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Franklin D. Roosevelt (

The 2016 presidential contest may very well pit two New Yorkers, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, against each other. In the 29 presidential elections from 1900 to 2012, New Yorkers headed major tickets nine times. Two (Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Dewey) ran twice; one (Franklin D. Roosevelt), 4 times. New Yorkers faced each other twice (1904 and 1944), presaging the seemingly likely 2016 matchup.

New York's prominence in national politics is no surprise. Arguably the nation's most historically important state for many years, New York is something of a proving ground for the presidency. Succeeding as New York governor, for instance, demonstrates capacity to lead, address complex issues, manage politics successfully, and get things done. Simply serving as governor or U.S. senator from New York is almost always a guarantee of a high-profile. New York for many years had more electoral votes than any other state and even now has a sizeable number.

New York's significant role in presidential elections has a long and illustrative history.

1904: The judicious judge vs. the energetic president
Theodore Roosevelt (R), New York governor 1899-1901 and then vice president, became president in 1901 after the assassination of President William McKinley. Over the next three years, TR compiled a vigorous record, promoting conservation, taking legal action under the anti-trust law to dissolve a powerful railroad consortium called the Northern Securities Company, and supporting a revolution in Panama to achieve independence from Columbia and then negotiating an agreement to build a canal there to link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. He was easily nominated by his party to seek a full term as president.

Alton P. Parker (D), chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals since 1898, was a proven Democratic vote getter in what was then a predominantly Republican state. His solid, well-reasoned opinions gave him an aura of authority and reliability, an advantage, his backers insisted, over the sometimes impetuous TR. Parker in January 1904 wrote the majority opinion in the case of People v. Lochner, validating a New York law regulating the working and safety conditions of bakery employees. It was an eloquent affirmation of the government's authority to regulate industry, and it helped him secure the Democratic party's presidential nomination in the summer.

Parker resigned as chief judge and, following the custom of the day, did not travel or make speeches beyond a few from the front porch of his estate, Rosemont, in Esopus, on the Hudson River near Kingston. He campaigned on frugality and economy in government, cautioned against foreign adventuring, and accused TR of secretly soliciting campaign contributions from railroad and banking magnates. TR denied the accusation and pointed to his energetic, proactive record as President. Parker generated little enthusiasm. A cartoon in the fall showed him in a rowboat near his dock at Rosemont, leisurely fishing and lamenting, "If I could only hook a real issue!" Americans in the early 20th century were ready for strong presidential leadership. TR won easily, garnering nearly 60% of the popular vote.

1912: the resurgent New Yorker
TR served as president until 1908 and was succeeded by his friend and Secretary of War, William H. Taft. TR had so much confidence in Taft that he easily convinced Republican leaders that Taft was his logical heir apparent. Roosevelt went off on a hunting trip to Africa and when he returned in June 1910, he quickly expressed displeasure at the way his successor had handled things. Taft, amiable and accommodating, had signed a tariff bill that increased rates on imported goods, weakened TR's conservation policies, and given in to Republican conservatives in Congress on other issues.

TR began attacking Taft and articulating a new political philosophy which he called "the New Nationalism." Roosevelt condemned court decisions that nullified state regulatory statutes and declared that "property shall be the servant, not the master, of the commonwealth...The...essence of any struggle for healthy liberty has been, and must always be, to take from one man or class of men the right to enjoy power, or wealth, or position, or immunity, which has not been earned by service to his or their fellows." Roosevelt sought the 1912 Republican nomination and won most of the primaries in the handful of states that had them that year. But Taft supporters denounced TR as a dangerous power-hungry radical who if elected might wield unprecedented executive power. They vowed to stop him at all costs. Taft forces controlled many state delegations and the president was renominated.

TR and his supporters cried foul, left the Republican convention, and then formed a new party, the Progressive Party, dubbed the "Bull Moose" party after TR declared he felt as "fit as a bull moose." The Progressive platform included workmen's compensation, old-age insurance, woman suffrage, and federal regulation of business, built around the slogan "Let the People Rule!" TR campaigned energetically, narrowly escaping assassination when a deranged man fired at him in Chicago. The Democrats nominated Woodrow Wilson, who had served as a progressive New Jersey governor and before that was president of Princeton University. Wilson campaigned on a platform of "the New Freedom," including strong federal regulation of business. Taft waged a weak, dispirited campaign. With the Republicans effectively split between Roosevelt and Taft, Wilson triumphed easily, Roosevelt came in second, and the hapless Taft carried only two states, Utah and Vermont.

1916: the progressive New York governor and judge
Woodrow Wilson pushed several progressive reforms through Congress, including the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Reserve Act, a strong anti-trust law,, and a lower tariff. But after World War I began in 1914, public attention shifted to the balance between defending American trading rights on the high seas and at the same time avoiding being drawn into the war. Easily re-nominated in 1916, Wilson espoused military preparedness but also pledged to keep the nation at peace, campaigning on the slogan "he kept us out of war."

Republicans, reunited after their 1912 split, nominated former New York Governor and Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes. TR and Taft both endorsed him. Hughes had been a strong, progressive governor and a moderate, capable judge who favored government regulation. But he was an uninspiring campaigner, his speeches limp, too often laden with platitudes. Hughes so straddled the issue of peace and war that the Democrats dubbed him Charles "Evasive" Hughes.

The result was close in a number of critical states. The election hinged on California. That state's Republican governor, Hiram Johnson, who had been TR's 1912 vice presidential running mate, was lukewarm on Hughes. One day during the campaign, Hughes and Johnson were in the same hotel in Long Beach for several hours, but, due to a scheduling snafu, did not meet with each other. Hughes later apologized but Johnson thought Hughes had snubbed him and gave him only nominal support. Wilson narrowly carried California and the election. (The next year, 1917, Germany began attacking American ships with its submarines, leading Wilson to ask Congress for a declaration of war. Hughes later went on to be Secretary of State and Chief Justice of the United States.)

1928: New York's "Happy Warrior"
America was prosperous and at peace in 1928, which many people attributed to the benign, pro-business policies of Republican Presidents Warren G. Harding (1921-1923) and Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929). When Coolidge announced he would not run in 1928, Republicans selected his Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover, as their candidate. Hoover, an engineer, had won acclaim for leading relief work in Europe after World War I and promotion of business and prosperity as commerce secretary. He campaigned as heir apparent of the two previous Republican presidents and promised to continue America's sunny prosperity.

People were satisfied, even complacent. It seems unlikely any Democrat could have defeated Hoover in 1928. Democrats selected a strong contender, Alfred E. Smith, governor of New York 1919-1921 and 1923-1928. Smith, the "Happy Warrior," was one of New York's most effective governors, consolidating state government, enacting the modern state budget system, increasing aid to education, and taking other initiatives. But Smith was also a "wet" -- he opposed prohibition, the outlawing of alcoholic beverages, which had been in effect since 1919. He was also a Catholic at a time when anti-Catholic bigotry was strong. Opponents whispered that Smith would be under the control of the Vatican and might even bring the Pope himself to Washington to take charge of the government.

Smith espoused a vision of a federal government which would address the issues facing the nation "along sane, sensible progressive lines." His informal campaign song, "The Sidewalks of New York," reminded audiences everywhere he spoke of his New York roots. That helped in some places but hurt the candidate in other areas which associated New York City with concentrated wealth, urban problems, and overly-liberal values, and associated Smith himself with the New York Tammany Hall Democratic organization. Smith did well in urban areas but he carried only seven states, all but one in the south, which had been strongly Democratic since the time of the Civil War.

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Dr. Bruce W. Dearstyne's latest book is The Spirit of New York: Defining Events in the Empire State's History, published in 2015 by SUNY Press.

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New Yorkers Run for President: History and Insights for 2016 Wed, 30 Mar 2016 05:00:00 +0000
Led by New Office, De Blasio Forms His Brand of Public-Private Partnerships Bdb Warby Parker

Mayor de Blasio & the founders of Warby Parker (photo: @BilldeBlasio)

The de Blasio administration is attempting a new approach to a familiar game in municipal politics. Public-private partnerships, also known as P3s, are a popular tool throughout local, state, and federal government. They are often sought after as a way to formalize coalitions around an issue and take advantage of the flexibility and resources of the private sector to accomplish goals of government.

Run a search in any given political press room, and one is likely to find several announcements of public-private partnerships spanning a wide array of issues and taking many forms, from contracting agreements for infrastructure projects to philanthropic gifts.

The de Blasio administration, however, is seeking to deploy P3s differently than prior administrations. Like with the rest of his agenda, the mayor is infusing the time-honored tradition of leveraging the private sector for public good to focus as acutely as possible on reducing inequities.

Last year, de Blasio announced the new Office of Strategic Partnerships (OSP) with a clear mandate in mind: bring entities together to address income inequality and opportunity gaps in New York City. While P3s are common in many administrations, establishing a new office with such a coherent objective has been billed as a noteworthy new approach. "We have been handed a very strong foundation by Mayor Bloomberg, and we look forward to building on it," de Blasio said last year.

Of course, de Blasio has also given the mandate to all of his agencies and offices, pre-existing and otherwise, requiring that commissioners explain efforts their departments are taking to combat inequality in the Mayor's Management Report.

At OSP, Gabrielle Fialkoff, senior advisor to the mayor and director of the office, highlights P3 work on mental health, youth employment, and early childhood education. Focusing on issues intersecting income inequality is seen as a next step from a legacy of strong private sector engagement in the Bloomberg administration, which would often welcome private sector funding and innovation, but with less of a pointed focus.

So far, the administration is enthusiastic about the results of the new approach. "Over the past year and half, we've worked together with New York's corporate and philanthropic sectors as well as the City's agencies and non-profits to leverage assets and strategies – and we've made great strides," Fialkoff said in a statement to Gotham Gazette.

For a mayor seen with skepticism by many in the corporate world, the de Blasio administration has had to find willing partners. There are no shortage of non-profits for the city to work with, of course, and no matter how ambitious the P3 approach, there is always room to be doing more. Thus, the new office.

In July, the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, chaired by First Lady Chirlane McCray, announced a $30 mental health initiative, "Connections to Care," the largest public-private partnership thus far in the de Blasio administration. The Mayor's Fund, itself a not-for-profit, is partnering with the Corporation for National and Community Service, which is a federal agency, and private funders.

Not long after, de Blasio announced that Deputy Mayor Richard Buery will assume the role of coordinating mental health reform in the administration, working in partnership with McCray, who is creating a "mental health roadmap" that is said to be set for release later this month and is sure to rely on the city's work with non-profit and other non-governmental entities.

The Connections to Care Initiative looks to utilize outside funding to contract 12 community-based service providers to screen low-income residents for mental health and substance abuse disorders, and pay for a study tracking and assessing the impact of the program.

At its launch, Fialkoff hit at the fact that the initiative is not a expansion in the size of existing programs, but rather a partnership to bring new mental health training to service providers the city already relies upon. "In applying for the grant, she said, "the service provider partners with the mental health provider and they apply together. And the mental health provider will train the staff and then stay involved in the long-term through coaching and follow-up."

For youth employment, the Mayor's Fund and OSP looked to improve the city's existing programs by establishing the Center for Youth Employment, which aims to "substantially increase private sector participation by instituting reforms to make involvement more efficient, and offering increased support for employers throughout the process."

In a statement announcing the center's launch, Fialkoff commented that there had previously been "limited coordination between employers, city agencies, non-profits and the philanthropic community," but that the center would serve as a first step towards a more holistic system.

Earlier this week, the city announced a surge in the Summer Youth Employment program, credited to a $12 million increase in city funds. But the Center for Youth Employment is seeking to contribute beyond what may be capable through a simple bolstering of funds to the existing programs.

At its launch, the center noted that while the Summer Youth Employment program is already the largest of its kind in the country, even before this year's growth, it still was unable to serve some 90,000 applicants in 2014. And in 2015, an increase in applications outpaced the growth in jobs: more than 130,000 applied for 54,263 summer jobs. The center is aiming to fill that gap by "substantially increas[ing] private sector participation by instituting reforms to make involvement more efficient, and offering increased support for employers throughout the process." As it stands, city agencies and external partners work largely independently on various youth programs.

Another especially significant point of intersection for non-profits, for-profits, and city agencies is found in the growing Community Schools Initiative that de Blasio has made a centerpiece of his education agenda.

One recent high-profile P3 involving community schools is a partnership with stylish NYC-based eyewear brand Warby Parker to provide glasses to 20,000 students, free of charge, in conjunction with a vision screening program. Fialkoff and Buery praised the partnership as exemplary of combining the flexibility and generosity of the private sector with the reach of the public sector.

Adam Forman, Senior Researcher with the Center for an Urban Future, praised the P3 work being done through community schools, which will serve many of the city's neediest children. "They're trying to do a good job of making schools a hub of social service delivery, so it's not just education but in the after hours you have mental health care, tutoring, services like language training or job training for parents," said Forman.

P3 graphic

The idea of improved data sharing between existing partners has been a theme within the de Blasio administration, according to Forman, and one particular point of intersection for non-profits and city agencies to better share information has been within the Community Schools Initiative. Combining overlapping sets of data about students and parents already participating in services offered at Community Schools could both help expand coverage and reduce redundancies. As with virtually everything in the still-young de Blasio administration, results are hard to come by as of yet - it will take time to tell how effective these P3s or any new data sharing is.

Fialkoff ultimately hopes that the de Blasio administration's approach "will be a model for other municipalities on how we can harness the power of the private sector and the scale of government to truly change lives."

To some observers, though, while the overtones of targeting P3s specifically at inequality are new, the fundamentals of employing P3s for social services are continuous with decades of New York City governance.

"For social services in general, the city has been contracting out forever," said Forman, referring to the most basic public-private partnership relationship of the city paying for services.

Although programming and policy decisions are made in-house at agencies and departments, relying on private, not-for-profit organizations for actual service delivery is a well-worn practice. Because of such arrangements, the city's involvement in social services is deeper than many may often realize. Forman estimates, "New York City might have 300,000 people working for it officially on the payroll, but the city has over a million people working for it in terms of contracting out service delivery."

Accordingly, it is important to not characterize the de Blasio administration's "new approach" to P3s simply as a new expansion into more aggressive social service delivery. The administration is not so much reinventing the wheel of social services, but rather an attempt to coordinate with more nuance and efficiency, and potentially garner more trust and participation from the private and non-profit sectors.

The sheer ubiquity of the term "public-private partnership" does attract skepticism from parties interested in government transparency and accountability, and cognizant of infamous cases where local governments were on the bad end of deals with the private sector.

"The word 'public-private partnership' seems to evoke these warm feelings of these parties coming together and working together, which on some level does happen," said Shahrzad Habibi, Research and Policy Director at In the Public Interest, a think tank with a focus on transparency and accountability in P3s. "But the devil is in the details of these agreements...a lot of the times we don't know about these until they're already underway."

While cost-benefit analysis has grown in popularity as of late, including within the Obama White House, phrases that appear in the press releases for the Center for Youth Employment such as "return on investment" can perk the ears of those familiar with past horror stories involving compensation clauses in contracts with the private sector. Habibi offers an example of a tollway in Washington, DC built on a P3 model where the contract stipulated compensation if over a certain percentage of users were carpoolers.

Although the de Blasio administration heralds its new approach as an ambitious, coherent vision aimed towards tackling income inequality, ensuring the efficacy and transparency of each deal remains a case-by-case task.

In New York City, oversight of P3s entered into by city agencies is often left to the city Comptroller and the City Council. City Council Member Brad Lander offers that due to the sheer volume of P3s and their wide breadth of focus, "It's hard to figure out any uniform oversight framework, you really have to look at them on a case-by-case basis."

by Brit Byrd, Gotham Gazette

Led by New Office, De Blasio Forms His Brand of Public-Private Partnerships Thu, 03 Sep 2015 19:40:09 +0000