iowa caucus, after all, is only 15 months away.

This is the opening story in a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project: AGENDA 2019
Find the rest of the series here

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by Ben Max of Gotham Gazette & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits. Part of "Agenda 2019," a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project to get New Yorkers ready for the political year ahead.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Agenda 2019

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Agenda 2019: Major Policy Tests Ahead for State and City Thu, 08 Nov 2018 05:00:00 +0000
The Path Forward for Cuomo's 'One Real Answer,' Congestion Pricing http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7999-the-path-forward-for-cuomo-s-one-real-answer-congestion-pricing http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7999-the-path-forward-for-cuomo-s-one-real-answer-congestion-pricing gov cuomo congepric

Cuomo in the midst of his ABNY presentation


One major issue that hung over the 2018 state budget season was congestion pricing, a plan to charge a fee to all motor vehicles entering parts of Manhattan and diverting the revenue toward funding the beleaguered subway system. Governor Andrew Cuomo directed a panel to study the issue, which determined that a congestion pricing scheme should be implemented and offered options for what it could look like, including a three-year, three-phase proposal. Activist groups applied significant public pressure on the governor and the Legislature. Newspaper opinion pages endorsed the idea.

But in the end, only a small part of the plan came to fruition in the budget: a surcharge on for-hire vehicles, including traditional taxis and app-based rides, entering the Manhattan business district. New charges on other cars and trucks did not come to pass. Activists excoriated Cuomo, while the governor blamed the Legislature. Cuomo said that an important first step had been passed and that he would work on additional steps in the future. That process would be led by a budget-created advisory “workgroup” made up of appointees from various stakeholders, including the governor, legislative leaders, and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Since the March budget deal, the chorus calling for congestion pricing -- both to reduce street traffic in Manhattan and to secure a steady revenue stream to help support repair of the faltering subways -- has only grown, in number and volume.

Now, supporters of congestion pricing, from activists to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and many others, want to ensure that it makes it into the next budget. They see a potentially more favorable environment, though a lot will be determined by the results of November’s elections, and by the pressure they put on those running.

“It's my impression that pretty much everyone running for office right now at least in the city supports congestion pricing, so I think that puts us in a position to win this year,” said Rebecca Bailin, the political director of the transit advocacy group Riders Alliance, referring to candidates for state Assembly and Senate.

Riders Alliance is a part of a new coalition, announced earlier this month, consisting of a diverse group of advocacy organizations, including those focused on the environment, immigrants, social justice, low-income communities and communities of color, and others, organized to push congestion pricing over the finish line. Between now and budget season, the groups will engage in both public demonstrations and private meetings with legislators in an attempt to steer the Legislature and governor toward implementing a full congestion pricing plan.

“We are all so reliant on our subways and buses,” Bailin said. “It is a social justice issue because it can either be a barrier or an entryway to economic opportunity, to cultural access in this city, to all the things that the city has to offer.”

The results of the recent primary elections have renewed hope that 2019 could finally be the year.

Discussion of congestion pricing and funding and fixing the MTA was a centerpiece of the Cuomo-Cynthia Nixon primary, with the governor regularly pointing to congestion pricing and the new Fast Forward plan put forth by MTA leadership to upgrade the transit system. Six of the eight members of the recently-defunct Independent Democratic Conference of the state Senate were defeated by insurgent Democrats who largely staked out more strongly supportive positions on congestion pricing than the incumbents.

Some of those defeated, like Senators Jesse Hamilton and Jose Peralta, were supporters of the scheme and were replaced by other supporters; on the other hand, cautious supporter John Liu defeated a vocal opponent, Senator Tony Avella, who is continuing his run in the general election on the Independence and Women’s Equality lines. Even Republican Senator Martin Golden of Southern Brooklyn, a perennial foe of transit and street safety activists, calls himself a supporter of congestion pricing.

"The Senate, whether controlled by the Democrats or the Republicans, is always a complicated picture,” said Alex Matthiessen, the founder of the Move NY campaign, whose comprehensive congestion pricing plan has served as a model for legislative proposals since 2015, in an email. “But the replacement of the IDC and many of its members with a crop of progressive, hungry and decidedly pro-congestion pricing senators-in-waiting portends well for this effort. But regardless of partisan control of the legislature there’s one constant: city transportation is a disaster and it’s on lawmakers to act.”

Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the likely majority leader if the Democrats take the Senate, represents a suburban district and does not have a clear position on congestion pricing. A report by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign found that only 3.9 percent of Stewart-Cousins’ constituents, those driving alone into Manhattan’s proposed congestion pricing zone, would be affected by the charge. Stewart-Cousins’ office did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

In the Assembly, Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx is a supporter of congestion pricing, though some advocates criticized him last year for not pushing hard enough for the proposal. Heastie’s office also did not respond to a request for comment.

Senator Michael Gianaris of Queens, who served as deputy minority leader prior to the reunification of the IDC and may return to a deputy leader role in January, was once a skeptic of congestion pricing, but is now a supporter. He also supports Mayor de Blasio’s millionaires’ tax proposal, which he says can help fill the gap left between what’s funded by congestion pricing and what a comprehensive transit fix will actually cost.

“A Democratic Senate would certainly prioritize the stability and funding of the MTA, which the Republican Senate has not done,” Gianaris said in an interview. “So I think it’s a prerequisite to get to a realistic end to have a Democratic Senate. As for whether the Senate would embrace congestion pricing, beyond those of us that already do, I can’t speak for others. We’re gonna have to have those conversations. I don’t even know which senators I’m going to be looking at, because we’re hoping to pick up a lot more senators in a couple weeks.”

Cuomo, too, has only attached himself more to congestion pricing. At an event hosted by the Association for a Better New York on October 4, Cuomo said that since neither God, the city, nor the state would cough up $33 billion needed for the Fast Forward plan, “the only realistic option is congestion pricing, we have to get it done, we have to get it done next year, I need your help.”

For now, Cuomo has activists somewhat convinced.

“I am optimistic based on what he said about the need to fund the MTA,” Bailin said of Cuomo’s ABNY remarks.

Cuomo’s FixNYC panel recommended, in a January report, a broad but “phased” congestion pricing program. The for-hire vehicle surcharge, phase 2, passed, but other parts and phases of the plan did not, leaving many boosters disappointed, and some accusing Cuomo of a “bait-and-switch.”

“The Governor single-handedly revived the idea of congestion pricing and succeeded in passing the first phase of the FixNYC plan including a fee on for-hire vehicles that will go into effect next year as well as empaneling a new MTA advisory group that will provide recommendations before end of year as we develop the executive budget proposal,” Cuomo spokesperson Peter Ajemian said in a statement. “The Governor has been clear congestion pricing is the most realistic way to help fund the NYCT modernization plan and will continue leading the charge to convince legislators to pass it next year.”

The new advisory group is the MTA Sustainability Advisory Workgroup, which formally met for the first time last month and is tasked with coming up with a comprehensive plan for funding a major transit overhaul plan like Fast Forward by December 31. Though created in the enacted budget that passed in March, the panel’s members were not named until August, after Riders Alliance publicly called for the appointments. The group’s fairly tight timeline is compounded by the sheer immensity of the task before it.

But, the workgroup represents a much broader array of perspectives than FixNYC, which was an entirely Cuomo-appointed panel. The panel consists of two Cuomo appointees: CEO of the Partnership for New York City Kathryn Wylde and Metro North Commuter Council member Rhonda Herman; two appointees of congestion pricing skeptic Mayor Bill de Blasio: former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Senator Gianaris; one appointee of MTA Chair Joe Lhota: Vice Chair Fernando Ferrer; two from the Senate: former City Council Member Andrew Eristoff and former DOT engineer Michael Shamma; and two from the Assembly: Assemblymembers Amy Paulin and Michael Benedetto.

“It is a group of well-meaning individuals who are trying to make recommendations to solve the MTA’s funding crisis,” Gianaris said. “And the MTA crisis in general, regardless of funding. I think efficiency is one of the other things we’re going to be looking at as well.”

Even de Blasio appears to be warming to the idea of congestion pricing, evidenced by his appointment of two supporters to the panel.

The panel has met three times so far, and Wylde, the chair, says that the meetings will occur weekly or biweekly until the end of the year, when a set of recommendations must be produced. The initial focus has been determining what the funding needs of the MTA are and how congestion pricing could form part of a solution, but the panel is empowered to go well beyond that in its recommended solutions.

“FixNYC was really focused on congestion pricing and how to implement it,” Gianaris said. “That is just one element of what this group is doing.”

Wylde elaborated on that point.

“It may be funding mechanisms, it may be reforms,” Wylde said in an interview with Gotham Gazette. “Structural and other reforms in how the MTA raises its own revenues. And then all the issues associated with congestion pricing: 1) to build support, and 2) to achieve the dual goals of new revenue generation and traffic reduction. So those have been the focus of the conversation so far.”

New York City Transit President Andy Byford’s much-talked about Fast Forward plan to modernize the subway system has been projected to cost roughly $40 billion over ten years, though Cuomo has used the $33 billion figure. Wylde said that unanimity on a true cost does not exist on the panel, and that part of the panel’s focus is in determining what it would be.

Congestion pricing remains the crux of the negotiations, and its status as a major part of the long-term transit solution appears to be agreed upon. But most analysts agree that congestion pricing would not alone cover the massive cost of fixing the transit system, and that other mechanisms are necessary as well. Estimates for annual congestion pricing revenue vary, and depend on what the program actually looks like, but have been in the $1 billion range.

The new advisory panel’s recommended solutions could, theoretically, include any of a variety of measures beyond congestion pricing -- including labor reforms, changes to the MTA’s budgeting process, an added surcharge to high-income earners’ taxes, fare hikes, or value capture -- to address long-term funding and spending issues.

“We will be careful about mission creep,” Wylde said. “The primary goal here is to identify the gap and make specific recommendations on how to deal with it, and most specifically, it’s to try and resolve an approach to congestion pricing. And so, I think that’s the focus, and to the extent that the gap exceeds the revenues that one can project from congestion pricing, looking at other sources of funding or cost reduction.”

The panel’s work will be informed by that of outside experts and advocates, and by previous plans such as FixNYC and Move NY, as well as by the expertise that the panel members themselves have from work on these issues. Political questions will come into consideration as well, especially considering the presence of three current and two former elected officials. The nature of the panel’s makeup -- that numerous stakeholders, rather than just one, appointed its members -- may allow for a broader consensus to be formed in such a way that is palatable to all parties.

“To date, I don't think party politics are playing a role,” Wylde said. “Obviously, the political sensibilities of all members of the group play into what they think is realistic and what can be accomplished. So, it's a politically sophisticated group, but not one that's just gonna be at the mercy of party politics.”

The November elections will, of course, hold significant influence over what happens in the next budget season, though Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess county executive, does support congestion pricing. However, if Republicans maintain the majority in the State Senate, they may put the brakes on the momentum toward implementation.

Advocates are, at present, optimistic about the panel and prospects despite the initial hiccups.

“It’s important there’s a panel in place that represents the interests of various government entities whose constituents are affected by our transportation crisis,” Matthiessen said. “As long as the Workgroup delivers the report by the December 31 deadline, the group’s work will be worthwhile.”

And though the December 31 deadline may seem tight for such a complex assignment, the stakeholders are confident that it will get done.

“It may be a broad topic,” Wylde said, “but it’s not a new topic.”

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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The Path Forward for Cuomo's 'One Real Answer,' Congestion Pricing Tue, 16 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
As Broader Debate Intensifies, New York Nonprofits Consider Throwing Weight Behind Single-Payer http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7944-as-broader-debate-intensifies-new-york-nonprofits-consider-throwing-weight-behind-single-payer http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7944-as-broader-debate-intensifies-new-york-nonprofits-consider-throwing-weight-behind-single-payer gottfried org 2

Assemblymember Gottfried (photo: Dickgottfried.org)


Wendy Stark is ready to press the reset button on health care. The executive director of Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, based in Lower Manhattan, Stark is hopeful that an overhaul may be on the horizon in New York through controversial legislation gaining increasing attention as this fall’s elections determine the upcoming balance of power in state government, from the governor’s office through the state Legislature.

The New York Health Act -- which has increasingly strong chances of passing the state Legislature but does not have the support of Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is favored to win a third term -- would set the stage for New York to toss out the current health insurance system in favor of a single taxpayer-funded, government-administered health care program for everyone.

As the bill has been the subject of more debate in recent months, partially stemming from gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon’s support for it, powerful lobbyist groups representing insurers, hospitals, and businesses have been vocal about their opposition. The Business Council of New York State took to Fox & Friends to denounce the legislation, while others have written op-eds in local publications. Republicans running for office, including gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro, are warning New Yorkers about a potential government takeover of health care.

But as the leader of a health care provider that serves mostly low-income members of the LGBT community through its clinics in Manhattan and the Bronx and employs more than 350 people, Stark has a very different take. She says in addition to allowing her organization to save on employee benefits and administrative costs -- a projection generally backed up by the RAND Corp.’s recently-published analysis of the New York Health Act -- a single-payer system would cut down on the red tape patients have to deal with.

“So many of the barriers to care people experience are rooted in the economics of health care,” Stark said. “We don’t believe health care can make adequate improvements without changing the foundational economics of how it works and is paid for.”

Under the proposed single-payer system, insurance premiums, deductibles and copays would all go out the window, and patients could visit any health care provider without having to worry about whether they were in their insurance network. Meanwhile, taxes would go up, with the wealthiest New Yorkers paying a greater portion of their income and employers paying a certain amount per employee. Under the sample tax model proposed by the RAND Corp., the state would have to collect an estimated $139 billion in new taxes in 2022 to pay for the single-payer system. Still, RAND projected that overall spending on health care would go down -- barring a few caveats that that could stand in the way of the system being successful.

Callen-Lorde is one of 10 community-based health centers and 183 total nonprofit groups statewide that have publicly endorsed the campaign supporting the New York Health Act (in addition to a variety of mostly small for-profit businesses). But while it may seem like a natural fit, the bill still has a ways to go to become a widespread legislative priority for the large contingent of community-based organizations that help connect immigrants, people with behavioral health problems and housing insecurity, formerly incarcerated individuals, and members of other marginalized groups to needed health care and social services.

Many nonprofit health centers and other organizations, including those in the human services sector -- which employ a growing workforce and have formed coalitions to represent their interests in Albany and Washington, D.C. -- are still examining the implications of the New York Health Act before issuing full-throated endorsements. Others are directing their limited resources to what they see as more pressing policy and funding concerns.

But that may change as the policy conversation develops. Groups like the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, FPWA, which represents 170 human-services and faith-based organizations, are hoping to help move things along.

“We believe the New York Health Act would strengthen nonprofits both for the communities they serve as well as their employees, and make the system more tenable long-term,” said Winn Periyasamy, policy analyst at FPWA.

FPWA, along with the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families and the New York Immigration Coalition, hosted a forum on single-payer for nonprofit representatives on the Lower East Side last month, where they heard about the New York Health Act directly from its lead sponsors in the Legislature, Assemblymember Richard Gottfried and Senator Gustavo Rivera, both Democrats who represent parts of New York City in their respective legislative houses.

New Yorkers in favor of a single-payer health system will know they’re winning, Rivera told the audience, when sinister images of him and Gottfried start appearing in insurance-industry funded attack ads.

“I can’t wait for that gritty video, I can’t wait for it!” said Rivera, of the Bronx, exuding confidence that the debate over the state’s single-payer bill is on its way to reaching a fever pitch.

The New York Health Act passed the Assembly the last four years in a row, but was thwarted each time by the Republican-controlled Senate. Now the bill--which was already only one sponsor short of a majority in the Senate in the last session--is among a slew of progressive measures that have been infused with new hope following the dissolution of the Independent Democratic Conference, which allowed Senate Democrats to caucus with Republicans.

“This is real,” Gottfried insisted at the forum. “This is not a dream. And you and your people are really crucial to making sure it gets done.”

Those in attendance were particularly interested in how the bill would affect undocumented New Yorkers, who are generally not eligible for health insurance now but would be under the single-payer system. Undocumented New Yorkers currently often use public hospitals at great expense, having eschewed preventative care due to their documentation status and lack of insurance. Dr. Mitchell Katz, chief executive of the cash-strapped NYC Health + Hospitals system, praised the Assembly on Twitter for passing the New York Health Act in June.

Attendees at the event also talked about the need to properly translate materials on single-payer into the languages of the communities they serve.

“We’re reaching into our Asian-American communities,” said Anita Gundanna, co-executive director of the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families. “A lot of people had never heard of the [single-payer] proposal before or thought through the impact of it, so for us the very beginning step is to expose our communities to what’s going on and how it might impact them.”

CACF and other groups serving Asian-Pacific Americans advocate for health care initiatives through Project CHARGE, the Coalition for Health Access to Reach Greater Equity. Gundanna said there’s a need to get more buy-in from individual organizations before single-payer can become an official part of the coalition’s policy agenda.

“We have to be strategic and patient,” she said. “We can’t move without having our coalition behind us.”

On the bright side, Gundanna pointed out, the nonprofit sector had to increase its capacity to share information about health policy a few years ago in order to help people understand and get insured through the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

But more recently everyone has been on the defensive, using their resources to try to preserve the ACA and prevent a wide array of federal policies from taking effect. Lately, many organizations are preoccupied with changes the Trump administration is considering to the Public Charge Rule, which people in the social-services sector say are already discouraging some immigrants from using public benefits, including subsidized health insurance, for fear it could be used as a strike against them later.

Gundanna said she wants to present nonprofits with proactive solutions like single-payer but acknowledges that everyone must consider, “How many resources are there to explore these quote-unquote ideal options in this quote-unquote ideal world?”

Asked about the New York Health Act, the Community Healthcare Association of New York State, which spent much of 2017 and early 2018 consumed by a battle to secure endangered federal funding for its members, said in a statement, “CHCANYS supports innovations in health policy that improve access to high-quality health care for everyone. We continue to study the options for expanding coverage to all New Yorkers and are closely monitoring the current political discourse.”

Meanwhile, the Human Services Council, whose advocacy focuses on improving the government contracts its member organizations rely on for funding, is not likely to take a position on the New York Health Act, said Allison Sesso, the coalition’s executive director.

“Doing stuff on this is not why we exist and could eat up resources,” said Sesso, although she added, “I think this conversation is really important and I’m glad it’s being elevated.”

As advocates for the New York Health Act work to make the case that it’s worth the time and effort for would-be proponents to support the bill, they are also faced with the uphill battle of getting the governor on their side. A year ago, before the bill stood much of a chance of passing both houses of the state Legislature, Cuomo signaled some slight openness to the idea of implementing a single-payer system in New York. Asked about it again during his debate with Nixon, before he beat her in the gubernatorial primary this month, Cuomo came out against the idea. He said he thought it could work at the federal level but would be too costly an endeavor for the state to embark on alone.

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by Caroline Lewis for Gotham Gazette. On Twitter @clewisreports and @GothamGazette.

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As Broader Debate Intensifies, New York Nonprofits Consider Throwing Weight Behind Single-Payer Thu, 20 Sep 2018 04:00:00 +0000
The 2018 Elections in New York http://www.gothamgazette.com/election-coverage/2018-elections http://www.gothamgazette.com/election-coverage/2018-elections Andrew Cuomo voting

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


In 2018, New York will be home to elections for statewide seats including Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Comptroller, as well as one of its two United States Senate seats. In all five positions but Attorney General, incumbent Democrats are seeking reelection. In three -- Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General -- there are competitive primaries that will be decided Thursday September 13.

New York is also home this year to elections for all of its 27 seats in The House of Representatives -- races that will help determine which political party controls the chamber -- and in the state Legislature, with its 63 state Senate seats and 150 Assembly seats. The state Senate races will determine which party controls the chamber, which Republicans currently lead by a slight margin due to the defection of rogue Democrats. The Assembly is certain to remain solidly in Democratic hands.

Congressional primaries occured June 26; while primaries for the state-level elections will occur September 13. Election Day -- with the general election for all 2018 races -- will occur November 6. (There were also special elections April 24 to fill 11 vacancies in the state Legislature, two in the Senate and nine in the Assembly.)

As New Yorkers prepare to go to the polls for the September 13 primaries, which are largely on the Democratic side, and the November 6 general election, our ongoing election coverage:

Gotham Gazette's ongoing coverage of the 2018 elections in New York, with the most recent first:

Field for Public Advocate Special Election Comes Into Focus by Victor Porcelli & Ben Max

Max & Murphy Podcast: Analyzing 2018 Election Results & Looking Ahead to 2019, with Alyssa Katz of The Daily News by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (November 2018)

Fix New York’s Broken Balloting and Election Laws by Jamie Ansorge (November 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Election Day Live Show with Special Guests including Jumaane Williams & Errol Louis by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (November 2018)

Voter Turnout Booms in New York by Ben Brachfeld (November 2018)

Cuomo Reelected, Democrats Take the State Senate; 2018 General Election Results in New York by Ben Max & Samar Khurshid (November 2018)

The 3 Big Reasons Why Elections in New York City are So Poorly Run by Samar Khurshid (November 2018)

Antonio Delgado Makes Final Pitch in Bid to Swing New York-19 by Brianna Zimmerman (November 2018)

Tax Issues at Center of State Elections, Albany Year to Come by Dave Colon (November 2018)

Keep the Party Dedicated to Women’s Equality Alive in New York by Susan Zimet (November 2018)

Vote Yes Three Times to Improve New York City Democracy by Alex Camarda (November 2018)

10 Things to Watch on Election Day in New York by Samar Khurshid (November 2018)

Running for Attorney General, Wofford Promises to Step Up Fighting Corruption, Step Back Fighting Wall Street by Annie Abreu (November 2018)

Without Cuomo, Other Candidates for Governor Present Ideas in Tempered Debate by David Colon (November 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: 'Minor Party' Candidates for Comptroller & Attorney General by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (October 2018)

Molinaro Pledges Education 'State of Emergency,' Council of Mayors by Ben Brachfeld (October 2018)

Climate Change, and What To Do About It, Largely Missing from Governor’s Race by David Colon (October 2018)

In Attorney General Debate, James and Wofford Contrast Careers, Approaches to Cuomo and Trump by Samar Khurshid (October 2018)

Two-Tiered Agenda for Democrats If They Take State Senate by Victor Porcelli (October 2018)

Top Republican Strategist on Where the New York GOP Went Wrong and What To Do About It by Ben Brachfeld & Max (October 2018)

Gubernatorial Candidate Larry Sharpe Wants to Reinvent New York's Education System by Ben Brachfeld (October 2018)

Senate Democrats Full of Optimism About Flipping Chamber, One-Party Control of State Government by Victor Porcelli (October 2018)

In Run for New York City Public Advocate, Blake Offers Federal and State Experience by Ben Max (October 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Cuomo-Molinaro Debate Analysis by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (October 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Rep. Dan Donovan by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (October 2018)

Cuomo Takes Aggressive Approach to Molinaro in Debate with Limited Substance by Ben Max (October 2018)

Molinaro Reveals Reason He Didn’t Vote for Trump by Ben Max (October 2018)

Senate Republicans Leave Molinaro Out of Only Hope Messaging by David Colon (October 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Battle for Control of the State Senate by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (October 2018)

[Updated] Can Democrats win the state Senate? How progressive is Cuomo? New Yorkers are about to find out by Art Chang (October 2018)

'Speaker Heastie PAC' Gives to James for AG, Skoufis for Senate by Samar Khurshid (October 2018)

Brewer Creates Committee to Oppose Charter Revision Proposals by Samar Khurshid (October 2018)

Democrats in Swing Districts Run On, Not From, Single-Payer Health Care by David Colon (October 2018)

WATCH: State Comptroller Candidate Debate by Ben Max (October 2018)

Is this the Election that Kills Fusion Voting in New York? by David Colon (October 2018)

Comptroller Candidates Debate Powers and Responsibilities of State's Top Fiscal Officer by Samar Khurshid (October 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Republican Attorney General Nominee Keith Wofford by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (October 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Larry Sharpe, Libertarian nominee for Governor by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (October 2018)

Cuomo Challengers Level Critiques; Will Anything Stick? by Samar Khurshid (October 2018)

A Lifelong Democrat and Famed Civil Rights Attorney, Michael Sussman Runs for Attorney General as a Green by Victor Porcelli (October 2018)

Klein, Filing Late Post-Primary, Shows Over $3 Million in Senate Campaign Spending by Samar Khurshid (October 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Comptroller Tom DiNapoli by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (October 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Jonathan Trichter, Republican nominee for Comptroller by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (October 2018)

Cuomo Begins Push to Flip State Senate and House of Representatives by Samar Khurshid (October 2018)

New York Congressional Races to Watch - Start of October by Sam Raskin (October 2018)

How ‘Blue’ is New York? by Ben Brachfeld (September 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Stephanie Miner, Serve America Movement Nominee for Governor by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (September 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Howie Hawkins, Green Party Nominee for Governor by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (September 2018)

Post-Primary Campaign Finance Filings Show Cuomo’s Already Spent $28 Million by Samar Khurshid (September 2018)

Cuomo and His Progressive Critics Face Moment of Truth by Sam Raskin (September 2018)

Gubernatorial Candidates Miner, Sharpe & Hawkins Lay Out Campaign Platforms, Cases Against Cuomo by Sam Raskin (September 2018)

Democrats Target Previously Ignored Brooklyn Shot at State Senate Majority by Samar Khurshid (September 2018)

After Primary Wins, Progressive Activists Eye Flipping State Senate Seats, and Wide Majority by Samar Khurshid (September 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Marc Molinaro, Republican Nominee for GovernorMax & Murphy Podcast: Marc Molinaro, Republican Nominee for Governor by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (September 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Primary Post-Mortem with Rebecca Katz, Top Cynthia Nixon Strategist by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (September 2018)

Surging Democratic Voter Turnout in New York City May Mean Greater Importance in State Elections by Jim Brennan (September 2018)

Republican Slate Seeks to End Statewide Drought by Ben Brachfeld & Samar Khurshid

How Insurgent Forces Activated, Educated and Brought the IDC Down by Samar Khurshid (September 2018)

A Closer Look at Democratic Primary Turnout, Margins and Geography by Sam Raskin (September 2018)

The Real Story of Cuomo’s Dominant Primary Win by Howard Glaser (September 2018)

2018 New York State Primary Results: Cuomo, Hochul, James Prevail While Senate Upsets Abound by Ben Max (September 2018)

Cuomo and Hochul Win Primaries, Again Form Democratic General Election Ticket by Samar Khurshid (September 2018)

James Eyes Statewide History as Democratic Attorney General Nominee by Sam Raskin (September 2018)

Teachout-Maloney Battle May Help James Win Attorney General Nomination by Sam Raskin (September 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Primary Day Is Here by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (September 2018)

Ahead of Primary, Cuomo Gives Limited Insight into Third Term Agenda by Samar Khurshid (September 2018)

A Closer Look at the Democratic Attorney General Candidates’ Legal Careers by Sam Raskin (September 2018)

Last-Minute Guide to Voting on Primary Day, September 13 by Ben Brachfeld (September 2018)

Get Ready to Vote in the Hochul-Williams Lieutenant Governor Primary by Sam Raskin (September 2018)

How ‘Independent’ Must the New York Attorney General Be? by Gerald Benjamin (September 2018)

One of the State's Most Powerful Unions Tries to Take Down One of Its Most Powerful Politicians by Samar Khurshid (September 2018)

Vacancy in the Public Advocate's Office? Call the City Council Speaker by Samar Khurshid (September 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Final Days of the Lieutenant Governor Primary by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (September 2018)

In Brooklyn, Blake Morris Tries to Upend the State Senate Power Balance All By Himself by Ben Brachfeld (September 2018)

Statewide Candidates File Final Pre-Primary Campaign Finance Disclosures by Samar Khurshid (September 2018)

Candidates in Contested State Senate Primaries File Final Pre-Primary Financials by Samar Khurshid (September 2018)

Potentially Crowded Public Advocate Special Election Could Feature Two Former Council Speakers by Samar Khurshid (September 2018)

WATCH: Lieutenant Governor Democratic Primary Debate Between Kathy Hochul and Jumaane Williams moderated by Ben Max (August 2018)

Alleging Lies, Molinaro Seeks to Have Cuomo Attack Ad Pulled by Chelsey Sanchez (August 2018)

Hochul Asserts Previously Unmentioned Role in Anti-Sexual Harassment Laws by Sam Raskin (August 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Intense Queens Senate Primary Centers on Delivering for Immigrant Communities, with Jessica Ramos & State Senator Jose Peralta by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (August 2018)

Hochul, Williams Outline Drastic Differences in Lieutenant Governor Debate by Sam Raskin (August 2018)

Arguing Throughout, Cuomo and Nixon Debate Experience and Vision by Samar Khurshid (August 2018)

Nixon Says 'Narrow Path' to Victory Paved with Newly-Registered Progressives Polls ‘Not Capturing’ by Samar Khurshid (August 2018)

Opponents Target Teachout as Democratic Attorney General Candidates Debate Role and Resumes by Samar Khurshid (August 2018)

How Ronald Reagan’s 1966 Run for Governor Prefaced Cynthia Nixon’s Today by Caitlin Bishop (August 2018)

Pressed on SAFE Act, Teachout Downplays Past Opposition by Sam Raskin (August 2018)

Being Labeled the ‘Sheriff of Wall Street’ Isn't Enough by attorney general candidate Letitia James (August 2018)

Running for Attorney General, James Takes Strong Atlantic Yards Record Too Far by Norman Oder (August 2018)

Manhattan Senate Debate Offers Another Round of IDC Argument, Few Ideas to Fix NYCHA or the MTA by Chelsey Sanchez (August 2018)

'Speaker Heastie PAC' Brings in Big Money from Special Interests, Starts Giving to Candidates by Samar Khurshid & Ben Brachfeld (August 2018)

Rep. Jeffries Backs Gov. Cuomo for Reelection by Chelsey Sanchez & Ben Max (August 2018)

Some New York Democrats are Backing Nixon for Governor and James for Attorney General by Samar Khurshid & Ben Max (August 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Preparing for Primary Day by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (August 2018)

Democratic Attorney General Candidates Seek to Set Themselves Apart During First Televised Debate by Ben Brachfeld (August 2018)

At Brooklyn Forum, Nixon Pitches Policy, Criticizes Cuomo and Distances from De Blasio by Samar Khurshid (August 2018)

What You Can Learn From Gubernatorial Candidates' Campaign Websites by Chelsey Sanchez (August 2018)

Democratic Candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor File Pre-Primary Fundraising Numbers by Samar Khurshid (August 2018)

Ahead of Primary, Democrats Running for Attorney General File Campaign Finance Disclosures by Ben Brachfeld (August 2018)

How Much Does Brooklyn Congressional Primary Result Show Path in Overlapping State Senate Race? by Daniel Yadin (August 2018)

Rematch of Tight Manhattan Senate Primary Takes Shape in Different Political Environment by Chelsey Sanchez (August 2018)

Independence from Cuomo, or Lack Thereof, Becomes Flashpoint in Attorney General Race by Chelsey Sanchez & Ben Max (August 2018)

Running for Attorney General, James Outlines Initial Policy Platform by Ben Brachfeld (August 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Queens State Senate Rematch Features Different Kinds of Democrat by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (August 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Attorney General Candidate Sean Patrick Maloney by Ben Max (August 2018)

Cuomo Brought Rogue Democrats Back, But Hasn't Offered or Accepted Endorsements by Samar Khurshid (August 2018)

Cuomo and Legislative Leaders Silent Amid Intensifying Calls for Sexual Harassment Hearings by Samar Khurshid (August 2018)

Key to Victory, Black Voters Appear Solidly Behind Cuomo Over by Mike Vilensky Nixon (August 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Manhattan State Senate Rematch Centered on Breakaway Democrats by Ben Max (August 2018)

In Wide Open Lieutenant Governor Primary, Hochul Targets Votes in Williams’ Backyard by Ben Brachfeld & Ben Max (August 2018)

'Undecided' Leads Competitive Democratic Attorney General Primary by Samar Khurshid & Ben Max (August 2018)

What New York Voters Care About Ahead of State Elections by Ben Brachfeld & Ben Max (July 2018)

Eyeing Ad Revenue and Antitrust Laws, Teachout Targets Tech Giants in Wake of Daily News Layoffs by Ben Brachfeld (July 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Attorney General Candidate Leecia Eve by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (July 2018)

In Midst of Attorney General Campaign, Teachout to Join New York Bar by Ben Max (July 2018)

In Democratic Senate Primary, Barkan Criticizes Gounardes for Embracing 'Anti-Immigrant' Reform Party Leader by Samar Khurshid (July 2018)

Leading Immigrant-Advocacy Group Backs Ramos in Bid to Unseat Peralta by Chelsey Sanchez (July 2018)

Inside the Democratic Attorney General Candidates’ July Campaign Finance Filings by Ben Brachfeld (July 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Letitia James & the Attorney General Primary by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (July 2018)

The July Financial Picture for Former Breakaway Democrats and Their Primary Challengers by Samar Khurshid (July 2018)

Statewide Candidates File July Fundraising Numbers by Samar Khurshid (July 2018)

Amid Primary Fights, Cuomo and Hochul Increase Frequency of Joint Governmental Events by Ben Brachfeld & Ben Max (July 2018)

Assembly Race Poses Another Test for Queens Machine by Samar Khurshid (July 2018)

The Cynthia Nixon-Working Families Party Back-up Plan by Ben Max (July 2018)

I’m with Cynthia Because She Stands for Schools, Not Jails by Antonio Reynoso (July 2018)

New York Democrats’ Season of Choosing by Samar Khurshid (July 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Attorney General Candidate Zephyr Teachout by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (July 2018)

EMILY’s List Backs Hochul for Reelection as Lieutenant Governor by Ben Max (July 2018)

Running for State Senate, Julia Salazar Attempts Progressive Primary Upset by Daniel Yadin (July 2018)

Democratic Candidates for Attorney General Plant Campaign Flags by Ben Brachfeld & Ben Max (June 2018)

A Closer Look at Voter Turnout in 2018 New York Congressional Primaries by Ben Brachfeld (June 2018)

New York General Election Congressional Matchups to Watch by Samar Khurshid & Daniel Yadin (June 2018)

Molinaro Starts Campaign on Attack, Policy Plans to Come by Shant Shahrigian (June 2018)

Ocasio-Cortez Upsets Crowley, Donovan Defeats Grimm & Other 2018 New York Congressional Primary Results by Ben Max & Ben Brachfeld (June 2018)

Hochul: Divided Democratic Party Only Benefits Republicans by Caitlin Bishop (June 2018)

Donovan, Grimm in Final Days of Contentious Congressional Primary by Jordan Kimmel & Chelsey Sanchez (June 2018)

Democratic Campaign Chief: Even a ‘Blue Trickle’ Will Flip State Senate by Shant Shahrigian (June 2018)

Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Democratic Unity and the ‘Value’ of Primaries by Chelsey Sanchez (June 2018)

Citing Broken Cuomo Promises, Nixon Unveils Campaign Finance Reform Plan by Samar Khurshid (June 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (June 2018)

On Taxes, the MTA and More, Molinaro Discusses Developing Campaign Platform by Shant Shahrigian (June 2018)

New York Congressional Primaries to Watch Ahead of June 26 Vote by Jordan Kimmel & Daniel Yadin (June 2018)

Teachout Launches Attorney General Campaign with Focus on Trump by Ben Brachfeld (June 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (June 2018)

Inside Cynthia Nixon’s Developing Campaign Infrastructure by Caitlin Bishop (May 2018)

Stephanie Miner Diagnoses What’s Wrong with New York Politics by Caitlin Bishop (May 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: State Party Conventions & Nominations by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (May 2018)

Rallying Volunteers, Nixon Responds to Democratic Convention Result by Caitlin Bishop (May 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: State Party Conventions & Nominations by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (May 2018)

Three Themes to Watch at State Democratic Convention by Samar Khurshid (May 2018)

Cuomo-Launched Women’s Equality Party Will Soon Make Statewide Nominations by Ben Max (May 2018)

Party Nominations for Statewide Elections Come Into Focus by Ben Max (May 2018)

James Victory in Attorney General Race Would Trigger Citywide Special Election by Samar Khurshid (May 2018)

Letitia James Launches Campaign for Attorney General by Samar Khurshid (May 2018)

Exploring Attorney General Run, Zephyr Teachout Pursues Working Families Nomination, Democratic Ballot Line by Ben Max (May 2018)

The Contradictions of Cross-Endorsements in the Governor’s Race by Howie Hawks (May 2018)

Marc Molinaro and The Trump Question by Ben Max (May 2018)

Defining 'Real Democrat,' Cynthia Nixon Offers Early Policy Platform by Ben Max & Matthew Sweeney (May 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Political Purity Tests in New York by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy of City Limits (April 2018)

As Cuomo Chooses Democratic Unity, Party Activist Base Chooses Nixon by David Colon (April 2018)

Special Election Results for 11 State Legislative Seats by Ben Max (April 2018)

Progressives Draft Convention Resolution to Allow Unaffiliated Voters in Democratic Primary by Samar Khurshid (April 2018)

Progressives Draft Convention Resolution to Allow Unaffiliated Voters in Democratic Primary by Ashley Hupfl (April 2018)

Major Cuomo Supporters Don’t Want a Democratic State Senate by Ben Brachfeld (April 2018)

Republican Governors Association ‘Keeping Close Eye’ on New York by Samar Khurshid (April 2018)

Cuomo's Progressive Promises, Reminiscent of Four Years Ago, Received Differently by Sam Raskin (April 2018)

Molinaro Outlines Initial Ethics and Campaign Finance Reform Agenda by Ben Max (April 2018)

Nixon Candidacy Spotlights Education Advocacy Group by Samar Khurshid (April 2018)

After Government Investment, Cuomo Taps Brewing Industry for Campaign Contributions by Shant Shahrigian (April 2018)

Cuomo, State Democrats Issue Misleading Pleas About Flipping Senate by Samar Khurshid (April 2018)

Nixon-Cuomo Primary Spotlights Role of State Democratic Party by Samar Khurshid (April 2018)

In Run for Governor, Marc Molinaro Will Make a Character Argument by Ben Max (March 2018)

Cynthia Nixon Recently Re-registered to Vote in Manhattan by Ben Max (March 2018)

‘Sex and the City’ Likely to Stay on Air Through Nixon-Cuomo Primary by Ben Brachfeld (March 2018)

Cuomo Campaign Removes Misleading Boast of Old Endorsements by Samar Khurshid (March 2018)

Cynthia Nixon Announces Democratic Primary Challenge to Governor Cuomo by Samar Khurshid (March 2018)

Molinaro Emerges on Top After Manhattan GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Forum by Samar Khurshid (March 2018)

Progressive Groups Endorse Democrat in Key Westchester Senate Race by Samar Khurshid (March 2018)

Molinaro Emerges on Top After Manhattan GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Forum by Samar Khurshid (March 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: A Journalist Runs for State Senate A Journalist Runs for State Senate by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy (March 2018)

Poll Targeting Brooklyn District Gauges Anti-IDC Sentiment by Rachel Silberstein (March 2018)

Fierce Cuomo Critics, De Blasio-Allied Advisors Have Been ‘Ready for Cynthia’ by Samar Khurshid (March 2018)

Senate Candidates Outline Primary Campaigns Against ‘Trump Democrats by Matthew Sweeney & Ben Max (March 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: IDC Challengers Robert Jackson & Jessica Ramos by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy (February 2018)

As Hochul Pushes Cuomo Agenda, Williams Takes on Both in Primary Challenge by Rachel Silberstein (February 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Lieutenant Governor Candidate Jumaane Williams by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy (February 2018)

11 Special Elections Set for April 24 by Rachel Silberstein (February 2018)

Staten Island Activist Eyes Primary Challenge to IDC Senator Savino by Rachel Silberstein (February 2018)

Running Without Establishment Support, IDC Challengers Show Initial Fundraising Strides by Rachel Silberstein (January 2018)

2018 Will Be a Busy, Contentious Election Year in New York by Matthew Sweeney (January 2018)

City Council Member Jumaane Williams to Explore Run for Lieutenant Governor by Ben Max (January 2018)

Possible GOP Gubernatorial Candidates Weigh Chances to Unseat Cuomo by Rachel Silberstein (November 2017)

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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The 2018 Elections in New York Tue, 27 Feb 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Cuomo and Legislative Leaders Silent Amid Intensifying Calls for Sexual Harassment Hearings http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7845-cuomo-and-legislative-leaders-silent-amid-intensifying-calls-for-sexual-harassment-hearings http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7845-cuomo-and-legislative-leaders-silent-amid-intensifying-calls-for-sexual-harassment-hearings Cuomo Women's Equality Act presser 2013

Gov. Cuomo in 2013 (photo: The Governor's Office)


As part of the #MeToo movement, a group of women who experienced sexual harassment or abuse while working in New York state government have for months been advocating for public hearings on the culture that enables that misconduct in government, especially the state capital, and in the private sector. Their calls have intensified -- and been echoed by prominent women running for state elected offices this year -- after Governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislative leaders passed new anti-harassment laws without any public hearings and without going far enough, according to the women.

Those calls have fallen on deaf ears from the men who control state government, however, with Cuomo touting the new laws as the “strongest in the nation” as he seeks a third term and leaders of the Assembly and Senate, including one accused of forcibly kissing an aide, largely remaining silent.

The Sexual Harassment Working Group, seven women who launched the #HarassmentFreeAlbany movement, have criticized the Democratic governor and bi-partisan Legislature for passing an inadequate package of anti-sexual harassment legislation in this year’s budget, agreed upon in late March. The policies were negotiated by Cuomo, Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and Senator Jeff Klein, then-leader of the Independent Democratic Conference that has since rejoined the mainline Democrats.

The criticism that the “four men in a room” had for years epitomized the opacity of state budget negotiations was made all the more stark by the fact that they decided how to tackle sexual harassment without hearings, without significant consultation with female legislators -- including the lone woman to lead a legislative conference, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who had been promised a seat at the table -- and without those who had been subject to harassment or abuse, as well as the glaring inclusion of Klein, who was accused earlier this year of forcibly kissing a staffer in 2015 outside an Albany bar. Klein’s accuser, Erica Vladimer is among the members of The Sexual Harassment Working Group.   

In consultation with experts, the group has issued a set of recommendations for enacting stronger anti-harassment protections and have been joined in their cause by the likes of Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout, who is running for the Democratic nomination for attorney general, and actor and activist Cynthia Nixon, who is challenging Cuomo in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, along with rank-and-file state legislators and other advocates.

At a news conference in Manhattan on Wednesday, August 1, Vladimer, other members of the group, and Zenaida Mendez, former President of NOW New York, appeared with Nixon, urging Cuomo to take action.

“It’s time to stop putting politics over human rights,” Vladimer said, “and the first way we can do that is with public hearings...where workers from every industry -- government, retail, food service, hospitality -- can be heard by those we elect to legislatie on our behalf and those who are appointed to enforce those protections.”

Nixon, running to be the first woman elected governor of New York, issued scathing remarks against Cuomo. “New Yorkers deserve better than a governor who ignores victims and chooses instead to protect and sometimes even promote those accused of harassment and worse,” she said. The first-time candidate recently released a video ad that cut back-and-forth between footage of Cuomo and President Donald Trump using similar rhetoric that smacks of ‘toxic masculinity.’

In an editorial for the Albany Times Union on Friday, two members of the group, Leah Hebert and Rita Pasarell, who were subjected to harassment by former Assemblymember Vito Lopez when they worked in his office, criticized Cuomo for his “strongest in the nation” claim about New York’s new anti-sexual harassment laws.

“[E]ven after accounting for rhetorical hyperbole in an election year, the new measures fall far short of what's needed,” Hebert and Pasarell wrote. “They lack teeth for enforcement. They fail to address many obstacles that prevent victims from seeking redress in court. They do nothing to fix the pervasive abuse in Albany, highlighted by more than 100 current and former state employees in an open letter. These new measures were passed in the same way gender-based harassment and discrimination often happen: behind closed doors.” 

They noted how the New York City Council recently passed its own set of bills on sexual harassment after holding hearings to solicit testimony from those affected by it and from experts. The Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act included almost a dozen bills that were crafted after multiple hours-long hearings of the Council’s Committee on Women and the Committee on Civil and Human Rights. The bills, signed into law by the mayor, mandated, among other things, anti-sexual harassment trainings at city agencies and in private businesses, increased transparency from agencies on harassment complaints, stronger protections under the city’s human rights law, and added reporting requirements for city contractors.

Besides the open and very public process compared with how the new state policies were created, the city laws appear to be somewhat more expansive. The state policies require state contractors to provide anti-harassment training to all employees, prohibit mandatory arbitration for sexual harassment complaints, ban non-disclosure agreements unless a victim demands one, and extend harassment protections to non-traditional employees such as freelanders, contractors, and vendors. A broader model policy is still due from the state Division of Human Rights, which is meant to apply across the public and private sectors.

Cuomo, Heastie, and Flanagan, on the other hand, have shown no indication that they are listening. Spokespeople for all three officials did not respond to, or even acknowledge, requests for comment from Gotham Gazette about why there have been no public hearings, whether they are open to the idea, or if they had reviewed the recommendations put out by the Sexual Harassment Working Group. A Cuomo spokesperson told Gotham Gazette in late June that the administrations did “look forward to reviewing these recommendations,” but there’s no indication that has happened.

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, the Republican nominee for governor, also backed the call for public hearings on Thursday. “I pledge to insist on such hearings in Albany next year, should I be honored to be elected governor in November,” he said. “Albany’s culture will change. The coverups we have seen under Andrew Cuomo’s tenure are inexcusable and wrong.”

Molinaro, Nixon, and other Cuomo opponents and critics have also been seizing on recent revelations reported by the Albany Times Union around how victims of sexual harassment have been treated within the broader executive branch.

In the attorney general race, Teachout has been vocal about using the office’s power, if she is elected, to investigate sexual harassment, even in the private sector if it happens under her jurisdiction. Teachout also joined the Sexual Harassment Working Group when they were in Albany last month pressing their demands.

“The idea that New York State — in the middle of a national #TimesUp movement, after the Harvey Weinstein scandal, after all these scandals — that New York has not fixed its own problem is a total shame and disaster and suggests that our old boys club isn’t only covering up corruption but also covering up sexual misconduct,” Teachout said at the news conference, Politico New York reported. She urged her three Democratic primary opponents to join the calls for hearings and improved laws.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, also running for attorney general, has called for a “full-scale investigation” into harassment in state government. Leecia Eve, a former Cuomo and Hillary Clinton aide now running for attorney general, also supports holding hearings, according to a campaign spokesperson.

Delaney Kempner, a campaign spokesperson for Public Advocate Letitia James, who is the State Democratic Party’s preferred candidate for attorney general and has cross-endorsed with Cuomo, sent a statement to Gotham Gazette that touted work James has done co-sponsoring legislation on mandatory sexual harassment training and reporting, and advocating against forced arbitration clauses in employment contracts.

But the statement did not indicate whether James supports the call for hearings on sexual harassment in state government and beyond or believes that the new state laws passed are sufficient. “It is clear that our laws have not protected women in the workforce from harassment and abuse, both in Albany and across the state…,” Kempner said. “We must improve our laws and change our culture. As Attorney General, Tish will continue to stand up for the women of New York and investigate anyone who seeks to abuse or harass us. That is how we make lasting change.”

[Read: Pointing to Deficiencies, Victims Call for Changes to State’s New Sexual Harassment Policies]

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Cuomo and Legislative Leaders Silent Amid Intensifying Calls for Sexual Harassment Hearings Mon, 06 Aug 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Too Much Debt, Not Enough Savings: State Finances on Rocky Ground Comptroller Says http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7832-too-much-debt-not-enough-savings-state-finances-on-rocky-ground-comptroller-says http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7832-too-much-debt-not-enough-savings-state-finances-on-rocky-ground-comptroller-says Tom DiNapoli Comptroller Bronx

Comptroller DiNapoli (photo: @NYSComptroller)


For New York’s fiscal picture, “Trump’s policies are as great a concern as the economic cycle,” according to State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who spoke at length recently about the state’s finances and economy, which are precarious for a number of reasons.

During a 30-minute interview with Gotham Gazette Executive Editor Ben Max for a special on Manhattan Neighborhood Network that aired Sunday, DiNapoli discussed the state’s limited savings relative to its spending, its high indebtedness, and its weak preparedness for any future economic downturn, whether influenced by federal policy or a more expected cyclical recession.

If the economy sours and tax revenues decrease, New York state government has few methods of recourse beyond cutting spending, DiNapoli said, because of the limited amount that has been socked away. If and when another recession hits, “we don’t have the cushion of reserves to draw on,” since the state maintains savings well below the statutorily-set minimum, the comptroller said. DiNapoli said that, while New York could be setting aside up to $5 billion in reserves, it only maintains around $2 billion, and that the state last made a deposit in its reserve account in 2015. That’s compared to a state budget of about $168 billion for the current fiscal year.

DiNapoli pointed out that the state has decided to spend billions in settlements with financial institutions, as opposed to putting some or most of that money away in savings.

Recession or not, “New York State will suffer” if the Republican Party keeps its majorities in both chambers of Congress, DiNapoli added, with a nod toward the federal tax reform legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump in late 2017. Trump and Congressional Republicans could fully repeal the Affordable Care Act or further slash funding for social services, DiNapoli warned, both of which could hurt New York.

Otherwise, DiNapoli mostly shied away from political statements; while he is a Democrat, the state comptroller is an ostensibly nonpartisan position, though political ideology certainly has some effect on policy-making and oversight work. It is one of the four statewide elected positions, along with governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general, and it may be the least-known and least-understood. DiNapoli explained he essentially runs New York’s “Office of Accountability” — which audits state agencies, public authorities, and local governments, approves state contracts, comments on state fiscal practices, and manages the state’s pool of unclaimed funds, returning over $1.5 million a day to New Yorkers, among other tasks. The comptroller also manages the state’s massive public employee pension system.

“It’s the best job in government,” he said.

New York, DiNapoli said, is in better fiscal shape now than it was during the Great Recession, noting that the state has gained back the jobs and revenue lost during the financial crisis.

But economic recovery in the state has been fractured, with most gains heavily concentrated in New York City and its surrounding area. DiNapoli described New York’s post-recession recovery era as “a tale of two economies,” with regions like the Southern Tier, Adirondacks, Mohawk Valley, and Central New York far less economically successful than New York City has been.

Still, DiNapoli emphasized, New York is overall in strong economic shape, and he noted that, as opposed to recoveries from previous economic downturns, the state’s post-2008 bounceback was not led by Wall Street. Rather, a more diverse group of industries — technology, healthcare, and tourism, for instance — collectively resurrected the economy. To this day, the state’s financial industry is smaller than it was before the recession in terms of jobs.

“This strong recovery has been stronger and longer than past recoveries,” he said, though, he added, it will end at a certain point. When that time comes, New York may be in trouble.

Beyond maintaining a thin cushion of reserves, New York is one of the country’s most indebted states, DiNapoli said, and it’s only due to “gimmicks” that the state appears to be under its debt cap. So, when a crisis hits, the state may have no choice but to cut spending on social services. DiNapoli urged New Yorkers to be more conservative in their expectations of future revenue and spending, and he spoke of the political challenge of strengthening New York’s long-term financial security.

As the “least partisan of offices,” in DiNapoli’s framing, the Office of the Comptroller is not as beholden to the political logic of short-term decision-making as the governor’s office or state Legislature may be. Crafting the state’s budget, though, is ultimately a political project, meaning initiatives that would bolster New York’s economic future but provide little immediate political gain, like setting aside reserve funds, are often neglected.

DiNapoli expects the Democrats to take control of the state Senate after this fall’s elections, thus bringing unified Democratic rule to Albany in 2018, assuming the governorship and Assembly remain Democratic, which is likely, and for regional interests to dominate spending debates. When asked if New Yorkers should be worried about that possibility -- Republicans often argue that full Democratic control of state government would be fiscally disastrous -- DiNapoli said he does not distinguish between the spending habits of the two major parties — “Republicans are not shy about spending money,” he said — and therefore does not necessarily foresee an increase in spending under Democratic control. Many Democrats are calling for higher taxes on top earners, though, something that Republicans continue to sound the alarm about.

DiNapoli urged voters to “evaluate candidates not just on their party labels, but on who they are.” A lifelong Democrat who grew up in a Republican household on Long Island, DiNapoli said he joined the Democratic Party for its “open and free-flowing” spirit, which both strengthens and hinders it. Though the response to Trump has made the party stronger, brought more young people and women into its fold, and encouraged “open and honest competition,” DiNapoli said, the Democrats “need to not beat each other up and let others win.”

He pointed to the divide in the party exposed and deepened by the Bernie Sanders-Hillary Clinton presidential primary, a “wound reopened” by Clinton’s loss in the general election, as particularly concerning.

The Democrats “often lose elections by fighting each other,” DiNapoli said. Significant intraparty fighting is occurring for Democrats right now in New York, as both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul are being challenged in the primary, by Cynthia Nixon and City Council Member Jumaane Williams, respectively, among other contentious legislative races. There is also a wide open primary for attorney general, with four strong candidates campaigning. DiNapoli, who is not facing a primary challenge, told Max he is endorsing Cuomo and Hochul for reelection, but declined to endorse any of the Democratic attorney general candidates — Letitia James, Zephyr Teachout, Sean Patrick Maloney, and Leecia Eve.

The four candidates are “all good friends of mine,” he said. “So we’ll see how that goes.”

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Watch the full interview from Manhattan Neighborhood Network:

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by Daniel Yadin for Gotham Gazette

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Too Much Debt, Not Enough Savings: State Finances on Rocky Ground Comptroller Says Thu, 26 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Facebook Rep Calls New York Ad Transparency Law a National Model, Points to Next Steps http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7811-facebook-rep-calls-new-york-ad-transparency-law-a-national-model-points-to-next-steps http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7811-facebook-rep-calls-new-york-ad-transparency-law-a-national-model-points-to-next-steps gov dpa

Gov. Cumo signs ad transparency bill (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


The recent federal indictments of 12 Russians involved in the country’s interference campaign in the 2016 United States presidential election comes at a time of already heightened interest in election security given other previously known facts and allegations about Russian meddling in the election, the promulgation of “fake news,” attempted hacking of state elections systems, and questionable practices by social media platforms like Facebook. Though election security and integrity at the federal level has dominated people’s attention, it is also an issue at the state and local levels.

For the past two years, policymakers, security companies, and members of the tech and media industries have engaged in more fulsome debate over how to combat issues like “fake news” -- meaning fabricated news stories pushed off as actual news -- and false or misleading ads on social media, not to mention ensuring the security of election infrastructure.

In April, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill, passed in a new state budget agreement that prohibits foreign entities from buying political ads “in order to influence New York elections,” requires political ad buyers on social media to register as independent expenditure committees, requires independent expenditure ads to clearly display that the independent spender, not a candidate, paid for the ad, and requires the state Board of Elections to “create an online archive of all political communications for a set period.”

Some say that while these are important measures, there is more to do to secure New York elections, both in terms of hardening security systems to prevent hacking and reducing the influence of malicious actors in other, “softer” ways. Facebook itself, while the subject of much scrutiny and criticism during and after the 2016 election, is making some reforms to the ways it does business. On Tuesday, a representative for the social media giant called the New York political ad transparency law a model for the rest of the country, while also pointing toward transparency into voter targeting on the platform as a next frontier.

During a panel discussion at City & State NY’s “Protecting NY Summit,” moderated by Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max, Eva Guidarini of Facebook said the company is encouraging users to report questionable content, has begun working with “third party fact-checkers” when potential fake news is flagged, and, if determined to be fake news, posts will receive a tag noting it as such, and be “down-ranked,” meaning it will show up less frequently in people’s feeds, while an explanation of the fact-checking will also be provided. She defended the practice of not removing content unless it is deemed “misinformation,” saying that there can be too many gray areas in defining misleading content. Misinformation would include things like fake news.

Facebook’s actions come after widespread criticism of its platform as a venue for the spread of fake news and conspiracy theories, as well as inappropriate user-data sharing.

Guidarini, a member of the U.S. Politics and Government Outreach team for the company, said Facebook should be the subject of government regulations, but indicated there is a line to ensure that the platform still serves its users. When asked, she also indicated that users must take some responsibility for evaluating content, and said the company is working to help educate people. She also praised the new New York law that applies to Facebook and other online services, which was sponsored in the state Senate by another panelist, Senator Todd Kaminsky.

“We worked really closely with New York and Maryland,” Guidarini said. “We’re really excited about these ad transparency laws that you passed, and we’re now sort of rolling that out to the whole country even though it’s only law in a couple of states. We think that that’s important. The law lagged behind, right? It’s ridiculous that you didn’t have to say who’s paying for a political ad online, even though you did on TV and in newspapers. And we should change that.”

The panel on election integrity included Guidarini; Kaminsky; state Senator Liz Krueger; Assemblymember David Buchwald; Michael Ryan, the executive director of the New York City Board of Elections; and Eric Hodge of CyberScout Solutions, a company that works with government to prevent hacking and other security breaches.

Ryan said that the BOE’s concern has moved from tampering with results towards the manipulation of social media to alter election results.

“We were concerned in the lead-up to election day that people would put out false information that poll sites were on fire or that no voting is happening at particular locations,” Ryan said. “Real misinformation causing chaos as opposed to manipulation of results.”

Sen. Kaminsky, a Democrat representing parts of Long Island, said that he combatted fake news himself in his 2016 election campaign, which led to an extremely close race where one was not expected. He said that the events made him prioritize publicizing the issue as being a state and local issue, not just one related to Donald Trump and Russia.

“There would be a Facebook group that would pop up in someone’s feed called Long Islanders for Clean Drinking Water,” Kaminsky said. “They would then have an ad saying ‘last year, Todd Kaminsky voted to deprive Long Island of $10 million of clean drinking water. And if you liked it, all your friends would see it, it would go up to their feeds. And if you commented on it, all your friends would see it. If you commented something like, ‘this is not true,’ your comment would be removed in, like, ten minutes.”

Kaminsky said that the law passed as part of the budget was a major focus for him in the previous two years. He also criticized the press, claiming that members of the media ran with the Facebook posts without fact-checking them. He said that there are not enough ameliorative pathways for combatting false political information, such as mailers claiming support for Kaminsky from “undocumented aliens” or Mayor Bill de Blasio. The former prosecutor indicated that there is not enough punishment for bad actors, but that his new law would at least change that for those that may try to anonymously post political advertising on social media.

Asked about next steps in regulating social media platforms, Guidarini of Facebook said that, while microtargeted ads are a powerful tool, that “voters should know if the African-American community is receiving a totally different message, or the Hispanic community is receiving a totally different message from the white community from a specific candidate.”

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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Facebook Rep Calls New York Ad Transparency Law a National Model, Points to Next Steps Wed, 18 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Assembly Race Poses Another Test for Queens Machine http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7805-assembly-race-poses-another-test-for-queens-machine http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7805-assembly-race-poses-another-test-for-queens-machine catalina cruz parade Queens

Catalina Cruz (photo: @CatalinaCruzNY)


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Democratic primary victory over Rep. Joe Crowley last month in New York’s 14th congressional district sent shockwaves throughout the country and signalled a monumental shift in Queens politics, where the Crowley-led county party has held significant sway in local elections for many years. The effects of Ocasio-Cortez’s win and Crowley’s loss, both nationally and locally, are still developing, but reverberations are certainly being felt in the already-competitive Democratic primary for New York Assembly District 39, where a county-backed incumbent is facing an independent challenger.

The district -- part of the 150-seat lower house of the state Legislature, all of which are on the ballot this fall, first in September 13 primaries -- covers the immigrant-heavy neighborhoods of Corona, Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights, and large parts of those fall within Crowley’s congressional district. It is currently represented by Assembly Member Ari Espinal, who was elected in a low-turnout special election barely three months ago, with fewer than 800 votes. Espinal was previously an aide to Francisco Moya, who held the Assembly seat before being elected to the New York City Council last year.

Espinal’s challenger in the primary is Catalina Cruz, an attorney with government experience who most recently served as chief of staff to former City Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.

Espinal, whose cousin is Brooklyn City Council Member Rafael Epsinal, ran unopposed for the Assembly seat, having been endorsed by the Queens Democratic Party, which is chaired by Crowley and has played an influential role in not just Queens, but city and state elections for decades, as well as the selection of the powerful City Council speaker and a variety of other appointed positions. For a special election to the state Legislature, there are no party primaries, instead the party county committee selects its candidate for what is a singular public vote. In a heavily Democratic district like most in New York City, the party’s nominee is virtually  assured victory in a special election, and therefore gains at least some of the benefits of incumbency ahead of any subsequent intra-party challenges.

But the power of the Queens County Democrats’ endorsement is under question following Crowley’s landslide defeat to Ocasio-Cortez as he finishes his tenth term in the House. Queens Democratic insiders say Cruz is in important ways a stronger candidate than Espinal and that the Queens county machine -- a descriptor some take issue with -- is playing a minimal role in the race and has a far less threatening presence in the immediate aftermath of last month’s election. Some also point to the fact that the Queens county party has been defeated in a number of elections over the years by strong insurgent candidates, such as the victories of current City Council Members Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer, as well as Ferreras-Copeland’s first win. Moya, meanwhile, helped orchestrate Espinal’s ascension and is actively campaigning on her behalf in an area where he has won several recent elections.

For her part, Espinal is confident about the race. “I welcome any challenge,” she said in a phone interview. “I’m from Corona, Queens. I was raised in this neighborhood. I welcome any challenge and it’s exciting. I feel like it’s the Democratic process, too. Why wouldn’t you want a challenge? You would want your voters to get engaged. This is how they get engaged more when they have to pick, to choose and say, ‘Who’s going to represent me the way I want to be represented?’”

Having been in office just under three months, Espinal has been prime sponsor on one bill that was passed by both legislative chambers, to extend a labor law relating to unemployment insurance proceedings, and another, called Carlos’ Law, which enacts punishments for developers that put workers at risk of injury or death, which passed only the Assembly. Espinal has also allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars to her community, she said. She signed on to the Dream Act, which aims to provide state financial aid to undocumented immigrants seeking higher education. She’s received support for her reelection bid from Moya, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Bronx Rep. Jose Serrano, and the Working Families Party.

Espinal is relying on her experience as a longtime community organizer and former Democratic district leader, promising voters that she will bring resources back to her community. She has pledged to fight for immigrant protections, affordable housing, school funding, small businesses, and workers rights, and other locally-important issues. And she pushed back against the notion that she is the establishment candidate in the race. “Quite so often you have politicians who are not from the area and just want to run for office because they just want the power. I’m not looking for the power,” she said. “What I’m looking for is to actually engage my community and tell them, ‘I’m here. I’m here for you because I’ve lived here and I know the issues...because I’m your neighbor.’”

Cruz, Espinal’s opponent, strikes a similar chord with her campaign pitch. “My entire life is a spectrum of the people of Jackson Heights, Corona and Elmhurst,” she said in a phone interview. But one thing that sets her far apart from Espinal is that Cruz herself is a “Dreamer,” a child of undocumented immigrants who came to New York at the age of nine and who only recently gained permanent resident status in 2009. “I went from being an undocumented child who picked cans in the street with her mom to survive, to being a Dreamer who was going to undergrad and paying for school for herself to a working poor lawyer...to being a middle-class New Yorker, which is basically the spectrum of the people who are here in our community,” she said.

After graduating law school and working as a housing attorney, Cruz joined the Attorney General’s office, then headed by Andrew Cuomo, before he was elected governor. Cruz served afterwards in the Department of Labor as counsel in the division of immigrant affairs. She worked with former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito -- who has endorsed her -- to write the legislation that kicked ICE agents off Rikers Island. She also returned to working for Cuomo, heading up his Exploited Workers Task Force, after which she joined Council Member Ferreras-Copeland’s staff. Her former boss has endorsed her, as have Council Members Dromm and Van Bramer, Helen Rosenthal, and Margaret Chin.

“We’re a people-driven campaign,” Cruz said of her approach to the race. “We start with people and we end with people. We start with the idea that all of our policies should be informed by people.” Though her policy platform largely resembles Espinal’s, Cruz says she sets herself apart by virtue of her independence, experience, her focus on the residents of the district who cannot vote, and her pledge to refuse corporate and luxury developer money (the latter a promise like one made by Ocasio-Cortez, who attacked Crowley for the large corporate donations he received).

“We are running a campaign that’s very much driven by people that live in the district and we’re independent from any ties to a political organization,” Cruz said.

Those ties or the lack thereof may not be determinative in the Assembly race that does again put the power of the Queens County Democrats in the spotlight, observers who spoke with Gotham Gazette said. One former Assembly candidate from Queens said the path to victory lies in a robust ground game and organization. “You knock on enough doors, you meet enough people, and you raise enough money, and the barriers to entry are very low,” the former candidate said. “How many people are gonna vote in an Assembly race? A few thousand? How much money do you need to raise for an assembly race? $100,000? How many doors are you gonna knock on?...You put your walking shoes on and you can do it. So I think party power is very limited and Ari and Catalina will win or lose on the strengths of their own organic, local operation.”

Democratic insiders pointed out that the Queens Democratic Party’s endorsement comes with political validation but not necessarily the resources to bolster a campaign, such as funding or boots on the ground. It’s why they disputed the characterization of the county party as a machine that can determine the course of campaigns. The party does, however, pressure potential contenders against considering a challenge to an incumbent and often brings with its endorsement a slew of loyal elected officials who coalesce around the county’s candidate and use their own resources and networks to boost them. The party also has connections at the Board of Elections and often attempts to knock challengers off the ballot and at times activates a network of district leaders and county committee members to help with ballot petition signature-gathering, door-knocking, and flyering.

“It seems like [Cruz] has real momentum and...everyone’s going to attest the strength of her campaign to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez but I think the reality of it is the dynamics of that race were shaped well before the congressional race,” said a Queens Democratic operative who asked to remain anonymous to discuss things freely.

“I think people have an impression of the Queens county organization as a faulty machine,” the operative said, insisting that a loss by a county-backed candidate did not mean the so-called machine is faltering. “I think the reality is that’s not what the organization is...In my experience, they support somebody and their support will provide the significant assistance of validation from other elected officials. That’s very helpful...but it was never designed to overcome bad campaigns or great opposing candidates.”

If the incumbent candidate backed by the Queens Democrats loses to an independent challenger, the optics are far from ideal coming so close on the heels of Crowley’s loss. But the county has invested little in the race, said another Democratic insider from Queens who knows both Espinal and Cruz and who decried the term “machine” as a “loaded expression” for a county party that simply tries to elect its own members to office.

But the Queens county organization is undoubtedly powerful. The “machine” moniker stems from the fact that the party holds sway over more than just candidate endorsements -- its backing often also means a candidate will not receive a primary challenger. The county organization selects judicial nominees, and allies of Crowley have made hefty profits from being appointed as guardians in Surrogate’s Court. The party’s executive secretary is Michael Reich, whose partner Gerard Sweeney in the law firm Sweeney, Reich and Bolz, has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of Surrogate’s Court business. The county also selects one of the ten commissioners on the New York City Board of Elections, who decide which candidates qualify to appear on the ballot.

The City Council speaker’s race has more often than not also been decided by the influence of the Queens and Bronx county parties; Council central staffers are frequently picked from the county’s ranks; and Council committee chairs are influenced by county allegiances. And though Crowley may no longer represent the House next year, City & State reported that he’s expected to be reelected county chair by district leaders for another two-year term in September. The county organization did not return a request for comment for this article about its support for Espinal.

“I don’t think it would be a fair characterization to say this is a test of the county organization because I’m not sure they have all hands on deck for this one,” the insider said. The insider insisted that neither candidate needs the county party’s help to win the race, which would be won on the merits of their candidacies, and that Crowley’s fall is more likely to have an effect on the state Senate District 13 race, where Jessica Ramos is challenging Senator Jose Peralta, formerly of the rogue Independent Democratic Conference, which empowered Republicans. “I don’t think the Catalina-Ari race is affected by the Crowley result as much,” the insider said. “I just don’t get the sense that that changed everything...They weren’t dependent on Crowley for the win. Peralta was kinda depending on the county guys propping him up, keeping him strong and I feel like that has turned and now Ramos, if I had to bet, will win that race.”

Cruz herself drew a parallel with Ocasio-Cortez’s win, noting that voters turned out in higher numbers for the progressive challenger than Crowley in his own backyard, which encompasses large parts of the Assembly district, to vote out the incumbent. “[Ocasio-Cortez] believed in the everyday person and the everyday person believed in her so much that they went out and overwhelmingly voted for her,” she said. “And that’s where we find ourselves, in the exact same situation.”

But even she denied that she was poking the bear through her candidacy. “I wouldn’t call it testing their power because I never said I’m running against the machine,” Cruz said. “I’ve always said I’m running for the people. We have an organization that was just shown what people powered campaigns can do and we’re about to show them a second time.”

If anything, the race may show that the Queens party’s once-coveted support has turned sour, seen by some as a signal of establishment politics that has been too out of touch with regular voters. “I think it definitely suffered,” said the Democratic insider of the county party’s endorsement. “It’s very raw and very recent, the whole Joe thing...I don’t know if this is a permanent problem or just a temporary one. But the timing right now is bad for those people.”

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Assembly Race Poses Another Test for Queens Machine Mon, 16 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
City Council Progressive Caucus Urges Cuomo to Sign Bill Creating Prosecutorial Misconduct Commission http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7799-city-council-progressive-caucus-urges-cuomo-to-sign-bill-creating-prosecutorial-misconduct-commission http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7799-city-council-progressive-caucus-urges-cuomo-to-sign-bill-creating-prosecutorial-misconduct-commission progressive caucus 2009

City Council Progressive Caucus (photo via Progressive Caucus website)


The Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo urging him to sign a bill, passed at the end of the legislative session in June, which would create a new state commission on prosecutorial misconduct. The caucus, which includes 21 of the Council’s 51 members, referred to the bill as “the most substantive criminal justice reform passed in the state this year.”

The state bill passed with bipartisan support in both the Assembly and the Senate, and awaits Cuomo’s signature or veto. The commission, consisting of eleven judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys appointed by the state’s chief judge, the governor, and legislative leaders, would be empowered to investigate and recommend disciplinary action against prosecutors in the state accused of misconduct. The commission would be similar in structure and purpose to a commission established in the 1970s to investigate misconduct claims by judges.

Cuomo has not indicated whether he supports the legislation or not, and the state district attorneys association has called it unconstitutional and threatened to sue if the governor does sign it into law. The commission would have oversight of the state’s 62 district attorneys and their assistant district attorneys.

The letter from the Council’s Progressive Caucus notes that, according to the University of Michigan’s National Registry of Exonerations, New York is fourth in the nation for wrongful convictions, behind California, Illinois, and Texas.

“Across the United States there is a growing crisis of confidence in prosecutors as the role District Attorneys, historically, played in driving mass incarceration has become better understood by the public,” the letter reads. “The exonerations of wrongfully convicted people have sometimes exposed egregious misconduct by prosecutors, many of whom remain working as lawyers today.”

Misconduct can take various forms, including failure to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense, intimidation of defendants or witnesses by police, and knowing submission of false testimony. Oftentimes, these occurrences can lead to false convictions, including for serious crimes that carry long sentences. In 2017, the National Registry of Exonerations recorded 13 exonerations in New York State, for individuals who had served as little as one year to as long as 28 years for crimes they did not commit. So far in 2018, 12 exonerations have been recorded.

False convictions are such an issue in New York that some district attorneys have formed entire units within their offices dedicated solely to examining past convictions and their validity. The Brooklyn DA’s Conviction Review Unit, for instance, requested 24 exonerations for wrongfully-convicted defendants between its creation in February 2014 and December 2017.

The bill is strongly supported by defense attorneys and criminal justice reform advocates, but is sharply opposed by district attorneys throughout the state. The Staten Island District Attorney told Gotham Gazette in June that oversight measures, such as grievance committees, already exist, and that the bill would hinder the ability of prosecutors to do their jobs and “potentially threaten the safety of those we are sworn to protect.”

The grievance committees, which are bodies within appellate divisions that serve to investigate and censure both prosecutors and defense attorneys, have been characterized as toothless by advocates of the bill on both sides of the aisle, and criminal justice reform writ large. The Progressive Caucus wrote that the committee system in place has “not curbed bad behavior” among prosecutors, and that discipline is a rarity.

“Public officials entrusted with incredible power should be held to the highest of standards,” reads the letter, signed by 12 members of the caucus. “Instead prosecutors have come to expect that there will be no punishment even following a judicial finding of egregious misconduct.”

(Read the full letter here)

The grievance committees rarely discipline prosecutors, but frequently discipline defense attorneys or other attorneys in private practice. In 2016, the First Appellate Division’s Grievance Committee, which covers Manhattan and the Bronx, disbarred 30 attorneys, suspended ten, and publicly censured six; none were prosecutors. When prosecutors are disciplined, sanctioned, and disbarred, it tends to make the news, as occurred with former St. Lawrence County DA Mary Rain.

The Queens district attorney, Richard Brown, meanwhile, told Gotham Gazette that previous working groups, including one led by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, found no evidence of “rampant prosecutorial misconduct.”

David Soares, the Albany District Attorney and the new president of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York (DAASNY), told host Susan Arbetter of the Capitol Pressroom radio show in June that DAASNY would sue the state if Cuomo signs the bill into law.

For the Council’s Progressive Caucus, a majority in favor leads to an action like the letter. It was signed by caucus Co-chair Ben Kallos and fellow Council Members Jumaane Williams, Anonion Reynoso, Brad LAnder, Carlos Menchaca, Keith Powers, Deborah Rose, Daneek Miller, Justin Brannan, Steve Levin, Carlina Rivera, and Alicka Ampry-Samuel.

Notably, the non-signers of the caucus include Council Speaker Corey Johnson, caucus co-chair Diana Ayala, and public safety committee chair Donovan Richards.

A spokesperson for Richards told Gotham Gazette that Richards is in support of the bill, but was unable to sign it because Richards was out of town when the letter was sent. “I am absolutely in support of creating a state commission to look into prosecutorial misconduct,” he said. “In order to truly reform our criminal justice system, we must root out misconduct in all levels of law enforcement.”

A representative for Johnson did not return a request for comment, while Ayala’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Representatives for Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Mark Levine, among the other members of the Progressive Caucus who did not sign the letter, told Gotham Gazette that they support the bill.

Governor Cuomo has not signaled whether he intends to sign the bill or not. Cuomo spokesperson Tyrone Stevens said that the governor’s office is still reviewing it.

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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City Council Progressive Caucus Urges Cuomo to Sign Bill Creating Prosecutorial Misconduct Commission Wed, 11 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000