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?
In the past, special interests with wealth and influence, some of which were not even based in New York City, could wield an inordinate amount of influence over City politics by giving large campaign contributions. To successfully run for office, candidates often needed to solicit some large checks from a few wealthy organizations and individuals. This system would tie some elected officials to the interests of a concentrated few, making City government less responsive to the needs of City residents.
The City's Campaign Finance Act has changed all of this. I introduced the original legislation specifically to achieve four objectives: (1) improve popular understanding of local issues; (2) broaden both voter and candidate participation in local elections; (3) reduce inordinate influence of large campaign contributors upon elected officials; and (4) enhance public confidence in local elections. To these ends, the program has been working extremely well, giving the average citizen a bigger voice in the City's electoral politics.
The program's measure of success can also be gleaned from two other factors. First, participation in the City's voluntary program is virtually 100 percent. Second, the program has been a model that is regularly used to advise other jurisdictions on campaign finance reform. Overall, the program is proving successful in creating a true City government "of the people, by the people, and for the people." I consider its creation one of my proudest achievements as Speaker.
There is always room for improvement in any legislation, including in our campaign finance reform laws. For instance, the law does not clearly define or regulate "soft money." Soft money is essentially cash flow that benefits a campaign, yet evades campaign finance regulation. Therefore, some inordinate influence by special interests may still be exercised through these soft money contributions and expenditures. Another improvement could come by making the program more user-friendly for candidates. A candidate faces a barrage of confusing rules and requirements when joining the program, and sometimes it is difficult to anticipate how the Campaign Finance Board will determine an excessive contribution or an improper expenditure. Therefore, in the future, we should find ways to simplify participation in the program in a way that does not jeopardize efforts to prevent campaign abuses.
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 changes made to the campaign finance laws in 1998 have benefited the
electoral process and the City considerably.
The four-to-one matching formula is vitally important to the success of our
campaign finance laws. The matching formula gives greater value to small
contributions and therefore to the average City voter. It also allows
candidates of average financial means to wage competitive campaigns without
needing to seek financing from a few interest groups. Since the four-to-one
matching formula has been in effect, the number of smaller contributions from
average New Yorkers is increasing and more candidates than ever are running
for public office. The four-to-one matching formula is therefore achieving
its intended effects. I am proud to have been able to insure the passage of
legislation earlier this year, which protects the matching contribution from
erosion and legal challenge.
Corporate Contribution Ban:
While a corporation's support of a specific candidate or campaign might
reflect its public endorsement of a particular political or social doctrine,
it might also reflect other, more financially beneficial interests of the
corporation itself. By outlawing corporate contributions, a greater emphasis
has been placed upon the importance of individual contributions, which
enhance the voice and influence of the individual citizen and voter.
Overall, I believe that the outright ban on corporate contributions, which
the City's electorate voted for in 1998, significantly increases the
public's confidence in the electoral process.
Candidate Disclosure of Contributions from Those Doing Business with the City:
In 1998, the City electorate voted in favor of candidate disclosure of
contributions from sources doing business with the City. The precise impact
of this new provision cannot be assessed since it has not yet been
implemented. Defining who does business with New York City has proven a
daunting task. The Campaign Finance Board issued proposed regulations on
this matter and many City agencies, the City Council and civic groups have
researched and commented extensively on the matter. Still, how broadly or
narrowly one wants to define it, the concept remains problematic.
Elected officials make and influence many decisions on City contracts,
permits, franchises and other private concessions. Of course, these
decisions must be based on the best interests of the City. The democratic
process as well as public confidence is tainted when such decisions are
skewed in favor of enterprises that have given campaign contributions.
Therefore, the City needs to move forward and identify who should be included
under the disclosure requirement without running the risk of chilling
legitimate campaign contributions, or placing overly burdensome reporting
requirements upon candidates.
Registry Requirement for Political Action Committees:
As one means of regulating and monitoring "soft money" contributions, the
Council passed legislation requiring political action committees to register
with the Campaign Finance Board before they make any contribution to any
candidate who has joined the Campaign Finance Program. The Board requires
that committees include in the registration application such information as
the nature of the committee's activities and whether it makes monetary
contributions, in-kind contributions or independent expenditures on behalf of
a particular cause or candidate.
The registry requirement is helping the Board to identify political action
committees and the various ways in which they support political candidates
other than giving direct contributions. This information will be helpful to
further study the influence of "soft money" through independent and in-kind
expenditures by committees. The more the City learns about soft money, the
better able it will be to find ways to regulate it.
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?
There are several significant changes in the City's Conflicts of Interest
Code (Charter Chapter 68) that should be addressed. The Conflicts of
Interest Board should be a truly independent agency and therefore, I support
changing the appointment process for members of the Board. Currently, the
Board has five members, all of who are appointed by the Mayor with the advice
and consent of the Council. I would support a Board comprised of two Mayoral
appointees, two Council appointees and a Chair jointly appointed by the Mayor
and the Council. I would support amending Chapter 68 to give the Board
subpoena power and independent investigative authority over all alleged
violations of Chapter 68 so that it would not have to rely upon the
Department of Investigation to conduct its investigations. I would also
ensure that the Conflicts of Interest Board has the necessary resources to
carry out its Charter-mandated mission. These changes would go a long way
toward preserving the independence and integrity of the Board's operations.
I also support amending Chapter 68 to make it easier for every public servant
to read and to understand. Presently, many of Chapter 68's provisions are
unclear and confusing, and in some cases, different provisions appear to
conflict with one another. Chapter 68 should flow more logically and make
common sense so that all public employees can readily understand its
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 believe that the current post-employment or "revolving door"
restrictions contained in Chapter 68 are adequate. The post-employment
restrictions are intended to prevent City employees from exploiting public
office for personal gain and from exerting special influence over government
decision-making through contacts made while working for the City. However,
these important public policies must be balanced against the reality that
City government, as an employer, is always competing with the private sector
to employ and retain the highest quality personnel. During a robust economy,
such as we have experienced over the past several years, it becomes even more
difficult for City government to lure the best and the brightest away from
the private sector. For these reasons, I think that the current
post-employment restrictions, particularly the one-year post-employment
appearance ban and the lifetime ban prohibiting former public servants from
ever working on particular matters with which they were personally and
substantially involved as public servants, strike the appropriate competitive
balance. More restrictive post-employment rules would make people more
reluctant to work for City government out of fear that they would be
handicapped in their efforts to find future private sector employment.
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 have and continue to vigorously oppose the restrictions and regulations
that the current Administration has adopted regarding access to City Hall.
City Hall is the principal seat of government for the City of New York,
housing both the executive and legislative branches of government. The steps
and plaza area of City Hall have historically served as settings for press
conferences, public ceremonies and political or other ideological expressive
gatherings among individuals engaged in peaceful protest. Unfortunately, the
Administration's rules articulate a philosophy that the steps and plaza area
of City Hall are closed rather than open for the purpose of press
conferences, demonstrations and similar activities. The regulations leave
far too much discretion with the Police Department to suspend activities in
the City Hall area in the event of an emergency or period of heightened
security. Certainly, the police must be afforded discretion to react to
emergency situations, but the inclusion of the language "heightened security"
in the current rule allows for speculation and uncertainty. It is difficult
to understand the logic that allows for an exemption for certain
City-sponsored activities during emergency or heightened security situations
where attendance can be in the thousands, but a group of ten people who wish
to hold an expressive gathering would be prohibited during the same period.
Recognizing that in providing access to a public forum, there is a need to
balance the compelling concern to preserve safety and security with the
fundamental right to freedom of expression, I do not believe that the
Administration's current rules appropriately strike that balance. As Mayor, I
will re-open City Hall and City Hall Park to the public and I will remove
restrictions on the use of City Hall steps for citizens and citizen
organizations to use for news conferences and protests.
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?
I think Crosswalks cable TV coverage is a great thing for the City as it
enables New Yorkers to see City government in action. As Mayor, I would
continue Crosswalks coverage and look to expand it. Scheduling of broadcasts
needs to be improved so that the public can readily find out when certain
events will be aired. I also support using Crosswalks for educational
purposes associated with CUNY and for foreign language programming which
benefits the many non-English speakers in our City. As OTB is owned by the
City, I do not object to using the City's public access stations to broadcast
races. In the event that OTB is sold, over the Council's objections, we
would need to reconsider this contract. I would like to see Crosswalks
programming benefit the City. Tutorials for civil service exams could be
broadcast on Crosswalks, as well as programming to educate City residents
about how New York City government works.
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 Commission on Public Information and Communication should be a reality
for New York City and the Commission should operate in a manner, which
follows its Charter mandate. In this day and age, as technological
innovations constantly impact the way information is shared, it is crucial
that the City closely monitor how well it reach out to the public. As Mayor,
I would fund COPIC. The City must make efforts to reach out to the public to
keep people informed about available services, programs, new laws and changes
in government. We can do this through the media, the Internet as well as
through agencies' interactions with residents. I also would look into
partnering with private entities, such as utility companies, to include
important information in their mailings to City residents.
6. WHISTEBLOWERS: What additional protections, if any, would you support to protect city employees who report government
corruption, waste or inefficiency?
During my tenure as Speaker I have ensured that whistleblowers receive
protection when they call to attention abuses and violations of law by City
officers and employees. I would support expanding the protections afforded
to City employees under the City's current Whistleblower Law. Some of the
changes that are being considered are: expansion of the Whistleblower Law's
protection to officers and employees of all City agencies, not just to
officers and employees of a City agency whose members are appointed by the
Mayor; expansion of the categories of activities that a whistleblower may
disclose, such as gross mismanagement or waste of public funds; broadening of
the category of individuals to whom a whistleblower may make a protected
disclosure to include other governmental entities, such as the appropriate
law enforcement agency or the Conflicts of Interest Board; and the imposition
of time limitations where certain actions are required to be taken under the
law. Under the current law, there are no fixed time limitations.
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?
Over the last twenty years, we passed a host of legislation aimed at
effectuating positive political change by using the city budget. Two
examples are laws that were passed to end apartheid in S. Africa and the
MacBride principles, which sought to end Catholic discrimination in Ireland.
We've also passed legislation requiring the City to act responsibly and
ethically by requiring contractors doing business with the City to pay
prevailing wages to their security, temporary, cleaning and food services
employees. More recently, I presided over the overrode of the Mayor's veto,
resulting in the enactment of anti-sweatshop legislation requiring vendors
who supply the City with apparel and textile goods to pay non-poverty wages
to their employees. I believe all of these laws, along with many others,
demonstrate my commitment to ethical contracting on the part of the City.
We also need to make sure that our contracting is done efficiently and with
adequate oversight to prevent any real or perceived impropriety.
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 believe that the Commissioner of the Department of Investigation should be
appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the Mayor. As Mayor, I would
appoint a Commissioner who is fair and impartial and who, like me,
understands that his/her role is to best serve the people of the City of New
York. I do not believe any benefit gained by a fixed term would outweigh the
importance of having the DOI Commissioner work closely with and be
accountable to the Mayor.
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?
I believe there is a limited role for the use of private funds to pay for
certain costs associated with being Mayor, but which are separate from
government. I think it sometimes makes sense to use private funds for
non-City-related travel, inaugurations, parades and events. These are not
costs that should be funded by taxpayer dollars. I do believe that private
funds used for these functions must be well documented and made public (upon
request) to ensure that no conflicts of interest arise.
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?
As Speaker of the City Council, I have expressed my opposition and
outrage over the Parks Department's policy of charging mandatory donations
for use of parks. I do believe that sometimes it makes sense to charge fees
for use of the parks for certain types of events and uses. Furthermore,
there must be openness in the process so organizations are aware of what the
fees will be, and have confidence that they are administered fairly.
However, this money must go into the general fund of the City, and then be
directed back to our parks. We cannot allow the funding to go into special
accounts over which the City has little or no oversight. There must be
transparency in the paying and spending of the fees. Over the last few
months, I have been working with the Administration to develop a policy
whereby fees are deposited into the City's general fund.
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?
In 1993, I authorized the creation of the Ethics Manual for Members and
Employees of the New York City Council, which mirrors provisions of the City
Charter. The manual -- a landmark document that has been imitated by other
municipalities -- is a single, comprehensive reference containing guidance
about the standards of conduct, rules, regulations and laws applicable to
their activities as public servants. The Ethics Manual has helped foster an
environment in which Council Members and employees are able to identify and
avoid situations in which the propriety of their conduct may be questioned,
all of which helps to promote public confidence in the integrity of
government decision-making. As Speaker, I have not abused government staff
and resources. As Mayor, this will continue.
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
First, I would review how well the Pro-Voter law is working. As it was
passed just last year, the City will know more following the upcoming
elections. Judging from our past experiences with the DMV, I anticipate that
the 20 City agencies bearing this new responsibility will experience
difficulties in carrying out the law. I expect that better enforcement and
oversight mechanisms will need to be put in place, a function that the Voter
Assistance Commission can undertake.
The Voter Assistance Commission carries a mission that is simple but profound
⤳ to increase voter registration and participation in the City, particularly
among groups that have been underrepresented in the voter registration rolls.
However, the Coordinator's position has been vacant for a number of years.
This means that the Voter Assistance Commission has had no one to implement
its mission. As Mayor, one of the first things I would do is recommend to
the Commission various qualified, creative and energetic candidates for the
Concerning voter participation, I expect the Voter Assistance Commission to
devise educational and outreach activities that will make voting easier. For
example, I envision the Commission arranging for students and other
volunteers to take part in this effort, such as assisting the disabled and
elderly to get to the polls on Election Day.
Finally, I expect that modernization and increased efficiency of the election
process will make voting more pleasurable than it is now with its long lines,
broken machines and under-trained poll inspectors. I have discussed
separately and in detail the precise steps I would take toward this
modernization. Suffice it to say, I do believe modernization and technology
can work to enhance democracy by making it easier to both vote and to
register to vote.
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 support the Independent Budget Office and value its role in the City. As
Speaker of the City Council, I made sure that the IBO received $2.7 million
in Fiscal 1999 to enable it to perform its duties. As Mayor I will continue
to support the IBO.
13. ELECTIONS: What steps would you take as mayor to improve and modernize how city elections are run by the Board of
There are a number of steps we must take to improve and modernize elections
in New York City. First, and most importantly, we must replace the old lever
machines. As Mayor, I will speak with a firm and strong loud voice to
persuade the Governor and State legislature to take all necessary steps to
effect a program of critically needed election reform and modernization that
may be implemented uniformly throughout the State. Although the City does
have the power to contract and purchase its own voting equipment, it is
crucially important that our modernization project be linked to statewide
reform, as City elections must comply with State law.
We do not need to reinvent the wheel in determining what kind of voting
technology would be best for the City and the State of New York. Numerous
jurisdictions and academic institutions have researched voting technology
extensively. The City, itself, viewed a demonstration at a City Council
Hearing held in February 2001 of Rhode Island's optical scanning system.
This system has been widely successful, accurate and efficient, and has
recently been approved by the State of Florida.
I believe there is little problem in understanding and selecting among the
current voting technologies to replace our lever machines. The problem lies
more in the legislative, political and administrative hurdles that must be
overcome before a new system may be implemented.
The second step needed for electoral modernization is to bring more
efficiency and better technology to the City's Board of Elections and other
agencies that register voters. As Mayor, I would direct that a study be
undertaken to determine how the Board of Elections could function more
efficiently. I know that at least part of the problem is inadequate use of
technology. For instance, the Board's web site could be expanded to provide
far more information and services for voters. Training and recruitment data
for poll workers could also be uploaded on the Web site.
Based on the problems experienced during the City's last election, I am
certain that computer maintenance and storage of registration rolls need to
be improved and expanded. Agencies that are required to offer and collect
voter registration applications should have an easier system to transmit
information directly to the Board of Election. Training and availability of
personnel to use the technology is also inherent to modernization of these
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 am personally against term limits. However, the voters of New York City
have spoken twice through a ballot referendum, and each time they voted in
favor of term limits for all City office holders. Therefore, I did not
support the effort to repeal term limits through legislation introduced by
several Council Members that would repeal the term limits law for City
Council members. I urged my colleagues to not usurp the will of the people
and expressed that the only proper way to abolish term limits was through the
ballot box. The bill, fortunately, died in committee and was filed and is
therefore no longer on the Council's agenda.
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?
I have always maintained, and I continue to believe, that every City agency
must have a counsel, on-site, who is available both to advise agency
employees about Chapter 68 and to provide mandatory ethics training. Not
only would this go a long way toward increasing compliance with Chapter 68
among City workers, but also it would also lessen the burden of the Conflicts
of Interest Board and would help to prevent municipal corruption.