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Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s budget director says that long-unsettled contracts with municipal unions don’t have to undermine the financial health of the city.

Mark Page, the director of the city’s Office of Management and Budget, told city lawmakers yesterday at a hearing on the 2014 fiscal year budget that any financial burden stemming from contract negotiations would largely be the fault of negotiators.

"You only owe it if you agree to sign a contract that says you owe it," Page said. "The increase is going to be whatever someone agrees to."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed a $70 billion budget for fiscal year 2014, which includes the usual cuts to services such as child care and libraries.

While Page fielded several questions about those cuts at yesterday’s hearing before the Council’s finance committee, city lawmakers also asked him pointed questions about the possibility that the unresolved contracts could become a drag on the budget.

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After what some advocates call years of inaction, the City Council has spent the last few months passing a series of bills aimed at helping veterans.

The flurry of legislative action comes at a time when the resources for veterans across the country are increasingly strained but the need for them is increasing as post-9/11 soldiers come home.

The latest bill to be passed by the Council directs each city agency to name a veterans' affairs liaison who would also work with the mayor's office to make sure former soldiers' needs are being met. Training would also be provided as needed for the liaisons. The bill passed 49-0 yesterday.

Sponsored by Brooklyn Councilman Vincent Gentile, the bill follows up on a 2008 executive order from Mayor Michael Bloomberg the calls for the coordination of veterans services with the Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs. Called ineffective by some, the order has fallen flat. The inaction prompted Gentile to propose Int. 0480, which already boasted 27 co-sponsors.

Gentile called the bill a benefit for both the city and veterans.

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NEW YORK — After almost four years of negotiations and months of political bickering, about one million working New Yorkers are a step closer to gaining paid sick days.

The City Council approved a bill today that will require many businesses to give sick workers time off. It passed 45 to 3.

The bill is much transformed from the one originally introduced in 2010 and kept from a vote by Speaker Christine Quinn until a near insurrection from her colleagues and criticism from advocates threatened to become a political liability as she seeks the Democratic nomination for mayor.

Under the bill approved by the Council, eligible workers would be guaranteed a minimum of five paid sick days. The bill also says that no one in New York can be fired for taking an unpaid sick day. Whereas the original bill would have forced businesses with five or more employees to provide paid sick days, the version passed today applies to those with 20 or more employees.

The law would go into effect in April of next year, with the possibility of expanding to businesses with 15 or more employees in late 2015, depending on the law's success. Full-time and part-time workers would be protected under the law, although it excludes interns and seasonal workers.

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After three years of waiting and debating, Councilwoman Gale Brewer said the controversial paid sick days bill could go to a vote as early as next week.

"April 25 -- that's the goal," Brewer said this afternoon. She said the language was still being finalized, but was confident it would go to a vote sooner rather than later.

The bill, Intro 0097, would be introduced through the Committee on Civil Service and Labor, which will convene the day before the bill heads to the Council's floor. It already has several cosponsors, including Speaker Christine Quinn, who held back a vote on the measure since Brewer first introduced the bill in 2010.

Quinn came under pressure in recent months as supporters of paid sick leave -- including unions and fellow mayoral candidates, most notably Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former Comptroller Bill Thompson -- demanded that the bill go to a vote. Quinn had long held that she didn't oppose the spirit of the bill, rather that the city's economy was too fragile to expect small business to offer paid sick leave to their employees.

However, despite initial opposition from chambers of commerce from all five boroughs and various business leaders, Quinn was able to draw up a compromise version of the bill that would not got into effect until next year, and only if it meets a minimum measure of a financial index released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

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The final version of New York City's revampe district maps have made their way to the U.S. Department of Justice, which has a little under two months to evaluate their compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

Despite some uproar from some local groups, the maps were finalized by the city’s Districting Commission in February and passed through the City Council in March without a vote.

The DOJ now has until May 24 to make sure that the maps don’t impair voter accessibility and protections for minority voters in Manhattan, Bronx and Brooklyn, all of which are protected under Section 5 of 1965’s VRA.

The public can make comments during the 60-day evaluation period. Barring any violations of the VRA, the federal government's approval would mean the new maps would go into effect before the upcoming primary, which is expected to take place in September.

The Districting Commission already held three rounds of public hearings in each borough and heard testimony from more 300 New Yorkers before voting to approve the maps in February by a vote of 14 to 1.

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City Council members only have a few hours left before the newly drawn district maps are sent to the clerk’s office.

While the Council’s agenda on Wednesday may have been dominated by news of its immigration reform and street vendor bills, the Council also filed the Districting Commission’s revised maps. Members must file any objections to the commission by 5 p.m. Friday, otherwise the map will move on to the city clerk’s office — effectively meaning the Council has approved the lines without a vote.

The lines wil then be submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice for review.

Andrew Berman, director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said he was disappointed there wasn't more of an announcement from City Hall.

“The fact that there have been no public statements,” Berman said, “is somewhat distressing.”

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Legislation aimed at fortifying the city's infrastructure to withstand future extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy has been introduced into the City Council.

"Before we see another Hurricane Sandy hit our five boroughs, we must ensure our shoreline, our streets, our transportation system, our electrical system — every part of our city's foundation and groundwork is fully prepared," said Council Speaker Christine Quinn before the legislation was introduced. "If we want to protect our neighborhoods and prevent and limit future devastation, we have to act now."

They mayor's office said it was reviewing the bills.

The Council also announced a series of oversight hearings to look at the city's response to Sandy, scheduled to begin in January.

When asked whether the Council would look at the question of whether some rebuilding along the shoreline should be reconsidered, Quinn said it was a debate worth having.

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In an effort to regulate how pedicabs set fares, the City Council passed legislation today that would require pedicab drivers to set their rates based on the duration of rides.

If the bill becomes law, drivers of pedicabs, popular in tourists spots like Central Park and Times Square, would be required to use a timer during all rides.

The timer would have to be fastened within clear view of the passengers, along with rates charged.

“Our legislation will bring increased legitimacy to the pedicab industry and will ensure customers know what they’re paying to go on a ride – without being taken for a ride," Council Speaker Christine Quinn said in a statement.

Intro. 0597 - 2011 was championed by Councilman Dan Garodnick, the chair of the committee on consumer affairs.

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At least one union cares enough about the low-profile special election for Larry Seabrook's former City Council seat in the Bronx to weigh in with its own cash.

1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East has spent over $4,500 in the race, with most of the money going to pay for a full-color mailer backing candidate Andrew King, a former community organizer for the union.

King "knows that working families and the elderly face real obstacles, especially right now, and we need strong leadership," reads the flier.

The expenditure was the first disclosed under a city Campaign Finance Board rule that went into effect in May requiring any group that spends money on behalf of an unaffiliated candidate to disclose its support.

Under the rule, expenditures over $1,000 must be disclosed; expenditures over $5,000 require groups to disclose contributors.

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A tangle of obsolete, overly complex or confusing regulations that frustrate small businesses will be swept away or made less punitive under measures being proposed by elected officials.

City inspectors would also be trained to be more customer-friendly under the proposed bills.

The measures announced today by the mayor's office and City Council aim to remove barriers to doing business that supporters say can impede growth and slow job creation.

DNAInfo.com reports about one restaurant owner's frustrations with the city's red tape:

For more than 30 years, Vinnie Mazzone has been a staple of the Sheepshead Bay restaurant scene, luring hungry diners with his legendary Chicken Masters’ fried chicken.

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Riko Guzman said today on the steps of City Hall that when he was 11 years old he was with friends on his Bronx neighborhood sidewalk “doing nothing” when a police officer stopped and frisked him.

“I was approached by my own heroes,” said the Bronx member of the Justice Committee, a Latino-led organization that works on police accountability.

Guzman joined with other Latino and African American local elected officials, community leaders and reformers earlier today to urge passage of a package of City Council bills that could change the way the New York Police Department does its job.

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez said the police use of stop-and-frisk is doing little for public safety. Instead, community members “view the police as a threat and enemy, not as an ally to make their community safer,” she said.

The bills, known collectively as the The Community Safety Act, are sponsored by City Councilman Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn, who noted that advocates of the bills are “not anti-police.”

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Following the Deutsche Bank fire in August of 2007, Sen. Daniel Squadron and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried championed legislation that created the New York State Taskforce on Building and Fire Safety.

This summer, the taskforce issued a report that found discrepencies that allow state-owned buildings in New York City to be exempt from certain fire regulations.

Now both legislators are pushing the City Council to act to plug those gaps. Squadron and Gottfried will be holding a press conference at noon outside of the former Deutsche Bank building on Greenwhich and Liberty streets. Following the conference both legislators will testify at the City Council hearing.

Photo of response to Deutsche Bank fire by Brian Fountain.

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The City Council is taking up the fight against illegal hotels with legislation that would set fines at $1,000 to $25,000.

At a news conference organized to announce yesterday's Council vote on the bill, Speaker Christine Quinn spoke about how resident Charles Seelig, 64, was having to deal with rude transients staying at his brownstone in the Village.

Seelig later told the Gazette that the building had people coming in and hout all hours of the night. "It was really strange," he said. "It gave you a lot of insecurity."

The primary sponsor of the bill, Councilwoman Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan), says the bill will help to end illegal hotel use in the city that displaces permanent residents, reduces affordable housing stock and can be a nuisance for neighbors.

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Now just about anybody can draw up their own version of the City Council's district lines.

The independent commission set up to redraw the Council's lines to reflect the city's changing demographics today released free software online that can be used to create and submit maps for consideration.

The goal is to make the districting process more transparent and open to the public.

Every 10 years after the U.S. Census count, the district lines are redrawn for the Council, with the goal of ensuring fair and equal representation.

In the past, the process has been very much driven by the elected officials holding office, leading to gerrymandered district lines that are driven more by partisan politics and that can split communities with common interests.

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