Archive for November, 2009

A Budget Deal That Doesn't Make Paterson Happy
November 30th, 2009

Legislators say they have been told a deal has been reached and that Gov. David Paterson has accepted a $2.8 billion package to reduce the budget deficit. After over a month of stop-and start-negotiations, a vote is expected to take place as early as noon tomorrow — but not everything is peachy keen.

Paterson released a statement saying the legislature’s latest budget offer, “…does not take sufficient action to restore New York States long-term fiscal stability and does nowhere near enough to address next years budget deficit.”

Legislators say that Paterson is playing the budget deal in such a way that he is able to beat up on them to boost his approval ratings.

The statement from Paterson’s office says the “…$2.8 billion plan presented by the Legislature includes $1.6 billion in executive actions already taken by Governor Paterson; $391 million in a spin-up of federal education aid; and $250 million in a tax amnesty program meaning only $600-$700 million in real spending reductions have been agreed to by the Legislature.”

Paterson declared that he welcomes “…the Legislatures $600-$700 million in cuts,” but he intends “…to go much further. In the face of this historic economic crisis, we need to do more to put New York State on the path to economic recovery.”

As a result Paterson has ordered his budget director to withhold certification of local assistance payments to make sure the state will have enough money to meet its financial obligations. It isn’t clear how much the governor intends to withhold. Legislators insist Paterson doesn’t have the authority to do this.

On top of a vote on a deficit-reduction package, there is talk that that a same-sex marriage bill may actually come to a vote in the Senate tomorrow.

By on November 30, 2009, 9:40 pm
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The Big Apple's Official Apple
November 30th, 2009


Councilmember Jim Gennaro took a bite out of the big apple today — quite literally.

The Queens-based councilmember chomped into a juicy, green Newtown Pippin on the steps of City Hall this afternoon in order to convince his council colleagues that this Queens-bred fruit should be the city’s official big apple. Gennaro is pushing for a resolution that would only ceremonially give the Newtown Pippin — said to be a favorite of both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson — the title.

“A symphony of sweetness,” said Gennaro after a taste.

The apple was first grown in the Elmhurst section of Queens around 1730, according to Gennaro, and it has since gained popularity in Virginia, where it is grown on the former estates of two of the country’s founding fathers.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn declined to endorse the resolution today, saying only that she liked the fact that the apple was green — also her favorite color. Gennaro said this issue has not been on top of the council’s priority list (some might say reasonably).

The resolution, Gennaro said, is part of a push to give the apple a boost in popularity in the city. Gennaro, a local business, Green Apple Cleaners, and a group charged with the apple’s resurgence, Newtown Pippin Restoration and Celebration, have been working with gardens, schools and communities to plant new trees across the city.

Today, Gennaro plans on putting Newtown Pippins and apple muffins on council members’ desks — an attempt to tempt them into co-sponsoring his resolution.

By on November 30, 2009, 2:28 pm
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More Road Deaths
November 30th, 2009

In the wake of the passage of Leandra’s law, which makes it a felony to drive intoxicated with children in the vehicle, two car accidents in New York City offer more evidence that sober drivers can be deadly too. In both cases, the alleged drivers had suspended licenses.

On the evening before Thanksgiving, Allmir Lekperic apparently struck and killed Peter and Lillian Sabados as they carried canned goods to their Staten Island church. According to press accounts, Lekperic had his driver’s license suspended 29 times since 2006 — most recently in September — and had a number of other traffic violations as well.

And on Friday, Sonya Powell was walking with her fianc in the Bronx when she was hit by a car, allegedly driven by Sheldon Reid. Reid had pleaded guilty to driving without a license in 2001.

The deaths could focus attention on a bill proposed by Assemblymember Robert Sweeney that would make vehicular assault and vehicular manslaughter felonies when committed by a driver with a suspended or revoked license.

Lekperic, now out on $50,000 bail, faces two felony counts of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death and a misdemeanor count of aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle in the third degree. According to the Staten Island Advance, he could confront addition charges following an investigation of the crime. The current felonies carry a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

Reid also has been charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident as well as aggravated unlicensed operation.

As Gotham Gazette reported last week, very few people involved in fatal accidents are convicted of felonies. For more, see Death by Car.

By on November 30, 2009, 2:03 pm
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Weekly Web Wrap
November 27th, 2009

Hotel Lobby Misappropriates Privately-Owned Public Space
(I (heart) Public Space)
Mapping Vacant Storefronts
Analysis of Tax Receipt Decline Must Factor in Tax Increase
(NY Fiscal Watch)
Dueling Economic Geographies Within Global Cities
(New Geography)
The Lifespan of Smart Meters
(PULP Network)
Charter Schools as Agents of the Right Wing
Time to End the Empire Zone Program
(Citizens Budget Commission)
Liu and de Blasio’s Potential Impact on Transportation
City Running Out of Space to Store Gold
Group of Co-op Boards Battle the MTA
(Habitat Magazine)
The Waterfront’s Assault on Fifth Avenue

By on November 27, 2009, 2:15 pm
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A United Senate
November 24th, 2009

Gov. David Paterson sure knows how to bring people together. Senate Democratic Conference Leader and Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos say that they stand together against Paterson’s budget proposal and the notion of giving him the power to cut the budget himself.

Both men say they may work on “improving” Paterson’s deficit reduction plan or perhaps come up with one of their own. They admitted they would like to attain a three-way deal if possible.

“Senators Sampson & Skelos commit to bipartisan work to negotiate a responsible DRP that’s better than the Governor’s; Senate stands at ease.” Tweeted Michael Kink, chief policy adviser to the Senate, this afternoon.

There has been plenty of talk about a possible budget deal between Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Gov. David Paterson. Both men appear more willing to make cuts to education. Silver has said he would prefer a three-way deal but refused to rule out a deal between the Assembly and Paterson.

Regardless of what direction the newly united Senate leaders decide to take, they aren’t likely to make it official until next week. The Senate is scheduled to return on Monday.

Paterson’s request to be given the power to balance the budget on his own accord has truly ruffled some feathers. Sen. Neil Breslin questioned the constitutionality of the measure. He said he didn’t think legislators should be in any rush to give up any of their responsibilities.

Anybody who would vote for that doesnt deserve to be in office, said Skelos.

By on November 24, 2009, 2:12 pm
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Paterson Presents Legislature With Two Options
November 24th, 2009

“Cut this deficit with me or I will do it myself,” Gov. David Paterson just told legislators. Paterson announced that he is tired of haggling with the legislature over budget cuts and as a result he plans on giving them two choices.

He will introduce two bills: his original deficit reduction plan that features cuts to education and health care that Senate Democrats have railed against and an alternative peice of legislation that would give him the one time authority to balance the budget himself.

Paterson warned that the state doesen’t simply face a cash flow problem. “This is a lack-of-cash crisis that threatens the credibility of our state,” he said. Paterson said that certain legislators are scared of the backlash of making unpopular cuts but he said he is ready to do what needs to be done.

“If the legislature is unwilling to make the necessary cuts I will,” said Paterson.

By on November 24, 2009, 11:18 am
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A Whole Lot of Nothing
November 23rd, 2009

If you blinked you probably missed today’s Senate session. It lasted all of ten minutes.

Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson gave a speech insisting that progress is being made, despite what Gov. David Paterson might be saying. He also pledged the entire Senate stands against mid-year school cuts.

What about other legislative business?

Sampson says that will have to wait until after a deficit reduction deal is reached. Senate President Malcolm Smith made a similar promise last week but session was held and they even managed to pass some legislation.

Quite a lot was made of a deal on authorities reform legislation last week but that bill is now in limbo. That might have something to do with the fact that Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. decided to skip session again, and without his vote Democrats won’t be able to pass the authorities package.

By on November 23, 2009, 3:54 pm
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Weekly Web Wrap
November 20th, 2009

Bloomberg Needs to See New York as City of Neighborhoods
(Regional Plan Association)
How to Judge the Next Teachers Contract
(Citizen’s Budget Commission)
State Pension Fund Up, but Still Down
(NY Fiscal Watch)
New York Sun Slowly Re-Rises
(Editor’s Weblog via NYConvergence)
What Researchers Learned from Spying on Us in the Subway
State May Test Game Console Alert System
Radioactive Wastewater Another Concern in Upstate Gas Drilling
(ProPublica via Alternet)
Checking in on the 7 Line Extension
(Second Avenue Sagas)
A Bowery Reborn

By on November 20, 2009, 9:24 pm
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Education Advocates Pressure the Assembly
November 20th, 2009

The Alliance for Quality Education is rallying the troops in anticipation of a vote on a deficit reduction plan on Monday. The education advocacy group wants to put pressure on the Assembly to publicly oppose education cuts. Senate Democrats have already made their stance against education cuts perfectly clear. Here is a recent email from the Alliance For Quality Education titled “A Line in the Sand — Oppose Education Cuts.”

Dear XXXX,

We need your help in stopping proposed mid-year education cuts that are currently on the table. In October Governor Paterson proposed $686 million in mid-year school aid cuts. Yesterday both the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate drew a line in the sand. Democratic Senate Leader John Sampson said that education cuts are “not going to happen.”

However, the Assembly has not made it clear on where they stand. We need you to contact your Assembly members today, asking them to oppose mid-year cuts to education, and to join the Senate in protecting students.

By Monday night the vote may be done so we need to act now.

Please click HERE to email your Assembly member asking them to oppose cuts to education and thanking your Senator for opposing cuts to education.

Thank you,

Billy Easton

By on November 20, 2009, 2:28 pm
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Who Uses and Likes NYC Condoms?
November 19th, 2009

All over the city NYC Condoms can be found. They’re free, plentiful and pretty easy to find. And if the 3.4 million distributed monthly are any indication, they’re quite popular, too.

But over two years after the city began the condom campaign, anecdotal evidence has trickled in suggesting that people want other options, such as larger sizes. So researchers set out to find out who was aware of the branded condom, whether they’ve used it, and if they were satisfied with it. They had 361 people fill out surveys at events where attendees were mostly either black or gay in attempt to address the needs of populations at elevated HIV risk. The results of the survey were published last month in the American Journal of Public Health.

“We found high levels of NYC Condom awareness, and awareness translated into use,” the report’s authors wrote. Just over 76 percent of respondents have seen the condoms, and 75 percent have actually picked them up. Just over 68 percent of those who “got some” actually used them. About 53 percent have used them, but didn’t necessarily pick them up themselves.

While college graduates were the most likely to have seen the condoms, they were least likely to use them. About 38 percent of graduates reported using them compared with just over 64 percent of those with only some college and those with a high school diploma or less.

Researchers noted that people want options. “Demand exists for alternatives to NYC Condoms,” they said. The average rating for the branded condom on a scale of 1-to-10 was 6.6. About 22 percent said they would like the city to offer an ultra-thin version, 18 percent said they’d like extra-strength, and 14 percent asked for a larger size.

The authors also pointed out the limitations of the study. Since the survey was aimed at an at-risk population; only chose those who were at least 18-years-old; and 50 percent of those approached refused to participate, the results “are not generalizable to all New Yorkers.”

On a related note, the NYC Condom is on Facebook, where you can send friends and acquaintances “e-condoms” if you ever felt the need.

By on November 19, 2009, 10:57 pm
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Thanksgiving With the Senate?
November 19th, 2009

It may be shocking (not really) but another day has passed without an agreement to reduce the state’s deficit. Many legislators have already departed for their districts and the Senate won’t be in session again until Monday morning. The Assembly is scheduled to return on Monday as well.

Earlier this year, thanks to the Senate coup, legislators managed to gnash and negotiate at each other right up until the 4th of July holiday; might we see the same thing with Thanksgiving?

Paterson has yet to threaten to hold legislators through the holiday. “I’m not going to make any long-term threats, but as you notice, though it has not been done, we continue to work,” Paterson said last night.

So, negotiations will likely plod along and rank and file legislators will keep their fingers crossed that their leaders will be able agree on a cornucopia of savings before next Thursday.

From recent discussions with Senate Democrats it sounds increasingly likely that the size of savings the Senate is willing to deliver will be much smaller than the $3.2 billion Paterson has been looking for.

Sen. Kevin Parker said yesterday that he thought it would be appropriate to deal with this year’s budget shortfall with “one shots” because it would be easier to deal with the “structural” issues in the budget during next year’s budget process.

A number of other Senators have recently been insisting that Paterson’s deficit prediction as well as Comptroller Thomas DiNappoli’s were “way out of proportion.”

By on November 19, 2009, 3:47 pm
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Giuliani Bows Out -- or Does He?
November 19th, 2009

Update: Giuliani may not be running for anything. Politico quotes an aide to the former mayor as saying “”It’s not true” that he has decided to run for Senate.

The Times is reporting — and blogs are confirming — that former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani will not run for governor next year. A Giuliani spokesperson issued a statement denying the former mayor had told aide he would not run for governor — but then “another source close to Giuliani” told the Daily Politics, “From what I understand, that story is true.”

The story comes as Giuliani basks in media attention for his repeated and strident opposition to the Obama administration decision to try the people causing of planning the 9/11 attacks in Manhattan.

So why has Giuliani bowed out — if indeed he has? Well it seems the man who has made toughness his brand fears he may not be tough enough for Albany.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on November 19, 2009, 2:47 pm
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From Turmoil to Triumph and Back Again
November 18th, 2009

There was a sense of accomplishment and competence floating around the Capitol today. The sense was fleeting.

The Senate came to session early this afternoon to consider Leandra’s Law, a bill that makes it a felony to drive drunk with a child in the car and expands the use of interlock devices for anyone convicted of a DWI. The bill passed the Assembly last night and the Senate approved it unanimously today after passionate debate.

Paterson quickly moved to sign the bill hours later in a Red Room press conference that featured a bipartisan array of legislators, including Republican Sen. Charles Fuschillo, who worked closely with Senate Democrats to get the bill passed. As one observer put it, “We just witnessed a Kumbaya moment in the capitol.” That sort of sense of accomplishment hasn’t been felt around the capitol for months.

Just days before, the bill’s fate was uncertain, as the its supporters say the Assembly was attempting to “water down the bill” by making driving drunk with children in the car a misdemeanor unless the driver was found to have a blood alcohol level of twice the legal limit. But with no deficit reduction plan (DRP) in sight and the media focused on the controversy, pressure grew on the Assembly. Bill supporters say that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was “shamed” into accepting the Senate’s version. Silver denies the charge and has touted passing the nations toughest DWI legislation.

It seemed perhaps more would be achieved today; not a deficit reduction package or anything, but a three-way deal on authorities reform came together and seemed to have a chance of making it through both houses.

The Assembly passed the bill unanimously. Sen. Bill Perkins at first was unsure the Senate would actually vote on the bill today, but soon the word came down that a vote would take place a 6 p.m. after the governor and both houses announced the deal. Before the press conference, Perkins still seemed uncertain the package was set for smooth sailing. “It’s not out of the oven yet,” he joked.

It never made it out of the oven. Read the rest of this entry »

By on November 18, 2009, 8:59 pm
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Reaction to Authorities Reform Deal
November 18th, 2009

There has been a lot of positive reaction to the deal on public authorities reform reached today between Gov. David Paterson and the legislature.

The legislation is designed to reign in public authorities such as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Empire State Development Corp., which have developed a reputation for being corrupt and wasteful.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who took issue with the version of the bill that was passed by the Senate and Assembly earlier this year, praised the new agreement.

Our state representatives in Albany deserve a lot of credit for dramatically improving a Public Authorities reform bill that, as initially drafted, would have done more harm than good. We have always supported reform of the public authorities, but we had major concerns about the consequences the original bill would have produced. We said so, and Im grateful that the legislature and Governor listened and addressed the problems. Read the rest of this entry »

By on November 18, 2009, 8:35 pm
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Mike's Next Best Chance
November 18th, 2009

You read it here first (well, second): Mayor Michael Bloomberg still has a shot at being president — and he could owe it all to Sarah Palin.

Writing in the Daily Beast, Mark McKinnon suggests that Palin’s domination of the media this week and the lack of any Republic candidate likely to appeal to independent voters, along with the Democrats being in what he calls “free fall,” paves the way for an independent to be elected president in 2012. And who is America’s best known — and richest — independent politician?

Michael Bloomberg, who by then, McKinnon says, will be “tanned, rested, $16 billion flush, term limited — and bored.”

McKinnon, a political consultant, may simply be trying to get on the Bloomberg gravy train He gushes the mayor “gets results” and is “pragmatic, smart, a consensus builder, a true centrist.” He credits Bloomberg for things he didn’t do, such as “taking on the unions” and winning an “unprecedented third term” (third term yes, unprecedented no) and accepts Bloomberg’s own figures on his achievements, without bothering to mention any of the mayor’s failures.

But leaving all that aside, is this going to be, as a New York icon put it, dj vu all over again. Let’s say McKinnon, in the role of Kevin Sheekey, convinces Bloomberg that this time he really, really can be president? But then something happens. The economy improves, and we find a way out of Afghanistan, boosting President Barack Obama’s popularity. Or the Republican Party decides not to nominate a Sarah Palin-Glenn Beck ticket. Bloomberg will once again be a year away from unemployment. Working full time at giving away money still does not strike him as all that exciting. And there’s some kind of crisis in the city (isn’t there always?).

Coming to City Hall, October 2012: “Extending Term Limits — The Sequel.”

By on November 18, 2009, 5:05 pm
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A Deal on Authorities
November 18th, 2009

Update: The Senate now is expected to vote on the authorities bill this (Wednesday) evening.

A budget deal still seems far away, but leaders in Albany have apparently reached accord on another vexing issue: changing some of the rules governing the state’s public authorities.

Details are not yet available, David King reports from Albany, but apparently the Senate, Assembly and governor’s office have signed off on a bill designed to make public authorities such as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Empire State Development Corp. more efficient and accountable. State Sen. Bill Perkins, who has been one of the proponents of “authorities reform,” told King he is happy with the deal, which he sees “as moving in the right direction.”

The Assembly could vote on the measure as early as today, but Perkins does not expect the Senate to. There will be a press conference on the agreement later today with Assemblymember Richard Brodsky, a sponsor of measures to rein in the authorities, Perkins and the governor’s office.

Although the bill is not technically a budget measure, Perkins said it would save money by curbing some of the excess spending at the authorities.

The state had seemed close to passing the Public Authorities Reform Act earlier this year, but then Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. David Paterson raised objections. Bloomberg did not like parts of the measure that would have limited his authority over authorities and claimed the bill would hurt development projects by requiring that, when authorities sell any land they own, they must get the market rate. (So, for example the MTA would have to sell its property at Atlantic Yards to Bruce Ratner for the going price, whatever that might be.) No word yet on whether the soon-to-be-announced agreement addresses these concerns

By on November 18, 2009, 3:25 pm
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Sick Leave Testimony from Afar
November 17th, 2009

Dana Farrington filed this report on the City Council hearings Tuesday on paid sick leave.

Advocates for paid sick leave in New York City may have viewed the law in San Francisco as an example before, but they probably had not done so literally — until today. The City Council sponsored its first video-conference during a Civil Service and Labor Committee hearing on a bill that would require paid sick leave here, allowing the division manager of San Francisco’s Office of Labor Enforcement Standards to provide testimony and answer questions regarding her city’s paid sick leave ordinance.

Donna Levitt, the division manager, explained that the business community opposed the ordinance prior to its implementation in 2007 but said that her office had not heard many complaints since.

Representatives of New Yorks business community were not convinced.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on November 17, 2009, 11:05 pm
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No Senate Session Until a Deficit Deal
November 17th, 2009

Things got ugly on the Senate floor last night when Democrats tried to start voting on legislation. Republicans and Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. protested taking any legislative action until a deficit reduction deal is reached.

“Stop the farce,” Diaz demanded. “Stop the mockery. Stop the laughing to the face of the people of the State of New York. We are not doing nothing here. Nothing!”

Four bills were eventually voted on.

Democrats have developed a new strategy today, perhaps in an effort to prevent another performance on the Senate floor. Senate President Malcolm Smith just told reporters that there will be no session until a deal to reduce the deficit is reached. Read the rest of this entry »

By on November 17, 2009, 2:58 pm
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A Stand Against Tickets
November 17th, 2009

As City Council members rallied to the cause of New York City drivers yesterday, they attacked the administration for playing “gotcha” with traffic violations, using parking tickets as kind of cash cow, and serving as judge and jury for New Yorkers accused of parking illegally. Did the vigorous criticism, even from Bloomberg administration allies such as Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilmember Simcha Felder, indicate a new independence, a willingness to fight for what’s right — or old-fashioned pandering?

Streetblog holds it’s the latter. Even worse, writes Ben Fried, the council’s decision to grant a five-minute grace period on certain parking violations indicates a “failure to comprehend the consequences of giving away curb space.”

By essentially giving drivers an extra five minutes on the parking meter, the bill offers ” a subsidy for the minority of New Yorkers who get around by private car.”

In addition, Fried continues, ” With less turnover of metered spaces, drivers will double park more and cruise around longer as they search for open spots clogging up the streets.”

A bill — approved unanimously — to expand parking privileges for member of the clergy would have similar effects, according to Fried.

The DMIBlog also expressed disapproval at where the often meek council chose to take a stand. Calling the grace period vote possibly “one of the most ridiculous moves of the year,” John Petro wrote, “Instead of pushing for a major progressive victory, they’re voting for a law that says you don’t have to follow the law — for five minutes.”

Mayor Michael Boomberg has said he would veto the grace-period bill. It passed council 47 to 2, with Daniel Garodnick and Tony Avella casting the no votes. Garodonick said he opposed the bill because, you cannot legislate the issue of good judgment, common sense and grace.”

By on November 17, 2009, 1:24 pm
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Paid Sick Days and the Council
November 17th, 2009

Thirty-eight of the 51 City Council members have signed on to a bill, Intro 1059, that would require private employers in the city to give their worker paid sick days. But the most influential member — Council Speaker Christine Quinn — said she still has not decided whether to support the measure.

At her press conference yesterday, Quinn said she and her staff are still researching the question.

Beyond its significance for workers without paid sick days and their employers, the issue could be a bit of a political bellwether. Some of the new, more progressive members of the council — and the Working Families Party, which backed many of them — have made paid sick leave a top priority. And in interviews with Gotham Gazette’s Courtney Gross, some of these members expressed concerns about Quinn’s leadership.

During her four-year tenure Quinn traditionally has not allowed any measure she does not support to come to the council floor for a vote. Asked if she would let the full council say aye or nay on this one, Quinn was again, noncommittal. It is, she said, going through the legislative process.

Meanwhile the council’s Committee on Civil Service and Labor is slated to hold hearings on the bill this afternoon.

For more, including arguments pro and con, see
The Fight Over Paid Sick Leave.

By on November 17, 2009, 12:00 pm
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