Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/ben-kallos 2019-07-23T20:26:52+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Fixing the City’s Broken System that Puts the Social Safety Net at Risk 2019-07-18T04:00:00+00:00 2019-07-18T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8682-fixing-the-city-s-broken-system-that-puts-the-social-safety-net-at-risk Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/speaker-m-mv-cm-helen-westside.jpg" alt="speaker m mv cm helen westside" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The recently-passed New York City budget greenlights billions of dollars to some of the most vital programs across the five boroughs. These dollars will help to fund homeless shelters, emergency food pantries, senior services, mental health services, and early childcare for the most vulnerable New Yorkers.</p> <p>The City of New York contracts with over 1,000 community-based organizations (CBOs) to provide these essential human services at a cost of $6 billion annually. But thanks to the City’s broken procurement system, CBOs are forced to wait a very, very long time to see their money. In fact, according to <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/annual-analysis-of-nyc-agency-contracts/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a recent Comptroller’s report</a>, human service providers wait an average of 221 days before being reimbursed for services and labor they have already provided.</p> <p>Under the current system, CBOs are forced to essentially cover the City’s costs and then wait over seven months on average for payment, which, when it arrives, doesn’t cover their actual costs. What private business would accept -- or be able to operate under -- these terms?</p> <p>This awful status quo persists because there are virtually no timelines attached to the City’s procurement process, which allows bureaucrats to sit on contracts and deprive local nonprofits of desperately needed funds. After a contract is awarded, it goes through the supervising agency’s review process, then to the mayor’s office, and, if all goes well, on to the comptroller for registration. Only the comptroller is subject to a time limit, however, which is 30 days.</p> <p>As a result, 80 percent of all contracts issued by the City are currently delivered late, with a whopping 89 percent of human services contracts arriving tardy. For nonprofits and charities that provide crucial citywide services, these delays can be catastrophic. Since these organizations cannot close their doors to those in need, many opt to take on loans. The problem is, these loans often come with interest.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="http://seachangecap.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/NYC-Contract-Delays-Vol.-2-1.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">One study</a> estimated that late contracts cost New York City nonprofits a staggering $774 million in 2018 ($756 million in negative cash flow and another $18 million in associated financing costs). This is up from $675 million in 2017.</p> <p>Think of the critical services -- for the elderly, young children, and disabled people -- that could have been provided by the $18 million lost to interest payments.</p> <p>This burdensome debt not only drags down the vital services that CBOs can provide, but also threatens the livelihood of their employees. As Human Services Council Executive Director Allison Sesso <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/investing-in-new-yorks-hu_b_8628986" target="_blank" rel="noopener">writes</a>, human service workers “increasingly find themselves in the very same position as their clients -- in need of social service assistance to provide for their families.” The financial strain also disproportionately affects already marginalized populations, as women and people of color represent 85% and 75% of human service workers, respectively. In an industry with already high employee turnover, the City should be doing everything in its power to bolster, not undermine, these organizations’ finances.</p> <p>This is why we are introducing legislation that will help end the long delays within the City’s contracting process and bring relief to CBOs. Our legislation, <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3996266&amp;GUID=1514CD9E-113A-4334-9873-4DB3893ED545&amp;Options=ID|Text|&amp;Search=rosenthal" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Intro. 1627</a>, would require the City’s Procurement Policy Board to establish time limits on each bureaucratic phase of the procurement process for any contract exceeding $100,000. The limits would be developed in consultation with each contracting agency and the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services (MOCS).</p> <p>Not only will this legislation help CBOs and other human services providers be paid in a timely manner, it will also require MOCS to report publicly on each agency’s adherence to the time limits, providing the public with a necessary source of accountability.</p> <p>New Yorkers deserve the best services, and the CBOs providing those services deserve to be paid fairly and on time by a city government they can hold accountable. Overhauling the procurement system may be bureaucratic and slow in nature, but it is necessary if we are to properly serve the New Yorkers who are most in need.</p> <p>***<br />City Council Members Helen Rosenthal and Ben Kallos represent Manhattan districts. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/HelenRosenthal" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@HelenRosenthal</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/BenKallos" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@BenKallos</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/speaker-m-mv-cm-helen-westside.jpg" alt="speaker m mv cm helen westside" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The recently-passed New York City budget greenlights billions of dollars to some of the most vital programs across the five boroughs. These dollars will help to fund homeless shelters, emergency food pantries, senior services, mental health services, and early childcare for the most vulnerable New Yorkers.</p> <p>The City of New York contracts with over 1,000 community-based organizations (CBOs) to provide these essential human services at a cost of $6 billion annually. But thanks to the City’s broken procurement system, CBOs are forced to wait a very, very long time to see their money. In fact, according to <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/annual-analysis-of-nyc-agency-contracts/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a recent Comptroller’s report</a>, human service providers wait an average of 221 days before being reimbursed for services and labor they have already provided.</p> <p>Under the current system, CBOs are forced to essentially cover the City’s costs and then wait over seven months on average for payment, which, when it arrives, doesn’t cover their actual costs. What private business would accept -- or be able to operate under -- these terms?</p> <p>This awful status quo persists because there are virtually no timelines attached to the City’s procurement process, which allows bureaucrats to sit on contracts and deprive local nonprofits of desperately needed funds. After a contract is awarded, it goes through the supervising agency’s review process, then to the mayor’s office, and, if all goes well, on to the comptroller for registration. Only the comptroller is subject to a time limit, however, which is 30 days.</p> <p>As a result, 80 percent of all contracts issued by the City are currently delivered late, with a whopping 89 percent of human services contracts arriving tardy. For nonprofits and charities that provide crucial citywide services, these delays can be catastrophic. Since these organizations cannot close their doors to those in need, many opt to take on loans. The problem is, these loans often come with interest.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="http://seachangecap.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/NYC-Contract-Delays-Vol.-2-1.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">One study</a> estimated that late contracts cost New York City nonprofits a staggering $774 million in 2018 ($756 million in negative cash flow and another $18 million in associated financing costs). This is up from $675 million in 2017.</p> <p>Think of the critical services -- for the elderly, young children, and disabled people -- that could have been provided by the $18 million lost to interest payments.</p> <p>This burdensome debt not only drags down the vital services that CBOs can provide, but also threatens the livelihood of their employees. As Human Services Council Executive Director Allison Sesso <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/investing-in-new-yorks-hu_b_8628986" target="_blank" rel="noopener">writes</a>, human service workers “increasingly find themselves in the very same position as their clients -- in need of social service assistance to provide for their families.” The financial strain also disproportionately affects already marginalized populations, as women and people of color represent 85% and 75% of human service workers, respectively. In an industry with already high employee turnover, the City should be doing everything in its power to bolster, not undermine, these organizations’ finances.</p> <p>This is why we are introducing legislation that will help end the long delays within the City’s contracting process and bring relief to CBOs. Our legislation, <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3996266&amp;GUID=1514CD9E-113A-4334-9873-4DB3893ED545&amp;Options=ID|Text|&amp;Search=rosenthal" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Intro. 1627</a>, would require the City’s Procurement Policy Board to establish time limits on each bureaucratic phase of the procurement process for any contract exceeding $100,000. The limits would be developed in consultation with each contracting agency and the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services (MOCS).</p> <p>Not only will this legislation help CBOs and other human services providers be paid in a timely manner, it will also require MOCS to report publicly on each agency’s adherence to the time limits, providing the public with a necessary source of accountability.</p> <p>New Yorkers deserve the best services, and the CBOs providing those services deserve to be paid fairly and on time by a city government they can hold accountable. Overhauling the procurement system may be bureaucratic and slow in nature, but it is necessary if we are to properly serve the New Yorkers who are most in need.</p> <p>***<br />City Council Members Helen Rosenthal and Ben Kallos represent Manhattan districts. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/HelenRosenthal" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@HelenRosenthal</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/BenKallos" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@BenKallos</a>.</p> <p>

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Calling for 'Climate Emergency' Declaration, Council Members Examine City's Progress in Renewable Energy 2019-06-25T04:00:00+00:00 2019-06-25T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8633-declaring-climate-emergency-council-examines-city-s-progress-in-renewable-energy Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/declaring-council-examines.jpg" alt="declaring council examines" width="600" /></p> <p>Climate emergency rally (photo: @BenKallos)</p> <hr /> <p>The likely future of devastation caused by climate change is one of several reasons activist Becca Trabin said New York City needs to declare a climate emergency.</p> <p>“You look out at this beautiful cityscape. You don’t just see these tall buildings that are standing here today, you see what this space will look like if we continue on our current trajectory,” Trabin said. “I see devastation all around, I see death. And I see that there is still time to avert that trajectory.”<br /> <br />Trabin was surrounded by about 90 activists in front of City Hall on Monday – including City Council Members Ben Kallos, Costa Constantinides, and Rafael Espinal – who rallied ahead of a hearing of the Council’s Committee of Environmental Protection that included discussion of a resolution to declare a climate emergency in New York City. <br /> <br />The resolution, sponsored by Kallos, declares a climate emergency and calls for immediate emergency mobilization to restore a safe climate. It would not have the force of law, but would be a symbolic step toward pushing climate-change deniers to finally do what must be done to save the planet, as Kallos put it. New York City would be the largest city in the world to declare a climate emergency, according to Kallos, and join London, Los Angeles, and elsewhere.</p> <p>Including the resolution, eight proposals (all focused on renewable energy and its implementation) were discussed at the Council environment committee meeting, which was also billed as an oversight hearing on the city’s efforts to move to renewables.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio has goals for the implementation of renewable energy through his “New York City Green New Deal,” which aims to have city government commit to carbon neutrality by 2050 and 100% clean electricity by 2040.</p> <p>The city plans to meet these goals through a variety of measures and programs, including the use of solar and wind energy, transitioning the extensive city vehicle fleet toward electric cars, and more.<br /> <br />One of the bills discussed at the Council hearing, Intro. 49, sponsored by Constantinides, requires the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to conduct a study on the installation of utility-scaled battery storage systems on city buildings.<br /> <br />A battery storage system is a “set of methods and technologizes utilizing a range of electrochemical storage solutions, including advanced chemistry batteries and capacitators, for the purpose of storing energy,” according to the bill. Battery storage systems store the energy from wind and solar power, and work to ensure electricity is uninterrupted, even if wind and solar assets are minimal.<br /> <br />The city’s renewable energy goals would be accomplished in part through battery storage systems in the city. Representatives of the mayor’s office testified in general support of the bills in front of the committee Monday. Susanne DesRoches, Christopher Diamond, and Anthony Fiore spoke on behalf of the de Blasio administration and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services about the goals for battery storage and the progress on achieving that goal. <br /> <br />“We expect growth in this sector to accelerate by a combination of the city’s commitment to expediting permitting for small and medium lithium battery installations,” said DesRoches, Deputy Director of Infrastructure and Energy at the Mayor’s Office of Resiliency and the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability.<br /> <br />Currently, there is one battery operated system at Jacobi Hospital and three additional systems being installed across the city, said Fiore, Deputy Commissioner and Chief Energy Management Officer for the Department of Citywide Administrative Services.</p> <p>The goal for battery storage is 500 Megawatts by 2025 citywide. The city presently has about 18,000 kilowatt hours (or 18 Megawatts) in battery storage. However, this amount is expected to significantly increase with a state-incentivized program. <br /> <br />“There is a program that will be rolled out between now and 2023 where there’ll be 300 Megawatts of utility scale storage that’s incentivized by the state and procured by ConEdison,” DesRoches said.<br /> <br />A combination of Megawatts from the ConEdison program, public, and private storage facilities is expected to make up the 500 Megawatts goal by 2025. In terms of battery storage goals for city buildings, Fiore said that the city’s goals are consistent with the overall goal, but didn’t lay out specific figures on how city buildings would work to meet it.<br /> <br />Among the bills related to battery storage and geothermal technologies, several people testified about Intro. 140, which would require the Department of Environmental Protection to conduct a feasibility study on the implementation of a community choice aggregation program.<br /> <br />Community choice aggregation allows local governments to purchase energy for entire communities as an alternative supplier to existing utility providers. CCAs often promote renewable energy, and those who testified about the program highlighted how CCAs could help the city meet its goal of 500 Megawatts by 2050.<br /> <br />“Existing Community Choice Aggregation Programs have been a resounding success in eight states thus far, and a similar program in New York City would likely be no exception. In 2017, over 750 CCAs provided 42 million megawatt hours of energy to an estimated 5 million consumers,” Michael Gersho, a Green Building Worldwide Research Fellow, said during his testimony.<br /> <br />Most of the testimonies about CCAs were in favor of the program but varied in implementation methods. Some said New Yorkers should be able to opt-in to the program while others said a better strategy would be letting people opt-out, meaning all citizens of a community would be automatically enrolled and could choose not to participate.</p> <p>If the bill passes, and the proposed study finds that CCAs would be feasible in the city, the program would start March 1, 2020.</p> <p>Along with Intros. 49 and 140, and Kallos’s resolution, the committee heard Intro. 51, which would establish a pilot program for a district-scale geothermal system and Intro. 269, which would require the Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability establish a residential renewable energy pilot utilizing solar thermal district heating systems and photovoltaic systems.</p> <p>The committee also heard Intro. 426, which would require the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to conduct a study on the costs of installing solar and thermal energy and heating systems in city-owned buildings; Intro. 1076, which requires the Department of Environmental Planning to study areas most suitable for geothermal mini-grids or district heating; and Intro. 1375, which calls for the creation of a database of geothermal energy systems in the city.</p> <p>As expected, none of the bills or the resolution was voted on at Monday’s hearing. Negotiations around the legislation may continue internally at the Council or between the Council and the de Blasio administration before any of it moves ahead to a committee vote.</p> <p>

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by Caitlyn Rosen, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/declaring-council-examines.jpg" alt="declaring council examines" width="600" /></p> <p>Climate emergency rally (photo: @BenKallos)</p> <hr /> <p>The likely future of devastation caused by climate change is one of several reasons activist Becca Trabin said New York City needs to declare a climate emergency.</p> <p>“You look out at this beautiful cityscape. You don’t just see these tall buildings that are standing here today, you see what this space will look like if we continue on our current trajectory,” Trabin said. “I see devastation all around, I see death. And I see that there is still time to avert that trajectory.”<br /> <br />Trabin was surrounded by about 90 activists in front of City Hall on Monday – including City Council Members Ben Kallos, Costa Constantinides, and Rafael Espinal – who rallied ahead of a hearing of the Council’s Committee of Environmental Protection that included discussion of a resolution to declare a climate emergency in New York City. <br /> <br />The resolution, sponsored by Kallos, declares a climate emergency and calls for immediate emergency mobilization to restore a safe climate. It would not have the force of law, but would be a symbolic step toward pushing climate-change deniers to finally do what must be done to save the planet, as Kallos put it. New York City would be the largest city in the world to declare a climate emergency, according to Kallos, and join London, Los Angeles, and elsewhere.</p> <p>Including the resolution, eight proposals (all focused on renewable energy and its implementation) were discussed at the Council environment committee meeting, which was also billed as an oversight hearing on the city’s efforts to move to renewables.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio has goals for the implementation of renewable energy through his “New York City Green New Deal,” which aims to have city government commit to carbon neutrality by 2050 and 100% clean electricity by 2040.</p> <p>The city plans to meet these goals through a variety of measures and programs, including the use of solar and wind energy, transitioning the extensive city vehicle fleet toward electric cars, and more.<br /> <br />One of the bills discussed at the Council hearing, Intro. 49, sponsored by Constantinides, requires the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to conduct a study on the installation of utility-scaled battery storage systems on city buildings.<br /> <br />A battery storage system is a “set of methods and technologizes utilizing a range of electrochemical storage solutions, including advanced chemistry batteries and capacitators, for the purpose of storing energy,” according to the bill. Battery storage systems store the energy from wind and solar power, and work to ensure electricity is uninterrupted, even if wind and solar assets are minimal.<br /> <br />The city’s renewable energy goals would be accomplished in part through battery storage systems in the city. Representatives of the mayor’s office testified in general support of the bills in front of the committee Monday. Susanne DesRoches, Christopher Diamond, and Anthony Fiore spoke on behalf of the de Blasio administration and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services about the goals for battery storage and the progress on achieving that goal. <br /> <br />“We expect growth in this sector to accelerate by a combination of the city’s commitment to expediting permitting for small and medium lithium battery installations,” said DesRoches, Deputy Director of Infrastructure and Energy at the Mayor’s Office of Resiliency and the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability.<br /> <br />Currently, there is one battery operated system at Jacobi Hospital and three additional systems being installed across the city, said Fiore, Deputy Commissioner and Chief Energy Management Officer for the Department of Citywide Administrative Services.</p> <p>The goal for battery storage is 500 Megawatts by 2025 citywide. The city presently has about 18,000 kilowatt hours (or 18 Megawatts) in battery storage. However, this amount is expected to significantly increase with a state-incentivized program. <br /> <br />“There is a program that will be rolled out between now and 2023 where there’ll be 300 Megawatts of utility scale storage that’s incentivized by the state and procured by ConEdison,” DesRoches said.<br /> <br />A combination of Megawatts from the ConEdison program, public, and private storage facilities is expected to make up the 500 Megawatts goal by 2025. In terms of battery storage goals for city buildings, Fiore said that the city’s goals are consistent with the overall goal, but didn’t lay out specific figures on how city buildings would work to meet it.<br /> <br />Among the bills related to battery storage and geothermal technologies, several people testified about Intro. 140, which would require the Department of Environmental Protection to conduct a feasibility study on the implementation of a community choice aggregation program.<br /> <br />Community choice aggregation allows local governments to purchase energy for entire communities as an alternative supplier to existing utility providers. CCAs often promote renewable energy, and those who testified about the program highlighted how CCAs could help the city meet its goal of 500 Megawatts by 2050.<br /> <br />“Existing Community Choice Aggregation Programs have been a resounding success in eight states thus far, and a similar program in New York City would likely be no exception. In 2017, over 750 CCAs provided 42 million megawatt hours of energy to an estimated 5 million consumers,” Michael Gersho, a Green Building Worldwide Research Fellow, said during his testimony.<br /> <br />Most of the testimonies about CCAs were in favor of the program but varied in implementation methods. Some said New Yorkers should be able to opt-in to the program while others said a better strategy would be letting people opt-out, meaning all citizens of a community would be automatically enrolled and could choose not to participate.</p> <p>If the bill passes, and the proposed study finds that CCAs would be feasible in the city, the program would start March 1, 2020.</p> <p>Along with Intros. 49 and 140, and Kallos’s resolution, the committee heard Intro. 51, which would establish a pilot program for a district-scale geothermal system and Intro. 269, which would require the Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability establish a residential renewable energy pilot utilizing solar thermal district heating systems and photovoltaic systems.</p> <p>The committee also heard Intro. 426, which would require the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to conduct a study on the costs of installing solar and thermal energy and heating systems in city-owned buildings; Intro. 1076, which requires the Department of Environmental Planning to study areas most suitable for geothermal mini-grids or district heating; and Intro. 1375, which calls for the creation of a database of geothermal energy systems in the city.</p> <p>As expected, none of the bills or the resolution was voted on at Monday’s hearing. Negotiations around the legislation may continue internally at the Council or between the Council and the de Blasio administration before any of it moves ahead to a committee vote.</p> <p>

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by Caitlyn Rosen, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Council Passes Campaign Finance Bill Roiling Early Mayoral Race 2019-06-13T04:00:00+00:00 2019-06-13T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8601-council-passes-campaign-finance-bill-roiling-early-mayoral-race Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/48057358031_112fab51c7_z.jpg" alt="Johnson Kallos City Council" width="600" height="393" /></p> <p>Council Members Kallos, left, &amp; Rodriguez, right, with Speaker Johnson (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council passed a much-anticipated, controversial campaign finance bill Thursday, raising the cap on how much public funding a campaign can receive and altering other dynamics of the city’s matching system. The bill -- the source of significant consternation over the past several days, particularly among likely 2021 mayoral candidates - passed by a vote of 41-6, with one abstention, and three absences.</p> <p>The legislation, which Mayor de Blasio has indicated support for, increases the public matching funds ceiling so that campaigns are able to raise only smaller donations and still have enough money to hit their spending limit. It also has a retroactivity component, a bill change within just the past 10 days, that caused a stir and appears likely to impact several upcoming races, including the Democratic primary for mayor.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a likely 2021 mayoral candidate, and City Council Member Ben Kallos, the lead sponsor of the bill, defended the legislation, including retroactivity that will make candidates return money raised in 2018 above new lower donation limits if they choose to opt into the newer of two programs that has more public matching.</p> <p>That portion of the bill stands to benefit Johnson and hurt competitors like Comptroller Scott Stringer, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.</p> <p>“We are literally doing something that is entirely consistent with what we did three months ago and now all of a sudden we are being criticized for it,” Johnson said at the press conference, referring to actions the Council took to make new campaign finance rules approved by voters last year apply to the special election for Public Advocate.</p> <p>Johnson, who pledged in January not to take any donations larger than $250 as he explores a mayoral run, said he has long supported the legislation and it has nothing to do with the race. He and Kallos also pointed out that the retroactivity component was discussed during an April hearing on the bill and recommended by the Campaign Finance Board so that an entire four-year election cycle would be run by the same rules, for whichever of the two programs candidates choose.</p> <p>Still, neither Kallos nor Johnson had a clear answer for why the amendment to the bill had come so close to the Council’s votes on the matter.</p> <p>Johnson noted the difficulty in creating legislation that affects lawmakers themselves.</p> <p>“It’s hard to vote on these things because every time you do you’re potentially affecting yourself and your colleagues in what you do. It’s one of the challenging things you deal with as a current elected official when you start to look at the system that exists and you seek to improve it or change it,” Johnson said.</p> <p>“For the current election cycle, just like we did for public advocate, when no one criticized it, you need to pick option A or option B,” Johnson said at the press conference. “No one is being forced to opt into the 8-to-1 [matching] system. We are just saying if you are going to opt into one system, be consistent throughout the entire cycle,” Johnson said.</p> <p>If Stringer or others opt into the new system, they would receive its 8-to-1 match on all qualifying donations $250 or under, but under maximum individual donations of $2,000 (down from $5,100 for citywide candidates), and they would, based on the new Council bill, have to return the difference on any donations above the new maximum. That last aspect is what has driven Stringer and others to call Johnson out.</p> <p>Others have criticized the bill for using more taxpayer money.</p> <p>“I’m not sure how we look a homeless person in the eye and tell them we can’t find them an affordable place to live but don’t worry we have money for our next campaign mailing,” Council Member Kalman Yeger, a Brooklyn Democrat, said on the Council floor before the vote. He voted no, as he had done in committee on Tuesday.</p> <p>Supporters of the bill pointed out it’s potential to decrease the power of special interests and large donors in politics.</p> <p>“I can’t believe we’re standing here having an argument over how much big money people should get to take after the voters said they want politicians to get less big money,” Kallos said at the press conference.</p> <p>“I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone say to me ‘I don’t want my dollars matched.’ The public match is increasing participation and the taxpayers, the residents actually like it. They like having their voices amplified and direct access to elected officials that they otherwise wouldn’t,” Kallos added.</p> <p>“There’s a lot of cynicism in government because people feel like big donors have too much access in government, and here’s a way to take big money out and have it be publicly financed,” Johnson said at the press conference.</p> <p>Representatives for Stringer, who would likely have to return the most money under the new system, if he sticks with the program of lower donation limits and higher matching, called Johnson amending the legislation and pushing it through a “brazen power grab” and using his government position to advantage his campaign.</p> <p>“Johnson is rushing through a law that explicitly benefits him,” wrote Stringer spokesperson Tyrone Stevens <a href="https://twitter.com/TyroneCStevens/status/1139232108726161408" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on Twitter</a>. “It’s deeply unethical and it’s not good government. Shame on him.”</p> <p>"I’m a firm believer you don’t change the game in the middle of the game,” Adams <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8597-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams-jail-budget-politics" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told the Max &amp; Murphy podcast on Wednesday</a>, “...any major changes in the system should not be beneficial to any party involved. And I think that’s part of what Scott Stringer was saying." Adams said he wasn’t yet sure which of the two campaign finance programs he’ll choose.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Diaz Jr. did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>At the Council on Thursday, among those voting no was Yeger, who sits on the Committee on Governmental Operations, which first heard and passed the bill, sending it to the full Council. Joining Yeger in opposition were Council Members Mark Gjonaj and Ruben Diaz, Sr., both Bronx Democrats, and the Council’s three Republicans: Council Members Eric Ulrich, Steven Matteo, and Joseph Borelli.</p> <p>Council Member I. Daneek Miller was the sole abstention. Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who was absent for the committee vote on Tuesday, was also absent for the vote by the Council, despite having been present during the press conference preceding the full Council meeting.</p> <p>

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by Noah Berman, Gotham Gazette

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</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this story.</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/48057358031_112fab51c7_z.jpg" alt="Johnson Kallos City Council" width="600" height="393" /></p> <p>Council Members Kallos, left, &amp; Rodriguez, right, with Speaker Johnson (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council passed a much-anticipated, controversial campaign finance bill Thursday, raising the cap on how much public funding a campaign can receive and altering other dynamics of the city’s matching system. The bill -- the source of significant consternation over the past several days, particularly among likely 2021 mayoral candidates - passed by a vote of 41-6, with one abstention, and three absences.</p> <p>The legislation, which Mayor de Blasio has indicated support for, increases the public matching funds ceiling so that campaigns are able to raise only smaller donations and still have enough money to hit their spending limit. It also has a retroactivity component, a bill change within just the past 10 days, that caused a stir and appears likely to impact several upcoming races, including the Democratic primary for mayor.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a likely 2021 mayoral candidate, and City Council Member Ben Kallos, the lead sponsor of the bill, defended the legislation, including retroactivity that will make candidates return money raised in 2018 above new lower donation limits if they choose to opt into the newer of two programs that has more public matching.</p> <p>That portion of the bill stands to benefit Johnson and hurt competitors like Comptroller Scott Stringer, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.</p> <p>“We are literally doing something that is entirely consistent with what we did three months ago and now all of a sudden we are being criticized for it,” Johnson said at the press conference, referring to actions the Council took to make new campaign finance rules approved by voters last year apply to the special election for Public Advocate.</p> <p>Johnson, who pledged in January not to take any donations larger than $250 as he explores a mayoral run, said he has long supported the legislation and it has nothing to do with the race. He and Kallos also pointed out that the retroactivity component was discussed during an April hearing on the bill and recommended by the Campaign Finance Board so that an entire four-year election cycle would be run by the same rules, for whichever of the two programs candidates choose.</p> <p>Still, neither Kallos nor Johnson had a clear answer for why the amendment to the bill had come so close to the Council’s votes on the matter.</p> <p>Johnson noted the difficulty in creating legislation that affects lawmakers themselves.</p> <p>“It’s hard to vote on these things because every time you do you’re potentially affecting yourself and your colleagues in what you do. It’s one of the challenging things you deal with as a current elected official when you start to look at the system that exists and you seek to improve it or change it,” Johnson said.</p> <p>“For the current election cycle, just like we did for public advocate, when no one criticized it, you need to pick option A or option B,” Johnson said at the press conference. “No one is being forced to opt into the 8-to-1 [matching] system. We are just saying if you are going to opt into one system, be consistent throughout the entire cycle,” Johnson said.</p> <p>If Stringer or others opt into the new system, they would receive its 8-to-1 match on all qualifying donations $250 or under, but under maximum individual donations of $2,000 (down from $5,100 for citywide candidates), and they would, based on the new Council bill, have to return the difference on any donations above the new maximum. That last aspect is what has driven Stringer and others to call Johnson out.</p> <p>Others have criticized the bill for using more taxpayer money.</p> <p>“I’m not sure how we look a homeless person in the eye and tell them we can’t find them an affordable place to live but don’t worry we have money for our next campaign mailing,” Council Member Kalman Yeger, a Brooklyn Democrat, said on the Council floor before the vote. He voted no, as he had done in committee on Tuesday.</p> <p>Supporters of the bill pointed out it’s potential to decrease the power of special interests and large donors in politics.</p> <p>“I can’t believe we’re standing here having an argument over how much big money people should get to take after the voters said they want politicians to get less big money,” Kallos said at the press conference.</p> <p>“I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone say to me ‘I don’t want my dollars matched.’ The public match is increasing participation and the taxpayers, the residents actually like it. They like having their voices amplified and direct access to elected officials that they otherwise wouldn’t,” Kallos added.</p> <p>“There’s a lot of cynicism in government because people feel like big donors have too much access in government, and here’s a way to take big money out and have it be publicly financed,” Johnson said at the press conference.</p> <p>Representatives for Stringer, who would likely have to return the most money under the new system, if he sticks with the program of lower donation limits and higher matching, called Johnson amending the legislation and pushing it through a “brazen power grab” and using his government position to advantage his campaign.</p> <p>“Johnson is rushing through a law that explicitly benefits him,” wrote Stringer spokesperson Tyrone Stevens <a href="https://twitter.com/TyroneCStevens/status/1139232108726161408" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on Twitter</a>. “It’s deeply unethical and it’s not good government. Shame on him.”</p> <p>"I’m a firm believer you don’t change the game in the middle of the game,” Adams <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8597-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams-jail-budget-politics" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told the Max &amp; Murphy podcast on Wednesday</a>, “...any major changes in the system should not be beneficial to any party involved. And I think that’s part of what Scott Stringer was saying." Adams said he wasn’t yet sure which of the two campaign finance programs he’ll choose.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Diaz Jr. did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>At the Council on Thursday, among those voting no was Yeger, who sits on the Committee on Governmental Operations, which first heard and passed the bill, sending it to the full Council. Joining Yeger in opposition were Council Members Mark Gjonaj and Ruben Diaz, Sr., both Bronx Democrats, and the Council’s three Republicans: Council Members Eric Ulrich, Steven Matteo, and Joseph Borelli.</p> <p>Council Member I. Daneek Miller was the sole abstention. Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who was absent for the committee vote on Tuesday, was also absent for the vote by the Council, despite having been present during the press conference preceding the full Council meeting.</p> <p>

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by Noah Berman, Gotham Gazette

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</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this story.</p>
Amid Controversy, City Council Moves Ahead with Campaign Finance Bill Extending Public Match 2019-06-11T04:00:00+00:00 2019-06-11T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8593-amid-controversy-council-moves-ahead-with-campaign-finance-bill-extending-public-match Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/committee-gov-op.jpg" alt="committee gov op" width="600" height="358" /></p> <p>Council Members Yeger, left, and Cabrera, right (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Significantly more public funding of political campaigns appears on the way given legislation that the City Council Committee on Governmental Operations passed on Tuesday.</p> <p>The bill, sponsored by Ben Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat, aims to prevent corruption and increase engagement with local communities by adjusting the public matching funds system to allow candidates to raise only relatively small donations and receive enough public money to reach the spending limit in their race.</p> <p>Though the bill has over 30 sponsors in the 51-seat Council and passed the committee 4-1 on Tuesday, a last-minute amendment to the legislation caused a significant stir, including accusations of impropriety by Comptroller Scott Stringer against City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, both likely mayoral candidates in the next election.</p> <p>Expected to be passed by the full Council on Thursday, the bill lifts the cap on how much public funding – or taxpayer money – a participating campaign can receive from Campaign Finance Board. The cap, currently set at 75 percent of the spending limit for participating candidates, would rise to 89.9%, effectively making it a full match relative to the spending limit when the private funds involved are also taken into consideration.</p> <p>The city’s campaign finance system currently has two tracks, “Option A” and “Option B,” that only apply to the 2021 election cycle, before the newer of the two programs takes full hold. That program, “Option A,” includes lower individual donation thresholds and matches the first $250 of individual contributions at an 8-to-1 ratio for a maximum disbursement of $2,000 in public funds per contribution.</p> <p>These rules are the result of a November 2018 referendum that both raised the disbursement cap and increased the public matching ratio. But it also left in place the old system, which has much higher contribution limits and matches the first $175 of donations at 6-to-1.</p> <p>Different offices, from citywide posts like mayor and comptroller to borough presidencies to City Council seats, have different donation and spending limits.</p> <p>The change to individual contribution limits in Option A dropped the maximum donation limit from $5,100 to $2,000 for citywide candidates who opt into that program.</p> <p>Related to that new donation cap, an amendment to the legislation being passed this week has caused a rift among mayoral candidates and raised eyebrows around city government.</p> <p>The amendment requires candidates who opt into the new system to return contributions from 2018 that go over the new maximums, which could mean a $3,100 return on each maximum donation for participants.</p> <p>The November referendum allowed candidates participating in the system to choose between the new rules – with the higher public match but lower contribution limits – and the old rules until 2022, when candidates will have to conform entirely to the new rules to receive public funds. The 2021 city elections are expected to be highly competitive, crowded affairs, with almost all city seats open due to term limits.</p> <p>Comptroller Scott Stringer, one of several likely mayoral candidates in the upcoming election, would be particularly impacted by the amendment. He’d have to return many thousands of dollars in campaign donations from the past year if he wanted to opt into the new matching system. As first reported by the Daily News, Stringer viewed this amendment as a “brazen power grab” by fellow mayoral candidate and Council Speaker Corey Johnson.</p> <p>“The voters passed a groundbreaking campaign finance system to clean up government, not corrupt it,” a Stringer spokesperson said. “Speaker Johnson is trying to circumvent the will of the voters and change the rules to benefit himself. The Council should reject his brazen power grab.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for Johnson reiterated that it’s optional for candidates to return their contributions and said that the amendment was created at the recommendation of the CFB.</p> <p>“The changes were made at the strong urging of the CFB. Both because of fairness and administrative efficiency,” Jennifer Femino, a spokesperson for Johnson, said. “That said, no contributions made in a prior election cycle will have to be returned. Any candidate who wants to keep their big money donations from the last cycle is free to do so and maintain their edge over the competition.”</p> <p>Council Member Kallos stressed to Gotham Gazette that not only did the CFB recommend retroactivity because it would then make administration of the program easier, but that Kallos led an extended conversation on changing the bill to include retroactivity during the initial April hearing on the legislation. The amendment wasn’t made until just days before the committee vote, however.</p> <p>On Tuesday, governmental operations committee member, Keith Powers, a Manhattan Democrat, referenced the Stringer-Johnson rift during the hearing, though he didn’t name either of them. He said he was “certainly sensitive to the concerns that have been raised amongst those who are current candidates that feel this bill has a negative impact on them,” but remained supportive of the bill and voted yes.</p> <p>There was opposition to the bill at the hearing, from City Council Member Kalman Yeger, a Brooklyn Democrat. He said it disregards what the voters decided with the 2018 referendum and amounts to little besides another big dip into taxpayers’ pockets.</p> <p>“It doesn’t seem to me that when the voters voted in November, they put an asterisk next to their vote and said, ‘Hey, this is what we’re voting for, but just in case you get a chance, take some more money out of our pockets and do this a little better,’” Yeger said. “I don’t think we got that message. I didn’t get that message, that’s not what I heard. What I heard was, there was a yes/no question, and the yes won.”</p> <p>Yeger was the sole no in the 4-1 vote, with Council Members Kallos, Powers, Alan Maisel, and committee chair Fernando Cabrera voting to approve. Two committee members were absent from the vote: Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and Bill Perkins.</p> <p>The bill now goes to the full Council for a vote on Thursday. If it passes there, it will go to Mayor Bill de Blasio for likely approval.</p> <p>

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by Caitlyn Rosen, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/committee-gov-op.jpg" alt="committee gov op" width="600" height="358" /></p> <p>Council Members Yeger, left, and Cabrera, right (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Significantly more public funding of political campaigns appears on the way given legislation that the City Council Committee on Governmental Operations passed on Tuesday.</p> <p>The bill, sponsored by Ben Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat, aims to prevent corruption and increase engagement with local communities by adjusting the public matching funds system to allow candidates to raise only relatively small donations and receive enough public money to reach the spending limit in their race.</p> <p>Though the bill has over 30 sponsors in the 51-seat Council and passed the committee 4-1 on Tuesday, a last-minute amendment to the legislation caused a significant stir, including accusations of impropriety by Comptroller Scott Stringer against City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, both likely mayoral candidates in the next election.</p> <p>Expected to be passed by the full Council on Thursday, the bill lifts the cap on how much public funding – or taxpayer money – a participating campaign can receive from Campaign Finance Board. The cap, currently set at 75 percent of the spending limit for participating candidates, would rise to 89.9%, effectively making it a full match relative to the spending limit when the private funds involved are also taken into consideration.</p> <p>The city’s campaign finance system currently has two tracks, “Option A” and “Option B,” that only apply to the 2021 election cycle, before the newer of the two programs takes full hold. That program, “Option A,” includes lower individual donation thresholds and matches the first $250 of individual contributions at an 8-to-1 ratio for a maximum disbursement of $2,000 in public funds per contribution.</p> <p>These rules are the result of a November 2018 referendum that both raised the disbursement cap and increased the public matching ratio. But it also left in place the old system, which has much higher contribution limits and matches the first $175 of donations at 6-to-1.</p> <p>Different offices, from citywide posts like mayor and comptroller to borough presidencies to City Council seats, have different donation and spending limits.</p> <p>The change to individual contribution limits in Option A dropped the maximum donation limit from $5,100 to $2,000 for citywide candidates who opt into that program.</p> <p>Related to that new donation cap, an amendment to the legislation being passed this week has caused a rift among mayoral candidates and raised eyebrows around city government.</p> <p>The amendment requires candidates who opt into the new system to return contributions from 2018 that go over the new maximums, which could mean a $3,100 return on each maximum donation for participants.</p> <p>The November referendum allowed candidates participating in the system to choose between the new rules – with the higher public match but lower contribution limits – and the old rules until 2022, when candidates will have to conform entirely to the new rules to receive public funds. The 2021 city elections are expected to be highly competitive, crowded affairs, with almost all city seats open due to term limits.</p> <p>Comptroller Scott Stringer, one of several likely mayoral candidates in the upcoming election, would be particularly impacted by the amendment. He’d have to return many thousands of dollars in campaign donations from the past year if he wanted to opt into the new matching system. As first reported by the Daily News, Stringer viewed this amendment as a “brazen power grab” by fellow mayoral candidate and Council Speaker Corey Johnson.</p> <p>“The voters passed a groundbreaking campaign finance system to clean up government, not corrupt it,” a Stringer spokesperson said. “Speaker Johnson is trying to circumvent the will of the voters and change the rules to benefit himself. The Council should reject his brazen power grab.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for Johnson reiterated that it’s optional for candidates to return their contributions and said that the amendment was created at the recommendation of the CFB.</p> <p>“The changes were made at the strong urging of the CFB. Both because of fairness and administrative efficiency,” Jennifer Femino, a spokesperson for Johnson, said. “That said, no contributions made in a prior election cycle will have to be returned. Any candidate who wants to keep their big money donations from the last cycle is free to do so and maintain their edge over the competition.”</p> <p>Council Member Kallos stressed to Gotham Gazette that not only did the CFB recommend retroactivity because it would then make administration of the program easier, but that Kallos led an extended conversation on changing the bill to include retroactivity during the initial April hearing on the legislation. The amendment wasn’t made until just days before the committee vote, however.</p> <p>On Tuesday, governmental operations committee member, Keith Powers, a Manhattan Democrat, referenced the Stringer-Johnson rift during the hearing, though he didn’t name either of them. He said he was “certainly sensitive to the concerns that have been raised amongst those who are current candidates that feel this bill has a negative impact on them,” but remained supportive of the bill and voted yes.</p> <p>There was opposition to the bill at the hearing, from City Council Member Kalman Yeger, a Brooklyn Democrat. He said it disregards what the voters decided with the 2018 referendum and amounts to little besides another big dip into taxpayers’ pockets.</p> <p>“It doesn’t seem to me that when the voters voted in November, they put an asterisk next to their vote and said, ‘Hey, this is what we’re voting for, but just in case you get a chance, take some more money out of our pockets and do this a little better,’” Yeger said. “I don’t think we got that message. I didn’t get that message, that’s not what I heard. What I heard was, there was a yes/no question, and the yes won.”</p> <p>Yeger was the sole no in the 4-1 vote, with Council Members Kallos, Powers, Alan Maisel, and committee chair Fernando Cabrera voting to approve. Two committee members were absent from the vote: Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and Bill Perkins.</p> <p>The bill now goes to the full Council for a vote on Thursday. If it passes there, it will go to Mayor Bill de Blasio for likely approval.</p> <p>

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by Caitlyn Rosen, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
City Council Expected to Pass Bill - with Controversial Amendment - Raising Cap on Public Matching Funds for Campaigns 2019-06-10T04:00:00+00:00 2019-06-10T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8591-city-council-expected-to-pass-bill-raising-cap-on-public-matching-funds-for-campaigns Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/15610942274_2c68194eaf_z.jpg" alt="Ben Kallos City Council" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Kallos (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>A City Council committee is expected on Tuesday to pass a bill aimed at reducing the influence of large donors on New York City candidates and elections by creating the possibility for candidates to essentially raise all smaller donations and earn enough public matching funds to fully reach the spending limit imposed by the city’s campaign finance program. But the bill, which has recently been amended in a significant way, is stirring controversy as it heads to a vote, with accusations against Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Ben Kallos, the bill's lead sponsor, that they are playing political games.</p> <p>If adopted, <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3458224&amp;GUID=D561A4D3-E518-49A9-8D97-D106A9178639&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the bill</a>&nbsp;would lift the cap on the amount of public money a campaign can receive as a percentage of the spending limits on candidates who choose to participate in the matching funds system, which is run by the city's Campaign Finance Board (CFB). If passed as expected on Tuesday by the Council’s governmental operations committee, the bill would then move to a Thursday vote of the full Council, where it would be overwhelmingly likely to pass.</p> <p>The new amendment to the bill, however, poses a potential hiccup in the process. The legislation now requires any political candidate who opts into the new campaign finance system -- with its lower individual donation limits, more generous public matching of small donations, and the potentially higher match threshold that the bill would create -- to return any contributions over the new system's maximum received in 2018. The maximum has dropped from a $5,100 individual contribution to $2,000 for citywide candidates, meaning a $3,100 return on each maximum donation if a candidate decides to opt into the new system.</p> <p>Comptroller Scott Stringer, a likely mayoral candidate along with Johnson and others, would particularly be impacted by the bill amendment, and his campaign is calling out Johnson and Kallos, as first&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-scott-stringer-corey-johnson-campaign-finance-legislation-20190611-i7vacw6z5jhqtc75fkvzqiekle-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reported by the Daily News</a>. If Stringer wants to access the new matching system, which is optional for only the current 2021 election cycle, he would have to return many thousands of dollars in contributions he received last year as he built a significant war chest for the upcoming race.</p> <p>"Speaker Johnson is trying to circumvent the will of the voters and change the rules to benefit himself," a Stringer spokesperson said in a statement. "The Council should reject his brazen power grab.”</p> <p>With the vote scheduled for Tuesday's noon committee hearing, it appears unlikely the bill will be derailed.</p> <p>Responding to Stringer's criticism, Jennifer Fermino, a spokesperson for Johnson said, “The changes were made at the strong urging of the CFB. Both because of fairness and administrative efficiency. That said, no contributions made in a prior election cycle will have to be returned. Any candidate who wants to keep their big money donations from the last cycle is free to do so and maintain their edge over the competition.”</p> <p>If passed by the full Council, the bill would then be at the mercy of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who would be likely to approve it. If it becomes law, the new thresholds would alter the landscape for the already-underway 2021 city election cycle that is set to feature an estimated 500 candidates for a wide variety of city offices. Most current officeholders from the mayor through the borough presidents and City Council members are term-limited from seeking reelection. Many term-limited officials, including Stringer and Johnson, will be seeking election to higher office.</p> <p>The city’s campaign finance system is among the most robust of its kind and is lauded as a model for regulating campaign spending while promoting competitive elections, regardless of the wealth of candidates. Its signature components include a voluntary public financing program that matches small-dollar contributions; spending limits and restrictions on expenditures for participants; and thorough disclosure requirements and auditing.</p> <p>“This legislation expands the new campaign finance laws overwhelmingly adopted by 80% of the voters on November 6, 2018, from only matching 75% of contributions to matching all of them at 89.89% so that the voices of everyday working New Yorkers are amplified over that of big money and lobbyists,” Kallos said in an emailed statement to Gotham Gazette, referring to a successful ballot referendum that passed last year to increase matching funds and reduce individual donation limits.</p> <p>The matching system encourages candidates to seek small-dollar contributions and, as a result, reach out to more constituents, rather than soliciting large contributions from the city’s wealthiest political donors who often have or want city business or favors.</p> <p>Supporters say it reduces the risk of corruption and contributes to the diversity of candidates. Through a series of public referenda and legislation since it was established in 1988, the public match has been expanded along with limits on the types of contributions participating candidates can receive and the amounts they can spend. The most recent changes to the program came out of the referendum to revise the City Charter last November.</p> <p>There is currently a cap on the amount of public funds a participant in the city’s program, administered by the Campaign Finance Board, can receive. Caps are set at a percentage of the total spending limit for the different offices, forcing candidates to rely on a mix of public and private dollars, which the CFB believes has important benefits. To the board, striking the right balance with sensitivity to the shifting demands of campaigning in New York is key to the program’s success.</p> <p>“The Program remains strong because of our work with the Council over the years to ensure that it evolves to meet the challenges of an evolving political landscape,” said Amy Loprest, executive director of the CFB, before the City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations when she testified on an earlier version of the bill in April.</p> <p>Kallos’ bill is sponsored by 31 other Council members in the 51-seat chamber and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. It would tip the balance toward a full match and would also codify into the city Campaign Finance Act relevant pieces of the ballot referendum approved by voters last year.</p> <p>Supporters of a full public match argue the system still leaves the city’s rich and powerful with outsized influence, especially in citywide races where candidates rely more on large contributions than candidates for City Council do. “In a system where every small dollar is&nbsp;matched, big money, PAC money, and lobbyist money that is not matched is far less valuable,” reads a press release from Kallos’ office.</p> <p>One concern from the CFB is that increasing the amount of public funds limits the ability of candidates to spend campaign dollars on non-qualified expenditures -- things like childcare, post-election spending, payments in cash, and attorney fees for defending nominating petitions, among others. After an election, candidates must return any unused public funds and have to pay back money used on expenditures if they cannot show they were qualified. (Kallos’ bill, Intro. 732, has been amended since the April hearing to allow expenditures on ballot petition defense to become a qualified use of public funds.)</p> <p>Candidates also have to return funds if they lack serious opposition or “do not end up running serious campaigns,” according to Loprest. For the candidates with the fewest resources -- the campaigns the program is intended to best support -- these liabilities can be discouraging and ultimately crippling.</p> <p>Last year’s referendum, placed on the ballot by the 2018 Charter Revision Commission, resulted in the creation of new program parameters including increasing the public match on qualifying smaller donations from 6-to-1 to 8-to-1 and raising the amount of funds available from 55 percent to 75 percent of the spending limit.</p> <p>The public matching funds program now matches the first $250 of contributions at a ratio of 8:1, meaning an individual contribution of that amount could trigger a disbursement of $2,000 in public funds. It also reduced the amount an individual can contribute from $5,100 to $2,000 for citywide races, from $3,950 to $1,500 for borough president races, and $2,850 to $1,000 for City Council races.</p> <p>Another change allowed public funds to be disbursed to candidates earlier in the campaign cycle.</p> <p>For the 2021 elections, participating candidates will have the choice of opting into the new program, known as “Option A,” or sticking with the old rules, “Option B.” After 2021, the new system will become the only option. The choice was created to allow candidates who have already raised money under the old rules to stick with them.</p> <p>The earlier disbursement of public funds can exacerbate the risks associated with unqualified expenditures for candidates who rely too heavily on them, according to Loprest. While making payments earlier in the election cycle allows candidates to be more competitive from the start and provides more time to deal with compliance issues, it can also lead them to spend more money that may need to be returned later, if they or their opponents drop out.</p> <p>Kallos, a Democrat representing parts of the Upper East Side, was the prime sponsor of a law passed in 2016, which dealt with the risks of early disbursement by setting a limit on the payments made before the ballot is finalized. The 2018 charter commission also bars early payments to candidates who could not show they were opposed by a serious candidate.</p> <p>The original version of Kallos’ bill removed that prohibition, raising concerns for the CFB. The new version being considered Tuesday includes a number of changes apparently aimed at addressing those concerns. Financial disclosures would have to be filed prior to early payment dates and candidates would be required to complete a certification of participation in advance of any payment date, Kallos told Gotham Gazette. Candidates receiving funds before the ballot petitioning period would have to be “actively campaigning” in order to make qualified expenditures.</p> <p>“We were pleased to work with the Council in this most recent version of the legislation to address some of the concerns we raised in April,” Matt Sollars, a CFB spokesperson, told Gotham Gazette by email. Kallos echoed the sentiment, saying that the Council listens to “a lot of testimony” and changed the bill as a result of feedback from the CFB and other experts.</p> <p>Most controversially and at the last minute, the new version of the bill also has language that would make the new rules for Option A -- both the 8-to-1 match and the lower contribution limits -- retroactive to apply to contributions received before the referendum changes went into effect on January 12, 2019. Candidates seeking to benefit from the new higher match would have to return any contributions above the new limits, even if received prior to the law changing.</p> <p>For candidates running for citywide posts, that means $3,100 of every maximum contribution would have to be returned.</p> <p>This could be especially challenging for candidates like Comptroller Scott Stringer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, all of whom have been raising money in planned campaigns for mayor. The fourth expected Democratic mayoral candidate at this point is City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who began raising money for a mayoral run earlier this year with a number of self-imposed rules, including not taking any donations above $250. Johnson stands to benefit, comparatively speaking, from the amended version of Kallos’ bill that would make others return thousands of dollars if they opt into the new system.</p> <p>The move that particularly stands to hurt Stringer and help Johnson, is being called a "power grab" and using of government position to impact a political campaign.</p> <p>“If I need to pass a law to get people to do the right thing I'll do it,” Kallos told Gotham Gazette over the phone when asked about the amendment. “If they don't want to participate in the new system, there is nothing saying they have to,” he added.</p> <p>The bill could also of course help Kallos and many of his other Council colleagues who may be seeking higher office like a borough presidency or the comptroller’s seat.</p> <p>Kallos was also the author of a law passed this year that allowed candidates running in the February special election to replace former Public Advocate Letitia James to opt in to the new public matching parameters established in the referendum. For Loprest and the CFB, the election showcased the positive effects already unfolding from the increase in the partial match.</p> <p>“Early data from that special election shows that this new iteration of the Program is working as intended,” she told the committee in April. “The most frequent contribution size across all candidates was just $10, compared to $100 in previous citywide races.”</p> <p>For the bill on the table Tuesday, supporters in the Council are eager for the cap on public funds to be raised further. “We need these reforms now,” wrote Council Member Fernando Cabrera, a Democrat from the Bronx who chairs the governmental operations committee, in an email to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette      

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</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated, and will continue to be updated as the situation around the bill changes.</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this story.</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/15610942274_2c68194eaf_z.jpg" alt="Ben Kallos City Council" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Kallos (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>A City Council committee is expected on Tuesday to pass a bill aimed at reducing the influence of large donors on New York City candidates and elections by creating the possibility for candidates to essentially raise all smaller donations and earn enough public matching funds to fully reach the spending limit imposed by the city’s campaign finance program. But the bill, which has recently been amended in a significant way, is stirring controversy as it heads to a vote, with accusations against Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Ben Kallos, the bill's lead sponsor, that they are playing political games.</p> <p>If adopted, <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3458224&amp;GUID=D561A4D3-E518-49A9-8D97-D106A9178639&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the bill</a>&nbsp;would lift the cap on the amount of public money a campaign can receive as a percentage of the spending limits on candidates who choose to participate in the matching funds system, which is run by the city's Campaign Finance Board (CFB). If passed as expected on Tuesday by the Council’s governmental operations committee, the bill would then move to a Thursday vote of the full Council, where it would be overwhelmingly likely to pass.</p> <p>The new amendment to the bill, however, poses a potential hiccup in the process. The legislation now requires any political candidate who opts into the new campaign finance system -- with its lower individual donation limits, more generous public matching of small donations, and the potentially higher match threshold that the bill would create -- to return any contributions over the new system's maximum received in 2018. The maximum has dropped from a $5,100 individual contribution to $2,000 for citywide candidates, meaning a $3,100 return on each maximum donation if a candidate decides to opt into the new system.</p> <p>Comptroller Scott Stringer, a likely mayoral candidate along with Johnson and others, would particularly be impacted by the bill amendment, and his campaign is calling out Johnson and Kallos, as first&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-scott-stringer-corey-johnson-campaign-finance-legislation-20190611-i7vacw6z5jhqtc75fkvzqiekle-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reported by the Daily News</a>. If Stringer wants to access the new matching system, which is optional for only the current 2021 election cycle, he would have to return many thousands of dollars in contributions he received last year as he built a significant war chest for the upcoming race.</p> <p>"Speaker Johnson is trying to circumvent the will of the voters and change the rules to benefit himself," a Stringer spokesperson said in a statement. "The Council should reject his brazen power grab.”</p> <p>With the vote scheduled for Tuesday's noon committee hearing, it appears unlikely the bill will be derailed.</p> <p>Responding to Stringer's criticism, Jennifer Fermino, a spokesperson for Johnson said, “The changes were made at the strong urging of the CFB. Both because of fairness and administrative efficiency. That said, no contributions made in a prior election cycle will have to be returned. Any candidate who wants to keep their big money donations from the last cycle is free to do so and maintain their edge over the competition.”</p> <p>If passed by the full Council, the bill would then be at the mercy of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who would be likely to approve it. If it becomes law, the new thresholds would alter the landscape for the already-underway 2021 city election cycle that is set to feature an estimated 500 candidates for a wide variety of city offices. Most current officeholders from the mayor through the borough presidents and City Council members are term-limited from seeking reelection. Many term-limited officials, including Stringer and Johnson, will be seeking election to higher office.</p> <p>The city’s campaign finance system is among the most robust of its kind and is lauded as a model for regulating campaign spending while promoting competitive elections, regardless of the wealth of candidates. Its signature components include a voluntary public financing program that matches small-dollar contributions; spending limits and restrictions on expenditures for participants; and thorough disclosure requirements and auditing.</p> <p>“This legislation expands the new campaign finance laws overwhelmingly adopted by 80% of the voters on November 6, 2018, from only matching 75% of contributions to matching all of them at 89.89% so that the voices of everyday working New Yorkers are amplified over that of big money and lobbyists,” Kallos said in an emailed statement to Gotham Gazette, referring to a successful ballot referendum that passed last year to increase matching funds and reduce individual donation limits.</p> <p>The matching system encourages candidates to seek small-dollar contributions and, as a result, reach out to more constituents, rather than soliciting large contributions from the city’s wealthiest political donors who often have or want city business or favors.</p> <p>Supporters say it reduces the risk of corruption and contributes to the diversity of candidates. Through a series of public referenda and legislation since it was established in 1988, the public match has been expanded along with limits on the types of contributions participating candidates can receive and the amounts they can spend. The most recent changes to the program came out of the referendum to revise the City Charter last November.</p> <p>There is currently a cap on the amount of public funds a participant in the city’s program, administered by the Campaign Finance Board, can receive. Caps are set at a percentage of the total spending limit for the different offices, forcing candidates to rely on a mix of public and private dollars, which the CFB believes has important benefits. To the board, striking the right balance with sensitivity to the shifting demands of campaigning in New York is key to the program’s success.</p> <p>“The Program remains strong because of our work with the Council over the years to ensure that it evolves to meet the challenges of an evolving political landscape,” said Amy Loprest, executive director of the CFB, before the City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations when she testified on an earlier version of the bill in April.</p> <p>Kallos’ bill is sponsored by 31 other Council members in the 51-seat chamber and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. It would tip the balance toward a full match and would also codify into the city Campaign Finance Act relevant pieces of the ballot referendum approved by voters last year.</p> <p>Supporters of a full public match argue the system still leaves the city’s rich and powerful with outsized influence, especially in citywide races where candidates rely more on large contributions than candidates for City Council do. “In a system where every small dollar is&nbsp;matched, big money, PAC money, and lobbyist money that is not matched is far less valuable,” reads a press release from Kallos’ office.</p> <p>One concern from the CFB is that increasing the amount of public funds limits the ability of candidates to spend campaign dollars on non-qualified expenditures -- things like childcare, post-election spending, payments in cash, and attorney fees for defending nominating petitions, among others. After an election, candidates must return any unused public funds and have to pay back money used on expenditures if they cannot show they were qualified. (Kallos’ bill, Intro. 732, has been amended since the April hearing to allow expenditures on ballot petition defense to become a qualified use of public funds.)</p> <p>Candidates also have to return funds if they lack serious opposition or “do not end up running serious campaigns,” according to Loprest. For the candidates with the fewest resources -- the campaigns the program is intended to best support -- these liabilities can be discouraging and ultimately crippling.</p> <p>Last year’s referendum, placed on the ballot by the 2018 Charter Revision Commission, resulted in the creation of new program parameters including increasing the public match on qualifying smaller donations from 6-to-1 to 8-to-1 and raising the amount of funds available from 55 percent to 75 percent of the spending limit.</p> <p>The public matching funds program now matches the first $250 of contributions at a ratio of 8:1, meaning an individual contribution of that amount could trigger a disbursement of $2,000 in public funds. It also reduced the amount an individual can contribute from $5,100 to $2,000 for citywide races, from $3,950 to $1,500 for borough president races, and $2,850 to $1,000 for City Council races.</p> <p>Another change allowed public funds to be disbursed to candidates earlier in the campaign cycle.</p> <p>For the 2021 elections, participating candidates will have the choice of opting into the new program, known as “Option A,” or sticking with the old rules, “Option B.” After 2021, the new system will become the only option. The choice was created to allow candidates who have already raised money under the old rules to stick with them.</p> <p>The earlier disbursement of public funds can exacerbate the risks associated with unqualified expenditures for candidates who rely too heavily on them, according to Loprest. While making payments earlier in the election cycle allows candidates to be more competitive from the start and provides more time to deal with compliance issues, it can also lead them to spend more money that may need to be returned later, if they or their opponents drop out.</p> <p>Kallos, a Democrat representing parts of the Upper East Side, was the prime sponsor of a law passed in 2016, which dealt with the risks of early disbursement by setting a limit on the payments made before the ballot is finalized. The 2018 charter commission also bars early payments to candidates who could not show they were opposed by a serious candidate.</p> <p>The original version of Kallos’ bill removed that prohibition, raising concerns for the CFB. The new version being considered Tuesday includes a number of changes apparently aimed at addressing those concerns. Financial disclosures would have to be filed prior to early payment dates and candidates would be required to complete a certification of participation in advance of any payment date, Kallos told Gotham Gazette. Candidates receiving funds before the ballot petitioning period would have to be “actively campaigning” in order to make qualified expenditures.</p> <p>“We were pleased to work with the Council in this most recent version of the legislation to address some of the concerns we raised in April,” Matt Sollars, a CFB spokesperson, told Gotham Gazette by email. Kallos echoed the sentiment, saying that the Council listens to “a lot of testimony” and changed the bill as a result of feedback from the CFB and other experts.</p> <p>Most controversially and at the last minute, the new version of the bill also has language that would make the new rules for Option A -- both the 8-to-1 match and the lower contribution limits -- retroactive to apply to contributions received before the referendum changes went into effect on January 12, 2019. Candidates seeking to benefit from the new higher match would have to return any contributions above the new limits, even if received prior to the law changing.</p> <p>For candidates running for citywide posts, that means $3,100 of every maximum contribution would have to be returned.</p> <p>This could be especially challenging for candidates like Comptroller Scott Stringer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, all of whom have been raising money in planned campaigns for mayor. The fourth expected Democratic mayoral candidate at this point is City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who began raising money for a mayoral run earlier this year with a number of self-imposed rules, including not taking any donations above $250. Johnson stands to benefit, comparatively speaking, from the amended version of Kallos’ bill that would make others return thousands of dollars if they opt into the new system.</p> <p>The move that particularly stands to hurt Stringer and help Johnson, is being called a "power grab" and using of government position to impact a political campaign.</p> <p>“If I need to pass a law to get people to do the right thing I'll do it,” Kallos told Gotham Gazette over the phone when asked about the amendment. “If they don't want to participate in the new system, there is nothing saying they have to,” he added.</p> <p>The bill could also of course help Kallos and many of his other Council colleagues who may be seeking higher office like a borough presidency or the comptroller’s seat.</p> <p>Kallos was also the author of a law passed this year that allowed candidates running in the February special election to replace former Public Advocate Letitia James to opt in to the new public matching parameters established in the referendum. For Loprest and the CFB, the election showcased the positive effects already unfolding from the increase in the partial match.</p> <p>“Early data from that special election shows that this new iteration of the Program is working as intended,” she told the committee in April. “The most frequent contribution size across all candidates was just $10, compared to $100 in previous citywide races.”</p> <p>For the bill on the table Tuesday, supporters in the Council are eager for the cap on public funds to be raised further. “We need these reforms now,” wrote Council Member Fernando Cabrera, a Democrat from the Bronx who chairs the governmental operations committee, in an email to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette      

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated, and will continue to be updated as the situation around the bill changes.</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this story.</p>
City Council Progressive Caucus Endorses in Brooklyn Special Election 2019-05-09T04:00:00+00:00 2019-05-09T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8514-city-council-progressive-caucus-endorses-in-brooklyn-special-election Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/jum-williams-monique.jpg" alt="jum williams monique" width="600" /></p> <p>Monique Chandler-Waterman &amp; Jumaane Williams (photo: @MoniqueForNYC)</p> <hr /> <p>The political arm of the New York City Council’s Progressive Caucus is endorsing Monique Chandler-Waterman in next week’s special election for the Council’s District 45 seat. The district was previously represented by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, whose own special election victory led to the vacancy being filled through a vote this coming Tuesday, May 14.</p> <p><a href="https://www.kingscountypolitics.com/monique-chandler-waterman-seeks-move-from-non-profit-to-city-hall/">Chandler-Waterman</a> is a community activist and founder of East Flatbush Village, a nonprofit that works with at-risk youth in the community. She is one of eight candidates vying to represent District 45, which includes the neighborhoods of Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood, Canarsie and Flatlands. The other candidates in the race, a nonpartisan special where there are no formal party labels, are Anthony Alexis, Victor Jordan, Jovia Radix, Xamayla Rose, Adina Sash, and L. Rickie Tulloch.</p> <p>A longtime ally of Williams -- who held the seat since 2010 before being elected public advocate in February -- Chandler-Waterman served as his community outreach director for two years. Last month, Williams <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/campaigns-elections/jumaane-williams-backs-chandler-waterman-to-replace-him.html">endorsed</a> her over another candidate, Farah Louis, who was a staffer in his Council office for years.</p> <p>The Progressive Caucus Alliance, in its announcement provided to Gotham Gazette, said it chose to endorse Chandler-Waterman “not only because of her progressive credentials but because she has shown a long history of strong resolve and concrete ability to better her communities.” The Caucus Alliance&nbsp;includes 16 members from the 21-member Progressive Caucus within the larger 51-seat City Council. Endorsements are made by a two-thirds majority of the Alliance.</p> <p>“We are confident that she will provide excellent constituent service, represent their communities with distinction, and champion legislation that helps create a more just and equal New York City - that forwards racial, gender, and social justice campaigns in the Council and beyond - which is the key mission of the Progressive Caucus,” the announcement said. The Alliance plans to aid Chandler-Waterman’s campaign with voter outreach along with allies in labor and the nonprofit world.</p> <p>“I’m overwhelmed with excitement...The Progressive Caucus Alliance endorsement means a lot,” Chandler-Waterman said in a brief phone interview, pledging to join the Progressive Caucus if she wins the election.</p> <p>She said her first priority would be to push for more district engagement in the Council’s legislative and budgeting processes, through monthly meetings with community members. On the policy front, she spoke of addressing the issue of recent police-involved shootings of emotionally disturbed persons in the district.</p> <p>“I don’t think the NYPD should be responding to those who are in crisis,” she said, striking a similar note on an issue Williams has been vocal about. And, also in keeping with Williams’ positions, she said she would push to overhaul the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy, which she said has failed to create enough “true affordable housing” in the community.</p> <p>Notably, two organizations that are working to elect more women in local government -- Amplify Her and 21 in ‘21 -- have also endorsed Chandler-Waterman, though 21 in ‘21, in its first foray into electoral influence, issued a dual endorsement, also giving its support to Radix.</p> <p>The 51-seat Council currently has only 11 women representatives, down from a high of 18 in 2009. A nonprofit, 21 in ‘21, aims to help elected 21 women to the Council through the upcoming 2021 city election cycle, when many Council members will be term-limited out of office. The District 45 special election offers an opportunity to get to 12.</p> <p>In line with that goal, Council Member Ben Kallos, a co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, said the PCA only interviewed women candidates -- all of them were invited except Adina Sash -- in the race before making its endorsement. “We need to elect more women to the City Council,” he said in a brief phone interview. “Monique has experience in the Council and the community. Whenever she’s seen a problem, she’s rolled up her sleeves and fixed it herself, and that’s the kind of attitude we need in City Council members.”</p> <p>Chandler-Waterman said she looked forward to increasing the ranks of women in the Council, not only by being elected herself but “also going back and helping other women that want to be in politics and continue this movement of making sure that women’s voices are at the table.”</p> <p>The PCA’s support adds to a list of prominent endorsements that Chandler-Waterman has received, including from a variety of Brooklyn officials such as Assemblymember Nick Perry (who is also her campaign chair), state Senators Zellnor Myrie and Kevin Parker, and Council Members Laurie Cumbo and Antonio Reynoso. The Working Families Party is also supporting her campaign, as are progressive organizations like New York Communities for Change, New York Progressive Action Network, and Make the Road Action. The influential unions DC37 and 32BJ SEIU also endorsed her.</p> <p>If Chandler-Waterman wins the race next week, she will hold the seat through the end of this calendar year and have to defend it later this year, first in the June 25 primary election if a challenger emerges and then in the November general election, again only if a challenger is on the ballot. The winner in November will serve the remainder of the term, which ends in 2021.</p> <p>[READ: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8462-special-election-provides-testing-ground-for-push-to-elect-women-to-the-city-council">Special Election Provides Testing Ground for Push to Elect More Women to City Council</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to note that the Progressive Caucus Alliance did not invite all the five women candidates for their endorsement interview.&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/jum-williams-monique.jpg" alt="jum williams monique" width="600" /></p> <p>Monique Chandler-Waterman &amp; Jumaane Williams (photo: @MoniqueForNYC)</p> <hr /> <p>The political arm of the New York City Council’s Progressive Caucus is endorsing Monique Chandler-Waterman in next week’s special election for the Council’s District 45 seat. The district was previously represented by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, whose own special election victory led to the vacancy being filled through a vote this coming Tuesday, May 14.</p> <p><a href="https://www.kingscountypolitics.com/monique-chandler-waterman-seeks-move-from-non-profit-to-city-hall/">Chandler-Waterman</a> is a community activist and founder of East Flatbush Village, a nonprofit that works with at-risk youth in the community. She is one of eight candidates vying to represent District 45, which includes the neighborhoods of Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood, Canarsie and Flatlands. The other candidates in the race, a nonpartisan special where there are no formal party labels, are Anthony Alexis, Victor Jordan, Jovia Radix, Xamayla Rose, Adina Sash, and L. Rickie Tulloch.</p> <p>A longtime ally of Williams -- who held the seat since 2010 before being elected public advocate in February -- Chandler-Waterman served as his community outreach director for two years. Last month, Williams <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/campaigns-elections/jumaane-williams-backs-chandler-waterman-to-replace-him.html">endorsed</a> her over another candidate, Farah Louis, who was a staffer in his Council office for years.</p> <p>The Progressive Caucus Alliance, in its announcement provided to Gotham Gazette, said it chose to endorse Chandler-Waterman “not only because of her progressive credentials but because she has shown a long history of strong resolve and concrete ability to better her communities.” The Caucus Alliance&nbsp;includes 16 members from the 21-member Progressive Caucus within the larger 51-seat City Council. Endorsements are made by a two-thirds majority of the Alliance.</p> <p>“We are confident that she will provide excellent constituent service, represent their communities with distinction, and champion legislation that helps create a more just and equal New York City - that forwards racial, gender, and social justice campaigns in the Council and beyond - which is the key mission of the Progressive Caucus,” the announcement said. The Alliance plans to aid Chandler-Waterman’s campaign with voter outreach along with allies in labor and the nonprofit world.</p> <p>“I’m overwhelmed with excitement...The Progressive Caucus Alliance endorsement means a lot,” Chandler-Waterman said in a brief phone interview, pledging to join the Progressive Caucus if she wins the election.</p> <p>She said her first priority would be to push for more district engagement in the Council’s legislative and budgeting processes, through monthly meetings with community members. On the policy front, she spoke of addressing the issue of recent police-involved shootings of emotionally disturbed persons in the district.</p> <p>“I don’t think the NYPD should be responding to those who are in crisis,” she said, striking a similar note on an issue Williams has been vocal about. And, also in keeping with Williams’ positions, she said she would push to overhaul the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy, which she said has failed to create enough “true affordable housing” in the community.</p> <p>Notably, two organizations that are working to elect more women in local government -- Amplify Her and 21 in ‘21 -- have also endorsed Chandler-Waterman, though 21 in ‘21, in its first foray into electoral influence, issued a dual endorsement, also giving its support to Radix.</p> <p>The 51-seat Council currently has only 11 women representatives, down from a high of 18 in 2009. A nonprofit, 21 in ‘21, aims to help elected 21 women to the Council through the upcoming 2021 city election cycle, when many Council members will be term-limited out of office. The District 45 special election offers an opportunity to get to 12.</p> <p>In line with that goal, Council Member Ben Kallos, a co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, said the PCA only interviewed women candidates -- all of them were invited except Adina Sash -- in the race before making its endorsement. “We need to elect more women to the City Council,” he said in a brief phone interview. “Monique has experience in the Council and the community. Whenever she’s seen a problem, she’s rolled up her sleeves and fixed it herself, and that’s the kind of attitude we need in City Council members.”</p> <p>Chandler-Waterman said she looked forward to increasing the ranks of women in the Council, not only by being elected herself but “also going back and helping other women that want to be in politics and continue this movement of making sure that women’s voices are at the table.”</p> <p>The PCA’s support adds to a list of prominent endorsements that Chandler-Waterman has received, including from a variety of Brooklyn officials such as Assemblymember Nick Perry (who is also her campaign chair), state Senators Zellnor Myrie and Kevin Parker, and Council Members Laurie Cumbo and Antonio Reynoso. The Working Families Party is also supporting her campaign, as are progressive organizations like New York Communities for Change, New York Progressive Action Network, and Make the Road Action. The influential unions DC37 and 32BJ SEIU also endorsed her.</p> <p>If Chandler-Waterman wins the race next week, she will hold the seat through the end of this calendar year and have to defend it later this year, first in the June 25 primary election if a challenger emerges and then in the November general election, again only if a challenger is on the ballot. The winner in November will serve the remainder of the term, which ends in 2021.</p> <p>[READ: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8462-special-election-provides-testing-ground-for-push-to-elect-women-to-the-city-council">Special Election Provides Testing Ground for Push to Elect More Women to City Council</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to note that the Progressive Caucus Alliance did not invite all the five women candidates for their endorsement interview.&nbsp;</p>
City Council Hears Bill to Expand Public Match in Campaign Finance Program 2019-04-15T04:00:00+00:00 2019-04-15T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8452-city-council-hears-bill-to-expand-public-campaign-finance-matching-program Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/28261878818_c85778112d_z.jpg" alt="Kallos City Council" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Kallos (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations heard testimony on Monday on a bill to expand the public matching funds available to candidates under the city’s campaign finance program.</p> <p>The campaign finance system incentivizes individuals to seek small dollar donations when running for office, matching those contributions with public funds. Under a recent city charter amendment approved by voters, a citywide candidate can receive public funds at an 8-to-1 ratio for the first $250 of each contribution (an increase from 6-to-1 for the first $175), and they can cover up to 75% of the spending limit for the office through public funds (up from 55%).</p> <p>That charter change was quickly implemented through local law, sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, for all special elections before the 2021 general election, thus applying to multiple races this year.</p> <p>Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat, has also proposed increasing the public funds cap to roughly 89% of the spending limit, effectively allowing candidates to run their campaigns entirely on small contributions and the subsequent public match, and diluting the effect of wealthier, larger donors. And he hopes to put that reform into effect for the 2021 city election cycle, which will feature a massive number of local races, from citywide and borough wide posts through the City Council. Kallos estimates it will lead to roughly $61.7 million in public funds disbursements, about $10.3 million more than if the 75% match is kept in place. His projections are based on participation rates in the 2013 election when the CFB gave about $38 million to qualifying candidates.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I think this is a gamechanger,” Kallos said at Monday’s hearing, citing the recent citywide public advocate special election as proof that increasing the public funds match reduced big donations. He pointed to the latest campaign finance disclosures from all the campaigns, which showed that contributions of $250 or less made up 61% of all contributions, up from 26.3% of all contributions in the 2013 public advocate race, according to his office’s analysis of the numbers.</p> <p>“We have flipped how campaigns are financed, upside down,” said Kallos, who is term-limited and expected to seek higher office in 2021, emphasizing that he believes the system must be expanded to fully eliminate big money donations.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8418-city-council-member-kallos-increase-matching-funds-available-public-campaign-finance-system" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Council Member Kallos Pushes Next Increase in Matching Funds Available Through Public Campaign Finance System</a>]</p> <p>Kallos’ bill has the support of the committee chair, Council Member Fernando Cabrera, and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is exploring a run for mayor and only taking donations of $250 and under. But other city officials seemed less sure about the exact proposal while supporting its goals more broadly.</p> <p>Ayirini Fonseca-Sabune, the city’s new chief democracy officer who runs Mayor Bill de Blasio’s DemocracyNYC initiative, generally praised the campaign finance program and the recent improvements that were enacted within it by the charter amendment, which was set into motion by the mayor’s formation of a charter revision commission.</p> <p>She emphasized the need to increase public engagement in the city’s democracy by increasing public trust. “Establishing this trust begins with rooting out corruption and even the perception of corruption by getting big money out of politics,” she said in her testimony. But she said while the administration “support[s] the values” of Kallos’ bill, there would need to be more discussion of its specifics with advocates, the Council, and the city’s Campaign Finance Board (CFB), which administers the campaign finance program.</p> <p>Similarly, Amy Loprest, executive director of the CFB, and Frederick Schaffer, chair of the board, said they were “supportive of the goals of this legislation” but had practical concerns about the current version. For one, Loprest noted, the recent charter amendment imposed a prohibition on early payment of public funds unless a candidate submits a Certified Statement of Need, in order to prevent unserious candidates or those without any opposition from getting public money. Kallos’ bill removes that prohibition, and Loprest said it should find a way to address it.</p> <p>She also pointed out that candidates who rely overwhelmingly on public funds -- which are subject to fairly strict standards for campaign use -- would lack the flexibility to spend campaign funds on expenditures that do not qualify for the public funds program. For instance, cash payments or post-election spending.</p> <p>The bill has the support of Reinvent Albany, a government reform group, and Dawn Smalls, an attorney who ran for public advocate in the February special election.</p> <p>Tom Speaker, a policy analyst at Reinvent Albany, pointed out that with the current 75% cap on public funds, candidates for City Council would still have to raise about $47,000 in private donations and could look to wealthy donors. ‘“Raising the cap can reduce that dependency and allow for more donations from small donors,” he said.</p> <p>Smalls, who was a first-time candidate in February, emphasized the importance of the small dollar matching program, which she said, “allowed me to communicate with voters and effectively compete in this race.” She did, however, criticize the CFB’s compliance regulations, which she said are "an&nbsp;unnecessary burden on all candidates, but one that falls excessively on candidates that may be&nbsp;new to the process and have less infrastructure." She emphasized her campaign's sophisticated operation and team of professionals, which she said shouldn't be necessary or reasonably expected of first-time candidates. &nbsp;</p> <p>Not everyone in the Council is a fan of the bill, of course. Council Member Kalman Yeger, a Brooklyn Democrat and former campaign finance consultant, criticized the proposal and sought to repeatedly poke holes in the campaign finance program more broadly.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to clarify Dawn Smalls' comments.</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated with cost projections from Council Member Ben Kallos.</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/28261878818_c85778112d_z.jpg" alt="Kallos City Council" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Kallos (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations heard testimony on Monday on a bill to expand the public matching funds available to candidates under the city’s campaign finance program.</p> <p>The campaign finance system incentivizes individuals to seek small dollar donations when running for office, matching those contributions with public funds. Under a recent city charter amendment approved by voters, a citywide candidate can receive public funds at an 8-to-1 ratio for the first $250 of each contribution (an increase from 6-to-1 for the first $175), and they can cover up to 75% of the spending limit for the office through public funds (up from 55%).</p> <p>That charter change was quickly implemented through local law, sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, for all special elections before the 2021 general election, thus applying to multiple races this year.</p> <p>Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat, has also proposed increasing the public funds cap to roughly 89% of the spending limit, effectively allowing candidates to run their campaigns entirely on small contributions and the subsequent public match, and diluting the effect of wealthier, larger donors. And he hopes to put that reform into effect for the 2021 city election cycle, which will feature a massive number of local races, from citywide and borough wide posts through the City Council. Kallos estimates it will lead to roughly $61.7 million in public funds disbursements, about $10.3 million more than if the 75% match is kept in place. His projections are based on participation rates in the 2013 election when the CFB gave about $38 million to qualifying candidates.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I think this is a gamechanger,” Kallos said at Monday’s hearing, citing the recent citywide public advocate special election as proof that increasing the public funds match reduced big donations. He pointed to the latest campaign finance disclosures from all the campaigns, which showed that contributions of $250 or less made up 61% of all contributions, up from 26.3% of all contributions in the 2013 public advocate race, according to his office’s analysis of the numbers.</p> <p>“We have flipped how campaigns are financed, upside down,” said Kallos, who is term-limited and expected to seek higher office in 2021, emphasizing that he believes the system must be expanded to fully eliminate big money donations.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8418-city-council-member-kallos-increase-matching-funds-available-public-campaign-finance-system" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Council Member Kallos Pushes Next Increase in Matching Funds Available Through Public Campaign Finance System</a>]</p> <p>Kallos’ bill has the support of the committee chair, Council Member Fernando Cabrera, and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is exploring a run for mayor and only taking donations of $250 and under. But other city officials seemed less sure about the exact proposal while supporting its goals more broadly.</p> <p>Ayirini Fonseca-Sabune, the city’s new chief democracy officer who runs Mayor Bill de Blasio’s DemocracyNYC initiative, generally praised the campaign finance program and the recent improvements that were enacted within it by the charter amendment, which was set into motion by the mayor’s formation of a charter revision commission.</p> <p>She emphasized the need to increase public engagement in the city’s democracy by increasing public trust. “Establishing this trust begins with rooting out corruption and even the perception of corruption by getting big money out of politics,” she said in her testimony. But she said while the administration “support[s] the values” of Kallos’ bill, there would need to be more discussion of its specifics with advocates, the Council, and the city’s Campaign Finance Board (CFB), which administers the campaign finance program.</p> <p>Similarly, Amy Loprest, executive director of the CFB, and Frederick Schaffer, chair of the board, said they were “supportive of the goals of this legislation” but had practical concerns about the current version. For one, Loprest noted, the recent charter amendment imposed a prohibition on early payment of public funds unless a candidate submits a Certified Statement of Need, in order to prevent unserious candidates or those without any opposition from getting public money. Kallos’ bill removes that prohibition, and Loprest said it should find a way to address it.</p> <p>She also pointed out that candidates who rely overwhelmingly on public funds -- which are subject to fairly strict standards for campaign use -- would lack the flexibility to spend campaign funds on expenditures that do not qualify for the public funds program. For instance, cash payments or post-election spending.</p> <p>The bill has the support of Reinvent Albany, a government reform group, and Dawn Smalls, an attorney who ran for public advocate in the February special election.</p> <p>Tom Speaker, a policy analyst at Reinvent Albany, pointed out that with the current 75% cap on public funds, candidates for City Council would still have to raise about $47,000 in private donations and could look to wealthy donors. ‘“Raising the cap can reduce that dependency and allow for more donations from small donors,” he said.</p> <p>Smalls, who was a first-time candidate in February, emphasized the importance of the small dollar matching program, which she said, “allowed me to communicate with voters and effectively compete in this race.” She did, however, criticize the CFB’s compliance regulations, which she said are "an&nbsp;unnecessary burden on all candidates, but one that falls excessively on candidates that may be&nbsp;new to the process and have less infrastructure." She emphasized her campaign's sophisticated operation and team of professionals, which she said shouldn't be necessary or reasonably expected of first-time candidates. &nbsp;</p> <p>Not everyone in the Council is a fan of the bill, of course. Council Member Kalman Yeger, a Brooklyn Democrat and former campaign finance consultant, criticized the proposal and sought to repeatedly poke holes in the campaign finance program more broadly.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to clarify Dawn Smalls' comments.</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated with cost projections from Council Member Ben Kallos.</p>
Council Member Kallos Pushes Next Increase in Matching Funds Available Through Public Campaign Finance System 2019-04-02T04:00:00+00:00 2019-04-02T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8418-city-council-member-kallos-increase-matching-funds-available-public-campaign-finance-system Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/15224780577_970c908913_z.jpg" alt="Ben Kallos campaign finance" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Kallos (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City Council Member Ben Kallos is moving forward with a bill to increase the amount of public funds a candidate running for elected office can receive from the city’s campaign finance program, in order to further reduce the influence of big money donors in local political campaigns.</p> <p>New York City’s voluntary campaign finance program matches small dollar donations in order to afford candidates without deep pockets or wealthy donors a more level playing field in elections. In November, voters approved a ballot question that increased the matching ratio from 6-to-1 for the first $175 of a contribution to 8-to-1 for the first $250 for citywide offices ($175 for all other offices), and increased the maximum amount of public funds that could be paid out from 55% of the spending limit for an office to 75%.</p> <p>The changes also reduced individual contribution limits across the board and gave candidates running in the 2021 city elections the choice to opt in to the new rules, which otherwise go into mandatory effect beginning 2022.</p> <p>Following the charter change, Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat, quickly advanced legislation that Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law to implement those rules for special elections taking place before the 2021 primaries, giving candidates the same option to choose between the old and new rules. In the February special election for public advocate, a majority of the candidates opted in to the new system and larger donations dropped.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8348-report-under-new-law-small-donors-drove-public-advocate-special-election-campaigns" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Report: Under New Law, Small Donors Drove Public Advocate Special Election Campaigns</a>]</p> <p>Encouraged by those results, Kallos is pushing his new bill, which goes even further and would increase the maximum public funds payment from 75% to 88.8% of the spending limits for the 2021 elections, further encouraging candidates to raise $250 and below from individuals, and effectively leaving no gap for candidates to fill with larger private donations. The 2021 elections will be a massive undertaking with the mayor, comptroller, five borough presidents and about three dozen Council members, including Kallos, term limited out of office.&nbsp;Kallos, who is expected to run for higher office, told Gotham Gazette in an interview that his bill already has 34 sponsors, a super-majority of the 51-seat Council, and is scheduled for a committee hearing on April 15.</p> <p>“It is going to do what the Charter Revision Commission should have done to begin with but couldn’t,” he said, noting that the bill would also place the new rules in the city’s administrative code. “We’re going to put things where they were supposed to be if we hadn’t had to go around the City Council,” he added, referring to the fact that the charter change approved by voters could have been done through City Council legislation and did not need to be made through referendum.</p> <p>Mayoral spokesperson Raul Contreras said the mayor’s office would have to review the bill. “The power of your voice shouldn’t depend on how deep your pockets run. Public financing empowers the voices of the average New Yorker, which is a belief the majority of voters reaffirmed when they overwhelmingly voted for public financing in the 2018 general election,” Contreras said in a statement.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s office did not return a request for comment but Johnson has previously supported a version of Kallos’ bill that was introduced in the prior legislative session of the Council and that would have accomplished the same result.</p> <p>Though the bill has plenty of support within the Council, Kallos nonetheless expects some opposition. Any effort to expand the public matching funds program is inevitably criticized with similar refrains about the cost to taxpayers. Public funds payments come with thresholds that candidates must meet to show that their campaigns are serious and viable, and strict penalties for the misuse of public funds.</p> <p>“Candidates who are not serious would be well-advised to stay away from a full public matching system,” Kallos said. “Candidates who have sought to abuse the system have found themselves fined and had to pay back the public dollars...and I think that is enough of an incentive for people to not do it.”</p> <p>He continued, “We want our elected officials to work for us and getting in arguments about whether or not somebody’s opposition is credible, or whether they should take public dollars defeats the point that we want elected officials taking clean money from the government that is coming as a multiplier on small dollars instead of spending all of their time raising money from big donors.”</p> <p>After the April 15 hearing in the Council’s government operations committee, of which Kallos was formerly chair and is now a member, it could be tweaked, and would need to be passed by the committee and then the full Council in order to face approval or veto by the mayor.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated.</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/15224780577_970c908913_z.jpg" alt="Ben Kallos campaign finance" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Kallos (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City Council Member Ben Kallos is moving forward with a bill to increase the amount of public funds a candidate running for elected office can receive from the city’s campaign finance program, in order to further reduce the influence of big money donors in local political campaigns.</p> <p>New York City’s voluntary campaign finance program matches small dollar donations in order to afford candidates without deep pockets or wealthy donors a more level playing field in elections. In November, voters approved a ballot question that increased the matching ratio from 6-to-1 for the first $175 of a contribution to 8-to-1 for the first $250 for citywide offices ($175 for all other offices), and increased the maximum amount of public funds that could be paid out from 55% of the spending limit for an office to 75%.</p> <p>The changes also reduced individual contribution limits across the board and gave candidates running in the 2021 city elections the choice to opt in to the new rules, which otherwise go into mandatory effect beginning 2022.</p> <p>Following the charter change, Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat, quickly advanced legislation that Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law to implement those rules for special elections taking place before the 2021 primaries, giving candidates the same option to choose between the old and new rules. In the February special election for public advocate, a majority of the candidates opted in to the new system and larger donations dropped.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8348-report-under-new-law-small-donors-drove-public-advocate-special-election-campaigns" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Report: Under New Law, Small Donors Drove Public Advocate Special Election Campaigns</a>]</p> <p>Encouraged by those results, Kallos is pushing his new bill, which goes even further and would increase the maximum public funds payment from 75% to 88.8% of the spending limits for the 2021 elections, further encouraging candidates to raise $250 and below from individuals, and effectively leaving no gap for candidates to fill with larger private donations. The 2021 elections will be a massive undertaking with the mayor, comptroller, five borough presidents and about three dozen Council members, including Kallos, term limited out of office.&nbsp;Kallos, who is expected to run for higher office, told Gotham Gazette in an interview that his bill already has 34 sponsors, a super-majority of the 51-seat Council, and is scheduled for a committee hearing on April 15.</p> <p>“It is going to do what the Charter Revision Commission should have done to begin with but couldn’t,” he said, noting that the bill would also place the new rules in the city’s administrative code. “We’re going to put things where they were supposed to be if we hadn’t had to go around the City Council,” he added, referring to the fact that the charter change approved by voters could have been done through City Council legislation and did not need to be made through referendum.</p> <p>Mayoral spokesperson Raul Contreras said the mayor’s office would have to review the bill. “The power of your voice shouldn’t depend on how deep your pockets run. Public financing empowers the voices of the average New Yorker, which is a belief the majority of voters reaffirmed when they overwhelmingly voted for public financing in the 2018 general election,” Contreras said in a statement.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s office did not return a request for comment but Johnson has previously supported a version of Kallos’ bill that was introduced in the prior legislative session of the Council and that would have accomplished the same result.</p> <p>Though the bill has plenty of support within the Council, Kallos nonetheless expects some opposition. Any effort to expand the public matching funds program is inevitably criticized with similar refrains about the cost to taxpayers. Public funds payments come with thresholds that candidates must meet to show that their campaigns are serious and viable, and strict penalties for the misuse of public funds.</p> <p>“Candidates who are not serious would be well-advised to stay away from a full public matching system,” Kallos said. “Candidates who have sought to abuse the system have found themselves fined and had to pay back the public dollars...and I think that is enough of an incentive for people to not do it.”</p> <p>He continued, “We want our elected officials to work for us and getting in arguments about whether or not somebody’s opposition is credible, or whether they should take public dollars defeats the point that we want elected officials taking clean money from the government that is coming as a multiplier on small dollars instead of spending all of their time raising money from big donors.”</p> <p>After the April 15 hearing in the Council’s government operations committee, of which Kallos was formerly chair and is now a member, it could be tweaked, and would need to be passed by the committee and then the full Council in order to face approval or veto by the mayor.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated.</p>
Report: Under New Law, Small Donors Drove Public Advocate Special Election Campaigns 2019-03-11T04:00:00+00:00 2019-03-11T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8348-report-under-new-law-small-donors-drove-public-advocate-special-election-campaigns Ben Max <p>&nbsp;<img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/poolnytdebate_001.jpg" alt="poolnytdebate 001" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>The first public advocate debate (photo: Holly Pickett for The New York Times (pool))</p> <hr /> <p>Small-dollar donors were behind 63 percent of the first wave of campaign contributions to candidates who ran in the February special election for public advocate, up from 26.3 percent in 2013 when there was an open race for the seat, according to an analysis by New York City Council Member Ben Kallos. The Manhattan Council member sponsored the law to implement in the public advocate special election the new campaign finance rules overwhelmingly approved by voters in a ballot referendum last year.</p> <p>The public advocate special election, in which City Council Member Jumaane Williams emerged victorious, was the first citywide race under the new rules that lowered contribution limits for special elections for citywide offices from $2,550 to $1,000 (special election limits are half of the regular election limits, which changed from $5,100 to $2,000), increased the ratio of public matching funds given to candidates from 6-to-1 for the first $175 of a qualifying contribution to 8-to-1 for the first $250, and increased the limit for public funds payments from 55 percent of the spending limit for a race to 75 percent. Soon after the referendum was approved -- by just over 80 percent of voters -- the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio expedited legislation in order to apply the rules to elections before 2021, after which they were set to be mandatory. For the special election and those through 2021, the next citywide election year, candidates must choose the old or new system.</p> <p>Of the 17 candidates on the public advocate ballot, all but one opted into the voluntary public matching funds program, which is administered by the New York City Campaign Finance Board. Only four decided to stick with the outgoing matching program while the rest chose lower contribution limits that came with higher public matching funds. In total, the 11 candidates who eventually qualified for public funds received $7,178,120 via the CFB.</p> <p>According CFB’s own analysis released the day after the election, the most common contribution amount was $10, down from $100 in previous public advocate elections. “The matching funds give candidates the incentives to raise money the right way, by going to the New York City voters they want to represent in government, not to big-money donors or special interests,” said Amy Loprest, CFB executive director, in a statement on February 27. “If we want a government that is closer and more responsive to the people, it has to start with how candidates fund their campaigns.”</p> <p>Kallos, the City Council’s resident good government wonk, has pushed improvements to the city’s campaign finance law for years and felt vindicated by seeing the campaign finance numbers behind the election. The ballot question, proposed by a charter revision commission created by Mayor Bill de Blasio, was largely similar to a bill Kallos had sponsored in the previous legislative session of the Council.</p> <p>“One of the reasons I was so eager for this to apply in the public advocate’s race is I was worried about the time between the vote in November [2018] and 2021 and I wanted to prove to people that this could work,” he said. There will be another public advocate election this fall to decide who will hold the seat vacated by Attorney General letitia James for the final two years of her public advocate term. Kallos’ bill also lowered the thresholds for candidates to qualify for official debates sponsored by the CFB and for public funds payments.</p> <p>His analysis, which covers the candidates’ pre-election campaign finance disclosures till February 11 (the most recent filing deadline - final numbers are due March 25), found that contributions of $1,000 and more accounted for 26 percent of the $2.2 million raised to that point in the election, compared with 60 percent throughout 2013. In total, all the candidates raised $2.6 million for the special election, which was “nonpartisan” and did not have party primaries. In 2013, candidates raised $4.9 million running for public advocate in the primary and general.</p> <p>Kallos has long been critical of big money in elections, particularly donations from the real estate industry which have been a large force at the city and state level. “This is the first time a citywide elected official has been elected without real estate money,” said Kallos, who himself rejects real estate donations. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Several candidates in the special election similarly refused real estate cash, which is of a piece with broader calls for candidates to rely on small donors. Public Advocate-elect Williams was among those who signed a pledge floated by New York Communities for Change, a housing justice advocacy organization, to refuse corporate and real estate money.</p> <p>“New York City has changed forever: we will no longer be held hostage by big-money real estate developers and landlords who aim to profit through policies that incentivize the displacement and gouging of low-income tenants,” said Jonathan Westin, NYCC executive director, in a statement calling on other candidates to follow Williams’ lead.</p> <p>Several candidates running for citywide office in 2021, or exploring a candidacy, have already said that they will rely on the new campaign finance system, including Comptroller Scott Stringer and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.</p> <p>Real estate donations are increasingly becoming a litmus test for progressive Democrats, some of whom were elected to the state Legislature last year and are also pushing to implement a public financing program for state elections similar to the city’s model. For advocates and labor leaders, the public advocate election was proof positive that small-dollar financing is effective and should be replicated by the state. “Jumaane Williams's victory, and the public participation in the process, is a glimpse of what we could accomplish if we pass campaign finance reform at the state level,” said Stanley Fritz, campaigns manager for Citizen Action. Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU, said, “The major shift towards small donor financing in city wide elections shows that working people in our state want a more democratic system.</p> <p>Kallos notes that candidates can spend fewer hours dialling for dollars from wealthy donors if they rely on small contributions from the tens of thousands of residents of their districts, or from millions in the case of citywide races. “My hypothesis was that if we increase the public match...that that would halve big money and it actually did that,” he said. “It wasn’t a modest success. It literally cut it almost in half.”</p> <p>The expanded matching funds program has been widely praised for elevating the voices of everyday New Yorkers. “Normally, a special election for public advocate would probably be very much of an insider’s race. It would be funded by insiders and people who follow politics closely,” said Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor at Reinvent Albany, a good government advocacy group. “And I think that what putting this legislation into effect now did was incentivized candidates to reach out to ordinary New Yorkers to campaign.” Camarda also expects this momentum to carry forward and that candidates will feel “real pressure” to participate.</p> <p>Many of the candidates who ran for public advocate were also first-time contenders, including Nomiki Konst and Dawn Smalls, who were among the ten candidates on stage at the first official debate in the race, and among the seven candidates at the second official debate.</p> <p>There have been arguments levelled against the public funds system, of course, and it’s hard to predict exactly how it will work for a full-fledged citywide race rather than a truncated special election. Some candidates have said the regulators of the program are sometimes overly harsh and fine them for small, technical violations. Others criticize the cost to taxpayers -- the entire special election is estimated to cost the city around $20 million in administrative and public campaign financing while the annual budget of the public advocate was only about $3.6 million last year. Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who stuck with the old campaign finance rules and came in third in the special election, <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2019/01/02/new-campaign-finance-law-creates-fissure-in-public-advocates-race-769959" target="_blank" rel="noopener">argued</a> that the new system was being pushed through to prevent her from winning, apparently in part because she was transferring a significant sum of funds from her prior campaign account, an advantage more easily mitigated with the new system.</p> <p>But there is otherwise broad agreement that the city’s program is a model to be emulated, as other jurisdictions have done across the country, and it is progressively being improved. “I’m still not done yet,” Kallos said.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to clarify that total candidate fundraising was $2.6 million for the special election. It has also been updated to clarify the contribution limits for special elections.&nbsp;</p>
<p>&nbsp;<img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/poolnytdebate_001.jpg" alt="poolnytdebate 001" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>The first public advocate debate (photo: Holly Pickett for The New York Times (pool))</p> <hr /> <p>Small-dollar donors were behind 63 percent of the first wave of campaign contributions to candidates who ran in the February special election for public advocate, up from 26.3 percent in 2013 when there was an open race for the seat, according to an analysis by New York City Council Member Ben Kallos. The Manhattan Council member sponsored the law to implement in the public advocate special election the new campaign finance rules overwhelmingly approved by voters in a ballot referendum last year.</p> <p>The public advocate special election, in which City Council Member Jumaane Williams emerged victorious, was the first citywide race under the new rules that lowered contribution limits for special elections for citywide offices from $2,550 to $1,000 (special election limits are half of the regular election limits, which changed from $5,100 to $2,000), increased the ratio of public matching funds given to candidates from 6-to-1 for the first $175 of a qualifying contribution to 8-to-1 for the first $250, and increased the limit for public funds payments from 55 percent of the spending limit for a race to 75 percent. Soon after the referendum was approved -- by just over 80 percent of voters -- the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio expedited legislation in order to apply the rules to elections before 2021, after which they were set to be mandatory. For the special election and those through 2021, the next citywide election year, candidates must choose the old or new system.</p> <p>Of the 17 candidates on the public advocate ballot, all but one opted into the voluntary public matching funds program, which is administered by the New York City Campaign Finance Board. Only four decided to stick with the outgoing matching program while the rest chose lower contribution limits that came with higher public matching funds. In total, the 11 candidates who eventually qualified for public funds received $7,178,120 via the CFB.</p> <p>According CFB’s own analysis released the day after the election, the most common contribution amount was $10, down from $100 in previous public advocate elections. “The matching funds give candidates the incentives to raise money the right way, by going to the New York City voters they want to represent in government, not to big-money donors or special interests,” said Amy Loprest, CFB executive director, in a statement on February 27. “If we want a government that is closer and more responsive to the people, it has to start with how candidates fund their campaigns.”</p> <p>Kallos, the City Council’s resident good government wonk, has pushed improvements to the city’s campaign finance law for years and felt vindicated by seeing the campaign finance numbers behind the election. The ballot question, proposed by a charter revision commission created by Mayor Bill de Blasio, was largely similar to a bill Kallos had sponsored in the previous legislative session of the Council.</p> <p>“One of the reasons I was so eager for this to apply in the public advocate’s race is I was worried about the time between the vote in November [2018] and 2021 and I wanted to prove to people that this could work,” he said. There will be another public advocate election this fall to decide who will hold the seat vacated by Attorney General letitia James for the final two years of her public advocate term. Kallos’ bill also lowered the thresholds for candidates to qualify for official debates sponsored by the CFB and for public funds payments.</p> <p>His analysis, which covers the candidates’ pre-election campaign finance disclosures till February 11 (the most recent filing deadline - final numbers are due March 25), found that contributions of $1,000 and more accounted for 26 percent of the $2.2 million raised to that point in the election, compared with 60 percent throughout 2013. In total, all the candidates raised $2.6 million for the special election, which was “nonpartisan” and did not have party primaries. In 2013, candidates raised $4.9 million running for public advocate in the primary and general.</p> <p>Kallos has long been critical of big money in elections, particularly donations from the real estate industry which have been a large force at the city and state level. “This is the first time a citywide elected official has been elected without real estate money,” said Kallos, who himself rejects real estate donations. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Several candidates in the special election similarly refused real estate cash, which is of a piece with broader calls for candidates to rely on small donors. Public Advocate-elect Williams was among those who signed a pledge floated by New York Communities for Change, a housing justice advocacy organization, to refuse corporate and real estate money.</p> <p>“New York City has changed forever: we will no longer be held hostage by big-money real estate developers and landlords who aim to profit through policies that incentivize the displacement and gouging of low-income tenants,” said Jonathan Westin, NYCC executive director, in a statement calling on other candidates to follow Williams’ lead.</p> <p>Several candidates running for citywide office in 2021, or exploring a candidacy, have already said that they will rely on the new campaign finance system, including Comptroller Scott Stringer and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.</p> <p>Real estate donations are increasingly becoming a litmus test for progressive Democrats, some of whom were elected to the state Legislature last year and are also pushing to implement a public financing program for state elections similar to the city’s model. For advocates and labor leaders, the public advocate election was proof positive that small-dollar financing is effective and should be replicated by the state. “Jumaane Williams's victory, and the public participation in the process, is a glimpse of what we could accomplish if we pass campaign finance reform at the state level,” said Stanley Fritz, campaigns manager for Citizen Action. Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU, said, “The major shift towards small donor financing in city wide elections shows that working people in our state want a more democratic system.</p> <p>Kallos notes that candidates can spend fewer hours dialling for dollars from wealthy donors if they rely on small contributions from the tens of thousands of residents of their districts, or from millions in the case of citywide races. “My hypothesis was that if we increase the public match...that that would halve big money and it actually did that,” he said. “It wasn’t a modest success. It literally cut it almost in half.”</p> <p>The expanded matching funds program has been widely praised for elevating the voices of everyday New Yorkers. “Normally, a special election for public advocate would probably be very much of an insider’s race. It would be funded by insiders and people who follow politics closely,” said Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor at Reinvent Albany, a good government advocacy group. “And I think that what putting this legislation into effect now did was incentivized candidates to reach out to ordinary New Yorkers to campaign.” Camarda also expects this momentum to carry forward and that candidates will feel “real pressure” to participate.</p> <p>Many of the candidates who ran for public advocate were also first-time contenders, including Nomiki Konst and Dawn Smalls, who were among the ten candidates on stage at the first official debate in the race, and among the seven candidates at the second official debate.</p> <p>There have been arguments levelled against the public funds system, of course, and it’s hard to predict exactly how it will work for a full-fledged citywide race rather than a truncated special election. Some candidates have said the regulators of the program are sometimes overly harsh and fine them for small, technical violations. Others criticize the cost to taxpayers -- the entire special election is estimated to cost the city around $20 million in administrative and public campaign financing while the annual budget of the public advocate was only about $3.6 million last year. Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who stuck with the old campaign finance rules and came in third in the special election, <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2019/01/02/new-campaign-finance-law-creates-fissure-in-public-advocates-race-769959" target="_blank" rel="noopener">argued</a> that the new system was being pushed through to prevent her from winning, apparently in part because she was transferring a significant sum of funds from her prior campaign account, an advantage more easily mitigated with the new system.</p> <p>But there is otherwise broad agreement that the city’s program is a model to be emulated, as other jurisdictions have done across the country, and it is progressively being improved. “I’m still not done yet,” Kallos said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to clarify that total candidate fundraising was $2.6 million for the special election. It has also been updated to clarify the contribution limits for special elections.&nbsp;</p>
After Reform Commitments, City Council Democrats Appoint Three New Commissioners to Board of Elections 2019-02-28T05:00:00+00:00 2019-02-28T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8318-after-reform-commitments-city-council-democrats-appoint-three-new-commissioners-to-board-of-elections Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/city-council-sp-co-jo.jpg" alt="city council sp co jo" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson (photo: Jeff Reed/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council’s Democratic conference held on Thursday what officials said was its first ever public vote to appoint three new commissioners to the New York City Board of Elections.</p> <p>The BOE is a quasi-city agency, funded in the city budget but governed by state law. It has ten commissioners -- two from every borough, with one each recommended by the Democratic and Republican parties and appointed by the City Council for four-year terms. The board’s executive director is chosen by the commissioners.</p> <p>The three commissioners appointed on Thursday are all women of color -- Patricia Anne Taylor, former president of the Staten Island Women’s Bar Association was appointed as Richmond County Democratic commissioner; Miguelina Camilo, who sits on the board of directors of the Dominican Bar Association, was appointed from the Bronx; and Tiffany Townsend, a Democratic district leader and former senior advisor to Council Speaker Corey Johnson, was appointed from Manhattan.</p> <p>Both Taylor and Townsend will replace commissioners whose terms have already expired and who have been serving as holdovers for more than two years. Townsend will replace Commissioner Alan Schulkin, who was once <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6572-election-commissioner-s-rant-prompts-dispute-over-idnyc-and-voter-id-in-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener">caught on a hidden camera</a> suggesting that New York City’s municipal identification program would exacerbate what he claimed was a problem of rampant voter fraud, of which there is no documented or even anecdotal evidence. When former Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito attempted to confirm her preferred candidate for Schulkin’s seat in 2017, the Council was sued by the Manhattan County Democratic Party, which had nominated a different candidate. The Party dropped the lawsuit after Johnson became speaker and both the candidates previously sought were sidelined for Townsend.</p> <p>The three appointments on Thursday were the first made by Johnson under his speakership and the Democratic conference used the opportunity to push the appointees on several reforms in elections processes and the BOE’s internal culture. The BOE has had a checkered history of administrative failures, most visible during several mismanaged elections in the last few years. Critics have often blamed the board’s patronage hiring process for some of those mistakes while others blame the state’s arcane and immensely complex elections and voting laws.</p> <p>The central point of tension with the City Council has been the Board’s refusal to abide by local legislation, claiming that the Council does not have the jurisdiction to mandate any changes to election administration and that only the state Legislature can force its hand. That tension has played out in various ways in recent years. The Council passed bills allowing online voter registration, mandating the creation of a voter information portal, and a more simple bill that would require the BOE to post signs when a poll site has been moved. The BOE has declined to implement all of them.</p> <p>To push those reforms ahead, the Council Democrats asked the three commissioner candidates to fill out questionnaires pledging support for those changes and also asking them to make merit hires rather than patronage ones. They also asked the commissioners to agree to allow the BOE executive director to unilaterally hire and fire employees rather than having to obtain permission from the commissioners. All three candidates agreed to the pledge, according to Speaker Johnson and other Council members. &nbsp;</p> <p>There was some pushback from Camilo, the Bronx candidate, over the language of the questionnaire, Bronx Council Member Andy Cohen conceded when asked by Gotham Gazette. (Camilo’s appointment was not included on the agenda on the Council’s legislative calendar on Thursday morning that mentioned the other two appointments. It was added before the vote took place sometime before noon.)</p> <p>But Cohen emphasized that Camilo agreed with the concept of the reforms but could not answer in a way that would contravene her duties as mandated by state law. “There are many, many frustrations as a City Council member of where the state has local control that I think is unnecessary, intrusive,” Cohen said in the Council chambers after the vote. “I think that if the city had control of its own Board of Elections, there’s no doubt in my mind we could do a better job.”</p> <p>Manhattan Council Member Ben Kallos, who has long advocated for reforms at the BOE, said the Council’s public vote was “a good step in the right direction.” Kallos was the author of some of the reform bills that formed the basis for the questionnaire to the appointees. “For a long time I’ve been asking the Board of Elections to voluntarily do the right thing and it doesn’t matter if the law says they can get away with patronage, we need to live in a post-patronage world where people are hired based on what they know, not who they know.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/city-council-sp-co-jo.jpg" alt="city council sp co jo" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson (photo: Jeff Reed/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council’s Democratic conference held on Thursday what officials said was its first ever public vote to appoint three new commissioners to the New York City Board of Elections.</p> <p>The BOE is a quasi-city agency, funded in the city budget but governed by state law. It has ten commissioners -- two from every borough, with one each recommended by the Democratic and Republican parties and appointed by the City Council for four-year terms. The board’s executive director is chosen by the commissioners.</p> <p>The three commissioners appointed on Thursday are all women of color -- Patricia Anne Taylor, former president of the Staten Island Women’s Bar Association was appointed as Richmond County Democratic commissioner; Miguelina Camilo, who sits on the board of directors of the Dominican Bar Association, was appointed from the Bronx; and Tiffany Townsend, a Democratic district leader and former senior advisor to Council Speaker Corey Johnson, was appointed from Manhattan.</p> <p>Both Taylor and Townsend will replace commissioners whose terms have already expired and who have been serving as holdovers for more than two years. Townsend will replace Commissioner Alan Schulkin, who was once <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6572-election-commissioner-s-rant-prompts-dispute-over-idnyc-and-voter-id-in-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener">caught on a hidden camera</a> suggesting that New York City’s municipal identification program would exacerbate what he claimed was a problem of rampant voter fraud, of which there is no documented or even anecdotal evidence. When former Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito attempted to confirm her preferred candidate for Schulkin’s seat in 2017, the Council was sued by the Manhattan County Democratic Party, which had nominated a different candidate. The Party dropped the lawsuit after Johnson became speaker and both the candidates previously sought were sidelined for Townsend.</p> <p>The three appointments on Thursday were the first made by Johnson under his speakership and the Democratic conference used the opportunity to push the appointees on several reforms in elections processes and the BOE’s internal culture. The BOE has had a checkered history of administrative failures, most visible during several mismanaged elections in the last few years. Critics have often blamed the board’s patronage hiring process for some of those mistakes while others blame the state’s arcane and immensely complex elections and voting laws.</p> <p>The central point of tension with the City Council has been the Board’s refusal to abide by local legislation, claiming that the Council does not have the jurisdiction to mandate any changes to election administration and that only the state Legislature can force its hand. That tension has played out in various ways in recent years. The Council passed bills allowing online voter registration, mandating the creation of a voter information portal, and a more simple bill that would require the BOE to post signs when a poll site has been moved. The BOE has declined to implement all of them.</p> <p>To push those reforms ahead, the Council Democrats asked the three commissioner candidates to fill out questionnaires pledging support for those changes and also asking them to make merit hires rather than patronage ones. They also asked the commissioners to agree to allow the BOE executive director to unilaterally hire and fire employees rather than having to obtain permission from the commissioners. All three candidates agreed to the pledge, according to Speaker Johnson and other Council members. &nbsp;</p> <p>There was some pushback from Camilo, the Bronx candidate, over the language of the questionnaire, Bronx Council Member Andy Cohen conceded when asked by Gotham Gazette. (Camilo’s appointment was not included on the agenda on the Council’s legislative calendar on Thursday morning that mentioned the other two appointments. It was added before the vote took place sometime before noon.)</p> <p>But Cohen emphasized that Camilo agreed with the concept of the reforms but could not answer in a way that would contravene her duties as mandated by state law. “There are many, many frustrations as a City Council member of where the state has local control that I think is unnecessary, intrusive,” Cohen said in the Council chambers after the vote. “I think that if the city had control of its own Board of Elections, there’s no doubt in my mind we could do a better job.”</p> <p>Manhattan Council Member Ben Kallos, who has long advocated for reforms at the BOE, said the Council’s public vote was “a good step in the right direction.” Kallos was the author of some of the reform bills that formed the basis for the questionnaire to the appointees. “For a long time I’ve been asking the Board of Elections to voluntarily do the right thing and it doesn’t matter if the law says they can get away with patronage, we need to live in a post-patronage world where people are hired based on what they know, not who they know.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>