Gotham Gazette

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Citizens Union

Citizens Union

  • Cuomo Appears to Give Up on Legislature Closing LLC Loophole

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    Gov. Cuomo & his budget director, Robert Mujica (photo: The Governor's Office)


    Gov. Andrew Cuomo appears to have given up on the state Legislature taking action to close the notorious LLC loophole, which allows wealthy donors to subvert campaign finance laws by creating multiple limited liability corporations that can each give more than $60,000 to a candidate’s campaign.

    According to The New York Times, Cuomo said this weekend that it would be up to the public to close the loophole through a constitutional convention.

    In

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  • Hearing Advances Reforms to City Campaign Finance System

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    Council Member Ben Kallos (photo: William Alatriste)


    As Mayor Bill de Blasio is mired in controversy over his fundraising activities and proximity to lobbyists, the City Council is moving on bills to reduce the possibility of ‘pay-to-play’ campaign financing and make significant tweaks to strengthen an already-robust public-matching system.

    The Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations held a hearing on Monday to examine ...

  • Decision Opens New York to Widespread Online Voter Registration

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    AG Schneiderman (photo via AG's office on flickr)


    The office of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued an opinion on Tuesday concluding that online voter registration is permitted by state law.

    The opinion comes as a response to a request sent from Suffolk County to the Attorney General’s office in February for advice on whether implementing online registration, including the use of electronically handwritten signatures, would be allowed under state election law.

    Schneiderman’s go-ahead to

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  • Special Election Results Buoy Hopes for Reform

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    Todd Kaminsky votes for himself Tuesday (photo via @toddkaminsky)


    The polls may be closed but the heated race to replace convicted former Republican Senator Dean Skelos is far from over. Late Tuesday night Assemblymember Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat, declared victory while Republican candidate Chris McGrath refused to concede, saying the race would be decided by absentee ballots. Only 780 votes separate Kaminsky from McGrath and there are over 2,000 outstanding ballots to be counted. Regardless of the results the pair may face off again in November when the

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  • Legislative Days Quickly Dwindle, Intensifying Worry Over Ethics

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    Rally in the capital


    For the past two weeks state legislators have been preoccupied by the New York presidential primary. They’ve been charmed by candidates like Hillary Clinton and John Kasich who’ve come to the capital to pitch their campaigns and ask for support; and by Donald Trump and Ted Cruz who’ve invited them to attend large rallies.

    Legislators have been so distracted that the first two weeks of post-budget session have slipped by without much real legislative action, despite the fact that there is a long list of high-profile issues unsettled in the budget.

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  • Push for a Better Mayor's Management Report Continues

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    The City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations held an oversight hearing on Wednesday to evaluate the structure and content of two annual city reports that measure everything from the wait times on 311 calls and the conditions of city parks to the number of unsheltered homeless people and traffic crashes in the city each year. These key performance indicators help the City Council and the public keep city agencies and offices accountable. Those agencies, in turn, rely on these reports to improve their policies and functioning.

    The administration

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  • Everyone Agrees Albany Needs Ethics Reform, Except the People Who Matter Most

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    Heastie, Cuomo, Flanagan (l-r) (photo via The Governor's Office)


    "Top of my agenda is going to be ethics reform," said Governor Andrew Cuomo, speaking on NY1 on Jan. 3. "We have done a lot in Albany, but we haven't done enough. And I'm going to push the legislature very hard to adopt more aggressive ethics legislation, more disclosure, more enforcement, etcetera."

    While the governor

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  • For State Budget, Leaders Choose 'On Time' Over Open

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    Heastie, Cuomo, Flanagan (l-r), June 2015 (photo via The Governor's Office)


    As negotiations over the state's $150 billion budget sputtered on Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ramped up pressure on legislators to accept a deal. Speaking with reporters, Cuomo implied legislators could jeopardize a potential pay raise if they can't deliver an on-time budget.

    "So they're gonna need to be able to make that case not just to the pay commission but to the people of the State of New York in November when they go to seek re-election," Cuomo said. "So

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  • Several Significant Questions About The Governor's Budget

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    Gov. Cuomo at his State of the State (via The Governor's Office)


    Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2016-2017 budget proposal has legislators and budget experts scratching their heads as to how major capital projects will be paid for, how the state plans to make good on a promise to fund the MTA, and how certain measures might affect funding for New York City. Many are wondering if the governor will keep his pledge that his plan to shift millions in costs for CUNY and Medicaid "won't cost New York City a penny."

    These questions linger almost two months

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  • Special Election Shows Need for Democratization

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    Charles Youn, executive director of KALCA, speaks at a press conference


    Any good democracy should reflect a society’s diversity in its leadership. The undemocratic way in which the 65th Assembly District special election is unfolding should galvanize all communities, particularly underrepresented ones, to push for reforms and encourage underrepresented New Yorkers to be more civically engaged.

    America does not always have accurate and inclusive representation in government. This is especially true in state legislatures. A few weeks ago...

  • Voters to Fill Vacant Bronx Council Seat in Special Election

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    Rafael Salamanca meets voters before Tuesday's election (via @JohnJrBX)


    Residents of District 17 in the Bronx will vote for a new City Council Member on Tuesday in a special election to fill the vacancy left by former Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo, who resigned and the end of last year. As with all special elections for the City Council not held on regularly scheduled election days, it is a nonpartisan contest, meaning no candidate will appear on the major party ballot lines. Instead,

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  • Assembly Reform Group Nears Release of 49-Recommendation Report

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    Assembly Speaker Heastie photo: (Office of the Governor - Kevin P. Coughlin)


    The long wait for recommendations from a group of Democrats charged with finding ways to improve the transparency and democratization of the state Assembly may soon be over. According to Assembly Member Gary Pretlow, co-chair of The Assembly Working Group on Operations, Participation and Transparency, the release of a 49-point report is imminent.

    Pretlow told Gotham Gazette that the the committee's report will be made available after a press release is written

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  • In Albany, Bharara Challenges Lawmakers to Act, Not Enable

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    Preet Bharara (photo: Buck Ennis)


    Asked how he can spur legislators to enact major ethics reforms during his visit to Albany on Monday, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said he has a "particularly blunt incentive...the avoidance of prison." The reminder from Bharara comes as legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are quietly discussing possible ethics reforms behind closed doors--reforms none of them have appeared interested in discussing publicly since Cuomo outlined his platform in his State of the State address last month.

    Speaking before a captive audience, Bharara

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  • Questions Remain as City Council Moves Ahead with Pay Raises, Reforms

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    Council Members Lander, Mark-Viverito, Kallos (l-r) (photo: William Alatriste) 


    At the first and only City Council hearing on a package of legislation that will raise the salaries of all the city’s elected officials and reform how Council members are compensated, the Council was roundly praised for accepting several reforms long sought by good government groups, but criticized both for raising their salaries higher than recommended and for the the timing of the vote.

    The proposed legislation was...

  • City Council Announces Bill to Increase Pay, Reform Position

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    Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (photo: William Alatriste)

     


     

    On Wednesday, Feb. 3, the New York City Council will hold a hearing on legislation outlining salary increases for various city elected officials as well as several good government reforms related to how Council members are compensated. Largely based on the recommendations of an independent commission tasked with outlining the first pay raises since 2006 for the Mayor, City Council members, and other officials, the Council announced the details of its package

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  • Good Government Groups Rate Cuomo's Ethics Package

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    Scene at Gov. Cuomo's State of the State (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


    On Tuesday in Albany, the heads of three major good government groups gave their evaluation of the ethics proposals Gov. Andrew Cuomo included in his State of the State address and budget presentation last week. Susan Lerner of Common Cause, Dick Dadey of Citizens Union and Blair Horner of the New York Public

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  • Once Rife with Problems, City Budget Process Now a Model for State System in Need of Reform

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    Governor Cuomo presents his 2014-2015 Executive Budget


    In 1975 New York City was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, having balanced its budget for years with massive borrowing and shady accounting tricks. Banks were at the point where they would lend no more. Mayor Abe Beame had written the announcement of the city's default. City lawyers were in State Supreme Court filing a petition for bankruptcy and police were prepared to serve

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  • Skelos Conviction Greeted With Calls for Immediate Action on Reform

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    Dean Skelos in 2012, via The Governor's Office on flickr 


    Sen. Dean Skelos and his son Adam Skelos were convicted on eight federal corruption charges Friday. They were found guilty of a scheme where Dean Skelos used his power as Senate Majority Leader to influence companies to employ or pay his son. The conviction comes only a week after that of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on charges that he illegally used his influence for financial gain of $4 million.

    The convictions speak to a larger campaign by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whose

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  • Will Silver Conviction Be Tipping Point for 'Real' Reform?

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    Sheldon Silver in 2012 (photo via the Governor's Office)


    Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, thought to be the most powerful man in New York state government for decades, was found guilty Monday on seven counts of corruption in multiple schemes to monetize the power of his office. During the trial Silver's own defense attorney insisted that Albany itself was on trial and claimed that Silver's behavior was business as usual in Albany,

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  • Commission Considers Raises, Reforms for Elected Compensation

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    The Mayor, Speaker, & Council members (Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)


    Attendance was notably sparse at the first public hearing of the commission charged with making recommendations around compensation for city elected officials.

    Fewer than fifteen people, about half of whom were journalists, went to Brooklyn Law School on November 23 for the Quadrennial Advisory Commission hearing to collect input from the public. Four people testified to urge

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  • Good Government Groups Point to New Evidence of Need for Major Ethics Reform

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    L-R: Silver, Cuomo & Skelos in 2011 (photo via the governor's office) 


    New York's leading good government groups gathered at Manhattan's Foley Square Wednesday to call on the New York State legislature and the governor to take immediate action to reform public ethics laws. The press conference, held in the shadows of a federal courthouse where one of New York’s most

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  • As New Yorkers Go to the Polls, Activists Launch 'Vote Better' Campaign

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    Voter registration efforts (photo: @NYCVotes)


    On Tuesday morning - Election Day - in Manhattan's Foley Square, a large group of New Yorkers will hold a rally, kicking off a campaign to address two of New York's enduring problems: voting access and voter turnout.

    While New York City voters go to the polls Tuesday to fill vacant City Council, District Attorney, and state legislative seats, as well as to vote for judges, a coalition of advocates and activists, including good government and community groups, ...

  • The Week Ahead in New York Politics, October 19

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    New York City Hall


    What to watch for this week in New York politics:

    Mayor Bill de Blasio was in Israel over the weekend, where he spoke at the Annual Conference of Mayors, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, visited recent terror attack victims, and made several other stops, including at the Western Wall and at a school educating a diverse student population. De Blasio spoke against a new wave of anti-Semitism and ...

  • Reform Proposals Fly as Panel Evaluates Ethics Watchdog

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    The governor's office, on the march (photo: Governor's Office via flickr)


    The 2011 law that created the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) to be the top ethics watchdog in the state contained a proviso that the body would be periodically reviewed to find ways to improve its functioning. That mandate fell upon the New York Ethics Review Commission, more commonly known as the JCOPE review commission, which held its first-ever public hearing on Wednesday at New York Law School in downtown Manhattan.

    The forum was sparsely attended with barely 20 people

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  • Despite Unprecedented Scandal, Calls for Special Ethics Session Fall on Deaf Ears

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    Recently convicted former Sen. John Sampson (photo: @SampsonVictory)


    It would reason to think that the conviction of two legislative leaders would lead to a flurry of anti-corruption activity in any state capital. But in Albany, where the new normal appears to involve multiple convictions and indictments of sitting lawmakers every year, last week's crime blotter appears to have barely turned a head. The convictions of Republican Senate Deputy Leader Tom Libous and Democratic Sen. John Sampson, a former Majority Leader, on

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