Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/535 Thu, 19 Oct 2017 14:59:59 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) The Tax Day March Is Not Just About Trump’s Taxes http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6870:the-tax-day-march-is-not-just-about-trump-s-taxes http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6870:the-tax-day-march-is-not-just-about-trump-s-taxes womens march

(photo: @womensmarch)


On Tax Day, hundreds of thousands of protesters will take to the streets to demand President Trump release his tax returns and hold the wealthy accountable for taxes that the rest of us pay every year.

Our group, the Center for Popular Democracy, will be among those calling for a tax system that ensures everyone contributes their fair share to our country so that all Americans, regardless of socioeconomic status, have the opportunity to reach their highest potential. We cannot allow Wall Street banks and billionaires to use their wealth and power to repeatedly shortchange us.

The nine largest banks in America, for example, have used loopholes and other tax dodging schemes to lower their tax rate from the official rate of 35 percent to just 18.6 percent, a lower rate than what millions of middle class families pay. That tax dodge alone has allowed the banks to avoid paying some $80 billion in taxes between 2008 and 2015.

These figures do not include offshore tax havens, where Fortune 500 companies have stashed $2.6 trillion in profits on which they owe $767 billion in taxes. That's enough to pay the cost of Bernie Sanders' debt-free college plan and more. They also do not account for the taxes dodged using the "carried interest" loophole which makes it possible for one hedge fund manager who makes $4.6 million per day to pay a tax rate lower than what a teacher or firefighter might pay.

These billions of dollars could have been used to fund public programs that provide critical services that millions of New Yorkers rely on, like public housing, healthcare, and education.

In fact, even some of New York’s wealthiest residents agree. In March, 80 wealthy New Yorkers wrote to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, urging him to increase taxes on the rich to provide infrastructure services that benefit all New Yorkers. “We need to invest in pathways out of poverty and up the economic ladder for all of our fellow citizens, including strong public education from pre-K to college. And, we need to invest in the fragile bridges, tunnels, waterlines, public buildings, and roads that we all depend on” they wrote.

The state also recently passed its state budget which included a two-year extension on the “millionaires’ tax” expected to “offset the state’s $3.5 billion deficit and fund income tax cuts for people making under $300,000,” as reported by Reuters.

New York should lead the way forward by making the “millionaires’ tax” permanent and closing loopholes that have allowed Trump’s donors and the wealthiest executives on Wall Street to avoid paying huge sums in taxes in recent years.

Most Americans know that our current tax laws are steeply slanted in favor of the rich and powerful – and they are not happy about it. A Pew Research poll found that roughly two-thirds (64 percent) of Americans “are bothered a lot by the feeling that some corporations aren’t paying what’s fair in federal taxes, and 61 percent say the same about some wealthy people.”

Trump has his own sordid history with the IRS. The New York Times obtained documents showing Trump reported a staggering loss of nearly one billion dollars in 1995, which could have allowed him to legally avoid paying federal taxes for 18 years.

In 1789 Benjamin Franklin wrote, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Almost three centuries later, only one of these things is certain and the other is unfairly avoided by those with wealth and privilege.

Unlike Donald Trump, most Americans don't mind paying their taxes. What they object to is letting the rich and powerful avoid paying theirs. It’s time for the one percent to step up to the plate.

***
Tony Perlstein is Deputy Director of Campaigns for the Center for Popular Democracy. On Twitter @popdemoc.

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

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The Tax Day March Is Not Just About Trump’s Taxes Thu, 13 Apr 2017 04:00:00 +0000
On the Issues: Presidential Candidate Comparison http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6601:presidential-candidate-comparison http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6601:presidential-candidate-comparison election candidates

Click here to see the full list

Vice President

Vice President
Tim Kaine of Virginia. U.S. Senator, former Governor of Virginia, former Mayor of Richmond.
Vice President
Mike Pence of Indiana. Governor of Indiana, former member of the United States House of Represenatatives, where he was a leader of the Tea Party movement.
Vice President
William Weld of Massachusetts. Former Republican governor of Massachusetts 1991, former U.S. Senate candidate.
Vice President
Ajamu Baraka of Georgia. Human rights activist, founding executive director of the U.S. Human Rights Network.

 

Bio

Bio
Hillary Clinton, born in 1947, is most notable for serving as First Lady of the United States (1993-2001), a United States Senator from New York (2001-2009), and the United States Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. She's known for, among other things, her push for national health care reform in 1993-1994 as First Lady.
Bio
Donald Trump, born in 1946, is a businessman, real estate mogul, and television personality. He has built further on the buisness empire started by his father and made a national name for his real estate and casino businesses, and as the host of The Apprentice.
Bio
Gary Johnson, born in 1953, founded what became one of the largest construction companies in New Mexico. Former governor of New Mexico, winning his longshot 1994 bid, serving two terms. Has long-favored small government. Also ran for President as the Libertarian Party nominee in 2012. He got 0.99% of the national vote that year.
Bio
Jill Stein, born in 1950, is a physician and activist whose biggest focus has been environmental and health issues. She was the Green Party Candidate for Governor of Massachusetts in 2002 and 2010, and the Green Party Candidate for President in 2012. She received 0.36% of the national vote that year.

 

Campaign Websites

 

Jobs

Jobs
Clinton wants to invest in infrastructure to bolster the economy, including in clean energy. She is also focused on modernizing the economy through manufacturing and technology. She advocates for an increase in the minimum wage to $12 an hour nationally, with room for states to go higher, and she wants equal pay for equal work.
Jobs
Trump believes that lower taxes and less regulation, as a whole, will bolster the economy. He believes the U.S. has agreed to bad trade deals, which he promises to renegotiate, that have led to lost American jobs to countries like Mexico and China. He promised to keep companies in the U.S. and to make American manufacturing great again.
Jobs
Johnson generally favors less regulation, though any regulation which reigns in harmful actors will stay, he says. He also believes that out-of-control spending has hurt the U.S. economy, and that this spending needs to be reigned in. He believes smaller and less government will allow the economy to flourish.
Jobs
Stein believes in "living-wage jobs for every American who needs work." Government would be the last resort employer under this plan. She also believes in a $15 minimum wage and the breaking up of banks that are "too big to fail." Key to Stein's, and the Green Party's, platform is a "Green New Deal," which aims to create jobs through the building of clean energy infrastructure, so that America relies on 100% clean energy by 2030.


Taxes

Taxes
"Hillary will implement a "fair share surcharge" on multi-millionaires and billionaires." She will also fight for measures like the Buffett Rule, so that wealthier individuals pay their fair share of taxes, she says. She also looks to close up any loopholes which benefit Wall Street, cut taxes for small businesses, and "provide tax relief to working families from the rising costs they face." A Clinton Administration will look to tax high-frequency trading on Wall Street.
Taxes
Trump believes lower taxes will help the economy. In particular, he believes that business taxes are too high, and that they need to be lowered so that they are competitive with the rest of the world. He believes that a simplified tax system will help. Like many Democrats, Trump believes in closing the carried interest loophole.
Taxes
Johnson proposes getting rid of tax loopholes, as well as double taxes on small businesses. He favors "the replacement of all income and payroll taxes with a single consumption tax that determines your tax burden by how much you spend, not how much you earn."
Taxes
Stein wants Wall Street corporations to pay their fair share in taxes. Also believes in a tax on companies that pollute. She believes in higher taxes for the wealthy, and lower taxes for the poor and middle class.

 

National Debt

National Debt
"From the Democratic Party Platform: ""We believe that by making those at the top and the largest corporations pay their fair share we can pay for ambitious progressive investments that create good-paying jobs and offer security to working families without adding to the debt."""
National Debt
"You never have to default because you print the money," Trump said at one time. He has also suggested at times that borrowing is not a problem and that the U.S. could renegotiate its debt.
National Debt
Johnson plans to veto any bill which results in deficit spending. He also touts his record of vetoing many bills as governor of New Mexico, vetos he said helped balance New Mexico's budget.
National Debt
Stein said on her campaign website in 2012 that she would reduce "the budget deficit by restoring full employment, cutting the bloated military budget, and cutting private health insurance waste."

 

Trade

Trade
Clinton has moved in her support for trade deals, and has a new rubric for them, saying they must provide jobs for Americans, not sacrifice U.S. security, and be good for American national and international priorities. She supported NAFTA in the past, but admits to troubling outcomes for American jobs, and after supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership as it was in development, she has come out against the version put forward by the Obama Administration. On trade, she says she's held deals to "the same test. Will they create jobs in America? Will they raise incomes in America? And are they good for our national security?"
Trade
Trump has campaigned vocally against NAFTA, other past trade deals, and TPP. His vews on trade and the United States is best reflected in what he said at the Republican National Convention--"Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo."
Trade
Johnson generally supports NAFTA, TPP, and any other free trade agreements. He believes that any jobs lost to NAFTA while he was Governor of New Mexico were jobs that New Mexico didn't want anyway.
Trade
Stein believes that NAFTA and other similar agreements takes away jobs, hurts wages, and overall has negative economic impacts on Americans. She wants to "enact fair trade laws that benefits local workers and communities."

 

Immigration

Immigration
There are two major facets to Clinton's immigration plan: protect families and provide a pathway to citizenship. She says that comprehensive immigration reform is desperately needed.
Immigration
Trump promises no amnesty to undocumented immigrants and promises mass deportations, though at times he has appeared to soften some of his stances. His major campaign promise is to end illegal immigration and to institute "extreme vetting" of individuals, especially refugees, seeking entrance into the country. He talks about having a secure border and promises to build a wall along the southern border that he promises Mexico will pay for. He has also questioned birthright citizenship.
Immigration
Johnson desn't believe that immigration is as simple as building a wall. "We should focus on creating a more efficient system of providing work visas, conducting background checks, and incentivizing non-citizens to pay their taxes, obtain proof of employment, and otherwise assimilate with our diverse society," his website says.
Immigration
"Create a welcoming path to citizenship for immigrants" is posted on Stein's website. Past policy positions also indicates that she is not in favor of the mass deportation of people which has happened under President Obama and promised to a greater degree by Trump.

 

Health Care

Health Care
Clinton wants to defend, tweak, and expand, but not repeal, Obamacare. She praises how many more people have become insured, but she wants to get costs down.
Health Care
Trump promises to repeal Obamacare, and replace it with something far better. He says health care companies must be allowed to sell policies across state lines. He also wants transparency with health care costs and providers, and to "allow individuals to fully deduct health insurance premium payments from their tax returns under the current tax system." He argues for increased competitive, not government regulation of health care. Trump has also said that everyone deserves health care.
Health Care
Generally speaking, Johnson is in favor of repealing Obamacare. He believes that free market competition will do the best job of covering health care for people.
Health Care
Stein believes in a Medicare for All system.

 

The Environment

The Environment
Clinton will encourage clean energy: "Launch a $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge to partner with states, cities, and rural communities to cut carbon pollution and expand clean energy, including for low-income families." "Invest in clean energy infrastructure, innovation, manufacturing and workforce development to make the U.S. economy more competitive and create good-paying jobs and careers."
The Environment
Trump does not discuss the environment much. He has called climate change a hoax. And, he believes that the Environmental Protection Agency has too many regulations.
The Environment
Johnson places emphasis on protection of National Parks and wants the Environmental Protection Agency to "focus on its true mission." He also believes in regulations to protect from pollutors, but also believes that the government meddles too much in deciding which companies determine the future of clean energy.
The Environment
Stein and the Green Party are, historically, especially focused on the environment. The Green New Deal looks to have the U.S. be on 100% clean energy by 2030. Stein wants to end use of fossil fuels and any support thereof. She places a special emphasis on protecting ecosystems, and strengthening environmental justice laws.

 

Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy
Clinton believes that the United States should defend its allies, push for diplomacy whenever possible, and be firm but not overaggressive with rivals such as China, Russia, and Iran. She is known as an interventionist, but has also spent time negotiating peace deals as Secretary of State. Her vote in favor of the Iraq War as a U.S. Senator is one that she has long been criticized for and has herself called a mistake.
Foreign Policy
Trump has an "America First" foreign policy, based on protecting the interests of the United States above all else, not meddling in other countries' affairs, protecting American security and jobs, seemingly no matter what it takes to do so. Trump has promised an aggressive approach with Mexico and illegal immigration, China and currency manipulation, and the Middle East and wars in the region. Trump has been criticized and questioned for an apparent coziness with Vladimir Putin of Russia, which he has denied.
Foreign Policy
Johnson believes that the U.S. meddles too much in foreign affairs and wars, and that needs to stop. He believes in fixing the problems that exist at home, while at the same time building relationships with allies abroad. Johnson has struggled with discussing foreign affairs on the campaign trail.
Foreign Policy
Stein wants to focus on diplomacy whenever possible, but also the punishment of abusers of human rights. Those human rights abusers include Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, she says.

 

Combatting ISIS

ISIS
Clinton looks to support counter-terrorism law enformcement with the tools they need, and an increase of the airstrike campaign against ISIS in the Middle East. She has called for an "intelligence surge" to help the U.S. in its efforts against ISIS and other foreign threats.
ISIS
Generally speaking, Trump calls for a very aggressive military approach to ISIS, at times using expletives to explain his plan to bomb its forces and strongholds. He has repeatedly called for destroying oil fields that ISIS may have access to. But it is unclear to what extent he will pursue these strategies because he has not released as many plans regarding ISIS. Trump says U.S. leaders are foolish in telegraphing their military plans and that he will not divulge his. He has repeatedly insulted both U.S. political and military leaders.
ISIS
Johnson believes that the "meddling" of past administrations, Republican and Democrat, have created the monster that is ISIS. He has not shown a particular adeptness at discussing foreign affairs or presenting a plan to help eliminate threats from ISIS.
ISIS
Stein says little about ISIS, but overall she is calling for the U.S. to not be engaged in war and foreign intervention.

 

Gun Control

Gun Control
Clinton has made gun control a focus of her campaign; calling for expanding background checks, and keeping "guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, other violent criminals, and the severely mentally ill." Clinton has said she believes in the Second Amendment and responsible gun ownership, but that she wants to do more to keep guns out of the wrong hands.
Gun Control
Trump is pro-gun ownership and has promised to defend the Second Amendment. He believes that current gun regulations are a failure, and that background checks need to be fixed because it seems like criminals don't go through background checks.
Gun Control
Johnson does not believe in increasing gun regulations. He is of the mind that if you take guns away only outlaws and criminals will have guns.
Gun Control
Stein believes that the ownership of guns should be regulated for the sake of public safety.

 

Justice Reform

Justice Reform
Clinton supports legislation to end any form of racial profiling. She wants law enforcement to focus on violent crimes and not petty ones like possession of marijuana. National guidelines should be brought in on use of force, she says, and body cameras should be provided to every police department in the United States. She has regularly spoken about the need to improve community-police relationships and about incidents of police brutality against people of color. And, she believes in ending the use of private prisons.
Justice Reform
Trump calls himself the "Law and Order candidate," though as to what that means in terms of policy is unclear, though he has advocated for a robust stop-and-frisk policy nationwide based on what he sees as its success in New York City. Trump often talks about the need to support and respect police.
Justice Reform
Johnson believes that all unnecessary laws should be taken out so that not as many things are criminalized. He also believes that there should be an end to the "War on Drugs."
Justice Reform
Stein wants to end police brutality and de-militarize the police. She, like Johnson, wants to end the War on Drugs. She also proposes that drug addictions are treated like a health problem, not a criminal one.

 

Education

Education
Clinton supports the Common Core learning standards. She also believes in universal pre-kindergarten, college education that is debt free, and free tuition at all community colleges. She also looks to end overly punitive policies against students at schools and has discussed doing more for English Language Learners.
Education
Trump rejects Common Core and believes that education decisions, as a whole, should be left up to states. He therefore wants to completely abolish the Department of Education.
Education
Johnson rejects Common Core and believes that education decisions should be left to the states. He also wants to abolish the Department of Education because he believes that the federal government has no right to be involved with education decisions.
Education
Stein is not supportive of Common Core or standardized testing (and thinks curricula should be designed by educators). She prefers evaluation of teachers done by fellow professionals. She supports tuition-free, and debt-free, education through all four years of college.

 

LGBTQ Rights

LGBTQ Rights
Clinton pushes for full rights for LGBTQ people, in the United States and around the world. Clinton has 'evolved' fairly quickly on related issues, like marriage equality.
LGBTQ Rights
Trump vows to protect LGBTQ citizens and has had several particularly significant moments, including at the Republican National Convention, around promoting and protecting LGBTQ rights. He has not stated personal support for same-sex marriage, but says that it is the law of the land and that it should be protected as such.
LGBTQ Rights
Johnson believes that the government should not be in the business of telling people who to marry. He therefore does not look to restrict same-sex marriage, and in fact he cites this non-government interference idea as a major reason why he supported same-sex marriage before many liberals did the same.
LGBTQ Rights
Stein says that she will seek to end all forms of discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

 

Abortion

Abortion
Clinton looks to protect the reproductive rights of all women and protecting a woman's right to choose to have an abortion. She is also proud of her endorsement from Planned Parenthood.
Abortion
Trump calls himself "pro-life" and at times has called for the defunding of Planned Parenthood. However he has at times touted a number of services that Planned Parenthood provides, and earlier in his life he considered himself "pro-choice." He has explained an 'evolution' on the issue. Trump has said that if he appoints several Supreme Court justices it is likely that Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Abortion
Johnson believes that abortion is a deeply personal choice, and that as such the governnment should not be in the business of deciding who does or does not get abortions.
Abortion
Stein views reproductive freedom as a key facet of tackling women's rights issues. She also wants to expand access to the "morning after" pill.

 

Supreme Court Vacancies

Supreme Court Vacancies
The Supreme Court, in Clinton's eyes, should help protect women's rights and LGBTQ rights, and overturn the Citizens United case. She has not committed to renominate President Obama's SCOTUS pick, Merrick Garland, for the currently vacant seat.
Supreme Court Vacancies
Trump has stressed that the Supreme Court must protect the Second Amendment in particular, as it would be under threat, he says, if Clinton is elected President. Trump's SCOTUS nominees would be pro-life and more conservative in nature, he has said, pointing to recently-deceased Justice Antonin Scalia as a model.
Supreme Court Vacancies
Johnson would use potential nominees' positions on cases such as Kelo v. City of New London (a 2005 case on the issue of eminent domain) and others related to key issues for Libertarians to determine who he might nominate to the SCOTUS.
Supreme Court Vacancies
Stein would nominate justices to the SCOTUS who would overturn Citizens United and help restrict the flow of corporate money into politics.

 

Campaign Finance Reform

Campaign Finance Reform
Clinton supports an overturn of Citizens United to limit the impact of money in politics. She also wants legislation which will "require outside groups to publicly disclose significant political spending." Her other piece of suggested reform is to start a "small-donor matching system for presidential and congressional elections to give small donors greater influence."
Campaign Finance Reform
Trump has described Political Action Committees (PACs) as a "horrible thing" because he feels that PACs lack transparency. Trump has also claimed that politicians do favors for donors, citing his own experience as a donor. He does not promote, though, public financing of campaigns.
Campaign Finance Reform
Johnson believes that spending in campaigns, including from unions and corporations, is perfectly allowable. Any restrictions on campaign finance would be a limit to free speech, in Johnson's opinion.
Campaign Finance Reform
Stein wants an overturn of the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court case. She believes that corporations should not be allowed to fund political campaigns, but believes that there should instead be public funding of campaigns.
***
by Brendan Birth and Ben Max
@GothamGazette
 
Feedback? Email Ben at bmax@gothamgazette.com
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On the Issues: Presidential Candidate Comparison Mon, 31 Oct 2016 04:00:00 +0000
The Week That Was in New York Politics, Feb. 8-12 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6167:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-feb-8-12 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6167:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-feb-8-12 week in review bus readers

photo: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York


Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday February 12

PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: Mayor de Blasio participates in the HOPE Count of homeless people living on the street, via Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office; Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito delivers her State of the City speech, via William Alatriste.

bdb hope count

mmv sotc

TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK:
1. Housing Hearings: The City Council held two lengthy hearings this week examining critical components of Mayor de Blasio’s housing plan, Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability, which aim to adjust the city’s zoning codes and were approved by the City Planning Commission. At the hearings, Council members grilled de Blasio administration officials and expressed support for the goals of the plan, but made it clear they want to see more affordable units reserved for lower-income residents, and increased protections for workers who will build the new housing. [Read: At Hearings, City Council to Examine Mayor's Zoning Proposals]

2. “More Justice”: City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito gave her second annual State of the City address on Thursday, titled “More Justice,” outlining a vast agenda centered on criminal justice reform, increasing civic engagement, empowering voters, and protecting immigrant communities, among others. Many proposals, including clearing old summons warrants and improving rehabilitation and reentry services, aim to minimize the number of people who end up in the city’s jail, in the hope that once the number of inmates on Rikers decreases, a plan for closing the notorious jail complex could be enacted. [Read: In State of the City, Mark-Viverito Outlines Civic Engagement, Voter Empowerment Plans & Mark-Viverito 'Doubles Down' on Criminal Justice Reform in State of the City]

3. Budget Analysis: Comptroller Scott Stringer released his analysis of Mayor de Blasio’s preliminary fiscal year 2017 budget on Wednesday, pointing out several areas of concern in an overall positive financial outlook for the city. Stringer said savings the Mayor has allocated are insufficient to prepare for an economic downturn and wants the city to implement a PEG requiring city agencies to identify a certain percentage of potential savings. [Read: Comptroller Raises Several Flags in Budget Analysis]

4. Renewed Homelessness Scrutiny: Following the fatal stabbing of a woman and two of her infant daughters Wednesday at a Ramada Inn on Staten Island, which was being used as a temporary homeless shelter, Mayor de Blasio announced plans to provide hotels used as temporary shelters with increased security. The incident comes less than two weeks after a mentally ill man slit another resident’s throat at a homeless shelter in Harlem, which also prompted promises of increased security at shelters. The State quickly responded to the Staten Island incident, instructing the City to increase security, which the City said it had already done.

5. Tax Plan: Assembly Democrats renewed support for their recently-unveiled plan to extend and expand a millionaire’s tax just one day after Governor Cuomo dismissed the plan, saying there was no “reason or appetite to take up taxes this year.” Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan reiterated his opposition to higher taxes on millionaires and said changes to the cap this year are unlikely, though Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has maintained his support for the plan. [Read: Heastie Takes to Twitter to Respond to Cuomo on Tax Plan]

THIS WEEK’S NUMBERS:

  • $10,000 fine for failing to safeguard crawler crane equipment, up from $4,800, following the fatal crane collapse in downtown Manhattan last Friday, the Times reports.
  • 3,500 volunteers canvassed New York City on Monday for the city’s annual HOPE count, a one-night count of all the homeless people living on the streets, the Associated Press reports - results will not be known for a few weeks.
  • 200 people signed up to testify at the City Council’s hearing on MIH on Tuesday, WNYC reports.
  • 41 hotels are being used as temporary homeless shelters to house more than 2,600 homeless adults and children across New York City, Politico reports.
  • 1.1 million summons warrants for offenses like being in the park after dark or having an open container of alcohol contribute to the city’s backlog of open arrest warrants, Gotham Gazette reports.
  • 8% increase in state agency overtime pay, the Daily News reports.
  • 125 high schools will have student voter registration, up from 56, with increased funding from the City Council, Gotham Gazette reports.
  • 46% increase over two years in the amount of money spent by the city on homeless services, up to $1.7 billion across three agencies, Gotham Gazette reports.

THE GLORY AND THE GOAT:
It was a good week for LGBT New Yorkers, advocates and allies, as Governor Cuomo announced a series of regulations Saturday that will prohibit health care insurers from covering "conversion therapy" in New York and stop mental health facilities from using the method on minors.  

It was a bad week for the NYPD, with officers facing two trials this week for the deaths of unarmed black men in two separate incidents, and a joint investigation by ProPublica and the Daily News into the NYPD’s use of the nuisance abatement law alleging the NYPD often uses the law to force people out of their homes. On Thursday, officer Peter Liang was found guilty of manslaughter in the 2014 shooting death of Akai Gurley, and on Wednesday, a federal grand jury began hearing evidence in the case of Eric Garner, who died after a Staten Island police officer put Garner in a chokehold.

And, it was a bad week for Success Academy Charter Schools, after a video published by the New York Times shows a Success Academy teacher belittling a student for failing to answer a question correctly. The accompanying Times story shares similar stories from current and former employees, prompting renewed scrutiny for the charter school network.

THE FLASH:
Around this time 100 years ago, on February 11, 1916, Emma Goldman was arrested in New York City just before giving a lecture on family planning, which was considered illegal under the 1873 Comstock Act that banned “obscene” literature, including information about contraception.

GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK
Comptroller Raises Several Flags in Budget Analysis, by Ben Max

Everyone's Talking About Paid Family Leave, Only Compromise Will Yield a Deal, by David Howard King

In State of the City, Mark-Viverito Outlines Civic Engagement, Voter Empowerment Plans, by Samar Khurshid

Mark-Viverito 'Doubles Down' on Criminal Justice Reform in State of the City, by Meg O’Connor

Assembly Reform Group Nears Release of 49-Recommendation Report, by David Howard King

Heastie Takes to Twitter to Respond to Cuomo on Tax Plan, by David Howard King

In Albany, Bharara Challenges Lawmakers to Act, Not Enable, by David Howard King

Bharara Visits Capital He Upended, by David Howard King

After New Hampshire: Debates & Voting Dates Until New York, by Ben Max

Next Steps the State Must Make to Create and Maintain Affordable Housing, by Nicole Bramstedt (opinion)

Real Affordable Housing for Our Communities, by Susana Salas (opinion)

Time for NYCHA to Stop Wasting Our Money, by Brian Sampson (opinion)

Get the Facts Straight on NYCHA Attacks, by Michael Kelly (opinion)

The 10 Concerns Council Members Had About Mayor’s Inclusionary Housing Proposal, by Jarrett Murphy (City Limits)

MORE FOR THE WEEKEND:
Gotham Gazette’s executive editor Ben Max and City Limit’s executive editor Jarrett Murphy discuss key takeaways after two days of marathon City Council hearings on Mayor de Blasio’s citywide zoning proposals.

In a rare visit to Albany on Monday, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara spoke to the need for honest politicians and others in state government to call out corruption when they see it in an interview with WAMC co-sponsored by Citizens Union and other good government groups.

Mayor de Blasio spoke with Errol Louis on NY1 and defended the new Police Department training course, “implicit bias” training, designed to combat officers’ prejudices, and also defended MIH and ZQA.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito appeared on NY1 to discuss her State of the City address.

Errol Louis discussed the 40th anniversary of City Limits magazine with Jarrett Murphy, executive editor and publisher of City Limits, and two contributors, Brooke Williams and Tom Robbins on NY1. 

***
NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle @GothamGazette.

If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com

Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here. And have a great weekend!

***
by Meg O'Connor and Ben Max

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The Week That Was in New York Politics, Feb. 8-12 Fri, 12 Feb 2016 17:39:16 +0000
The Numbers on NYC's Property Tax Non-Problem http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6121:the-numbers-on-nycs-property-tax-non-problem http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6121:the-numbers-on-nycs-property-tax-non-problem city limits tax rates graph


When Mayor de Blasio arrived in Albany on Tuesday, he had a lot to talk about: aid to CUNY, cost-sharing for Medicaid, mayoral control of the schools and more. Instead, upstate lawmakers wanted to talk about a property tax cap. New York City is the only place in the state that doesn't have one, and apparently that irks Republicans.

The property tax is one of the few revenue lines that the city controls on its own. If it wants to raise other taxes, like the income tax, it has to go to Albany for approval. That fact is probably not unrelated to the push to get the mayor to surrender his authority to raise the property levy.

The property tax accounts for about 40 percent of the city's revenue each year, twice as much as the personal income tax (about 20 percent) or sales tax (roughly 14 percent). Mayor Bloomberg oversaw a significant increase to close the post September 11 budget gap, a move that hurt his first-term popularity a lot. As the chart above indicates, growth in the tax rate has been modest; it actually dropped last year on "class 1" properties. Since property tax revenue grows with property values, those numbers (in the chart below) rise a little more, especially for some classes of properties.

Read more about NYC's property tax non-problem from City Limits here.

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The Numbers on NYC's Property Tax Non-Problem Wed, 27 Jan 2016 22:56:51 +0000
Corruption, Elections Loom Over Lengthy 2016 Legislative Agenda http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6067:corruption-elections-loom-over-2016-legislative-agenda http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6067:corruption-elections-loom-over-2016-legislative-agenda Cuomo announcement infrastructure

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


Lawmakers returning to Albany this week to kick off the 2016 legislative session are faced with a litany of unresolved issues from last year and the spectre of the recent convictions of two former legislative leaders.

Add to that impending elections for all 213 legislative seats, some of which will be critical for the future of state Senate control and the prospect of future indictments hinted at by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and you have a recipe for potential paralysis.

Familiar issues like raising the minimum wage, paid family leave, juvenile justice and criminal justice reforms are all on the table. Newer issues like regulating fantasy sports gambling and tweaks to the state's health insurance marketplace will also be up for discussion.

Complicating some issues will be Gov. Andrew Cuomo's repeated 2015 use of executive action, which irked some legislators and, according to some advocates, let the air out of pushes for major legislation. But the elephant in the room remains how to deal with the plague of corruption that has dogged the capitol for years.

There is a little extra motivation for the legislature to move on more comprehensive ethics fixes - when session ended in June, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Majority Leader Dean Skelos had merely been indicted on federal corruption charges, six months later both men have been convicted and will soon face sentencing. Further, their trials exposed how major donors are able to exploit the state's campaign finance system and how both Silver and Skelos were able to use their influence to pressure entities with business before the state to provide them and their associates with financial benefit.

Cuomo has promised that ethics reform will be at the top of his 2016 agenda.

Aside from the unprecedented legislative scandal, both houses of the legislature will also be preparing for an election season that many see as do or die for control of the state Senate, currently led by Republicans. Upcoming electoral contests could motivate leaders from both houses to compromise, or it could create more strife, legislative paralysis, and a blame game that will play out in the elections.

Still, there are a variety of major policy issues at play as 2016 session begins, including:

Full-Time Legislature
A number of good government groups, as well as Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and even U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, have posited that a better paid, full-time legislature might reduce certain kinds of corruption. Better pay might reduce the temptation to take bribes and with outside income banned it would be much harder for legislators to hide any ill-gotten gains.

A number of Assembly Democrats say their conference has seriously discussed the possibility of advocating for a full-time legislative body. In a Dec. 7 interview with Gary Axelbank of BronxTalk, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he wanted to see how stricter income disclosure rules passed last year work before he advocates a total ban on outside income.

Heastie told Axelbank a full-time legislature would have to be paid considerably more. "Is the public ready to pay legislators $150,000-$160,000 a year?" Heastie asked. "If you're going to have people go full time, there's going to have to be a hefty pay raise from $79,500." Legislators haven't had a raise in 15 years, though a new commission is examining the rates and will issue recommendations.

Majority Leader John Flanagan has repeatedly said he is steadfastly opposed to a full-time legislature. He said it on Wednesday's first session day, and last month he told reporters, "We are ostensibly supposed to have, or legally supposed to have, a citizen Legislature or a part-time Legislature. I want the people with a depth of background. I think it's useful to have people from varying walks of life."

Still, upon replacing Skelos, Flanagan gave up his second job, a move he explained Wednesday as important because of his time commitment as Senate leader, which comes with a stipend.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has noted that the constitution calls for a part-time legislature and Republican opposition to going full-time, but called the idea "something worth talking about." It's more likely that legislators compromise on a significant cap on outside income and additional rules.

LLC Loophole
The now-infamous LLC loophole was featured during the Silver and Skelos corruption trials, but has been a cause of consternation among reformers for quite some time. In practice, the loophole allows anyone to game the campaign finance system by setting up multiple LLCs, or limited liability corporations, from which to donate to candidates for office.

Cries to close the loophole reached fever pitch last session, but in the wake of the Silver and Skelos trials have become even louder. Glenwood Management, a Manhattan real estate firm at the center of the Silver and Skelos cases, used the loophole to subvert the state's campaign donation limits by creating a number of front companies. The firm has been the largest contributor in the state for years. The Assembly moved to close the loophole last year but the Senate refused to vote on the issue. The Assembly is poised to move again on the issue but it appears that they might face opposition not only from Senate Republicans but from Cuomo as well.

Speaking with reporters in Manhattan on Dec. 13, Cuomo said that closing the LLC Loophole was "a priority." However, on Dec. 21, Cuomo said in a WNYC radio interview that closing the loophole would be ineffective because of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allows for independent expenditures on behalf of candidates.

"You need people in office who are going to use their best judgment in office," Cuomo said on WNYC, "because you're not going to change the campaign finance system because of Citizens United."

Cuomo also refused to return over a million dollars in donations from Glenwood Management. "If I believed that I could be influenced by a million dollars, or a thousand dollars, or fifty dollars, then I'm in the wrong place and I should resign immediately," he explained.

Minimum Wage Hike
Cuomo kicked off the rollout of his 2016 agenda with another rally for an eventual $15 hourly statewide minimum wage and by extending a path toward $15 per hour to 28,000 SUNY employees. Cuomo has promised to push the legislature to adopt his plan to get all workers across the state to at least $15 per hour over the next several years.

Cuomo rapidly evolved his position on the minimum wage last year after opposing a hike to $13 per hour proposed by Democratic legislators. But, he utilized the state's wage board provision to boost the minimum wage plan for fast food workers to an eventual $15 per hour and has rallied across the state to push the legislature to support the same figure.

The Assembly pushed for an eventual $15 minimum wage for New York City in its single-house budget last year and is expected to support Cuomo's push. There are some Democratic members from Upstate and Western New York who are concerned about backlash from business groups. Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has not written off the possibility of a path toward a $15 minimum wage and there are some who think he will look to compromise with Cuomo on the timeline for full implementation of the raise as a way to take the debate off the table before election season.

Cuomo has already begun outlining tax reform, especially to reduce the burden on small businesses, which many see as part of the plan to get the minimum wage hike passed. A heightened minimum wage is popular around the state and has endeared the governor with many of his erstwhile liberal friends.

Tax on the Rich
With one sentence of his remarks on the opening day of session, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie changed the expected dynamics of negotiations to come. "We will fight for a tax structure that promotes fairness, equity, common sense," Heastie said, adding that he wanted tax cuts for the working class and to ask "wealthy New Yorkers" to pay their "fair share."

Cuomo has repeatedly rejected calls for a tax on the highest earners over the last few years - especially when the calls came from Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014. It isn't clear how hard Heastie will push on the issue but if it takes off it could eventually be used as leverage toward enacting a full minimum wage increase.

Criminal Justice Reform
Last month the Cuomo administration made good on a promised executive action when it unveiled a plan to move 16- and 17-year-old inmates with medium and minimum security classifications to a juvenile facility in Hudson. The move is expected to impact up to 100 inmates. However, advocates are not satisfied. New York is still one of two states to treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults upon arrest.

Criminal justice experts want the entire process changed in state law, something Cuomo has backed and tried to enact last year to no avail.

While advocates plan to continue to push, and held a press conference on the first day of session to resume doing so, Cuomo's executive action may have reduced the legislature's appetite to act. A number of Senate Republicans were concerned about housing teens in adult prisons but are not convinced the entire criminal justice process should be altered. Meanwhile, Cuomo and Democrats from the Senate and Assembly have disagreed on exactly how the 16- and 17-year-olds should be processed by the courts.

Meanwhile, having failed to build a consensus with the legislature on how to revamp the criminal justice system to address concerns about how police shootings of citizens are investigated, Cuomo issued an executive order last summer allowing the Attorney General to name a special prosecutor in such cases.

The move angered some district attorneys and members of law enforcement but gave the governor a boost with progressive activists. However, Cuomo promised to evaluate how the order worked and return to the legislature with a plan to change the law.

Members of the Assembly Majority are anxious to tackle the issue but Senate Republicans are unlikely to want to touch it - especially in an election year. A good gauge of where the issue stands in the pecking order will be to see what kind of mention it gets, if any, in Cuomo's State of the State address. A number of legislators say they expect Cuomo to declare victory on both of these criminal justice issues by pointing to his executive actions and thereby avoid any major legislative battles.

Car Service Apps
In 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio decided he wanted to limit the expansion of Uber, the most popular car-service app, citing concerns about congestion. It was as if the mayor stepped on a landmine. Uber quickly mobilized its drivers and users and rolled out an effective public relations campaign, even enlisting Cuomo - who may not have needed much prodding to contradict de Blasio.

The mayor walked away limping but with plans to return to the issue. Now the state has to decide how to handle Uber and Lyft's push to be allowed in New York, including in upstate cities. In late October, Cuomo indicated that he thinks the state should issue regulations as a whole. "You can't do Uber city by city," Cuomo said. Cuomo's former top advisor Matt Wing is now in charge of communications for Uber in the Northeast.

Localities would need to give up oversight of transportation insurance and allow Uber to pool insurance for its drivers. The taxi industry, which is steadfastly opposed to Uber, is currently regulated city by city.

Fantasy Sports Gambling
A number of Assembly Democrats are chomping at the bit to address the issue of fantasy sports betting sites like Draftkings and FanDuel, which were recently sued by AG Schneiderman for being illegal gambling in violation of New York law. Schneiderman then amended the suit to ask the companies to return all money it made from New Yorkers. Democratic Assemblymember Gary Pretlow told Gotham Gazette that he plans to come up with regulations, oversight, and consumer protections that could keep the sites alive should they be found illegal in the court battle.

Meanwhile, a number of Senate Republicans are interested in ending any ambiguity about the legality of the sites by passing a bill stating that it is a game of skill and not of chance. Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer introduced such a bill in December. He told The Buffalo News in November that he hadn't spoken to representatives of the sites but was motivated by what he saw as Schneiderman's "overreach."

"It's just once again. New York shouldn't have Uber, shouldn't have mixed martial arts, or sports betting. When all this commerce and activities is allowed in many other states, it just seems like one issue after another in New York," Ranzenhofer told the Buffalo News.

A Variety of Others
Expect a major push from both houses of the legislature to restore education funding cuts.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship is advancing a court case to force New York to allow them to hold events in the state and has even booked a spring date at Madison Square Garden to hold its mixed martial arts bouts (MMA). The legislature could intercede before the case is settled.

Cuomo has already revealed a number of infrastructure related plans. Senate Republicans are looking to increase investment in the state's roads and bridges upstate while a number of city-based Democrats want to see the governor better invest in the MTA and do more to relieve congestion.

A number of Assembly Democrats are looking for partners in the Senate Majority for bills that would encourage guns are stored safely. There are several other bills that address implementing employee training and stricter checks and balances for gun stores as well as ones that would allow police to take away guns belonging to perpetrators of domestic violence.

Cuomo has been focused on national solutions to gun violence as of late but some Assembly Democrats think there is room to pass smaller pieces of legislation this year.

The Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act, or GENDA, appears to have lost a great deal of momentum after Cuomo enacted a number of its tenets through executive order earlier this fall. The Empire State Pride Agenda, which had been backing the bill, announced it is closing its policy operations because it feels it has completed much of its work, but some advocates point out that Cuomo's GENDA order could quickly be undone by the next governor.

The DREAM Act is another long-standing Democratic priority that many are unsure of its place in this year's agenda, which may be determined by whether Cuomo features it in his State of the State and budget.

The Assembly and Senate majorities and the Independent Democratic Conference will have to settle their differences over how to implement paid family leave before they look to negotiate a final bill with the governor. "I'm always optimistic," IDC head Sen. Jeff Klein said of a resolution on paid family leave in November. "It is an extremely important issue resonates with residents across the state." Klein brought the policy up again in his opening remarks on the Senate floor, and Flanagan said a conversation would happen, but that the details must be determined. Heastie said the Assembly would again bass a paid family leave bill this year, as it has several years in a row.

Generally speaking, Flanagan succinctly summed up his conference's priorities with his opening remarks on Wednesday, saying its focus will be "jobs, jobs, and jobs."

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

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Corruption, Elections Loom Over Lengthy 2016 Legislative Agenda Wed, 06 Jan 2016 22:17:26 +0000
De Blasio Attempts to Undo Negative First Impressions http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5958:de-blasio-attempts-to-undo-negative-first-impressions http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5958:de-blasio-attempts-to-undo-negative-first-impressions de blasio press conference distance

De Blasio at a press conference (Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)


It's hard to go a few hours in New York political circles without hearing a joke about the mayor being late. Mayor de Blasio earned the taunts, having had a punctuality problem, which offended many New Yorkers. These days, de Blasio is almost never late for public events, though, seeming to have corrected what should have been an avoidable mistake of his early tenure.

Still, nearly two years into his term, de Blasio is dogged by a reputation for tardiness, as well as other negative elements of the first impression he gave many New Yorkers. The mayor is now in the midst of efforts to solve a public perception problem that siphoned some of his popularity and led de Blasio to adjust his approach on several fronts.

While you only get one chance to make a first impression, de Blasio and his team are at work to see how much they can do to change popular criticisms of him and the general sense, among some, that he has the city headed in the wrong direction.

Along with chronically late, some have come to see de Blasio as dogmatic, narrow-minded, and insulated; Self-aggrandizing, with his head in the clouds - more concerned with national politics than New York potholes; Ineffective at mitigating problems like homelessness; Anti-business, anti-wealth, and, perhaps most damaging, anti-cop.

Fair or not, these are the details of the de Blasio caricature. Most don't see de Blasio as all these things, but each appears a popular - or damaging - enough characterization that the mayor has sought to correct them all.

Negative public perception of the mayor has been fueled by unnecessary errors, like showing up late or frequent trips out of town; by calculated decisions - insisting Albany approve a tax increase on the city's highest earners, for example; and by those who never liked de Blasio, disagree with his worldview, and want to see him defeated.

The number of de Blasio critics has grown, media memes have taken hold. This summer, as cries about the mayor's focus and about a rise in street homelessness blared, de Blasio's poll numbers sunk.

The mayor appears to have taken notice.

Consciously, assertively, de Blasio is working to change his first impression. The mayor talks about the NYPD in almost exclusively positive terms now; he has made more appearances on the radio and on Staten Island, partnered with real estate developers and other business leaders, and even begun treating his predecessor with more esteem.

To some extent, he has already been successful. With wealthier New Yorkers and police unions, de Blasio appears to be digging himself out of holes he burrowed last year. But while de Blasio insiders feel they are on firmer footing, they await public opinion polls showing more widespread improvement.

"The mayor has made a concerted effort in the last year to reach out to members of the business community," said Kathy Wylde, CEO of the Partnership for NYC, a leading business group, "to get to know them, to hold roundtables with various sectors - finance, media, tech - where he has listened to the issues that the key industries are facing. For those that have had the opportunity to sit down with him, to get to know him, they have felt very positive about his commitment to many priorities that the business community shares."

On the day of this article's publication, de Blasio was set to "meet with CEOs from the TAMI – technology, advertising, media and information – sector" and then hold a press conference outside a home on Staten Island to make an announcement about Sandy recovery, according to his public schedule.

"There's an appreciation that he's made a real effort to build relationships," Wylde said on Wednesday in a phone interview, "most recently including reaching out to Mayor Bloomberg."

Wylde confirmed that de Blasio's changed tone toward Bloomberg and the fact that they had planned an event together had been received positively in the business community, which Bloomberg is of and adored by. The event, a tree-planting to celebrate completion of a Bloomberg initiative, was rescheduled due to the killing of police officer Randolph Holder.

De Blasio's relationship with the police and strident NYPD supporters has been more tense than with any other group. Holder is the fourth police officer killed during de Blasio's mayoralty, a statistic not lost on his harshest critics, who despised the mayor's campaign - which focused on NYPD reform and criticized Bloomberg and Commissioner Ray Kelly - and predicted a return to 'the bad old days' with de Blasio in office.

The city has not experienced such unraveling, but as de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton reform policing, scrutiny of public safety is heightened. As is de Blasio's perceived level of support for the police. While Holder's death is certainly a setback, the mayor has made some headway since last winter, when two officers were murdered and others turned their backs on the mayor.

Last December, before those officers were killed, de Blasio reacted to the grand jury decision not to indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner by explaining that he and his wife had to teach their son to take extra care when interacting with police. In 2015, his tone is different. De Blasio reacted to Holder's murder by stating that "We need to understand that the police are us." Officers did not turn their backs on the mayor at Holder's funeral, at which he made remarks.

Since last December, de Blasio has become more protective of the police. He announced new bullet-resistant vests and technology for officers; and funded 1,297 new officers in his latest budget. He has heaped praise on the NYPD at numerous ceremonies and press conferences.

Late last month, one of de Blasio's loudest critics, sergeants union president Ed Mullins, said that the mayor "takes a look a little differently at policing today than he did nine, ten, twelve months ago," according to the Daily News.

Mullins, who is a registered Republican, also said that he continues to see a philosophical difference with de Blasio.

That has been and will continue to be key for de Blasio: figuring out certain shifts in rhetoric and behavior that smooth important relationships with people who don't share his liberal bend, building broader support, and also remaining true to his progressive bona fides and base.

Asked about the mayor's efforts to correct negative impressions and build better relationships, de Blasio spokesperson Karen Hinton said in a statement, "The Mayor is the same man today that New Yorkers voted for two years ago. That said, an effective leader always adjusts to changing circumstances involving city programs and services. Mayor de Blasio listens to the views of all New Yorkers and works to reflect their input in actions and policies that are appropriate and fair."

Wylde, of Partnership for NYC, indicated that this is happening. She gave the mayor and his team credit for working with business leaders to alter some of the more "intrusive" City Council bills aimed at regulating industry and personnel decisions; and praised the mayor for his essential support of state-level changes to the corporate tax code.

Of de Blasio and the city's business elite, Wylde said, "The political ideological alignment is never going to be there, but that doesn't stand in the way of the commitment that the business community feels to having a strong city and supporting the mayor's efforts to ensure that New York has a great education system and its economy continues to thrive."

Asked if grumbling about the mayor had quieted in the business community, Wylde said, "New York City is a place where there's always grumbling, but people understand the city is doing well."

And of de Blasio's 2014 pursuit of higher taxes on top earners and a different 2015 relationship with business, Wylde said, "He hasn't called for a tax increase since, and that's appreciated."

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
@TweetBenMax

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De Blasio Attempts to Undo Negative First Impressions Thu, 29 Oct 2015 04:22:40 +0000
In End of Session 'Scorecard,' Plenty for Next Year's Albany Agenda http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5791:in-end-of-session-scorecard-plenty-for-next-years-albany-agenda http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5791:in-end-of-session-scorecard-plenty-for-next-years-albany-agenda Cuomo Heastie Flanagan

Heastie, Cuomo, Flanagan (L-R) (photo: Governor's Office via flickr)


In the Democrat-controlled Assembly, it was 122-13; in the Republican-controlled Senate, 47-12. With those votes and a Governor Andrew Cuomo signature, a final policy package brought an underwhelming end to a tumultuous 2015 legislative session in New York's capital. 

Look at the bill, which combines laws on a variety of disparate issues, and see it's headlined "relates to rent-control provisions," referencing what was to many the most important aspect of the deal reached by Governor Cuomo, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. This year's 'three men in a room' took a little extra time to get to "yes," with the 2015 'big ugly' passed through the Legislature a little over a week after the originally scheduled end of session.

You can forgive Albany lawmakers for being a little tardy, though - as Governor Cuomo has said, it was no ordinary year in Albany. "This was a very difficult year," Cuomo said last Tuesday when announcing the framework of a deal. "There were extraordinary developments...It was almost unimaginable to have this kind of change in this period of time. You wound up with two new leaders." He was, of course, alluding to the fact that both Flanagan's and Heastie's predeccesors were arrested on corruption charges earlier this year.

Along with an extension of rent regulations that mostly concern New York City tenants and their allies, the deal includes action briefly extending mayoral control of city schools and the 421-a real estate tax abatement program; providing property tax rebates; setting aside funding for nonpublic schools; and altering the cap on charter schools so more can open in New York City. Cuomo and the Legislature also struck deals on campus sexual conduct and nail salon regulation.

While extensions were passed on major sunsetting items, the 2015 deal may be more notable for how much it did not include than for what it did.

Cases in point: noting the absence of items he had promised action on, Cuomo announced two executive orders he would be issuing on criminal justice issues. Facing an uncooperative Senate, the governor had also already set things in motion to up the minimum wage on his own, with his Department of Labor convening a fast food worker wage board set to deliver recommendations soon.

But on those issues some action is being taken - there is also a wide variety of policy seeing no movement through the end of session deal or Cuomo on his own, angering advocates behind pushes to enact paid family leave, the Gender Non-Discrimination Act, the DREAM Act, government ethics and campaign finance reform, and mixed martial arts (MMA), to name a few of the most-sought. New York will continue to be the only state that does not sanction MMA and one of only two that continues to try 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system.

Yet according to Cuomo, the end-of-session deal is a robust package, plenty good for New Yorkers, and further evidence that New York government is functional. Speaking at a press conference announcing a final agreement, Cuomo said, "I am personally very happy and very proud of this legislative package. I think that it is responsive to the problems that are pressing the state right now. I think that it is actually a very robust and extensive legislative package of reforms that goes a long way towards making this state a better state."

The governor also praised Flanagan and Heastie. "These gentlemen were in a very difficult situation to step in as a new leader," Cuomo said, adding that it was "extraordinary" that the two could step into the legislative process in the middle of negotiations and ensure government keeps working.

Flanagan seemed mostly pleased with the session's policy outcomes. Heastie less so. But, Heastie and many of his supporters have been quick to note that the deal appears to be the best the new speaker could do. He was fighting an uphill battle, many Democrats argue, against an obstinate Senate Republican conference and, in some cases, an unsympathetic Democratic governor. New York City Democrats - elected and otherwise - were largely disappointed, and many point a finger at Cuomo, who they say did not fight hard enough on key issues or for tenants.

State Senator Adriano Espaillat, a Manhattan Democrat who voted against the end-of-session deal, said, "We are far from where we need to be to protect tenants...we need strong rent laws, not a slight improvement."

City Comptroller Scott Stringer said similarly, "When it came to protecting tenants, Albany failed miserably," Stringer said Sunday on John Catsimatidis' radio show, according to the Daily News. "We have an affordable housing crisis," Stringer added, "But the rent stabilization deal didn't address those issues."

The rent laws took center stage as Albany lawmakers let them briefly expire and the session puttered into overtime. But, the regulations were among many issues at play, some of which saw action. In looking at the outcomes of the 2015 legislative session - which some have called anemic or "the absolutely bare minimum" - we see the initial framework for next year's policy agenda.

WHAT WAS DONE
Rent Regulations: extended for four years, and strengthened slightly with an increase and indexing of the threshold by which units can be removed from the regulated rolls; an increase in civil harassment penalties where owners harass a tenant to obtain a vacancy; and an adjustment to the limits landlords can charge tenants to receive reimbursement for building improvements. Senate Republicans attempted to insert income verification measures, but they did not make the final deal.

Of Assembly Speaker Heastie's push on rent regulations, Governor Cuomo said, "I believe the rent package that he has obtained is a major step forward. You have certain voices that would say rent regulations should just go away - I understand that, but that's not going to happen any time soon. But he has done an extraordinary job in crafting a program that addresses the entire spectrum of the problem."

Reaction: the extension came as a relief to tenants and their allies, but is seen as largely inadequate, as the comments from Espaillat and Stringer indicate. City Council Member Jumaane Williams has said that "Governor Cuomo completely and thoroughly let New York City tenants down."

A spokesperson for a coalition of pro-tenant groups, Real Affordability for All, said "This deal is very bad for tenants, good for corruption and a step further to eliminating the largest source of affordable housing in the state. The changes included to the laws are as insignificant as the reforms made in 2011, which led to the displacement of thousands of working class New Yorkers and to the high record number of families who ended up in city shelters. It completely ignores the affordable housing crisis." Activists say thousands of rent regulated apartments will be lost each year and they plan to continue to protest the deal.

Taxes: the state property tax cap, limiting growth at two percent per year, is extended for an additional four years, and a new property tax credit, "$3.1 billion over four years in direct relief to struggling New York taxpayers," is included. In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Flanagan said, "We are taking action on long-held Republican priorities that reduce the property tax burden here in New York so that we can create jobs, grow businesses, and help taxpayers keep more of their hard-earned money."

Reaction: the governor is largely praised for fiscal discipline when it comes to property tax increases, while the property tax cap and the new tax credit are seen as wins for middle class and wealthy homeowners. The Citizens Budget Commission, however, expresses concern about the tax credit, writing, "The legislative package passed in Albany last week rejected some misguided and expensive proposals, including a tax credit for benefactors of private schools. Unfortunately, other expensive proposals were included, adding to current and future state expenses without providing offsetting savings or revenues...By far the largest part is a new property tax relief rebate program, which will cost $1.3 billion annually when fully implemented."

421-a: "The legislation extends the 421-a program for six months, with a provision that allows representatives of labor and industry groups to reach a memorandum of understanding regarding wage protections for construction workers. If such an agreement is reached, the program will automatically be extended for four years," according to a release from the governor's office. A key piece of the deal is that affordable housing will be mandated as part of any development approved to receive the tax break, a significant change from the previous version, which included major exceptions. The deal also bans the so-called "poor door" setup that some developers enacted with separate entrances for market-rate tenants and affordable unit tenants.

Reaction: 421-a was a source of conflict between Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio. The final plan - assuming that the two sides can come to a wage agreement - is very close to what de Blasio proposed, which he and his aides have pointed out, including through a convincing infographic.

"Some real progress was made on 421-a. We were very proud of that fact," de Blasio said on Monday, according to The Observer. "We're going to have a lot more affordable housing than we would have otherwise, and taxpayers are going to get a much better deal, because any time we subsidize a building, there will be affordable housing as part of that." The deal does not include the so-called "mansion tax" de Blasio called for on sales of apartments over $1.75 million and used to fund affordable housing, which the mayor called "a mistake" and a "lost opportunity."

The deal appears to work for just about all the key stakeholders, though the labor agreement that must be reached could halt the celebration, and even if it is worked out by the parties, the proof of this deal's success will be in the pudding that is real estate development and accompanying affordable housing built over the coming years.

Education: there is $250 million to private schools "for the costs of performing State-mandated services," money which many say the schools are already owed; requirements for the "disclosure of state exam questions and answers" and other measures to improve standardized testing; a "one-year extension of mayoral control of the New York City school system"; and an "increase in the number of charter schools available to be issued in New York City to 50 and enhanced flexibility in teacher certification rules" for charter schools.

Reaction: de Blasio and his allies had sought at least three years extension of mayoral control (de Blasio had originally pushed for it to be made permanent and the Assmebly had passed a seven-year extension); the one-year deal is seen as an insult to the mayor and, to some, revenge by Senate Republicans for de Blasio's 2014 efforts to swing the Senate to Democrats. It is unclear how much Governor Cuomo fought for a longer extension, though he had himself originally proposed three years early in 2015. "The outcome of the negotiations was the best that we could do," Cuomo said. Mayoral control will now be a focal point again in 2016 as de Blasio seeks another extension.

Meanwhile, much of the rest of the deal appears to extend the governor's education reform agenda. Cuomo allies in the charter school sector praised the deal. "Today Albany leaders stepped up and delivered for parents and students who demanded more choice," said StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis. "Too many children are stuck in failing schools without options...Thankfully, Albany leaders understand that charter schools play a critical role in the delivery of free, public education in New York."

Albany lawmakers also announced a deal enacting Cuomo's "Enough is Enough" campus sexual assault conduct policy across the state. "We have a bill on sexual assault on campuses that is the smartest and toughest bill in the United States," Cuomo said announcing the deal. "I think it's going to set a new national model for other states to follow."

EXECUTIVE ACTION:
The governor is taking executive action on three issues, each of which will still be revisited in terms of legislation, likely in 2016.

Governor Cuomo wanted legislation passed to raise the age of criminal responsibility, but Senate Republicans balked. "To me the single most important piece of 'raise the age' is getting the 16- and 17-year-olds out of state prisons and that's what I can do by executive order," Cuomo said last week. "We'll be creating facilities designed for those 16- and 17-year-olds that will be much more appropriate than a state prison," he said.

Cuomo also announced that since he could not come to a deal with legislative leaders on a special prosecutor in cases where police officers kill unarmed civilians, he was appointing the attorney general as such for one year, and will hope to come to a legislative solution in 2016.

The governor has pushed a further increase in the minimum wage, which is now $8.75 per hour and set to go to $9 at the end of the year. Unable to get Senate Republicans to bite, Cuomo announced he had instructed his Department of Labor to convene a wage board examining wages in the fast food industry. The wage board has held several public hearings and is set to announce its recommendations any day. Hopes are high that the board will "do the right thing and recommend a $15 wage for fast-food workers that will take effect as soon as possible," as a statement from Working Families Party State Director Bill Lipton read. Even if the board announces something less than $15 per hour, it is likely to push a significantly higher wage than $9.

ON TO NEXT YEAR:
While Cuomo acts on his own regarding the minimum wage in the fast food industry, where 16- and 17-year olds are imprisoned, and how investigations into police killings of unarmed civilians are run, it is almost certain that the governor and others will want to see legislative action on the three issues come 2016.

Advocates will have to continue to push for the DREAM Act; paid family leave; the Gender Non-Discrimination Act; raising the age of criminal responsibility and other criminal justice reforms; an increase in the minimum wage; legalizing mixed martial arts; ethics and campaign finance reform; and much more. Cuomo did not get Assembly Democrats to agree to his education tax credit proposal that would have incentivized contributions to nonpublic schools, and it is unclear if there will be another push for it in the future. It is clear, however, that the other issues on this list will remain the focus of much lobbying and activism:

Ethics and Campaign Finance Reform: "I'm disappointed and, frankly, find it incomprehensible, that there were not further measures taken to reform the procedures in our state government and in our campaigns," Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said on Friday, according to The Observer.

Schneiderman, who has put forth his own sweeping ethics reform package, said he wants to see a special legislative session before the scheduled January return of business to Albany. Good government groups, including Citizens Union, the Brennan Center, and NYPIRG, released a statement saying, "New York's leading civic organizations today decried Albany's continuing failure to fully address the ceaseless ethics problems head-on during the 2015 legislative session. The groups called on Governor Cuomo and the state's legislative leaders to convene a special session to tackle ethics reforms before the end of the calendar year."

Among the reforms the good government groups and Schneiderman want to see are limits on legislators' outside income and the closing of the infamous LLC loophole, which allows virtually unlimited campaign donations.

The Gender Non-Discrimination Act: The State Assembly has passed GENDA eight times, but the legislation, which, according to the Empire State Pride Agenda, "would update the state's anti-discrimination protections to cover transgender New Yorkers," has stalled in the Senate. The Pride Agenda released a statement saying that with the end of "a deplorably unproductive legislative session," the Senate has left transgender New Yorkers at continued risk "to the vicious discrimination that haunts countless trans lives." The Pride Agenda and allies also want to see action banning "conversion therapy" on minors in New York, which has also passed the Assembly.

Paid Family Leave: It's an issue gaining more and more traction nationally, but New Yorkers are looking to push paid family leave at the state level in the absene of federal policy. Reacting to a lack of movement before the end of the 2015 session, the New York Paid Family Leave Insurance campaign issued a statement, saying, "It now appears that New York families will have to wait yet another year for paid family leave. Meanwhile, thousands of workers upstate and down are still forced to choose between caring for their loved ones and their families' economic security...While employers and employees in California, Rhode Island, and even next door in New Jersey continue to reap the benefits of this overdue policy, New York is still woefully behind." Advocates cite The Paid Family Leave Insurance Act, which passed the Assembly in March and "would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave to bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill family member, and deal with issues that arise when a family member is called to active military service."

Business owners and their allies continue to express reservations about any additional mandates placed on owners, both in terms of monetary cost and productivity. Many insist that New York should not take any further action to make the state more unfriendly toward business.

Well before the end-of-session deal was reached, it was clear that little beyond the basics would be done. Those behind the issues above, plus the DREAM Act, a farm workers bill of rights, the abortion plank of the Women's Equality Agenda, MMA, and other pieces of legislation watched the final negotiations in disappointment, and beginning to think about influencing the start of business next year.

In most instances, it is Democrats left wanting more. When the final deal was announced on Thursday, Assembly Speaker Heastie spoke of coming to terms with reality. "You could always want better," he said. "This is a bicameral Legislature and the Republicans in the Senate have their own vision on what they'd like to see and you do the best you can and try to compromise...We would have loved to have done more." 

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
@tweetBenMax

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In End of Session 'Scorecard,' Plenty for Next Year's Albany Agenda Mon, 29 Jun 2015 20:09:15 +0000
On Minimum Wage, Cuomo Again Finds the Not-So-Happy Middle http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5627:on-minimum-wage-cuomo-again-finds-the-not-so-happy-middle http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5627:on-minimum-wage-cuomo-again-finds-the-not-so-happy-middle cuomo fair pay

Gov. Cuomo pushing his minimum wage hike (photo: @NYGovCuomo)


The middle ground is a particularly familiar place for Governor Andrew Cuomo - and it is where he has put himself in the debate over increasing the state's minimum wage. Cuomo has come under fire this week from electeds and advocates on the left who support a significantly larger increase to the wage than the one Cuomo has proposed and from conservative officials and business groups that oppose any increase whatsoever.

Cuomo and his proxies have toured the state this month promoting a proposal that would increase the state minimum wage to $10.50 an hour and New York City's to $11.50, even touting the support of a variety of labor unions and some city business reps. Cuomo and the Legislature enacted a staggered wage increase in 2013 that is set to culminate with a $9 statewide minimum at the end of this year. But, Cuomo now sees that as insufficient.

"I want to increase the minimum wage in this state, because the truth is the minimum wage is at $9, that's $18,000 a year, and you cannot live in this state and raise a family on $18,000 a year. You can't pay the rent, you can't pay for food, you can't pay for insurance, and you can't buy clothes on $18,000 a year," Cuomo said at a rally in Rochester focused on his upstate agenda.

He continued: "The Assembly wants to raise it to $15 an hour. God bless them—shoot for the stars - that's what they did in the Assembly. The Senate is totally against raising the minimum wage. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle, I proposed raising $9 to $10.50 statewide. Often, the political truth is in the middle."

There may be no better, simpler summation of Cuomo's governing philosophy than that.

The State Senate's one-house budget proposal contains no minimum wage increase while the Assembly's would set New York City's minimum wage independently of the state's and tie it to inflation. Per the Assembly outline, the state's minimum wage would be $10.50 by 2017, $12.60 by 2019 and the city's and surrounding suburbs would reach $12.50, then $15 at those times.

In a statement, new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, "Raising the minimum wage is about the moral obligation we have to help families across the state who are struggling to get by. The current wage floor is not enough to allow full-time workers who put in a 40- hour work week to afford life's basic necessities, let alone achieve financial independence."

Cuomo's proposal shirks promises he made to the Working Families Party last spring in exchange for its endorsement that he would back a plan to allow the city to increase its minimum wage in connection to the rate of inflation. Mayor Bill de Blaiso, who helped broker the deal between Cuomo and the WFP, is still a major supporter of giving the city control of its own minimum wage and linking it to inflation, as are many Democrats in the state Legislature. The mayor has even asked city businesses to start voluntarily paying a $13 hourly minimum.

Despite his public campaigning on the issue, Cuomo has given signals that he is wavering.

"I hope to get it done this legislative session either in the budget, which is April, or at the end of the legislative session in June," Cuomo reportedly said during an appearance in Buffalo. Putting anything out of the budget and into policy negotiations thereafter gives it less weight, but could lead to expanded time for negotiation.

Advocates like Michael Kink of Strong Economy for All say that if Cuomo is serious about the wage increase he will not abandon it in budget negotiations. "I think obviously he has the most leverage in the budget. It is the only time where all three sides have to agree on something so there will always be something in the budget each of the three leaders view as main," Kink said. "They can stomach something they oppose to get a big win. Obviously Cuomo's priority is the privatization of education and charter schools. I'm glad he is working on it (the minimum wage), but the fact that he is going in signaling he is willing let it go is disturbing."

State Sen. Liz Krueger said it was "troubling" to hear Cuomo indicate he could deal with the minimum wage outside of the budget. "This is the place to get this done and this is the one economic proposal that will help everyone across the state."

Kink doesn't feel Cuomo's wage proposal goes far enough. "We want a wage hike that will a make difference in workers' lives," said Kink. "Fastfood workers didn't start fighting for $9.50, they wanted something that would help people pay bills and lead their lives. That's why they started 'The Fight for 15.'"

Meanwhile, a group of business interests, upstate chambers of commerce, and conservative advocacy groups joined together this week to oppose even Cuomo's smaller wage proposal.

"Any attempt to increase the minimum wage before full implementation [of the plan in place] should be rejected," the groups said in a statement. "We strongly urge Albany to continue the progress made in improving New York's economic competitiveness while focusing on pro-growth initiatives as budget negotiations enter this final stretch." Members of the coalition include The Business Council, Unshackle Upstate, The Farm Bureau of NY, and The National Federation of Independent Business.

The groups say that the full impact of the state's last minimum wage hike on businesses is not yet apparent as the $9 wage won't go into effect until the end of the year.

Business groups took offense earlier this month because Cuomo unveiled his "Fight for Fair Pay" campaign while they held their small business lobby day at the capitol.

"Gov. Cuomo's campaign to increase the minimum wage could push struggling small businesses over the edge," Greg Biryla, Executive Director of Unshackle Upstate, said in a statement on March 3. "For employers who are trying to create new jobs and expand their business, another minimum wage increase and an added $69 million in new health care taxes would be a brutal combination. Albany needs to focus on improving the state's business climate – not make it more toxic."

Senate Republicans have not included a minimum wage increase in their budget proposal but some members indicate it is an issue they are willing to negotiate. However, they note that not only is the state's last wage wage increase not fully implemented, but that the Labor Department also just increased the minimum wage for tipped workers in February.

Kink said that Cuomo's public support of a minimum wage increase is "valuable" but also just makes political sense. "This is a tremendously popular issue for voters in both parties," Kink said. "I'd love to see increased aggression from the governor on the minimum wage. I'd like to see him throw the kind of ferocity into the faces of minimum wage opponents that he shows to the groups opposed to his education agenda."

Cuomo's public support of a wage increase isn't exactly typical of the governor. He has been criticized by advocates in the past for not stumping on specific policies.This time Cuomo has been on the road and his office is issuing press releases in support of the increase.

"The sweetest and healthiest success is one that enables everyone to do well together – that is what community is all about," Cuomo said announcing his "Fight For Fair Pay."

"As our economy recovers and our businesses add new jobs, we need to ensure our entire workforce has the opportunity to be part of the economic recovery and new momentum we are seeing in all corners of the State," the governor said. "New York has always been a leader in protecting our workers and building strong communities, and this year we must continue to move forward by fighting for fair pay and raising the minimum wage statewide."

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by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
@DavidHowardKing

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On Minimum Wage, Cuomo Again Finds the Not-So-Happy Middle Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:07:54 +0000