1. CAMPAIGN FINANCE: The city's landmark campaign finance program is now 13 years old.
a) What is your assessment of how the program is working? What changes, if any, would you seek in that law?
b) In 1998, the law was amended in several ways. These include a four-to-one match of smaller contributions from city residents; a ban on corporate contributions; a requirement that candidates disclose if contributors are doing business with the city; and a requirement that political action committees register with the board to qualify as contributors. What is your opinion of the impact of these changes?
The intent of the Campaign Finance Law to afford political newcomers a chance
to compete with entrenched office holders is well intended. Assuring that
our political candidates are untainted by the influence of special interests
free to campaign or to govern on the merits rather than measuring their words
and actions so as not to alienate potential donors is admirable. Increasing
the role of City residents' contributions to the electoral process rather
than that of out-of-state donors is also a worthy goal.
But this law is facilitating a new industry of "professional" bundlers whose
aggregate contributions through many donors on behalf of a few large
interests confers greater influence than campaign contribution limits might
suggest and does anyone actually believe that these special interests have
gone away or that they expect nothing in return? What about those donors who
are giving to all four candidates for the democratic nomination for Mayor?
Are they really leveling the playing field or hedging their bets?
The mandatory debates provide televised exposure which candidates might
otherwise feel the need to buy. Additional free television access will
reduce the need of candidates to continue to rely on special interest
But the fact is that applying the same caps to those currently holding
elective office as are applied to those seeking elective office for the first
time, is not leveling the political football field. Incumbents have name
recognition, can get their message out through taxpayer financed mailings and
can attract donations of special interests who seek favors from the
candidates in their current elected positions. The result is that outsiders
are essentially disenfranchised.
The inappropriate use of government resources creates a further imbalance
between incumbents/elected officials and challengers. While 1998 amendments
to the Charter attempted to address the improper use of government funds and
resources, the blurring lines between campaign activities and government
functions of City employees must be balanced against the First Amendment
rights of those employees to participate in the campaigns of the elected
officials they serve. While the Conflicts of Interest Board, Corporation
Counsel, Department of Investigation and the District Attorneys all have
jurisdiction over this issue, I believe it is time to explore expanding the
power of the CFB to further address this issue.
2. ETHICS RULES: The city charter's conflicts of interest rules were last revised in 1988.
a) What changes, if any, do you support in the city's current conflicts of interest provisions?
b) The charter's "revolving door" rules prohibit former city employees from representing paying clients before their former agency for one year after leaving city service. Similar revolving door prohibition on the state level is for two years; five years on some federal level. Do you believe the city's current revolving door provisions are adequate?
When I was considering the reasons why I wanted to be Mayor,
one reason that kept recurring was the enthusiasm of former government
officials and employees when they spoke of their service to the City. Quite
frankly, I think it is a shame that we cannot encourage those same people to
go back to government. I am quite certain that there would be more movement
between government and the private sector but for the revolving door rules.
We are losing the benefit of experience and untold talent by turning that
revolving door into a "one way out" exit.
For this reason, I believe that the one year rule is sufficient. I also
support the lifetime ban on working on a particular matter in the private
sector if a former City employee worked on that specific project while in the
employ of the City.
3. CITY HALL STEPS: There has been an ongoing controversy on access to City Hall and its steps, with Mayor Giuliani
citing security concerns to impose a permit system for groups seeking to hold news conferences and other events on the steps and plaza area.
What would be your policy on the use of City Hall for these activities? Do you support, oppose or have another position on the current
permitting regulations? A bill -- Intro 657-A -- is pending in the City Council to suspend the permitting requirements for groups under a certain
number. Do you support, oppose or have another position on the bill?
I am opposed to restricting access to City Hall, its steps, the Plaza,
and City Hall Park. These locations have historically been used for
expressions of political and ideological beliefs. The fundamental right to
express an individual or a collective opinion or petition should not be
restricted. The very place where George Washington listened to a recitation
of the Declaration of Independence, where hundreds of American soldiers were
imprisoned, and many executed, by occupying British forces during the
Revolution should be open to those exercising their freedom to speak, to
exchange ideas, to assemble and to petition their government.
For years, City Hall Park and Plaza, including the area between City Hall
and Tweed Courthouse, has been a lunchtime refuge for the thousands of people
working in the area. In recent years, families with young children have
moved into the City Hall area. With so few parks and play areas in the
neighborhood, City Hall Park serves as a much needed area for recreation and
relaxation. The closing of the Park, or portions of it, deny City residents
the use of a beautiful resource. This practice should be discontinued.
The re-creation of the 19th century fence, the fountain and paving stones
in City Hall Plaza have resulted in a beautiful public space which should be
open to all. . . and the gates of that fence can be admired in their open
position better than if they are padlocked shut!
Int. No. 657 and various proposed amendments which have been discussed,
attempt to strike a necessary balance. There is a need for a process to
assign priority to various groups vying for the opportunity to speak on the
steps of City Hall and to give notice to the police as to the number of
participants. This regulatory process must be free of any chilling effect on
the exercise of free speech.
4. CROSSWALKS: In 1993, the city created the Crosswalks channels, which cablecasts the public activities of the mayor,
City Council, other officials and city agencies.
a) What, if any, changes would you make in Crosswalks coverage and operations?
b) In recent years, the city has used its Crosswalks channels in a variety of ways. These include cablecast of track races to assist the Off Track Betting Corporation; leasing the channels to commercial foreign language program; and for CUNY television. Would you continue these uses? What other kind of programming would you envision for Crosswalks?
On October 10, 1996, the City began transmitting Bloomberg Information
Television, produced by Bloomberg, L.P., on Crosswalks. The next day a
restraining order was issued by a federal judge preventing any further
Bloomberg, L.P. offered to place its program on a Crosswalks channel without
charge and without commercials. I believed that we could offer a public
service which at the time had limited exposure.
The ensuing litigation, in which Bloomberg, L.P. was a party, never
clarified what is an appropriate use of Crosswalks. But the Court did lay
out some guiding principles which I believe are important to bear in mind
when addressing the future of Crosswalks.
Congress authorized the City to require cable companies to provide capacity
for public, educational or governmental use. But these channels are not
intended to transmit the most popular programs. (I was pleased to see the
Court take note that it is likely that far more New Yorkers would appreciate
seeing a program such as Bloomberg Information Television "than would be
disappointed by some diminution in the typical fare" on Crosswalks!)
Congress authorized the public, educational and governmental transmissions to
serve important interests. Much of this programming has a limited,
specialized audience observed the Court. The needs of that audience are not
often met through other programming. I believe it is important not to divert
public, educational or governmental programs to other commercial uses.
The terms "public, educational or governmental use" do not have to be
interpreted so as to preclude innovative, creative programming. But it is
important to make sure that this programming meets a community need that is
not being satisfied elsewhere.
5. PUBLIC INFORMATION: The 1989 charter created a Commission on Public Information and Communication, chaired by the Public
Advocate. It mission includes: reviewing city information policies and the use of new communications technologies for the city; and issuing
advisory opinions on Open Meetings and Freedom of Information requests. It has not been funded since 1991 and has rarely met in recent years.
a) What role, if any, do you see COPIC serving during the next four years?
b) What other steps would you take to assist New Yorkers in obtaining information about government activities and services?
The success of Bloomberg, L.P. is premised upon customer service. That does
not mean merely listening to complaints and requests but also giving them an
answer. The answer may not be what our customers want to hear but I know
that they appreciate an answer and a reason for the response.
City residents deserve the same from their government. The City has
instituted on-line services in many areas. By accessing the City web site,
complaints can be filed about sanitation services and street lights and poth
oles, public officials can be contacted, towed autos can be located and
parking tickets can be paid.
These services should be expanded, especially to critical areas such as
Housing Maintenance Code violations, and City residents should be able to
readily follow-up on the status of their complaints. The Department of
Buildings, which has faced a plethora of corruption and administrative delays
and obstacles over the years, could be re-invented by computerizing all
applications and permits.
The mandate of the Commission on Public Information and Communication (COPIC)
to educate the public about the availability and potential usefulness of City
information and assisting in accessing such information has barely been metâ¤|a
1998 report on the Freedom of Information Law and the Open Meetings Law, a
2000 report on the Response Time of Agencies, a meeting held in 1997, no
permanent staff and no funding.
Of course when this provision was considered by the Charter Revision
Commission and adopted by the electorate in 1989, the high tech industry was
in its infancy. The Charter merely directs COPIC to make recommendations
regarding the application of new communications technology to improve public
access. Clearly, these Charter provisions are outdated.
The City should be moving in the direction of making all of City government
available and open and I believe that the internet is the most appropriate
far-reaching medium to employ in this undertaking.
Making information available is, of course, only one side of the coin.
Accessing it is critical. Community tech centers located in community-based
organizations, schools, libraries and storefront centers should be available
to all City residents. These centers should also provide assistance to those
who are just learning how to access the world wide web.
6. WHISTEBLOWERS: What additional protections, if any, would you support to protect city employees who report government
corruption, waste or inefficiency?
The Whistleblower Statute, which purports to protect City employees, can be
invoked in only limited circumstances. An employee has to have reported what
he or she believes to be corruption, criminal activity or a conflict of
interest to the Commissioner of Investigation, a Council Member, the Public
Advocate, or the Comptroller who in turn must refer the report to the
Commissioner of Investigation.
I believe the protection should also be afforded to someone who reports such
information to an immediate supervisor or to the appropriate personnel in
their own agency. Reporting of inappropriate activity should be encouraged
by allowing employees to report such information to City personnel who they
might reasonably be expected to confide in.
In the interest of preventing fiscal waste, consideration should be given to
employees who report activity that does not rise to the level of corruption,
criminal activity or a conflict of interest. Those who report waste and
incompetence should be protected.
7. CONTRACTING: New York City purchases more than $7 billion a year in goods and services. The new charter made sweeping
changes in the way the city contracts, placing basic authority for the award of city contracts with the office of the mayor. What steps have you
taken and would you take to insure efficient and ethical city contracting?
As a general premise, I believe that competitive bidding is the preferred
method to assure that the City is getting the most equitable deal possible.
However, there are situations which call for the prompt placement of a
contract or there may be a limited number of vendors who can supply a
particular service. Such situations are provided for in the Charter and
Procurement Policy Board rules in the form of emergency contracts, sole
source contracts, small purchase contracts and negotiated acquisitions. B
loomberg, L.P. has participated in such a process with the Comptroller's
These alternatives to competitive bidding are important to provide for
efficiency. But the need for efficiency in government has to be balanced
with fair competition and appropriate oversight is the key to this balance.
While the Charter Revision Commission changed the contracting process by
authorizing the Council to make certain policy determinations within the
context of the contract budget, it also strongly stated that procurement is
an executive function "and that the mayor should be accountable for
procurement implementation by City agencies." (Final Report of the New York
City Charter Revision Commission, 1990)
The mayor or deputy mayor must personally approve certain non-bid contracts
and the comptroller must register these contracts. I believe it is important
to disseminate information on non-bid contracts to the general public in a
more readily available manner.
8. DEPARTMENT OF INVESTIGATION: The Commissioner of Investigations serves at the pleasure of the mayor. Some have argued that
granting the commissioner a fixed term would increase their independence; others have said that it is important for the commissioner to be fully
accountable to a mayor and thus removable when necessary. Do you support, oppose or have another position on having the commissioner serve
for a fixed term?
I do not support the appointment of a Commissioner who cannot be removed by
the Mayor. There are several independent entities, such as the district
attorneys, who are authorized to undertake investigation of municipal
The Commissioner can assist the Mayor in devising strategies to prevent and
ferret out corruption in the City agencies. The Commissioner's interaction
with agency inspectors general should serve to further this purpose.
9. PRIVATE FUNDS: There has been continuing controversies about the use of private funds in government projects.
a) Past mayors have set up private corporations to solicit funds for summit meetings, travel abroad, parades, inaugurations and other events. What is your view on the appropriate role for the use of private funds to support these initiatives?
b) City parks officials came under fire for requiring groups wishing to use parks for private events to pay differing fees to benefit a private parks foundation. How would you handle this situation?
I support the Central Park Conservancy and as a member of their Board, applaud the work that the Conservancy and similar organizations undertake. Like many other donors, I lament the fact that private concerns too often are used not merely to supplement City services but often end up supplanting them.
Of greater concern is the equitable distribution of funding for our City parks. While a Central Park has a constituency with the resources to raise large amounts of funds to improve the Park, the same cannot be said for all of our City parks. Residents of all City neighborhoods have the right to clean, well-maintained and safe City parks.
The use of public property for private purposes such as concerts and races can be used to raise needed funds for all of our City's parks. Fees charged for the inconvenience of closing the park on a temporary basis while a public event is being held should first be used to restore the park to its original condition. Bonds and insurance policies pay for major damage, but not for wear and tear. Arguably such fees should then be used to improve that park for the benefit of the community being inconvenienced.
However, I favor distributing such fees not only to the park where the private event was held but also to those parks where there is a desperate need for improvements. Let's face it, the Central Parks and Bryant Parks of this City can generate huge fees. Parks and playgrounds in other parts of the City are not likely to attract large entities which are willing to pay huge fees for the use of these parks. But these parks deserve as much, and perhaps more, attention than those that are richly endowed. Linking well-funded parks with those in need of financial assistance in a "Sister Park" program might engender interest and concern in a fair distribution of park funds.
Fees and contributions should not be set in a discretionary manner. Applicants should know upfront what is expected of them and the public should be aware of who is paying what for use of the City's parks. Fees should be published in rules promulgated by the City and should bear some relation to the cost to the City of losing the temporary use of a park. Donations should be formally reported on a regular basis listing donors and the purpose for which the fee and donation were paid.
Fees and contributions demanded by the City must be paid to the City. These funds must be subjected to the same budget review process as any other revenue of the City. This process is mandated by the City Charter and must be followed.
I would like to be able to promise that all these funds and contributions will be spent on the City's parks. However, the Charter provides for discretion on the part of the Mayor and City Council in deciding how money is spent. I do not believe that the hands of our elected officials should be tied in making budget decisions. My priority would be to improve our City parks with these funds.
I support fund raising for any purpose which furthers the interests of the City. However, potential conflicts and any appearance of impropriety must be avoided at all costs.
Solicitation of such funds should not be undertaken by City personnel, nor should City personnel administer such funds. City tax levy dollars should not be donated to such fund raising efforts. Contributions must be voluntary in nature and each and every purpose for which funds are expended should be reviewed carefully by the Mayor's Office and the Corporation Counsel for appropriateness and with a view towards furthering the interests of the City in general.
10. POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT: What are or would be your guidelines for insuring that government staff and resources
not be abused for political campaign purposes?
City employees should feel free to exercise their right to participate in the
political process within the parameters of the City conflict laws and
specific proscriptions against political activity contained in the Charter
and Administrative Code.
However, as can be seen in the current campaign, the lines between
government and politics tend to blur. Government staff takes a leave of
absence or vacation time to work on campaigns. Campaign web sites tend to
take on the appearance of their predecessor official web sites. Reports
prepared by government staff become campaign records. City employees are in
evidence at campaign rallies and fundraisers. Newsletters paid for by City
taxpayers focus on past accomplishments.
If I find myself in the position of running for re-election for Mayor, my
campaign staff would be distinct and separate from my government staff. This
is the only way to assure that taxpayer dollars are not being misused for
I also believe that candidates should not accept donations from anyone who
stands to profit from making the donation. Employees, lobbyists and those
seeking contracts, zoning changes and other discretionary determinations have
an expectation that monetary donations or bundled campaign donations or "in
kind" donations will influence the recipient. Accepting such donations or
services raises an appearance of impropriety and should be regulated.
The municipal securities industry prohibits municipal bond dealers from
engaging in business with government officials for two years if they have
made significant political contributions to an official who can influence the
award of business. The "anti-pay-to-play" rule is not perfect and is
currently being reviewed but can serve as a guide for future conflict of
11. VOTER REGISTRATION: Nearly two million New Yorkers who are eligible to vote are not registered to vote. In 2000, the
city enacted a Pro-Voter law to strengthen voter registration activities by city agencies, including the non-partisan Voter Assistance Commission.
As mayor, what steps would you take to encourage voter registration and participation? What role do you see for the Voter
The 1988 Charter Revision Commission proposals which include the creation of
the Voter Assistance Commission were premised on the idea that all government
agencies should be a part of efforts to encourage government participation in
But why didn't City officials act on this proposal until 2000 when
legislation finally passed mandating agency participation in voter
registration? Given the fact that three of our boroughs continue to fall
under the jurisdiction of the federal Voting Rights Act, I would think that
registration efforts would be a top priority and that funding the Voter
Assistance Commission would be a high priority.
Given the abysmal voting turn out for school board elections, I think trying
to reach parents through their children's schools would be an effective
initiative. Teaching our kids the importance of participating in the
electoral process is a lesson they can take home with them and discuss with
I would also want to explore voter registration via the internet and work
with the State legislature to revise existing laws so as to facilitate
For those who are registered, technology should be utilized by the Board of
Elections to assist people in voting. Too often voters cannot get a
straightforward answer to where they should go to vote or what they should do
if they encounter a problem at a polling site. Improved Board of Elections
technology could help to remedy some of these problems. Increased funding
for improved technology at the Board is a critical priority.
12. INDEPENDENT BUDGET OFFICE: Both former Mayor Dinkins and Mayor Giuliani opposed establishing an Independent Budget
Office, saying it was unnecessary despite civic and editorial support for the office. The IBO was eventually set up in 1995 by court order.
Do you support, oppose or have another position on the continued existence of the IBO?
I have spent the last several months educating myself on City government.
The web site and reports issued by the Independent Budget Office have been
more useful than most other government reports.
Any executive budget that I propose will include full funding for the IBO and
all City agencies will be directed to fully cooperate with the IBO. And I
will continue to read and study their reports.
13. ELECTIONS: What steps would you take as mayor to improve and modernize how city elections are run by the Board of
The experience of the 2000 Presidential election has focused more attention
upon the election process. Unfortunately, the problem of old voting
machines, understaffed polling sites, inadequately trained workers who are
underpaid and a lack of foreign language translators, are problems which have
not been addressed in time for the 2001 City elections. Given the impact of
term limits and the record number of contested elections this year, City
officials have lost a tremendous opportunity to gear up for this landmark
Modern voting equipment and other needed improvements must be put in place
before the next City Council elections in two years when we are certain to
face another large field of candidates. With redistricting, assisting voters
in the 2003 election will become even more critical.
I would work with the State to assure an adequate level of qualified staffing
and modern voting equipment.
14. TERM LIMITS: Term limits for all elected officials are due to take effect his year. Do you support, oppose or have
another position on the city's term limits law?
The people of this City have overwhelmingly voted for term limits at two
separate elections. While staggering the expiration of terms may have eased
the transition of government on January 1, 2002, in future election cycles I
suspect the transition will be less disruptive and momentous. I support the
voice of the people and welcome the opportunity that term limits has
presented to a new field of candidates.
15. OTHER STEPS: What other steps, not discussed in answer to any of the above questions, would you take to enhance the
integrity of city government, to fight corruption, and to reduce potential conflicts of interest in city government?
Computerization at the corruption plagued Department of Buildings is a high
priority for me. Plans and plan objections, permits and scheduling of
inspections can all be tracked by technology and minimize the opportunities
for corruption at this all-important but much overlooked agency.