Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/111 Sat, 21 Sep 2019 22:07:33 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Food Policy Agenda on Menu at City Council Hearing https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8797-food-policy-agenda-on-menu-at-city-council-hearing https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8797-food-policy-agenda-on-menu-at-city-council-hearing corey johnson delivers

Speaker Johnson at food policy speech (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


The City Council is set to consider a number of bills related to food policy at a hearing Wednesday, including a proposal to codify an Office of Food Policy, a month after Council Speaker Corey Johnson unveiled an expansive food equity plan with the creation of the office at its center.

The Council’s Committees on General Welfare, Economic Development, and Education will meet at City Hall Wednesday afternoon to examine a package of 14 bills and two resolutions dealing with nutritional access and public education, urban agriculture, and food waste.

Together the bills touch on many of the planks in Johnson’s nascent food platform, which includes expanding existing food programs and tying economic opportunity to farming and nutrition, all under a comprehensive citywide plan coordinated by a newly empowered Office of Food Policy.

Representatives of the Speaker say Johnson will not be attending the hearing, which is expected to be led by Council Members Stephen Levin, Paul Vallone, and Mark Treyger, who chair the three committees. Other members who are either lead sponsors of the legislation at hand or are members of the committees or otherwise interested will also participate.

A number of prominent stakeholders, like Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Andrea Strong of the NYC Healthy School Food Alliance, plan to testify. A representative of the office of Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services is also expected to speak.

“Food is a human right. Yet in our city — one of the richest in the world — more than 1 million New Yorkers are food insecure and there is inequitable access to fresh and healthy food in many neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs,” Johnson said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “The Council is working to address these gaps with new legislation and budget proposals.”

On August 1, Johnson released a report entitled “Growing Food Equity in New York City,” which outlined the Council’s agenda to combat inequities in accessing nutritional food and ensure the city has a comprehensive food policy responsive to the needs of different demographics like students, seniors, low-income residents, and non-white New Yorkers. Wednesday’s joint hearing will be the first time the bills are discussed in a formal legislative setting.

Johnson is the co-sponsor of two of the bills being considered, including the proposal to establish an Office of Food Policy and one to increase reporting on the city’s food system, whose main sponsors are Ben Kallos and Paul Vallone, respectively. Council Members Kallos, representing the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and Diana Ayala, representing East Harlem and the South Bronx, are co-sponsors of every piece of legislation under review by the committees.

“A lot of these bills are bills on issues we have been working on for quite some time,” Kallos told Gotham Gazette in an interview. “In terms of the overall package, it’s amazing to work with a Speaker who is really empowering so many members -- taking such a large package that is going to do so very much, and sharing it with many members and bringing them into the fight against food insecurity and hunger.”

Under the legislation, the Office of Food Policy would be responsible for developing and coordinating initiatives in four categories: 1. promoting access to healthy food for all city residents; 2. developing support programs to make nutritional food more affordable; 3. expanding reporting in the annual Food System Metrics Report published by the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability; and 4. collaborating with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to update food standards for meals purchased, prepared, or served by city agencies. The director of the office would be appointed by the mayor or the head of a mayoral agency.

There is currently an Office of the Director of Food Policy under the mayor, but the position is vacant. It was previously held by Barbara Turk, who has been serving in another role -- senior advisor at the city’s Administration for Children’s Services -- since April, according to her LinkedIn account.

“We’re hoping to have a director, make sure that that director position is filled, and ensure that they have a directive that spans multiple agencies and that they can hold the agencies accountable,” Kallos told Gotham Gazette.

“We believe that the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy should continue to remain an important asset in the City’s food policy efforts and look forward to discussing these proposals with the Council,” a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio, Avery Cohen, wrote in an email. The mayor’s office did not respond to emails asking when the next director of food policy would be appointed or for information about the hiring process.

The bills being heard Wednesday include measures that would fall under the food policy director’s purview, whether that office is codified into law or not.

One bill, sponsored by Bronx Council Member Vanessa Gibson, would require the office to consult with city agencies, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders in the food system to develop a ten-year plan focused on food equity and insecurity. The plan would set goals to increase access to nutritional foods through existing and newly-developed programs, reduce food waste, and develop the economic conditions surrounding urban agriculture. The Office of Food Policy would be required to report on the progress made toward those goals.

Other bills in the package would establish new governmental bodies to deal with other elements of Johnson’s food platform. One measure sponsored by Bronx Council Member Andrew Cohen would create an advisory board to assess and make recommendations regarding the city’s food procurement policy and to evaluate contract bids. Another, sponsored by Council Member Rafael Espinal of Brooklyn, would create an Office of Urban Agriculture and an accompanying advisory board to develop and report on a plan to protect and expand urban agriculture.

Under the package, community gardens would be partially protected from opposing land-use interests. The city’s reporting and assessment of the community garden system would be centralized and farmer’s markets would be allowed to operate on their premises, making them more economically viable and increasing access to community-produced healthy food.

The package also includes a focus on improving public engagement with the city’s existing food access programs like Health Bucks -- coupons for low-income New Yorkers to use at farmer’s markets -- farm-to-city projects, nutrition programs in schools, and summer meals.

Another theme is reducing food waste in New York. Johnson’s report cites a National Resources Defense Council analysis claiming the average New York City household wastes 8.7 pounds of food per week, of which six pounds are edible at the time of disposal.

One bill sponsored by Council Member Carlina Rivera of Manhattan would require any city agency with food procurement contracts to come up with a plan to limit the amount of food that doesn’t make it to the plate. Under the bill, each agency would be responsible for designating a coordinator to report on its food waste reduction plan and its implementation.

As a whole, the new food plan would require coordination among a myriad of city agencies, like the Human Resources Administration, Department of City Planning, and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, among others. Many of the bills in the package are intended to facilitate or mandate that coordination. Two resolutions call on the state to expand supplemental nutrition assistance benefits, one of which will require action by the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

“A lot of our food programs are spread across multiple agencies and we need somebody focused on them, all working together comprehensively to ensure folks don’t have to deal with hunger or food insecurity,” said Kallos.

***
by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette      

Read more by this writer.

]]>
Food Policy Agenda on Menu at City Council Hearing Tue, 17 Sep 2019 04:00:00 +0000
One Promising Reform with Rare Support from Both the City and Board of Elections, But Little Movement https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8791-promising-reform-board-of-elections-poll-workers https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8791-promising-reform-board-of-elections-poll-workers mayor bdb public

(photo: Edward Reed/Mayor's office)


While city officials and elections administrators clash over what changes the Board of Elections should make to improve operations and the voting experience, one widely-supported option the city could pursue sits on the back-burner.

A municipal poll workers program would allow the Board of Elections to hire Election Day poll workers from a pool of city employees, significantly reducing the hiring and training burdens for administrators and helping to ensure poll sites are more effectively staffed.

The proposal is an unusual point of agreement among the city Board of Elections, the City Council, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and good government advocates, who have all indicated varying levels of support for it, and it is one voting policy the city can enact without action in Albany. It would still require compromises, not only between the de Blasio administration and the BOE, but with the city’s politically active municipal labor unions as well.

The mayor and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who have been highly critical of the BOE’s performance, have both said that poll worker hiring and training is among the top priorities they would like to see the board take up. Michael Ryan, the board’s executive director, has repeatedly highlighted a municipal poll workers program as a powerful tool the BOE would like to have at its disposal to better run elections.

“I would like to take this opportunity to renew the Board’s request to enter into a partnership with New York City to develop a robust municipal-workers-as-poll-workers program,” Ryan told Johnson and other Council members at an oversight hearing following the general election last November. Johnson said he was “open to that” but emphasized alternatives he would like to see the board pursue to address training and staffing shortages.

Election Day is perennially plagued by mishaps like jammed ballot scanners and long lines of voters, created or compounded by overworked poll site staff who are not necessarily experienced in liaising with constituents or quickly moving voters through the process, or equipped to handle some of the more technical problems that can arise. Currently, the BOE struggles to recruit the roughly 36,000 temporary poll workers needed to staff a general election day. In part to help fill those positions, the board requires applicants to have few professional qualifications beyond a mandatory four-hour training.

The board currently finds candidates through referrals from local political party organizations, subway ads, a CUNY initiative to recruit students who typically have the day off, and other such avenues. Despite these sources, turnover is high.

Since 2016, the mayor and City Council have offered the BOE $20 million to improve its operations, including $10 million to expand poll worker training, recruitment strategies, and salaries, which the board has repeatedly turned down. Faced with resistance from Ryan, de Blasio has expressed some interest in working with the BOE on a municipal poll workers program, but is also frustrated with the lack of cooperation on his preferred approach.

When asked about the program at a press conference in April, the mayor told reporters, “Look, we’re happy to work with them on any approach that will improve things, but that’s exactly why we offered them the $20 million.”

Jose Bayona, a mayoral spokesperson, affirmed that sentiment in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “We’re committed to having fully staffed polling locations, which is why we’ve offered the BOE $20 million for necessary reforms, including increased staffing. In the meantime, we are exploring whether there is a path forward for a municipal poll workers program in New York City,” he wrote in an email.

Johnson took a tone similar to de Blasio’s when Ryan raised the issue at the November oversight hearing -- frustrated by the BOE’s rejection of city funding, but willing to discuss alternatives. More recently a spokesperson for the Speaker expressed explicit support for a municipal poll workers program to Gotham Gazette, but is not aware of any specific proposals being discussed by the administration. The spokesperson added that it is clear to Johnson that the city needs a robust plan to ensure proper election administration, including staffing at poll sites.

Ryan was hired by the board’s commissioners who are chosen by county party officials and enjoys a high degree of insulation from the mayor’s or Council’s influence. Because they are limited in their ability to compel the board, which is an entity of state law, to take action, de Blasio and Johnson have sought to use the city budget to incentivize reforms. But they have clashed with Ryan over how to spend the money and the best approach to staffing poll sites.

Hovering in the background of this dispute is the possibility of finding common ground on a municipal poll workers program. That would require coordination among city agencies and negotiations with municipal unions, which have never been pursued under de Blasio, according to Bayona.

Under the supervision of poll site coordinators, poll workers are responsible for looking up names and addresses in the voter rolls, distributing ballots, and directing voters to ballot reading machines. They work long hours -- over 16 hours, from 5 a.m. to after 9 p.m. -- and are paid $250 for the day, plus $100 to attend the required four-hour training, according to a BOE spokesperson.

The long hours and low pay make it difficult for the board to recruit and retain poll workers in the leadup to an election. According to a New York Times report, 70 percent of potential poll workers recruited by the board drop out before Election Day. A municipal poll workers program would allow the BOE to supplement its hiring with vetted city employees who have experience providing government services.

"They’re dealing with the challenges of hiring 35,000 poll workers, which is essentially a temporary job that is a couple of days per year. So you’re not going to get the best and the brightest,” said Alex Camarda, senior policy analyst for the good government group Reinvent Albany. “If you tap the city’s employees...you’re going to get a much more qualified workforce that at least in theory is used to dealing with people, because they do so at their agencies every day.”

“A lot of the problems would be solved by having city employees work as poll workers, or at least some poll workers,” he added.

Because it is illegal for municipal employees to be paid twice for one day of work -- like being paid by the BOE at the same time that they are on the clock at their primary city job -- the path forward would require a change in the law or a provision in municipal employee contracts.

“So then the question is how to handle it. Is it appropriate to give an additional vacation or personal comp time day in order to balance that out,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of the government watchdog Common Cause New York, in an interview.

“That’s a collective bargaining question, which so far it is my understanding the city has not taken up with the unions,” she added.

There are roughly 332,000 full-time city employees, according to Citizens Budget Commission, most of which are represented by unions, such as District Council 37, United Federation of Teachers, and the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association.

The BOE has also been reticent to allow part-time poll workers to handle problems with ballot scanners -- which are prone to jamming and a major contributor to poll site chaos -- because of the technical expertise required to deal with the machines. Ryan says having an additional team of municipal employees dedicated specifically to clearing simple jams would go far. He has sought a model similar to Los Angeles County’s.

“One of the direct fixes that we can do is have steady staff at the poll sites who are there simply to clear what I am going to refer to as the ‘top-side’ ballot jams,” he told Johnson at the November hearing. “So if a ballot does jam it can be cleared quickly, as opposed to relying on a team of field technicians to have to be dispatched from one location to another.”

If the mayoral administration was interested in pursuing a municipal poll workers program through municipal employee contract negotiations, nothing in the law would prevent it from doing so.

“As a general matter, at present public servants are permitted to work as election day poll workers and translators; they do not require waivers of Chapter 68, the City’s conflicts of interest law, to do so,” wrote Chad Gholizadeh, assistant counsel at the Conflicts of Interest Board. COIB does not have any specific guidance related to poll workers in the rules it has promulgated.

One obstacle the city may face in creating a municipal employee poll worker program is the level of political activity by labor unions in New York. Unions often back candidates and encourage their members to participate in get-out-the-vote campaigns in the leadup to and on Election Day. Having city employees working for the BOE at the polls means they would not be available to do the type of electioneering their unions may endorse.

"We’d have any conversation with [the BOE] but again I find it a little contradictory that we had an approach that would start to address that issue while still allowing city workers to do the work that they are doing – there wasn’t even interest in engaging that seriously," de Blasio said at the April press conference.

Council Member Ben Kallos, who has sponsored legislation on BOE hiring practices, does not believe union political activity has been a consideration for DC37, the city’s largest municipal employee union. “They and their members are just so about the public service and I have never heard a concern that they would prefer to have their members out in the field. For them it’s just about what else can we do to help our city,” he told Gotham Gazette.

Kallos says for DC37 “the only question they had was a logistics question,” like whether the compensation is appropriate and how it would affect time off.

DC37 did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story. Three other unions representing city employees contacted by Gotham Gazette would not weigh in on a municipal poll workers program.

“We have not seen any details and have taken no position,” wrote Dick Riley, a spokesperson for the United Federation of Teachers, in an email, and the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association declined to comment.

Gregory Floyd, president of Teamsters Local 237, which represents employees of NYCHA, CUNY, and some city agencies, told Gotham Gazette the union would not take a position on a municipal poll workers program without seeing specific proposal details.

He did, however, offer the city some advice: “They need to find qualified people wherever they can.”

***
by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette      

Read more by this writer.

]]>
One Promising Reform with Rare Support from Both the City and Board of Elections, But Little Movement Sun, 15 Sep 2019 04:00:00 +0000
First Responder Mental Health; NYPD Status Report; Climate Strike; & More: The Week Ahead in New York Politics, September 16 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8793-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-september-16 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8793-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-september-16 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

Mayor Bill de Blasio begins the week in South Carolina, where he has been campaigning for president over the past few days. De Blasio is set to return to the city Monday evening. De Blasio missed another annual event he has traditionally attended when on Sunday the African American Day Parade took place without him; he's previously missed the Puerto Rican and Dominican Day Parades while campaigning for the Democratic nomination and polling at 1% or under.

After missing the cutoff for last week's Democratic primary debate, de Blasio has said that if on October 1 he doesn't meet the requirements for the October debate, he will reassess his campaign. He needs 130,000 individual donors to his campaign and to hit 2% in four different national polls considered qualifying by the Democratic National Committee. There were 10 candidates in Thursday night's debate, which had the same qualifying thresholds, and it looks like at least one or two more might make the October debate, meaning it will be over two nights instead of one.

De Blasio, New Yorkers, and others will see a sharp contract to the mayor's struggling campaign on Monday evening when, as de Blasio is returning from campaign events in front of small gatherings of people in South Carolina, Senator Elizabeth Warren will be giving a major speech in Washington Square Park that is likely to draw thousands of people.

In government news, as the week begins we're following the developing story of how city and state government are moving to combat increasing use of electonic nicotine, otherwise known as vaping or e-cigarettes. The City Council has been considering two related bills that include a ban flavored e-cigarettes, which recently received support from Speaker Johnson, but on Sunday, Governor Andrew Cuomo took "emergency executive action to ban the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes in New York State - the latest in a series of actions to combat the increasing number of youth using vape products."

This week includes a variety of interesting and important hearings and other events -- see details and the day-by-day rundown below -- including a City Council hearing on mental health among first responders that takes place amid a spike in police officer suicides. NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill will also give a speech at an event Thursday morning, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson will co-host a town hall in Manhattan with Council Member Keith Powers, Brooklyn City Council Member Carlos Menchaca will hold a public event to solicit feedback as he considers whether to agree to a rezoning of Industry City in his district, and much more.

We're also awaiting details of the MTA's next five-year capital plan, which is being quietly crafted behind the scenes as the deadline for the MTA Board to pass it is coming up soon. The plan is expected to outline more than $30 billion in spending over the next five years on signal upgrades, new subway cars, investments in the commuter rails, and much more.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday, September 16
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie will continue his annual statewide tour in Cortland and Tompkins Counties on Monday.

At 9 a.m. Monday, Comptroller Scott Stringer will host a roundtable discussion on his “NYC Under 3” childcare proposal at United Neighborhood Houses in Manhattan.

At 9 a.m. Monday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams will deliver remarks at NYU Tandon Conference on Energy & Mobility in conjunction with the Berlin Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the German American Chamber. At 6 p.m., Adams will host "a public forum on Clark Street subway station renovations with Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon, State Senator Brian Kavanagh, and Congress Member Nydia Velázquez" at Saint Francis College.

On Monday art 10 a.m., "The Committee on Standards and Ethics will continue its disciplinary hearing concerning Council Member Andy King. Please note this meeting is in executive session and will be closed to the public."

At 10 a.m. Monday, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs will join ArtBridge and Google to celebrate the first public artwork installed under the City Canvas pilot initiative at the Dr. Gertrude B. Kelly Playground.

At 11 a.m. Monday, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will announce the 2019 Police Officers of the Year at Syracuse Police Department. At 6:15 p.m., Hochul will announce the top teams for the Buffalo Skyway Corridor Competition.

At 11 a.m. Monday, the Joint Senate Task Force on Opioids, Addiction and Overdose Prevention will hold a public meeting at St. Johns’ Staten Island campus “to hear from stakeholders on strategies for reducing overdoses, improving individual and community health, and addressing the harmful consequences of drug use.”

At 1 p.m., State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli will hold a press conference at Schenectady Fire Station to release his latest Smart Tech report. He will be joined by Mayor Gary McCarthy, Assemblymember Angelo Santabarbara, and representatives from National Grid. Afterward, DiNapoli will attend the ABLE Information Session with Assemblymember Santabarbara at the Schenectady County Public Library.

At 5 p.m. Monday, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams will honor Congressional Rep. John Lewis at the FBA SDNY 2019 Presidential Rule of Law Award Ceremony. Williams will present Lewis with "a proclamation in recognition of his work that spans decades, as the Federal Bar Association SDNY Chapter honors him with the 2019 Presidential Rule of Law Award."

At 7 p.m. Monday, presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren will deliver a speech “on how corruption in Washington has allowed the rich and powerful to tilt the rules and grow richer and more powerful. The speech will be at Washington Square Park, near the site of the former Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.” Warren has been endorsed by a number of local city officials, including Comptroller Scott Stringer and City Council Members Brad Lander, Antonio Reynoso, and Jimmy Van Bramer.

At 6 p.m. Monday, City & State NY will hold its 2019 Bronx Power 100 reception. Speakers will include Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and New York City Health + Hospitals Vice President Theodore Long.

At 6 p.m. Monday, City Council Member Carlos Menchaca will host a community conversation, “Should Sunset Park Rezone Industry City?” at Sunset Park High School.

The 2019 New York City Charter Revision Commission will hold an information session at John Jay School of Criminal Justice about its ballot proposals from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Monday.

U.S. Sentaor Kirsten Gillibrand will appear on NY1's Inside City Hall Monday evening in the 7 and 11 p.m. hours.

At 7 p.m. Monday, Comptroller Scott Stringer will host a celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Tuesday, September 17
The 74th session of the UN General Assembly begins Tuesday in Manhattan.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie will continue his annual statewide tour Tuesday with stops in Liverpool, Fayetteville, and Manlius.

At 8:15 a.m. Tuesday, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson will appear live on “PIX 11 Morning News.” At 9:45 a.m., Johnson will deliver remarks at a rally in support of his streets master plan bill with Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives, at 250 Broadway.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall, "Mayor de Blasio will present the Alvarez family with a Key to the City to honor the late Detective Luis Alvarez." "In the afternoon, the Mayor will travel to Pennsylvania. He will return to New York City in the evening."

At the City Council on Tuesday:
--At 10 a.m., the Committee on Veterans will hold an oversight hearing about VetConnect NYC.
--At 10 a.m., the Committee on Finance will hold a hearing on several bills.
--At 1 p.m., the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations will hold an oversight hearing on the Diversity in Cultural Institutions as part of the Cultural affairs’ diversity study.
--At 1 p.m., the Committee on Public Safety, the Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities and Addiction, and the Committee on Fire and Emergency Management will meet jointly for an oversight hearing on “Preventing Suicide and Promoting Mental Health for First Responders” and to discuss related legislation.

At 11 a.m. Tuesday, the State Legislative Commission on Rural Resources and Assembly Committee on Local Governments will hold a public hearing on “rural broadband” to “identify current broadband needs in rural New York State.”

At 11 a.m. Tuesday, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams will hold a press conference on "National Grid denying service to New Yorkers. The Public Advocate will join constituents, elected officials, and advocates to condemn National Grid's efforts to deny service to New Yorkers via a moratorium and their attempts to make those affected lobby on behalf of the Williams pipeline." The event will occur outside the National Grid Brooklyn office. At 5:30 p.m., Williams will join a "Day of Action on the New Public Charge Rule" in the Bronx, joining "advocates to distribute information and raise awareness of the new public charge rules, and to engage with communities about the census, citizenship and voter registration."

At noon, Crain’s New York Business will host its Most Powerful Women in New York luncheon. Speakers will include Andrea Stewart-Cousins, majority leader of the New York State Senate; Mary Ann Tighe, CEO of the New York tri-state region CBRE; LaRay Brown, CEO of One Brooklyn Health System Inc. and Interfaith Medical Center; and Mary Callahan Erdoes, CEO of Wealth and Asset Management at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

At 5:30 p.m., Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and the New York Immigration Coalition will host a Queens town hall on the “public charge” rule at Queens Borough Hall.

On Tuesday evening, the city Department of Design and Construction is holding a public hearing on the East Side Coastal Resiliency project. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will be among those who testify.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday in Brooklyn, Senator Zellnor Myrie is hosting "Census 2020: Crown Heights Counts."

The 2019 New York City Charter Revision Commission will hold an information session at the College of Staten Island, informing voters about its ballot proposals, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

On Tuesday evening, City Council Member Keith Powers and Council Speaker Corey Johnson are hosting a town hall meeting, 6:30 p.m. at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Wednesday, September 18
At the City Council on Wednesday:
--At 9:30 a.m., the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet.
--At 10 a.m., the Committee on Aging will hold an oversight hearing about protecting seniors from extreme heat and cold.
--At 10 a.m., the Committee on Civil and Human Rights will meet on several pieces of legislation.
--At 1 p.m., the Committee on Hospitals will meet on two bills, including one that requires medical schools to train all students about “implicit bias.”
--At 1 p.m., the Committee on Economic Development, the Committee on Education, and the Committee on General Welfare will jointly meet on several bills related to healthy eating and lifestyles, among other related topics.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the State Public Campaign Financing Commission will hold a public hearing at the Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany.

At 5 p.m. Wednesday, this week’s Max & Murphy show will air on WBAI radio, 99.5 FM and wbai.org, and feature a conversation with Steve Banks, the commissioner for the New York City Department of Social Services, focused on homelessness and other aspects of his portfolio.

At 6 p.m., the New York City Panel for Educational Policy will hold a meeting at the High School of Fashion Industries.

The 2019 New York City Charter Revision Commission will hold an information session at the Andrew Freedman Home in the Bronx, informing voters about its ballot proposals, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Thursday, September 19
At 8 a.m. Thursday, the Association for a Better New York will host a breakfast with NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill: “The commissioner will highlight the challenges of sustaining New York's historic crime reductions amid an evolving political climate, and examine public safety as a responsibility shared by everyone who lives and works in our nation's safest city.”

At 8:30 a.m. Thursday at New York Law School, a forum, “Seismic Shifts or Natural Progression? Recent Changes in NYC Real Estate.” Panelists include Louise Carroll, commissioner of NYC Housing Preservation and Development; Lisa Gomez, COO and partner at L+M Development Partners; Brenda Rosen, CEO of Breaking Ground; and James Whelan, President of REBNY.

At City Council on Thursday: At 10 a.m., the Committee on Youth Services will hold an oversight hearing on DYCD’s Adult Literacy Program and discuss a bill that would require bilingual after-school programs.

At 10 a.m. Thursday, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli will attend the grand opening of Hamaspik Home Care, located in Brooklyn.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, the Manhattan Institute will host a panel titled “Future of Families in the Childless City,” focusing on New York City’s declining birth rate and the attributing causes including “pricey housing, poor schooling, declining public safety, and unwelcoming public spaces.” The panel will include Nolan Gray of the city Department of City Planning; Brad Hargreaves, Chief Executive Officer, Common; Kay Hymowitz of the Manhattan Institute and City Journal; and Derek Thompson of The Atlantic.

Friday, September 20
At 10 a.m. Friday, Mayor de Blasio may make his weekly appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show.

The Climate Action Strike will take place Friday in New York City and across the country.  It is part of a movement to raise awareness about environmental degradation and climate change, scheduled for just ahead of the September 23 United Nations Climate Action Summit. Additionally, the New York City Department of Education announced that schools will excuse absences of participating students.

***
Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: bmax@gothamgazette.com (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

***
by Ben Max & Gia Ramesh
@GothamGazette

]]>
First Responder Mental Health; NYPD Status Report; Climate Strike; & More: The Week Ahead in New York Politics, September 16 Sun, 15 Sep 2019 04:00:00 +0000
The Mayor's Missing Pen https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8784-the-mayors-missing-pen-de-blasio-city-council-veto https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8784-the-mayors-missing-pen-de-blasio-city-council-veto mayor bdb pieces

(photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


Many New Yorkers are expressing frustration at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s lack of attention to his job as he travels around the country campaigning for president. But his laid-back attitude toward the mayoralty manifested itself long before he announced his presidential candidacy.

One particularly illustrative and significant aspect of the job that he has neglected is his role in the legislative process. 

First, a quick refresher on how, pursuant to the City Charter, a bill becomes a law in New York City: 

-If passed by a majority of the City Council, it is sent to the mayor, who signs the bill into law.

-If the mayor takes no action within 30 days of receipt, the bill automatically becomes law without a mayoral signature (“lapses” into law).

-If during the requisite period the mayor vetoes a bill, the veto can be overridden by a vote of two-thirds of the Council and it then becomes law without further action by the mayor. (City Charter Section 37)

The potential of a mayoral veto, even if it can be overridden, creates a healthy tension that serves as a check on overreach by the Council.  By the same token, the potential of a veto override by the Council restrains the mayor from excessive use of the veto pen to block legislation that has widespread support. Thus, the process established in the City Charter creates a checks-and-balances relationship between the executive and legislative branches and requires a level of engagement by both branches in the adoption of new laws. 

But in his more than five-and-a-half years as mayor, de Blasio has not vetoed a single bill of the more than 1,000 adopted by the City Council during his time in office. He has not even publicly threatened to veto a bill as an expression of his dissatisfaction with any single one of the barrage of bills that have been introduced (and enacted) during that time.

In contrast, during his three terms in office, Michael Bloomberg vetoed and was overridden on 70 bills out of the total of 987 passed by the Council. 

When asked about not vetoing any bills the mayor’s response has been that his team negotiates and helps craft virtually all the adopted bills. There are some high-profile examples, especially related to the NYPD, e.g. the Criminal Justice Reform Act. He would probably also argue that the administration has been able to deter certain legislation, such as the bill to criminalize police chokeholds and the Small Business Jobs Act, though it's not clear if it's the administration or the Council speaker’s office that has been most responsible for sidetracking certain bills. But even in the Bloomberg years, when the mayor and Council speaker were clearly working hand in glove, there were still some vetoes.

Moreover, if de Blasio has played a key role in shaping so much legislation, it is difficult to explain why he has allowed the vast majority of bills passed during his terms to become law without his signature by letting the 30-day time period expire with no action on his part. Wouldn’t he want to associate himself with and take credit for all of the bills he helped shape by signing them into law?

The number of unsigned laws that have lapsed into law has grown from 5 out of 62 adopted in 2014 to a whopping 177 out of 223 passed in 2018.

Of the 156 bills passed by the Council so far in 2019 (as of August 23) the mayor signed only four! By comparison, Bloomberg signed all but 40 of the bills passed during his three terms. 

Meanwhile, it is important to ask: haven’t there been cases in which city commissioners hired by the mayor have been opposed to Council bills (whether or not they’ve been allowed to state their dissatisfaction publicly) that they feel are unduly intrusive, costly or burdensome?

For example, surely some of the 845 reports required of city government entities, many through Council legislation, are regarded as inappropriate or unnecessary by agency heads, yet there has been no pushback by the mayor against these requirements when new ones have been added during his tenure.

Not only is this laissez-faire approach bad for morale among agency leaders, but it encourages Council members to introduce legislation on anything and everything because, well, why not? From 2014-2017, during 40 months of legislative session, 1,540 bills were introduced in the City Council; it has taken only 16 months since the 2018 session began to hit the same number of new bills. This volume of legislation is unprecedented.

Is it the case that there is a much more pressing need for City Council legislation now than there has ever been before? Or has the hands-off approach to the legislative process by this mayor led to an aggressive and “anything goes” spirit among Council members?

Let us hope that after the mayor drops out of the presidential race he will give more time and attention to exerting a restraining influence on the proliferation of proposed bills and local laws.

***
Carol Kellermann was president of Citizens Budget Commission from 2008 through 2018.

 

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

 

]]>
The Mayor's Missing Pen Wed, 11 Sep 2019 04:00:00 +0000
New York's Election Administration Accountability Vacuum - Part II: Partisanship, Patronage & Potential Fixes https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8786-new-york-s-election-administration-accountability-vacuum-part-ii-partisanship-patronage-potential-fixes https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8786-new-york-s-election-administration-accountability-vacuum-part-ii-partisanship-patronage-potential-fixes mayor bdb voting

(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


This is part two of a two-part series. Read part one: New York's Election Administration Accountability Vacuum: ‘Bad Choices at Every Step'

New York City’s Board of Elections, the maligned ten-member commission responsible for overseeing the administration of voting in the five boroughs, has been the subject of criticism for decades owing to inefficiency and ineffectiveness that often characterize its operations. At the root of the many problems the Board of Elections has in managing voter rolls, poll sites, and other aspects of its domain, are partisanship, patronage, and, as some put it, collusion between the two major parties in order to protect the politically powerful at the expense of regular voters.

The commissioners of the board are appointed by the City Council, but only from selections made by Democratic and Republican party leaders in each borough, giving the major parties ultimate control over election administration and limiting public accountability.

Michael Ryan, the board’s executive director since 2013, receives the harshest censure from elected officials and voters who are frustrated by recurring election failures, but he is accountable almost exclusively to the commissioners who hired and alone can fire him. Nevertheless, he answers questions before the City Council and State Legislature in oversight hearings following each election cycle, where he alternately apologizes for unforeseen circumstances or asserts the limits of his authority to address them.

Reform advocates say the board’s accountability problems stem from its bipartisan structure and a lack of professionalized staff and management. State law requires an even number of commissioners from each of the two parties earning the most votes serve on the board, each checking the actions of the other. In New York City, the board is balanced with a Democrat and Republican from each borough.

While the bipartisanship was intended as a reform to keep election administration fair over a century ago, many say it has led to the entrenchment of political parties and allows the board to operate as a patronage mill, awarding party loyalty over competence, with little concern for achieving the most inclusive and effective democracy possible. The results are administrative blunders -- failing ballot scanners, purged voter rolls, a lack of interpreters and signage at poll sites -- that can deter and even disenfranchise voters.

When Ryan attends oversight hearings at City Hall and in state hearing rooms he has the opportunity to explain these failures but is not otherwise compelled to fix them.

Partisan, or Non-Partisan, Election Administration
The idea of partisan representation in voting administration as a safeguard to the democratic process is highly disputed. One of the biggest criticisms is that power is concentrated in the hands of too few, and leaves unaffiliated voters, so-called third parties, and even rank-and-file major-party voters without a voice in election administration.

Over one million registered voters in New York City -- about one in five -- are not affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties. Statewide, nearly 3.5 million registered voters, roughly a third of the total, are not affiliated with either major party.

“If you’re going to have partisans run elections, then you should account for the actual partisanship of the electorate, which is not limited to the two major parties,” Benjamin noted, adding that he is opposed partisan election administration.

Jessica Thurston, communications director of New Kings Democrats, a reform-focused Democratic club in Brooklyn, believes the problem has less to do with partisanship and more to do with county party leaders controlling appointments. The process, she told Gotham Gazette, should be more inclusive of rank-and-file members with the goal of being “representative of the [Democratic] electorate, in as great a proxy as we can summon.”

There are alternative forms of election administration, but they carry their own risks. Thirty-four states have a single administrator -- often called the secretary of state -- who is either elected, appointed by the governor, or selected by the legislature to run elections, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures website.

“I have never been persuaded that there’s an easy solution to this because...there have been multiple instances of politicized secretary of states’ offices around election administration,” said Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor at the good government group Reinvent Albany.

“In 2000, during the controversial Bush v. Gore election, Katherine Harris was the secretary of state in Florida and her name became infamous with politicization of the recount process,” he added. More recently, then-secretary of state for Georgia, Republican Brian Kemp, was accused of suppressing minority voters leading up to his 2018 election as governor over Democrat Stacey Abrams, who has still refused to formally concede the race.

Patronage
The city Board of Elections is one of a few places where “old style political party control of appointments and resources” -- the type used by party machines to influence voting in the era of Tammany Hall -- still thrives in New York, according to Ester Fuchs of Columbia University, a former Bloomberg administration official. “It’s sort of ironic that it’s concentrated in the Board of Elections, where you want ‘nonpartisanship’ and ‘professionalism’ to be the bywords, not ‘party control.’”

‘Professionalism’ is a common refrain for modern reformers who are wary of a patronage system that rewards party loyalty and connections over qualifications.

“Why is it because you’re a political leader that you can’t pick somebody very competent,” asked Frank Seddio, the leader of the Brooklyn Democratic Party. “Who would decide who those nonpartisan people should be that get hired?”

“What method would he choose?,” he asked of a hypothetical nonpartisan appointment authority.

One solution reformers have proposed is for commissioners and the staff they hire to be professional civil servants like at other city agencies -- subject to competitive hiring and screening by the city -- with the hiring entity also held responsible by other parts of government and the public.

“A lot of times the county election commissioners are the county party chairs, or their wives, or their cousins. So it turns out it’s used as a way for giving financial support to a person who spends most of their time on partisan activities,” according to Gerald Benjamin of SUNY New Paltz.

Some feel the bigger problem is the patronage concentrated in the lower ranks of the elections bureaucracy, like the coordinators and part-time employees needed to certify the voter rolls and manage polling locations in the lead-up to and on election days.

“It’s a patronage mill particularly for the people at the bottom who are probably getting minimum wage or very slightly above,” said Esmeralda Simmons, a veteran election lawyer and founder of the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn.

State law gives Ryan the discretion to hire the staff of the city Board of Elections under the supervision of the commissioners, with deference to the two-party split, which the board interprets as extending throughout the agency’s ranks. The lack of accountability “arises out of a particular portion of the law that gives the board absolute, unreviewable discretion regarding who to hire,” according to Lerner. “Now that’s clearly designed to protect patronage.”

Ryan told Gotham Gazette in 2017 that the BOE, according to state law, cannot question the credentials of workers forwarded by district leaders. “It’s up to the local party’s discretion who they want to designate and it’s not for us to question,” he said.

The hiring procedures based on party affiliation and the low pay means the board is often hiring under-qualified candidates who have limited employment options. “They only got the job because a district leader or the county leader asked for them to be hired, otherwise they never would be there,” according to Simmons.

“It has nothing to do with intelligence, but it does have a lot to do with where you can get a job,” she added.

Experts say the patronage leads to inefficiencies and limits the capacity of the city Board of Elections. “These are not professional civil servants that can be easily removed…[nor is there] any kind of broad based accountability to somebody who is elected, like a mayor or even a member of the City Council,” said Fuchs.

The outcome is a system that is antiquated and resistant to change, she said, and inefficiencies contribute to mishaps in election processes, especially at the polls.

Inefficiencies
At the city Board of Elections operations are largely paper-based, a surprise to many observers who have seen government agencies across the board embrace digital technologies. While acknowledging the importance of paper ballots to protect the integrity of elections against cybersecurity threats, reform advocates have pushed for a process of fully online voter registration.

The State Legislature passed a law earlier this year to allow the use of electronic poll books, rather than cumbersome and limited paper books, which many view as essential to implementing the new early voting process that was also approved.

Another commonly cited problem is that poll workers are overworked and under-trained leading to disorganization and misinformation on election days. Poll workers navigating large poll books by hand is often cited as a contributor to long lines and confusion at poll sites. But there are new concerns about whether poll workers will be trained well enough in the use of electronic books for the new technology to be as effective as intended.

Ryan has asked for, and Council Speaker Johnson and Mayor de Blasio have expressed openness toward, a municipal poll worker program to help recruit the tens of thousands of vetted employees needed to staff poll sites on election days. The program would require a partnership with city agencies and raises collective bargaining questions, which it appears the city has not tackled.

Since the State Legislature passed a series of voting reforms this year, like early voting and voter registration transfers, reformers and administrators alike have been concerned about the board’s capacity to roll these out effectively.

“I don’t think [the Board of Elections is] really trying to adversely impact elections,” said Fuchs. “They can’t roll out the whole thing more efficiently than they are proposing because they don’t have the capacity and they don’t want to let go of control,” she said referring to the BOE’s plan to open just 38 early voting sites despite the city’s offer to fund 100 locations.

For Simmons, it comes down to a “basic question: If the operations don’t work, how are the elections working? They are not...Let’s see how they do with all of these great good government improvements still within the same system.”

There is a feeling among reformers that, if the board is not required to act by law, it will not implement changes to improve the voter experience. Attempts have been made to encourage the city Board of Elections to improve poll worker staffing, increase accessibility, and conduct more comprehensive voter outreach. Mayor de Blasio and the City Council have offered the board significant additional city funding to implement some of these, which it has turned down.

A major issue for advocates is language access. Simmons’ center, along with other groups, has been pushing the Board of Elections to provide non-English materials at poll sites. “The only time the Board of Elections would translate materials is when the Justice Department required them to do it -- this is real, this is still happening -- even if they knew there was a large population that did not speak English,” she said, referring to events within the last decade.

An Agency of the City?
What makes failed attempts for accountability and improvement so frustrating to reformers is that the city Board of Elections appears to be a city agency in many senses, yet it operates largely beyond the influence of the mayor and City Council.

The city funds the board’s budget almost entirely, according to Bernard O’Brien, a senior budget analyst at the Independent Budget Office; and the City Council technically appoints its commissioners (though it doesn’t ‘select’ them). An informal opinion issued by the state attorney general in 1989 determined “the Board is a local agency.”

But boards of elections are ultimately given their authority by state law. “Any powers the city enjoys are really delegated powers,” said Joseph Viteritti, chair of the Urban Policy and Planning Department at Hunter College.

While state law outlines its general format and obligations, it gives considerable authority to localities. The election law is structured so that local laws still apply unless they are explicitly prohibited by the state. There are also provisions of the municipal home rule law that give the city authority to deal with aspects of voting and elections.

For example, lower and appellate courts have upheld the city’s campaign finance law as a valid exercise of the city’s home rule powers, according to Rick Schaffer, chair of the city Campaign Finance Board, which is nonpartisan. (The city campaign finance system is more robust and extensive than the state’s regulations, which were established in the same provision that created the State Board of Elections as an oversight body in 1974.)

The same process that established the city’s campaign finance system -- a charter revision commission -- will place a new voting system known as ranked-choice voting on the ballot this November. If voters approve it, the city charter will be amended and the Board of Elections will have to implement the changes.

Yet, despite the city’s enormous political and fiduciary interest in election administration, many argue city elected officials have limited tools with which to compel action. Short of offering funding in exchange for certain obligations, deputizing the (new) chief democracy officer to work with the board, or empanelling a charter revision commission, the city has few options. “This mayor and this Council I think have done a lot, particularly the mayor, to try to encourage the board [of elections] to perform better,” Camarda of Reinvent Albany told Gotham Gazette.

Not everyone agrees. Some advocates feel that one of those tools -- the city’s budget authority, and the use of binding terms and conditions -- is not being employed effectively to direct the actions of the board. “Other counties use the budget to rein in or prohibit the board from doing unacceptable things. Our city does not,” according to Lerner. “And I think again it’s because of the political nature of the body.”

Ryan’s arrival in City Hall after the general election provided reformers a tiny foothold on which to seek accountability, even from the Council. “If there is a problem, if the Council has passed a law that the Board of Elections is not following, and the Board of Elections refuses to follow it after negotiations and various requests, frankly, the city is going to have to sue because otherwise the law is useless,” Lerner told the Council members assembled.

"What we have is a showgame,” she said in an interview with Gotham Gazette, “where elected officials are more than happy to criticize the board publicly, but are not doing anything effective to rein it in."

[This is part two of a two-part series. Revisit part one here.]

***
by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette      

Read more by this writer.

]]>
New York's Election Administration Accountability Vacuum - Part II: Partisanship, Patronage & Potential Fixes Tue, 10 Sep 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Meetings of the Board of Regents, City Council, Campaign Finance Commission, & More: The Week Ahead in New York Politics, September 9 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8779-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-september-9 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8779-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-september-9 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week will see the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. There will be rememberances throughout the city, state, country, and world.

Also this week: Mayor Bill de Blasio begins the week on a presidential campaign trip to Puerto Rico, where he went after a stop in New Hampshire this weekend. The mayor will not be on the Democratic stage Thursday evening for the third primary debate after he failed to meet the polling and donor thresholds. De Blasio flies back to the city Monday evening. While he's away, First Lady Chirlane McCray will join Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and others to rally for Williams' paid personal time bill that de Blasio came out in support of earlier this year and, while on the campaign trail, has been pledging will pass this year, even though the City Council has indicated it has no timeline for passage and Speaker Corey Johnson has expressed concerns about its impact on small businesses. The bill would mandate that employees at businesses of five or more workers receive 10 days of paid personal time each year.

The spotlight this week will also be on de Blasio's housing plans -- Deputy Mayor Vicki Been will give a speech Tuesday morning -- and on the City Council, which has several committee hearings and a full-body Stated Meeting this week. Those are just two of a number of events to be aware of: see our day-by-day rundown below.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday, September 9
The New York State Board of Regents will meet on Monday and Tuesday in Albany.

On Monday at the City Council:
--At 10 a.m. the Committees on Juvenile Justice and Public Safety will hold a hearing: “Oversight - Reducing Gun Violence: The Relationship Between Law Enforcement and Community Based Solutions.” Public Advocate Jumaane Williams will participate in the hearing.
--Also at 10 a.m., the Committee on Health will hold a hearing on several bills and resolutions.

At 9 a.m. Monday outside 250 Broadway, just ahead of a state Senate hearing, “Impacted New Yorkers, advocates, public defenders and elected officials will gather outside the state office building in Lower Manhattan to mark the repeal of New York’s infamous ‘Blindfold Law’ -- a landmark victory for justice. They will also urge full and immediate implementation of the new discovery statute, which officially takes effect on January 1, 2020. The new statute will help protect New Yorkers -- particularly, Black and Latinx New Yorkers who are disproportionately arrested and prosecuted -- from wrongful convictions, in addition to improving overall transparency and accountability in prosecution across the state. The rally will be followed by a public hearing held by the State Senate Codes Committee on steps taken by law enforcement to implement discovery reform.” Participants will include Senator Jamaal Bailey, impacted New Yorkers, and representatives of various groups including VOCAL-NY, JustLeadershipUSA, Citizen Action, Brooklyn Defender Services, The Bronx Defenders, The Legal Aid Society, New York County Defender Services, Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, FWD.us, Human Rights Watch, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, and the Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) Campaign.

On Monday at 10 a.m. in Manhattan, the State Senate will hold an oversight hearing on the implementation of discovery reform. Codes Committee Chair Senator Jamaal Bailey will lead the hearing and be joined by a number of other senators who co-sponsored the discovery reform legislation enacted into law earlier this year and set to go into effect at the start of next year.

At 12:30 p.m. Monday, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, First Lady Chirlane McCray, and others will rally near City Hall in support of Williams’ legislation that would mandate paid time off (aka paid personal time or paid vacation) in New York City.

At 5:30 p.m. Monday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams will be on News12 for his monthly “Ask the Borough President” session.

At 6 p.m. Monday, Public Advocate Williams will appear on the 'Housing Justice for All' Radio Show on WHCR-FM 90.3.

At 6 p.m. Monday, the Association for a Better New York will host What’s On Tap? with NYC Department of Small Business Services commissioner Gregg Bishop, who “will discuss his path to office, experiences in government, and vision for New York City.”

At 6:30 p.m. Monday at Queens Borough Hall, the 2019 Charter Revision Commission will hold a voter information session regarding the 19 proposals in five questions that will be on the New York City ballot later this fall.

Tuesday, September 10
At 8 a.m. Tuesday, Crain’s Business will host a breakfast forum with Vicki Been, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, to “discuss her goals, housing policy changes and the city's economic development post-Amazon.”

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, the NYC Board of Corrections will hold a general public meeting.

At 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at Brooklyn Borough Hall, “Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams will host his sixth annual 9/11 remembrance event in the Rotunda of Brooklyn Borough Hall to honor those lost during and since the tragic attacks on September 11, 2001. A banner with the names of all 266 Brooklyn residents who died that day is on display at the top of the steps behind Brooklyn Borough Hall now through the anniversary next Tuesday. This memorial, first unveiled during 2017’s remembrance ceremony, was envisioned by Borough President Adams — himself a 9/11 first responder — as a way to give the victims’ loved ones and all Brooklynites a place to pay their respects.”

At 10 a.m. Tuesday the state campaign finance reform commission will hold its first of four public hearings, at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., experts invited to testify will appear, then starting at 4 p.m., members of the public will be allow to testify.

At the City Council on Tuesday:
--At 10 a.m., the Committee on Transportation will hold a hearing: “Oversight - TLC’s Implementation of For-Hire Vehicle Growth Restrictions, For-Hire Vehicle Driver Pay Standards, and Other Recent Local Laws.”
--Also at 10 a.m. Tuesday, the Committee on Housing and Buildings will hold a hearing on several bills.
--At 3 p.m. Tuesday, the Committee on Education will hold a hearing on several bills and resolutions, including a bill that would require “A pilot program to review school start times to reduce adolescent sleep deprivation” and a bill that would require more reporting on health education in city schools.

At 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics will hold a public meeting.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez will deliver remarks about how his “office is working to keep Brooklyn safe” at East Midwood Jewish Center.

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Brooklyn Borough Hall, the 2019 Charter Revision Commission will hold a voter information session regarding the 19 proposals in five questions that will be on the New York City ballot later this fall.

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the New York City Bar will hold Access To Justice: It's Not Just Lawyers Anymore, a discussion on people and technology outside of court-assigned lawyers who can provide access to justice. Speakers will include Noelle Francis, executive director of HeatSeek, and Rebecca Sandefur, Associate Professor of Sociology & Law at the University of Illinois.

Wednesday, September 11
Wednesday is the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. There will be remembrances across the city, state, country, and world.

At 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Vera Institute of Justice and The Square One Project will host Reimagining Justice. “As we approach the 25th anniversary of the federal 1994 Crime Bill, this multi-format event will consider the visionary work, big ideas, and fundamental values that will guide the next 25 years of justice policy.”

At 5 p.m. Wednesday, this week’s Max & Murphy show on WBAI radio, 99.5 FM or wbai.org, will feature NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller, who will discuss the NYPD’s counterterrorism efforts since September 11, 2001.

Thursday, September 12
At 8 a.m. Thursday, the Association for a Better New York will host First Deputy Comptroller Alaina Gilligo for “an inside look at the Comptroller's office. The Comptroller's office safeguards the City’s fiscal health, roots out waste, fraud and abuse in local government, and ensures that municipal agencies serve the needs of all New Yorkers.”

At the City Council on Thursday:
--At 10 a.m., the Committee on Immigration will hold a hearing on several bills.
--At 10:30 a.m. the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections will hold a hearing on nominations by the mayor of Jarrod E. Whittington to the Environmental Control Board and Everardo Jefferson to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
--At 11 a.m., the Committee on Land Use will meet on multiple items.
--At 1:30 p.m., the full Council will hold a Stated Meeting, likely to be preceded by the usual pre-Stated press conference led by Speaker Corey Johnson.

At 10 a.m. Thursday, the New York City Campaign Finance Board will hold a board meeting.

At 12:45 p.m. Thursday, New York Law School will host Privacy Talks: The Future of Consumer Privacy with Mary Stone Ross of MSR Strategies.

On Thursday at 6 p.m. at Monroe College, the Bronx State Senate delegation -- Senators Jamaal Bailey, Alessandra Biaggi, Gustavo Rivera, Luis Sepulveda, and Jose Serrano -- will hold a “legislative update” for Bronxites.

At 6 p.m. Thursday at Community Church of New York, Beyond Plastics, NYPIRG, and former EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck will host a discussion about how New York City can “break free from plastic.”

Also at 6 p.m. Thursday, New Yorkers for Parks will host Open Space Dialogues: Reconstructing the Capital Process, a discussion “to consider the successes, as well as the room for improvement, in New York City’s parks capital process.” Speakers will include Andrew Cohen, City Council Member; Diane Jackier, chief of capital strategic initiatives at NYC Parks; Sue Donoghue, president and park administrator of the Prospect Park Alliance; Jennifer Godenzo, senior director at the Participatory Budgeting Project; Celeste Frye, founder and CEO of Public Works Partners; and Charles McKinney, practical visionary.

Also at 6 p.m. Thursday, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will host a celebration of Trinidad and Tobago’s independence at Queens Borough Hall.

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the Civilian Complaint Review Board will hold a public board meeting. “Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions about police-community relations and learn about key Agency updates. Investigators will be available to receive complaints of misconduct.”

There will be a Democratic primary debate in the race for the party’s presidential nomination on Thursday at 8 p.m. Mayor de Blasio did not qualify.

Friday, September 13
Mayor de Blasio may make his weekly appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show on Friday at 10 a.m.

***
Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: bmax@gothamgazette.com (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

***
by Ben Max
@GothamGazette

]]>
Meetings of the Board of Regents, City Council, Campaign Finance Commission, & More: The Week Ahead in New York Politics, September 9 Sun, 08 Sep 2019 04:00:00 +0000
What New York City Must Do to Halt Fear and Misinformation Around ‘Public Charge’ https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8782-what-new-york-city-must-do-to-halt-fear-and-misinformation-around-public-charge https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8782-what-new-york-city-must-do-to-halt-fear-and-misinformation-around-public-charge 15847120715 332a005108 z

(photo: William Alatriste/City Council)


The Trump administration’s changes to the “public charge” policy are so ambiguous and poorly communicated as to leave little doubt about whether the resulting fear rippling through immigrant communities nationwide was baked into this bigoted scheme.

Here in New York City, we refuse to follow the White House down this dark path. We are the home of Ellis Island, a town built with immigrant hands and made great by the diversity we celebrate. We will fight the imminent public charge policy changes with every tool available and combat the Trump administration’s campaign of fear and misinformation.

This effort must start with our city agencies, which currently do not provide clarity for those new Americans looking for real answers. 

New York City’s Department of Education and Human Resources Administration websites detail a multitude of programs and services available for millions of New Yorkers. Ranging from legal aid to emergency food sites, these benefits are lifelines for families in need with nowhere else to turn.

None of these resources, however, inform immigrant families of the federal government’s changes to public charge policy slated to take effect October 15. The policy change will expand the definition of a “public charge” to include immigrants who receive public benefits such as cash assistance, Medicaid, SNAP, and Section 8 vouchers. Those deemed a public charge will be barred from obtaining a Green Card or permanent residence in the United States. 

This has grave consequences for hundreds of thousands of immigrant New Yorkers. For some immigrant parents who use public benefits to provide for their U.S.-born children, they may risk losing any chance at citizenship in the future.

The weaponization of our public benefits programs will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on the number of New Yorkers seeking basic necessities such as access to housing, general nutrition and financial security. It will force some to make the unfathomable choice between feeding their children and the dream of becoming an American citizen. 

Leaders like New York State Attorney General Tish James and several immigrant-focused social service organizations are already leading the legal fight to block this policy. But more must be done.

It is important to remember this rule change only applies to individuals seeking admission into the United States or applying for adjustment of status. However, the policy’s intentionally misleading language has stoked fear and confusion among a much larger swath of our immigrant population. Some immigrants who may not be affected by the policy change are nevertheless considering disenrolling from these life-sustaining programs out of confusion, fear, or both.

This is where city officials must rise to the occasion, and it is precisely why we have introduced a package of bills in the City Council requiring agencies to create and distribute comprehensive fact sheets and resource materials.

By disseminating information in multiple languages in schools, trusted spaces, and high-traffic government buildings, we can counteract the panic sweeping our city. Our legislation would ensure detailed fact sheets and information on emergency feeding programs are delivered directly to parents, students, and all those who disenroll from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or whose SNAP benefits are set to lapse.

This full-court press will guarantee that nearly every family in New York City would receive this crucial information. These materials will both reassure individuals of their lawful right to public benefits and include information on how to navigate serious issues including how to obtain an attorney and access emergency food. 

The danger of this rule change lies not only in its xenophobia, which asserts that America is open only to the wealthy, but also in the uncertainty and fear it strikes in so many of us. It is easy to be scared by the hateful rhetoric that we hear from the president and his acolytes. But if we educate ourselves and each other, we can protect our communities and fight back to ensure our most hardworking, resilient and vibrant communities receive equal treatment.

The blatant attack by the Trump administration on new Americans is in full display across the country as families are separated, detained in horrific conditions, and returned to the perils they fled to seek refuge in the United States. It is up to our local government to provide the necessary resources to all our constituents, regardless of their national origin or economic status. Though the White House may continuously shout at you to go away, this city will honor the lamp that lights the New York Harbor and say to you, welcome home.

***
Carlina Rivera and Francisco Moya respectively represent Manhattan’s District 2 and Queens’ District 21 in the New York City Council. On Twitter @CarlinaRivera & @FranciscoMoyaNY.

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

]]>
What New York City Must Do to Halt Fear and Misinformation Around ‘Public Charge’ Sun, 08 Sep 2019 04:00:00 +0000
De Blasio, City Council Look to Move Ahead with Private Sector Retirement Savings Program https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8773-de-blasio-city-council-private-sector-retirement-savings-program https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8773-de-blasio-city-council-private-sector-retirement-savings-program retirement saving event

Feb. 2016 (photo: Demetrius Freeman/Mayoral Photography Office)


In his State of the City speech in January, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised that the city would create a system of retirement security for millions of New Yorkers who work in the private sector and may not have access to employer-provided savings plans. It was a revival of an effort the mayor had first pushed in 2016 but that bumped up against the change in presidential administrations and federal approvals apparently needed. But eight months after de Blasio’s speech at the start of this year, the New York City Council is ready to look at the idea through two bills that will be examined at a hearing later this month.   

“We'll create a universal retirement system in our city, because if you've worked for decades, then you've earned the right to retire in peace,” the mayor declared in January. There has been little public movement since, but as the mayor continues his presidential campaign, an initial Council hearing provides new promise.

De Blasio first put forward a “Retirement Security for All” proposal in 2016, but the legislative effort to achieve it was cut short in 2017 when President Donald Trump approved new federal regulations passed by a Republican-led Congress that undid an Obama era rule and limited municipalities from creating private-sector retirement programs. City officials believe they can still move ahead, however.

In May 2018, City Council Members Ben Kallos and I. Daneek Miller sponsored the pair of bills that would establish such retirement savings programs for roughly 2 million private sector employees working in New York City.

Kallos’ bill would create individual retirement accounts (IRAs) for workers at New York City businesses that employ 10 or more people and do not currently offer such programs. Employees would be automatically enrolled unless they choose to opt out and the IRAs would be funded through payroll deductions at a default rate. Though they would have to help administer the paperwork, employers would not have to contribute to the savings, nor would any public funds be directed to the individual accounts. The bill also sets up a complaint mechanism for employees in case businesses do not comply and creates varying civil penalties for violations of the law.

Miller’s bill creates an unpaid three-member retirement savings board appointed by the mayor to oversee the private IRAs. The board would be responsible for investing IRA funds and contracting with financial institutions to manage them; it would also be charged with ensuring that fees for the programs remain low and for informing employers and employees of their rights and responsibilities under the law.

“All New Yorkers deserve the opportunity to plan for the future and save for their retirement,” said Laura Feyer, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, in a statement. “The Mayor called for retirement security for all New Yorkers in his State of the City earlier this year, and we look forward to working with the City Council to make retirement security a reality for millions of New Yorkers.”

Despite what seem to be hurdles at the federal level, both bills will be considered on September 23 at a joint hearing of the City Council’s Committee on Civil Service and Labor, which Miller chairs, and Committee on Contracts.

Miller said the city’s involvement in the program, through the board his bill would create, will mitigate some of the administrative burdens that small businesses would otherwise face. “We want to try to fill a gap here,” he said in a phone interview. “I think there's a real opportunity for a win-win for everybody involved to provide sensible retirement opportunities.”

Miller said the need to pass retirement security legislation was much like the issue of climate change, something that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste,” he added, referring to the stark data around the many thousands of New Yorkers who have little to no retirement savings.

Kallos said in an interview that he is confident the proposals will pass and stand up to scrutiny under the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, citing other jurisdictions that have advanced similar programs, including New York State.

“What has changed is that several jurisdictions have moved forward with the program with thousands of Americans gaining access to retirement accounts for the first time ever, and we're not seeing those plans being challenged,” he said. “And that seems to be putting forward a pathway for us.” 

At least ten states including New York have enacted legislation to allow private sector retirement programs. In last year’s state budget, the Legislature approved the creation of the New York State Secure Choice Savings Program, which, unlike the Council proposal, is a voluntary opt-in plan for private sector employers rather than an opt-out one. It is meant to be formulated over two years. 

“I think there's a national energy around this,” Kallos said. “The mayor, he's bringing universal pre-K around the country. And I think that in a nation that is growing more and more concerned about how and when they will be able to retire and whether social security will even be there for them, having ‘Retirement Security for All’ is something important for the mayor to interject into a national conversation.” 

Kallos expects an aggressive timeline, saying that the bills could pass as soon as October and be signed into law by the mayor by November. If so, and even as they simply get new consideration and attention, they could provide a headline issue that the mayor can tout if he continues to seek the Democratic nomination for president.

On the campaign trail, de Blasio has focused on issues he believes are of paramount importance to “working people,” including his signature universal pre-kindergarten program. That includes his boasts of a proposal to give paid personal leave to private sector employees, something the mayor has repeatedly said will happen this year even though the City Council does not appear close to approving it. 

“When the mayor’s chosen to champion issues, he’s made it happen,” Kallos said. 

Beth Finkel, state director of AARP New York, praised the Council’s and mayor’s efforts. “We're very interested in anything that helps people to be more prepared financially for their retirement,” she said, noting that individuals are 15 times more likely to save for retirement if they have access to a savings program that automatically makes payroll deductions. “That's our mission, that people can age with dignity and be prepared for their retirement. And you can't wake up when you're older and say, okay, now's the time. So having something like this in place where people can save throughout their career, that's exactly the type of policy that AARP is very, very supportive of.”

AARP members, Miller, and Kallos were among those who celebrated at the February 2016 City Hall rally de Blasio held to advance the retirement savings plan, which has stalled in the three-plus years since.

Both Kallos and Miller expect little opposition at the local level, but there is a possibility that the bills may come under fire from private groups such as the ERISA Industry Committee, which lobbies on behalf of the country’s largest private employers with regards to employee benefits policies, or companies that sell retirement investment products.

“Retirement Security for All is tantamount to what would be the equivalent of a public option for insurance companies,” Kallos said. “And ultimately, companies that sell 401(k), 403(b) and other investment products have traditionally opposed this because they would rather see people not saving for retirement than see competition. And I think the real competition is having the fees that they can charge undermined.”

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

Read more by this writer.

]]>
De Blasio, City Council Look to Move Ahead with Private Sector Retirement Savings Program Wed, 04 Sep 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Recommendations from the Mayor's School Diversity Task Force & What Comes Next https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8772-max-murphy-podcast-recommendations-de-blasio-school-diversity-task-force-gifted-talented https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8772-max-murphy-podcast-recommendations-de-blasio-school-diversity-task-force-gifted-talented may bdb ps 600 wbai 
(photo: Rob Bennett/Mayoral Photography Office)


Setember 4, 2019 - Max & Murphy Podcast: Recommendations from the Mayor's School Diversity Task Force & What Comes Next

gonzales treyger wbaiMayor de Blasio's School Diversity Advisory Group recently released its second and final set of recommendations for how to desegregate and improve the city's schools. The panel made major waves by recommending to eliminate and replace the current gifted and talented programs in city schools, as well as removing other admissions screens and redrawing all school district lines, among many other ideas and goals. DSAG member Matt Gonzales and City Council Member Mark Treyger, who chairs the Council education committee and is a former teacher, both joined the show to discuss the recommendations and what comes next.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max & Murphy," and listen to Max & Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

]]>
Max & Murphy Podcast: Recommendations from the Mayor's School Diversity Task Force & What Comes Next Wed, 04 Sep 2019 04:00:00 +0000
NYPD Continues Move Away from Criminal Penalties for Low-Level Offenses, But Racial Disparities Remain https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8768-nypd-fewer-criminal-penalties-for-low-level-offenses-racial-differences-remain https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8768-nypd-fewer-criminal-penalties-for-low-level-offenses-racial-differences-remain maydbd coord off

(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


The New York City Council’s effort to reduce the criminalization of low-level, non-violent offenses through legislation passed in 2016 has continued to further achieve its aims for the third year in a row, as the NYPD makes fewer arrests and hands out fewer criminal summonses, opting instead for civil fines. But there remain concerns about racial disparities in law enforcement, as an overwhelming number of citations are handed out to black and Latino New Yorkers.

In 2016, the Council under former Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito passed the Criminal Justice Reform Act, creating civil penalties for low-level offenses that include public urination, open container of alcohol, breaking park rules, littering, and excessive noise. The legislation, signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio after some negotiation by the administration, allowed police officers to instead of issuing criminal summonses give civil fines, which involve a citation and court date but do not lead to jail.

Instead of involvement with the criminal justice system, many thousands of New Yorkers -- often poor, young, black, and/or Latino -- would instead be sent to a civil process through the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, preventing the detrimental effects of even one short trip to jail, the stain of a criminal violation on their permanent records, or arrest warrants in case of absences from court. The Council also worked with district attorneys to clear 644,000 outstanding warrants for those low-level offenses.

After the first report from the NYPD on the implementation of the CJRA, the Council touted a 90% drop in criminal summonses, and the numbers have continued to fall. In 2018, the department issued 89,908 criminal summonses, down from 424,883 in 2013. Through June 30 of this year, there were 44,382 criminal summonses issued, a pace just below last year’s.

The first CJRA report covered the third quarter of 2017, and showed 28,557 criminal summonses issued. In the second quarter of 2019, the number was down to 22,328, a reduction of 6,229. Even compared to the same period last year, there were 1,481 fewer criminal summonses issued.

The CJRA’s effects quickly became clear. In the third quarter of 2017, the NYPD gave out 2,607 criminal summonses for open container of alcohol violations, which dropped to 696 in the second quarter of 2019; public urination summonses fell from 327 to 174; littering summonses fell from 180 to 57.

Even as the city has moved from criminal to civil penalties, civil summonses have also been dropping overall. The NYPD issued only 14,908 civil summonses in the first half of 2019, down from 26,782 in the same period last year. 

Arrests have fallen from 388,368 in 2013 to 246,781 last year.

“The City Council is very proud that the Criminal Justice Reform Act has resulted in significant reductions in the number of criminal summonses given out in New York City for minor offenses that are better dealt with in civil court,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson in a statement. “These summonses don’t belong in criminal court because we’ve seen that they have no impact on crime rates. Unfortunately, there are significant racial disparities with respect to who gets a criminal summons in lieu of a civil summons, resulting in continued concern regarding consistent enforcement. Clearly, we need to address these racial disparities.”

As Johnson noted, enforcement remains uneven. Excluding businesses, 13,702 criminal summonses in the second quarter of 2019 were given to individuals, of whom 1,236 were white; 91% of criminal summonses were given to people of color. For comparison, out of 8,690 civil summonses given out in that same period, 15.3% were issued to whites; nearly 32% to black New Yorkers; 39.2% to Hispanics; and 7.6% to Asians and Pacific Islanders.

According to the latest available U.S. Census data, New York City’s nearly 8.4 million residents are 32.1% white; 29.1% Hispanic or Latino, 24.3% black, and 14% Asian.

Officers continue to use an exception that allows them to give out a criminal summons instead of a civil fine, vaguely citing “law enforcement reason” as a criteria. That criteria -- which an NYPD spokesperson declined to define for Gotham Gazette -- was used in 1,769 of the 22,328 criminal summonses in the second quarter of 2019, about 8% of the time, and up from 672 times in the third quarter of 2017.

There are other exceptions that allow for arrests as well, including having an open warrant or two felony arrests in the previous two years, for having ignored three or more civil summons in the previous eight years, or if an individual is on parole or probation.

An NYPD spokesperson did not address the increase in the use of the catch-all exception or the racial disparities in enforcement, but instead touted the department’s overall success in reducing crime and enforcement. Sergeant Jessica McRorie, a spokesperson for the Deputy Commissioner of Public Information, cited a five-year record that shows street-stops down more than 90%, arrests down by 37.3%, summonses down nearly 79%, and marijuana misdemeanor violation arrests down by 71%, while major felony crime fell by 14.2%.

“The NYPD has shown that we can drive crime down significantly with a far less-intrusive enforcement approach,” McRorie said in a statement. “By building stronger relationships with the community through Neighborhood Policing and a singular focus on violent crimes and those who commit them through precision policing, we have continued to drive crime down to record lows.”

Advocates have for years pointed to racial disparities in policing, particularly when it comes to the low-level offenses that are targeted by the so-called broken windows policing method preferred by Mayor de Blasio and his two most-recent predecessors, which focuses on low-level crime and disorder in the theory that it helps prevent more serious crime.

“In most of these categories, there should be no police involved,” said Bob Gangi, a veteran advocate who ran a longshot mayoral campaign in 2017 on a platform of police accountability and reform. His organization, the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP), regularly releases court monitoring reports that show how New Yorkers of color are overwhelmingly caught up in the criminal justice system for offenses that white New Yorkers are rarely punished for.

“Someone carrying an open alcohol container, who is not drinking, who is not disruptive, who is not in any way causing a threat to public safety or public civility, that shouldn’t be a matter for the police,” Gangi said in a phone interview. “And it’s similar with virtually all the other offenses.”

The police’s involvement in enforcement of these acts, he said, “in effect begins the process of criminalizing people for what are essentially innocuous activities” and the numbers show a “stark racial bias” in that enforcement. He pointed to one major problem with the CJRA itself that leads to this imbalance: that officers continue to have discretion in choosing a civil fine over a criminal summons. “So we have not eliminated the fundamental problem, which is racist policing,” he said. “We've tweaked it, we've modified it to a certain extent, but we have not eliminated it.” 

There are other takeaways from the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings report on the Criminal Justice Reform Act’s implementation. Nearly 20% of the total civil summonses were dismissed for being defective, which often means the ticket was improperly filled out by an officer, missing the date or time of the offense, for example. And a small percentage of people, just under 13%, opted to perform community service instead of paying a fine based on a civil summons.

Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the Council’s public safety committee, called the latest data a “mixed bag” of results. “Certainly it shows that the department is continuing to recognize that incarceration is not the answer in all cases to reduce crime,” he said. “We still see crime rates going down at historic levels.”

He continued, “It shows the fact that there are those who will cry that when reforms take place, that the world is going to come to an end, but it's not, right?” As he alluded, when the CJRA was first introduced, it was met with opposition from the NYPD, and even Mayor Bill de Blasio, and it took months of cajoling and compromise to get them to agree to passable legislation. In part, then-Commissioner Bill Bratton insisted that the City Council leave the criminal penalties on the books, adding corresponding civil penalties as a preferred alternative, but not removing the possibility of arrest or criminal summons.

“In terms of correcting the [racial] disparities, there's a lot more work that needs to be done,” Richards added. “Certainly...this is a step in the right direction. But the only way to ensure we are building trust with communities and the police department is to ensure that we recognize that these disparities still exist.” Though he commended Police Commissioner James O’Neill for the department’s community outreach efforts, he called for more diversity within the department and its leadership.   

“This city still has a long way to go when it comes to addressing racial division,” he said. “The new Jim Crow is incarceration and I think it's incumbent upon the police commissioner and the mayor to really sit in a room and get serious about this stuff.”

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

Read more by this writer.

]]>
NYPD Continues Move Away from Criminal Penalties for Low-Level Offenses, But Racial Disparities Remain Tue, 03 Sep 2019 04:00:00 +0000