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?
I strongly support the campaign finance program and believe all
candidates should abide by its contribution and spending limits. In general,
the board proved that it could be accessible and helpful to candidates in
response to questions and concerns.
I also view the program as a means to continue to promote good government and
reform as a vehicle, not only for government on the merits, but more
importantly, to include more New Yorkers and bridge the divide that keeps too
many New Yorkers out.
I propose changes to increase participation and further level the playing
field between incumbents, those who hold other public offices or
well-resourced challengers, and less well-to-do prospective candidates who
might still be discouraged from running in particular races.
For the next election cycle, I recommend:
Banning government-funded mass mailings by elected officials 60 days before
primary or general elections. Incumbents should not use the public
resources of their public offices for re-election efforts. Current law
imposes a 30-day limit on government-funded mailings, which remain a constant
source of criticism over the use of taxpayer funds to benefit a candidate. I
would empower the Conflict of Interest Board to determine violations on mass
mailing provisions. I would authorize the CFB to determine if a
mailing/communication is a contribution or expenditure under Campaign Finance
Requiring all candidates file with CFB whether or not they opt in to the
campaign finance system. Insufficient data often inhibits the CFB's ability
to determine if a candidate's spending triggers removal of spending limits or
accelerated payments to participating candidates. Pending state legislation
to require all candidates for city office to file with the CFB would help
level the playing field. Non-participating candidates would be less likely
to fail to abide by overall campaign finance spending limits if they knew the
information about their actual fundraising would be reviewed timely by the
CFB that would have the ability to assist participating candidates
Making NYS Campaign Finance limits same as City. Current state campaign
finance contribution limits exceed the more stringent limits on contributions
set by city law. Non-participants would face less of an advantage by the
imposition of new, lower state contribution limits that mirror those of the
Just as all the major aspirants for citywide office endorse making the four
for one match crystal-clear, I have urged aspirants for citywide and other
city offices and the Giuliani administration to endorse these reforms that
could apply to the next election cycle, if not the next set of municipal
races after 2001.
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?
I believe the 1998 changes generally work well and provide a level of
disclosure that provides public the ability to make judgments based on who
contributes to whom.
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?
I propose to look at the Ethics provisions, Chapter 68, to revamp
disclosure requirements to add a categories on the financial disclosure
statements to better provide an unjaundiced view of possible conflicts.
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?
I am inclined to requirements that provide for the maximum disclosure of
relationship. This would allow the court of public opinion to weigh in on
conduct not illegal but that clearly questionable in the eyes of most people.
If people want to "trade" or their relationships, let the public know and
the knowledge that such conducts gets disclosed timely, likely will chill
much of that conduct. I would also appoint a blue ribbon panel to review the
best approach to the revolving door problem.
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 would support the pending legislation, but I would go farther and allow
no limits. That's why we must ensure that government allows the public basic
access to the seat of government to attend public meetings with ease, to meet
with their elected and appointed officials in the halls of government and to
criticize (or praise) government at the seat of government. One of my first
acts on my first day as Mayor is to send the bulldozers in to take down the
barricades that keep the public out of City Hall Plaza.
That's why I criticized the rules that require members of the public to
obtain permits from the NYPD before they can hold a news conference at City
Hall. City Hall must end this assault on democracy and open up our town
hall. These rules limit the public's voice. The rules make City Hall
inaccessible to those who want to respond quickly on matters of concern. The
requirement for a permit effectively works only for those in power at City
I was the only official to testify at the June 2000 hearing prior to the
adoption of the amendments to Title 55 of the Official Compilation of Rules
of the City of New York in the City Record. City Hall must withdraw these
rules, or the Council must pass a law to restore the status quo before the
lockout this administration imposed becomes permanent.
Instead of devising ways to shut out the public, the government of our City
must ensure access to City Hall and its Plaza to the people. Concerns about
security offer no basis for these rules that effectively limit speech and
opportunities for the average citizen to influence government.
Americans and New Yorkers cherish their right of direct access to their
elected officials. City Hall represents this tradition of access and open
government. Until this administration unilaterally shut out the public, New
Yorkers appropriately and lawfully presented their views at the seat of their
elected government. Need I remind the Administration that the statue of
Nathan Hale, who gave his life for our country's freedom, stands across from
the entrance to City Hall?
Despite the advances of technology, news conferences or other lawful
gatherings at City Hall remain a primary way for the public to get their
message out. The permanent codification of this emergency rule for Press
Conferences, Demonstrations and Similar Activities in the Immediate Vicinity
of City Hall imposes another layer that cuts off government to the people.
Neither our Constitution nor our City Charter restricts the right to petition
government only if one is in favor with the current elected officers of the
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?
I would convene a commission of good government group representatives,
members of the media and the public to make recommendation about the
operations of Crosswalks. My concerns about its current operations concerns
the agency proceedings not currently covered and broadcast, including
meetings of the Civilian Complaint Review Board. We also need to look at the
agency's resources to ensure that no public hearing of the Council goes
uncovered. In addition, the agency lacks the resources to archive its
proceedings and tapes get re-used, thereby erasing an entire taped public
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?
In terms of the use of Crosswalks for OTB telecasts, the leasing of space
to commercial foreign language programs and CUNY programming, I would also
refer these uses to the aforementioned commission. Some of these uses may
also need to be coordinated among the cable access networks covering each
borough. To the extent possible and practicable, I would like to see
Crosswalks evolve toward a C-Span type network focused on city and community
affairs programming coordinated with the borough cable access channels.
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?
I support the use of a Commission on Public Information and
Communications (COPIC). In many ways, the Internet and cable offer
opportunities to open government and allow greater citizenry access to
information and programs. I would look at amending the Charter to set its
budget by statute at an appropriate level, in much the manner that the
Independent Budget Office receives it funding. The Commission could look at
documents released by the Office of the Mayor and other agencies to determine
where additional opportunities exist to expand public access.
b) What other steps would you take to assist New Yorkers in obtaining information about government activities and services?
The release of the most recent Mayor's Management Reports (MMR) demonstrates the need for an independent entity to prepare this document used to evaluate the state and effectiveness of city government. The reports recently released failed to include important benchmarks to compare the data for the current fiscal year against the prior fiscal year and the current fiscal year plan. The news media has highlighted the removal of important indicators from the MMR and the Preliminary Mayor's Management Report (PMMR) during the Giuliani administration. In fact, important data does not get reported and comparisons, including with other jurisdictions, rarely get presented.
To restore the MMR and the PMMR as useful tools for the mayor, agency hearings, the council, other officials, the press and the public to review the performance of government and municipal agencies intended under the City Charter, I recommend empowering a non-mayoral agency - the Independent Budget Office - to prepare the MMR and the PMMR. As I recommended to the last Charter Revision Commission, this can be achieved by amending the City Charter to require the Independent Budget Office, not the Mayor's Office of Operations, to prepare the Mayor's Management Report.
Already, the establishment of the Independent Budget Office (IBO) has resulted in a new level of independent analysis of the operation of City government and its service delivery functions. The Mayor's Office of Operations, responding to the needs of the administration it serves and not the City as a whole, prepares the current, often inadequate, report. Rather than continue the practice of Operations preparing the MMR and PMMR, shifting that function to the IBO injects the needed level of independence and professionalism in the collection, presentation and analysis of data.
To paraphrase Justice Brandeis, sunlight remains the best disinfectant. An MMR and PMMR prepared on a more independent and professional basis should r esult in information being more fully disclosed and better scrutinized. Ample precedent exists for this approach. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office prepares similar reports at the Federal level.
The current administration in City Hall manages information solely to promote its own ends and works hard to prevent disclosure of even routine information that might show it in a bad light. Under the theory, that "information is power," the administration deprives the public of vital information and docu mentation concerning the operation of our government. Those who seek data, reports and program parameter must rely on their knowledge of the Freedom of Information Law ("FOIL"). FOIL, a protracted and sometimes sophisticated process, intends that government must be responsive and responsible to the public. Through roadblocks or elongated time periods for the release of information to the point of uselessness, the Giuliani administration compromises this objective. Most often, it outright refuses to comply with FOIL requests.
As a result, the public record shows that residents of this City, as well as sister agencies in government, face numerous obstacles in implementing FOIL to secure information for the purpose of better serving New Yorkers.
This administration denies information or purposely stalls its release to virtually every type of group from news organizations to not for profit groups to individual citizens to good government watchdogs. This administration routinely withholds from the public information ranging from t he city budget to housing and public shelter inquiries, youth and senior programs, police department statistics, health data, transportation services and parks conditions. Over the past several years lawsuits have been filed by the Daily News and Newsday to get police crime statistics, by Comptroller McCall for the right to audit the city's books, by the Independent Budget Office to gain fiscal information relevant to the performance of that office's function, and by the Public Advocate for Civilian Complaint Review Board dispositions, among others. New Yorkers know this administration for its routine denial of requests under FOIL.
This administration has been so cavalier in denying access to information which is basic to governance that several elected officials have actually gone to court, and prevailed, to secure documents and reports which actually rise to an "entitlement." Apparently, this administration looks at FOIL requests as a threatening exercise of partisanship. The process of going to court requires a sophistication and funding source beyond most constituents. Therefore, average citizens, who were intended to be the most protected by the law, are actually the most deprived.
Clearly, there is something wrong that needs corrective action. Sunlight on decisions introduces accountability. Absent mandated full disclosure of basic information about government performance, the current and successor administrations at City Hall can avoid accountability and needed changes may never see the light of day. New Yorkers deserve an open government โค" a City Hall that shares information rather than hides and selectively discloses some data, a City Hall truly answerable to the people.
A Ferrer administration would open government to the people it serves. It would provide meaningful information, statistical data and performance indicators directly related to the duties of an office or an agency. It would employ the latest technology to enable citizens to gain access to this data. Routinely available information on service delivery and agency performance gives the public the ability to go to the agencies, their community boards, their associations, and elected officials armed with informa tion that details why a bad condition exists and where resources may be redeployed. I propose to open government to the public by requiring agencies to report basic information that allows the public to evaluate how each agency adequately provides services. The reporting will occur across municipal government in agencies involved in everything from public safety to strategic planning to environment and infrastructure to education and human services. Information released in reports will also be posted on the world-wide-web. In general, agency and administration compliance with reporting requirements on strategic planning would provide the public, the media and elected officials with information that gives them the ability to review and question โค" where necessary โค" the adequate identification of problems and their solutions.
Government and the public can use agency data to refocus and re-direct resources at the source, and make government work at the neighborhood level. A closed government bars opportunities to fix problems with local services. The data reporting enables government to employ surveys on service delivery to inform government on its responsiveness and effectiveness on a borough and neighborhood basis.
6. WHISTEBLOWERS: What additional protections, if any, would you support to protect city employees who report government
corruption, waste or inefficiency?
I would look to create further protections for those who report malfeasance,
waste or inefficiency. I will also set a tone by rewarding those workers who
put their careers on the line to protect the public good.
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?
In general I have concerns that the Mayor's Office of Contracts has made the purchasing process unwieldy and causes undue delays that particularly harm smaller contractors. This part of the process requires review.
I have particular concerns about professional services contracts. Currently, all contracts for architectural and engineering contracts with New York City agencies are awarded on the basis of competitive bidding where cost is the primary, if not sole, factor. A competitive negotiation, where price is the sole factor for "judgment services," is not in the best interest of the public nor the agencies that procure professional services. The American Bar Association has stated its support for this Quality Based Selection legislation in commentary in support of the ABA Model Procurement Code. "The principal reasons supporting this selection procedure for architect-engineer services are the lack of the definitive scope of work for such services at the time the selection is made and the importance of selecting the best qualified firm."
If the fee is fair and reasonable, award is made without consideration of proposals and fees of other competing firms. If the fee cannot be negotiated to satisfaction of the (Agency), negotiations with other qualified firms are initiated. Thus price is an important, but not the only, factor in the award of the architect-engineer contract under this procedure.
The principal difference between the recommended procedure for architect-engineer selection and the procedure used in New York City and other competitive source selections is the point at which price is considered.
Both the Federal Government and the State have recognized that selections for professional design services should be made on the best-qualified basis for each project. The Brooks Bill, Federal Public Law No. 92-582, established the selection of firms and individuals to perform professional services for the Federal Government on a best-qualified basis and competitive negotiation and Section 136A of the State Finance Law adopted Qualified Based Selection at the state level. New York City deserves no less.
The City should also aggressively implement policies and practices that apply its purchasing power toward improving its environmental performance and support environmentally sustainable businesses and industries. This includes enacting additional procurement preference laws to help sustain a market for recyclables and reusable items. Doing so will have compounding environmental and economic benefits. For example, purchasing energy efficient products and implementing energy conservation across the City government can reduce electricity costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and reduce the need to build new power plants. Using alternative fuel vehicles reduces air pollution and related public health risks, and often reduces the costs of vehicle maintenance and health care.
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?
The Mayor must be accountable to the public for what occurs on his/her watch.
A fully independent Commissioner may afford a Mayor a degree of distance
from bad acts that may occur. I am interested in a structure that does not
allow a mayor an opportunity to avoid accountability but affords independence
of action to the DOI Commissioner. Perhaps a budget structure -- similar to
the one afforded IBO -- that provides the staffing levels necessary to empower
DOI with independence of action could be woven into the City Charter.
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?
Private financing to support these initiatives is appropriate provided there
is sufficient reporting and disclosure of the contributions. With adequate
disclosure, the public can determine whether it believes there is any
impropriety. I believe the same reporting and disclosure as used in
campaigns should apply to these types of contributions.
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 criticized park rules, including "pay for play" fees, in the City Record
during the 1999 Thanksgiving holiday lull. With no misgivings, City Hall
served up this new tax on the poor during this holiday season so it would
face no obstacles.
The City administration's misguided proposal to require permits for
relatively small groups and gatherings flies in the face of the City's long
history of free access to open common space. To charge for the use of public
space, to impose a tax, when our tax dollars already (ought to) provide for
our parks, smacks of dividing New York into two cities -- one where those who
can pay get to play and the other where those with no money get to stay home.
New York City, unlike adjoining jurisdictions, has more than 300 years'
history of free access to common land and parks. This includes opportunities
for the public to gather informally -- to play ball, observe wildlife, picnic
and barbecue in designated areas. This openness sets New York apart as a
special place. Already, significant public space, including many parcels
of parkland, limit public access through the granting of concessions to
The City must reaffirm it pact with its citizens to provide open and free
access to public space. It also must move away from attempts to turn our
public parks into cash cows. The City must abandon this tax by another name
and maintain free access. Let our people play; do not make them pay.
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?
The Conflicts of Interest provision of Chapter 68 of the New York City
Charter sets out the standard of conduct for employees of the Office of the
Bronx Borough President including interns and volunteers and for all city
employees. All city employees are required to abide by the Conflicts of
Interest provisions of Chapter 68 of the New York City Charter. Chapter V of
my office's Employee Manual includes a Code of Ethics, relevant parts of
which that states:
"No agency member shall:
"Engage in any political activity on the premises, including the use of
phones; nor shall campaign literature, petition sheets, etc. be permitted at
"Hold a policy-making position at this agency if he/she also holds a
political party position.
"Require a subordinate employee to contribute money for a gift, provide a
loan, and/or render any personal service; not shall any supervisor or agency
head accept any gift, personal service, or engage in any business transaction
with a subordinate employee.
"Serve as an officer on any campaign committee of any fellow employee
seeking elected office.
"Use his/her position at this agency to abet the employment of a family
member with a person or firm that does or has done business with the city
and/ or this agency for a period of three years.
"Engage directly in any business or private interest with any entity
whether for profit or not for profit which conflicts with the discharge of
their duties at the Bronx Borough President's Office, nor may members of an
employee's immediate family do the same.
"Have a financial interest in any outside entity that does business with
this agency or any of its affiliated agencies."
Another relevant part of the code also states:
"All agency members:
"May engage in political activity only outside the agency and/or after
normal working hours.
"May decline to participate in the campaign efforts of any candidate
without fear of retribution and/or effect on their employment status.
"Shall be hired or promoted at the agency solely on the basis of merit."
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
Voting represents one of the ways that citizens participate in civic life and government. Access to voter registration expands public access and participation in government. In our own city, City Hall must encourage this important form of civic and political involvement through easing participation in the political process. The city can take meaningful steps to encourage voter registration through the appropriate use of our public schools, colleges, and other educational institutions and community and faith-based organizations. In addition, reforms at the Board of Elections will also work to encourage voter participation.
Public officials can only make a positive contribution to our community when they work to ease, expand and encourage public participation in the electoral process. A recent local law supported such efforts by helping to increase access to voter registration through free and wide distribution of voter registration forms at city agencies. People should be provided with an opportunity to register to vote at any place where they obtain public services.
However, nothing prevents city government going further than the new local law. For example, we can designate New York City public schools as agencies for voter registration. Let's build on the example of CUNY where institutions follow a legal mandate to make voter registration forms available to its students. This year alone, thousands of New York City high school students will reach the voting age while they are still enrolled in school. By actively making voter registration forms available to young people, we empower them, and encourage them to become active and concerned citizens. Voter registration also builds on existing citizenship curricula in our schools. The availability of voter registration forms at public schools also benefits the parents and/or guardians of city public school students. Parents and guardians can be given voter registration forms when they visit schools to enroll their children or attend PTA meetings. Afterschool programs, Beacon Schools and other educational resource centers offer opportunities to engage eligible voters as well. It is important to note, while we can mandate registration in public schools, we can and should also encourage parochial, yeshivot and other non-public schools to engage in the process.
Furthermore, we can support voter registration through our faith-based institutions and civic organizations that are not connected to city agencies. This process need not and should not interfere with the separation of church and state. Churches are an integral part of our community and it would be short sighted to shun any opportunity to encourage involvement with the political process.
I also support the recommendation by NYPIRG, Common Cause and others of a citywide mailing of voter registration forms and election information during presidential elections years. The Board of Elections already annually conducts mailings to registered voters. A mailing including registration forms would be extremely effective. The most direct way to reach potential registrants is at their homes.
Finally, a modest increase in staffing of the Voter Assistance Commission, which has little more than an office manager, would be appropriate. I would appoint distinguished and committed New Yorkers to the commission and increase the funding to empower the commission as envisioned under the City Charter and local law to facilitate and maximize voter registration and participation.
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 strongly support the IBO and was a party to the lawsuit to force the
Council and the Mayor to setup and fund the IBO. I support strengthening the
agency's role through enhanced responsibility. During the 1999 deliberations
on the City Charter, I testified that the Charter should shifting
responsibility for preparation of the Mayor's Management Report to the
Independent Budget Office and rename the document, the Independent Management
13. ELECTIONS: What steps would you take as mayor to improve and modernize how city elections are run by the Board of
I advocate efforts to modernize the Board of Elections to increase voting and
ensure the accuracy and timely reporting of the election results. This
includes adding resources to improve training poll workers and better pay to
attract and keep qualified workers, as well as modernization of voting
procedures. Increase pay for Inspectors to $250 per day and (poll-site)
Coordinators to $350 per day (from $130 and $200 respectively). This would
require an amendment to Section 3-420 of the NYS Election Law by the State
Legislature. The last increase was 1997.
In addition to modern machines that timely provide the count to avoid the
1997 runoff fiasco and the lengthy Florida uncertainty (not to mention the
Manhattan State Senate seat), I want to review the use of the Internet to
widen participation. The State and Federal governments, due to their
interest in the integrity of state and federal elections should provide the
necessary funds to accomplish these goals.
I also support Election Day same-day registration and the counting of
Absentee Ballots where intent of the voter is clear, which is also advocated
by the State Attorney General.
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?
I support term limits for executive positions. Although I do not support
term limits for legislative positions, the voters of New York City have made
their will clear on this issue in two separate elections and I would do
nothing to change current law.
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?
The 1999 Annual report of the Conflict of Interest Board highlighted some
policy proposals that merit consideration:
Providing the board with investigatory authority, subpoena power and the
ability to mandate ethics training in city agencies.
There also exists a need for a sensible and rational budget process to enable
the Board to operate as a first rate ethics agency, and doesn't leave the
COIB at the mercy of City Hall and the Council.