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?
I am a strong supporter of the Campaign Finance program and its 1998
amendments. New York City is among the most progressive municipalities in
the country in terms of campaign finance. Its pioneering four-to-one match
for small individual contributions is precisely the way to level the field
for new candidates. When Mayor Giuliani attempted to dismantle our campaign
finance system last winter, I joined other city leaders and signed onto a
brief filed by the Brennan Center against the Mayor's short-sighted effort.
In designing an effective campaign finance system, it is vital that we make
campaign contributions and spending as transparent as possible. Everything
must be brought out into the sunlight, allowing voters to know who gives to
which candidates -- and how much.
Although it is still early to assess to the full impact of the 1998 reforms,
this election cycle has already proven that they were instrumental in
encouraging people to run for office. There are more candidates for local
officers and increasingly their campaigns are grassroots efforts financed by
local supporters. I look forward to working with the newly-revitalized City
Council that is sure to be the result.
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?
Getting government to respond to your needs should not be based on whom you
know or whom you hire. It should be based instead on the merit of your issue
or the greater value of your bid. Our current lobbying laws do not do enough
to limit the influence of lobbyists over our City. In July, I outlined a
number of important steps we need to take to strengthen the City's lobbying
laws, steps that I will work for immediately upon becoming Mayor.
First, we need to raise the current one-year ban on lobbying by former City
officials to five years to make sure that departing officials are not soon
lobbying their former colleagues. Such activity undermines public trust in
government and distorts our agencies' priorities. As Mayor, I will work to
amend the City's lobbying law to increase the fines for lobbying violations
to up to $100,000. In addition, I will require lobbyists to file a detailed
activity report with the City Clerk within two business days of having
engaged in lobbying activity. Such reports would be critical in tracking
lobbyists, and ensuring that our government's operations are fully
transparent. Importantly, I would also limit lobbyists' fundraising
activity, ensuring that our elected officials do not come to rely on special
interests for their own job security. The public's trust in government is
predicated on the brief that government officials put the public interest
first. As Mayor, I will act swiftly put in place a set of rules that will
help guarantee that they do.
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?
The morning I become Mayor, the steps to City Hall will be opened to the
public and will remain unencumbered by permit requirements from then on.
It's as simple as that. City Hall is a public place. Its steps have been a
symbol of democracy in this city for nearly two centuries as a platform for
public views and a soapbox for political activity of all stripes. Under the
Hevesi administration, City Hall's steps will be reopened to every New Yorker
to voice his or her concerns, keep an eye on the elected representatives, or
simply to enjoy a nice day.
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?
Crosswalks has a great deal of untapped potential. While it very recently
improved its broadcast format and the timeliness of its programming, there is
more it can do to make New York City's government more accessible and
intelligible to our citizens. Crosswalks is currently available to 1.7
million households, allowing close to half of the city's population to view
its programming. As Mayor, I would ensure that Crosswalks continued to
become more relevant to New Yorkers. Rather than simply broadcasting the
proceedings of city government as is currently done, I would seek to add
explanation and commentary. While it's very interesting to watch hearings
and press conferences, much of what occurs can sound Byzantine. C-Span
provides simple descriptions of what is being viewed and also provides
programming with commentary on a wide variety of civic issues related to its
coverage of House and Senate proceedings. Providing such content on
Crosswalks will make the activities of NYC government more accessible.
I do not approve of the use of Crosswalks for OTB and related programming.
Broadcasting horse races provides little enrichment to New Yorkers, and does
nothing to make our government more accessible or to provide useful
information about our government's services. On the other hand, leasing time
to organizations like CUNY, which may provide educational content that is
broadly helpful for New Yorkers, is an excellent idea. I am also supportive
of leasing time to foreign-language stations to provide immigrants with
programming in their native language. I would require that such programming
not be strictly for entertainment nor be overly commercial. Such an
arrangement would not only provide services to a range of New Yorkers, but
would help provide some revenue to support its operations.
As more and more city services find their way onto the Internet, Crosswalks
could fill a niche by providing information to those citizens who do not yet
have direct access to the Internet. As Mayor, I will work to make sure that
Crosswalks covers as much of the information on the City's website as
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?
COPIC was established to help advance a worthy goal: increasing citizens'
access to government information. With the explosion of the Internet and
information technology, COPIC is even more relevant today than it was at its
creation 12 years ago. In terms of providing information to citizens, the
Internet has unparalleled potential. But given the sheer magnitude of the
information that the City stores, ensuring that the right information is
available -- and in a timely manner -- is a massive task, one that COPIC is well
suited to help oversee.
Under the Hevesi administration, COPIC will play a role in helping bring City
services and information online. As we move to put permitting and other
services on the Internet, COPIC can help identify our priorities, and it can
help coordinate our activities across the various agencies. COPIC can also
assist in the important tasks of ensuring that the City provides accessible
information to non-English speakers and to those without Internet access. It
is my hope that COPIC can be reconstituted in such a way that these essential
questions are addressed, so that we can continue to make the governance of
our city more transparent and more accessible to all New Yorkers. At this
time, however, it is imprudent to make specific budgetary commitments related
to COPIC with the start of my term still five months away.
6. WHISTEBLOWERS: What additional protections, if any, would you support to protect city employees who report government
corruption, waste or inefficiency?
Every dollar lost due to governmental waste or fraud is one fewer dollar that
can be spent on educating our children, putting police on the streets, or
fulfilling our duty to provide services to our citizens. As Mayor, I will
continue the work I have done as Comptroller to closely watch where our money
goes, to ensure that it is spent wisely and efficiently and -- more
importantly -- that it is not squandered by fraudulent activity. I will also
work to expand protections for those civil servants courageous enough to
point out waste or fraud at their workplace. Such workers should be able to
report abuses anonymously, and they should be accorded every available
protection if they are confronted by their coworkers or superiors.
Already, I have worked hard to protect taxpayer dollars and cut waste and
fraud. During my tenure as Comptroller, the number of annual audits of New
York City agencies nearly tripled to 153 in fiscal year 2000 (up from 57 in
1993). My office identified $382 million in actual savings and revenues and
$469 million in potential savings to the City through the course of these
audits. I exposed fraud, cronyism and impropriety in the contracting
process. Over the last seven years, 471 contracts were sent back to City
agencies by my office because of a variety of problems and irregularities.
As Comptroller, I have utilized a frauds hotline and a similar facility on
our website to make sure that all citizens -- the general public and employees
alike -- have the opportunity to report any governmental fraud or waste in
complete confidentiality. Indeed, I have worked to ensure that any person
reporting an act of corruption, waste, or inefficiency remains confidential
and strive to protect these dedicated public servants. As Mayor, I will do
the same, and will work to protect and expand the rights and the
confidentiality of those who point out fraud or abuse.
Public servants are important allies in fighting fraud and corruption.
Still, only by providing them with expanded protection can we fully enlist
them in the fight. Having the courage to blow the whistle on fraud is
laudable and absolutely essential. As Mayor, I will make it a point to honor
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?
During my tenure as Comptroller, my office has conducted a multitude of
audits of City contracts to assure that contractors perform their side of the
bargain and City agencies appropriately monitor contractor performance. In
addition, my office reviews all City contracts before they are registered to
make sure that the contracting process is free from corruption and that the
City procures goods and services from only responsible contractors. In that
regard, my office has raised many substantial issues pertaining to
contractors, such as concerns about contractor performance, potential
corruption, and problems with the bidding process. The issues that my office
raised resulted in 164 agreements that were either terminated, withdrawn, or
not submitted for registration with my office, and 414 agreements that were
modified to address our concerns. Moreover, my representatives on the City's
Procurement Policy Board have worked to reduce bureaucratic delays,
streamline how the City does business and expedite payments to City
contractors. My office has also been an innovator in the use of technology
in City contracting through the implementation of a paperless office system
by which we review contracts. As Mayor, I will continue to introduce
efficiencies in the City's contracting process by expanding the use of
innovative technologies, such as on-line procurement of goods and services.
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 support the current system for appointing Department of Investigation
Commissioners, and will maintain it as Mayor. When deciding what rules
should govern a public official appointed to investigate fraud and
corruption, one must balance two competing values. On one hand, the
Commissioner must be sufficiently independent to be able to investigate the
Mayoral administration if necessary. At the same time, though, the
Department of Investigation Commissioner must be accountable to the voters
whose investments he or she protects -- and thus must report to an elected
official. Right now, by having a Department of Investigation Commissioner
who is appointed by the Mayor to a term longer than the Mayor's, and who is
removable by the Mayor only with public explanation, we effectively balance
these two demands.
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?
The City's budget is large, but it will never be big enough to do everything
that we would like. There is an important place for private funds, then, in
enabling the City to draw on additional revenue streams. Parks provide a
good example. By drawing on private funds, the Parks Department can
supplement its own allocations, and can do more to maintain our urban oases.
Still, City government and the money it spends must be accountable to the
public. In other words, private funds donated to public purposes must come
with no strings attached, and they must be subject to audits as with public
funds. I certainly support the concept of using private help to enable our
budget to do worthwhile projects that are beyond our means, but only with
strict accountability and strict enforcement.
The recent controversy with the Parks Department is an example of a wonderful
idea that, left unchecked, wandered astray of the best intentions of those
involved. Charging fees for large, organized events at parks in order to
defray maintenance and contribute to their improvement has occurred for
years. But these fees must be publicly monitored to ensure that they are
assessed in an equitable manner.
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?
There is a simple answer to this and it's that they do not mix. The managers
I will appoint to my government office will be there because they are the
most experienced, best qualified specialists in their field. I will insist
that members of my administration act impartially in carrying out their
duties and, to the extent that I may be campaigning again in four years for
re-election, will ensure that they understand that matters of governmental
administration are completely separate from campaign activities. In my
current run for Mayor -- and in all previous runs for office -- I have ensured
that all campaign activities occur in a campaign office, separate and apart
from my official duties. Throughout this campaign and throughout my term as
Mayor, I will be quick to criticize those who cannot make this important
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
I am a strong supporter of voter registration drives, and of the recent local
law which mandated that everyone receiving a City service receive a voter
registration form as well. High voter registration will ensure that all
communities are evenly represented, and will help make our public officials
accountable to the entire City that they represent.
Established in 1998, the VAC is essential in encouraging our growing
population -- many of whom are newcomers to our City and country -- to participate
in the democratic process. Strictly non-partisan, the VAC monitors voter
registration and works with Mayoral agencies and other organizations within
the city to promote both voter registration and voter participation. Under
the current administration, the VAC has received little in the way of
support, and is lacking both the resources and the Mayoral commitment needed
to make it an effective tool to increase registration and encourage
education. I am a strong supporter of increasing political participation and
expanding the number of registered voters, and would certainly be supportive
of this commission as Mayor. I would also work to ensure that voters who do
not speak English are targeted for voter registration and voter education
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 good work the IBO has done, and would not eliminate it
as Mayor. The IBO's independent analysis has been a useful and balancing
voice in budget debates since first being funded in 1996. Its cogent reports
on the federal welfare surplus, the City's reporting structure for corporate
subsidies, the Mayor's preliminary and executive budgets, and a host of other
fiscal issues are a critical counterweight that facilitate public
understanding and participation in budget debates. It is truly unfortunate
that the current administration has ignored the IBO analyses. As Mayor, I
will make sure that its voice is heard, and that its reports and
recommendations are closely considered.
13. ELECTIONS: What steps would you take as mayor to improve and modernize how city elections are run by the Board of
There is no question that our voting process and infrastructure needs to be
addressed. Our voting machines and our election administration could
reasonably be called third world, and that is simply unacceptable. New
Yorkers currently vote on machines that are forty years old, and that break
all too frequently. The Board of Elections' recent suggestion that it might
be necessary to delay the September runoff is indicative of broader troubles
with both the Board and its equipment.
To protect New Yorkers' right to vote, much needs to be done. First, we need
to overhaul our election machinery, repairing or replacing those ancient
machines. We also need to invest in elections that are better funded and
better run. Better training for poll workers is another important
ingredient. Having supervised a staff of 800 as Comptroller, I have
developed the strong managerial skills that will be needed to fix the chronic
troubles that plague our Board of Elections.
But beyond fixing the mechanics of voting, we can and should do more. I also
propose that we declare primary day a state holiday, that we allow people to
register to vote as late as election day, and that we make it easier for
people to vote by absentee. Together, this package would go a long way
towards ensuring that the right to vote is not challenged by faulty
technology or laws that are needlessly limiting. Once I am elected, I will
certainly invite NYPIRG to join me in advancing this package in the State
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?
As I indicated above, I am against term limits. I believe very strongly that
elections are the best way to allow voters to support or reject candidates or
incumbents. With that said, I believe there is more that can be done to
increase the levels of participation in our elections in order to ensure that
they truly indicate the will of the people. Educating voters on important
issues in ways that they can easily understand will not only open government
to them, but would also make it more relevant to their everyday lives. This
alone would create a greater likelihood that the public would then exercise
its power to make its voice heard through voting.
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?
As Mayor, I will respect the power of the office, and be sure that in my
public remarks, I do not needlessly denigrate other governmental bodies and
officials. I will also treat the City Charter with the utmost respect, and
will certainly not maneuver to change it for narrow, partisan reasons.