Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/234 Fri, 20 Sep 2019 12:14:15 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) State Senator Brian Benjamin Explores Run for City Comptroller https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8790-state-senator-brian-benjamin-explores-run-for-city-comptroller https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8790-state-senator-brian-benjamin-explores-run-for-city-comptroller senator state a

State Senator Brian Benjamin, left, with Comptroller Scott Stringer (photo: @NYSenBenjamin)


The 2021 primary for New York City Comptroller may be 21 months away, but there are already three declared Democratic candidates in the race, and another has now indicated he’s exploring a run. State Senator Brian Benjamin, who represents Upper Manhattan, announced on Thursday that he is testing the waters for a potential bid for comptroller and said he would explore over the next year, including a 2020 Senate reelection campaign, to see if his candidacy is viable.

“I believe that the decisions I have made over my life have really set me up to be uniquely qualified to serve in this role,” Benjamin said in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette, citing his work as an affordable housing developer, an investment advisor, and Harvard Business School graduate.

Should he choose to run, Benjamin would likely face New York City Council Members Brad Lander and Helen Rosenthal and Assemblymember David Weprin, as well as others who may enter the field ahead of the June 2021 primary, which is likely to be decisive in the overwhelmingly Democratic city. Incumbent Comptroller Scott Stringer will be term-limited out of office in 2021 and is running for mayor.

Benjamin, whose district includes Harlem, the Upper West Side, Washington Heights, Hamilton Heights and Morningside Heights, said he will begin to raise funds and drum up support, setting a deadline of November 2020, after he likely earns another two-year legislative term and the presidential election has wrapped up, to make his ultimate decision. “I think a year is enough time to see how it's going,” he said. “Have I raised sufficient resources? Am I getting support of people thinking that I would be a good candidate in that role?”

The comptroller serves as the city’s top fiscal officer, overseeing how city agencies expend resources and auditing their performance, reviewing and approving city contracts, monitoring the city budget, and enforcing the living wage and prevailing wage laws. The comptroller also acts as the fiduciary to the city’s pension funds, worth more than $200 billion. That’s a role that Benjamin says he takes very seriously, particularly as the son of two union workers.

“I've actually done this in the private sector before being a senator,” he said of his investment management experience on Wall Street. He said he could use the pension funds to finance the creation of affordable housing and stem the city’s homelessness crisis. And he proposed creating a public bank to provide loans to affordable housing developers. “A public pension fund has to be mindful of the needs of its constituency,” he said.

He also emphasized that his finance background positions him well to oversee city spending. “It's not my decision as the comptroller to determine where the resources go,” he said. “That’s the mayor's job, the City Council's job. I do believe there's a role for someone to be the chief financial officer to say, ‘Okay, wait a second. Let's evaluate the decisions that have been made, and provide some analysis around whether or not it has accomplished the things that you expected to accomplish when you made the investment.’”

“There is a real role for someone to not be the decider, but to be an analyzer, to be an accountability person,” he added.

Benjamin did praise Stringer’s work in the office and said he would build on it. Two entities he said he would focus on closely are the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and the Department of Education.

Along with the other candidates, Benjamin said he would also participate in the city’s public matching funds program, which matches qualifying small dollar donations at an 8-to-1 or 6-to-1 ratio, depending on which of two programs candidates choose for the 2021 cycle. Benjamin said he would aim for the higher match, which comes with lower contribution limits, and also said he would refuse all contributions from individuals who have business with the city.

“I believe very strongly that anybody running should be able to convince ordinary everyday citizens that they are the right person for the job,” he said. Benjamin has over $280,000 in his state campaign account, though it’s unlikely he’d be able to transfer all of it to a city account.

Lander leads the early race in fundraising by a wide margin and has been the most active in working to secure allies and endorsements. He has about $204,000 in his campaign coffers; Rosenthal has about $67,000; Weprin has just under $50,000 but also owes the Campaign Finance Board nearly $320,000 in public funds repayments from his race for comptroller in 2009. 

Next year, Benjamin will be up for reelection to his Senate seat but he doesn’t believe his eye on the comptroller’s race will distract him from his work. Even if it prompts primary challenges, he welcomes them. “Anyone who believes they will be a better senator than me, they should put themselves forward,” he said. “I'm not one of those people who believe in being fearful of whether someone runs against you or not.”

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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State Senator Brian Benjamin Explores Run for City Comptroller Thu, 12 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.

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New York's Election Administration Accountability Vacuum - Part II: Partisanship, Patronage & Potential Fixes Tue, 10 Sep 2019 04:00:00 +0000
New York's Election Administration Accountability Vacuum - Part I: 'Bad Choices at Every Step' https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8785-new-york-s-election-administration-accountability-vacuum-bad-choices https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8785-new-york-s-election-administration-accountability-vacuum-bad-choices joint comm hearing regarding issues

NYC BOE Executive Director Michael Ryan (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


After each election cycle, New York elected officials, government insiders, and interested members of the press and public gather at City Hall and in other hearing rooms for a bit of political theater. The protagonist is the electorate, or the democratic process, itself; the one cast as villain is Michael Ryan, the executive director of the New York City Board of Elections, who is there to respond to questions about how voting went that year.

“Mr. Ryan, do you apologize to the public for what happened on Election Day?” asked City Council Speaker Corey Johnson in the opening question of an oversight hearing following the calamitous midterm elections this past November.

Ryan has been responsible for election administration in the city since August 2013, when he was selected to replace former executive director George Gonzalez. Gonzalez had been fired three years earlier after a botched general election in 2010 and the position had been left vacant. In the six years since Ryan’s appointment, elections have been plagued by poorly trained staff and failing machinery. Confusing ballot design and limited translation services have added to the frustration many voters experience trying to access the polls.

Responding to Johnson, Ryan went along with the apology, a tack he often takes when he’s not defending his agency’s work. "Yes we do,” he said. “We want what you all want and what the voters want: an ease of experience."

While he occasionally testifies at the City Council or the State Legislature, mostly acting as a punching bag for venting politicos, Ryan gets his authority through an irregular -- explicitly partisan -- process in New York State, which allows his agency to avoid a high degree of public accountability. The structure has been criticized for creating a system of election administration that is resistant to modernization and favors the type of political patronage characteristic of machine party politics. Experts say the patronage causes extensive inefficiency throughout what should be a coherent 21st century election system.

“The problem is operational. The BOE’s technical capacity and its inefficiency does have consequences for the integrity, fairness, and the equity of the election process,” said Ester Fuchs, director of the Urban and Social Policy Program at Columbia University, in an interview.

As executive director, Ryan really only answers to the ten commissioners of the New York City Board of Elections. They hired him, and only they can fire him. Amid the 2018 Election Day snafus, Johnson called for Ryan’s resignation, but he still has the job.

A Creature of State Law
The New York City Board of Elections is governed by state law, which gives power to the City Council to appoint commissioners, but the Council must make the appointments from lists selected by political party leaders at the county level. A balance of five Democratic and five Republican commissioners is supposed to add checks within the system, but critics say it serves more to protect incumbents from challengers.

Ryan and the agency he manages are still the subject of scrutiny by the City Council at oversight hearings, but are ultimately controlled by the Democratic and Republican party organizations in each county (borough). Though the city BOE receives most of its funding from city government, its policies are largely based on state law, state Board of Elections guidance, and its own commissioners’ decisions. It generally has not responded to the law-making power of the City Council, nor the directives of the Mayor.

The State Board of Elections, which also has a bipartisan structure, functions as an elections and campaign finance oversight body, unlike the city board. The state BOE sets certain rules and regulations that local boards, including New York City’s, must follow.

Good government advocates say the structures of the city and state boards of election make major-party collusion possible, transparency elusive, and efficiency second to party loyalty.

“Every step along the way the board makes bad choices and they are never held accountable for it,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of good government group Common Cause New York, in testimony at the City Council oversight hearing on last year’s elections. She was talking about the board’s decisions around ballot design and staff training, which advocates have sought to influence and improve upon for years without success.

Running Elections, Poorly
The city Board of Elections is responsible for carrying out all the administrative functions of running elections across the five boroughs. In reality, it is a decentralized operation in which the executives of the city board oversee five borough boards with few direct management controls.

“Each one of the borough boards operates a little fiefdom and they do what they do,” Lerner said in an interview with Gotham Gazette. Local patronage dictates hiring practices all the way down to the part-time poll workers, often chosen by party district leaders, who do not have to pass a civil service exam like other professionals in city government.

The board is responsible for arranging the sites where elections are held, ensuring proper equipment and staffing are present, registering voters, certifying the contents of the ballot, and securing, validating, and counting them after an election. This requires an immense amount of recruitment and training, machine testing, and government contracting, much of which must be done according to guidelines outlined in state law and regulations.

Voters in the November elections -- which included congressional, state legislative, and statewide races -- turned out in modern record numbers across the five boroughs, overwhelming poll sites and ballot scanners, and causing lines out into the rain. Ryan admitted at the hearing that the board was unprepared for the number of voters, despite the high turnout in the primaries that preceded the general election and the overall atmosphere of heightened political engagement in the Trump era.

Turnout in 2018 was still lower than in a presidential year. There were similar problems in 2016 and many are worried about the upcoming 2020 elections, for which turnout is expected to be enormous. New reforms like early voting and electronic poll books offer the potential to ease the burden on the board and those administering elections, but could also lead to new hurdles.

Other problems, like the way the 2018 ballots were designed and how well each poll site was staffed, also contributed to the debacle.

The unusual two-page, perforated ballot used to accommodate three additional ballot questions where confusing to voters and jammed scanners frequently, especially after getting damp from the rain. The average time a scanner broke down was roughly 53 minutes while poll site coordinators waited for a limited number of available technicians per borough. At some poll sites, all scanners were down at once.

Critics including Johnson, Lerner, and others at the Council hearing, wondered why the BOE had not taken greater steps to test scanners and train staff in handling the new ballot format, and why they would not allow translators of certain languages at the polls.

Reformers in and out of city government have for decades been pushing for changes to address election administration failures, which make voting difficult, discourage turnout, and can even disenfranchise voters.

Election after election, they seek improvements like more interpreters at poll sites, better voter outreach, professional staffing, and a less paper-based system while maintaining security. But advocates often face resistance or inaction and have virtually no recourse to the commissioners or the party leaders who pick them. The line of accountability is blurred, with only a distant state law to ultimately point to.

“Mr. Speaker, we have to work to re-earn your trust and I appreciate that,” Ryan said, addressing Johnson at the oversight hearing in November. As is typical at these hearings, no elections commissioners spoke that day. Ryan took the punches, even as he discussed what was beyond his authority.

The Two-Party Split
Many of the board’s problems can be traced to its bipartisan structure -- the two-party split that is built into its operations. The partisan balance is the result of reforms made over a century ago to create a system of checks and balances within the election process, but experts say it no longer works.

“This is a vestige of the most well-regarded thinking about preventing fraud in the late 19th century. There was no such thing as a nonpartisan approach back then,” Lerner told Gotham Gazette.

Controlling election administration had a great deal to do with controlling the outcomes. Following intense public debate around the turn of the last century, the state passed reforms based on the idea that the two major parties “would watch each other and make the election system honest,” according to Gerald Benjamin, director of the Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz.

Each county has a bipartisan board of elections with commissioners representing the two major political parties, as mandated in the state constitution. According to state election law, each county board must have an equal number of commissioners -- one, or in some cases two -- from each of the two parties earning the highest votes; New York City’s five counties fall into one citywide board with 10 commissioners -- one Republican and one Democrat chosen from the party leaders in each of the five boroughs.

“The partisan dimension is what keeps it equal,” Brooklyn Democratic Party leader Frank Seddio said in an interview. “For every Democratic worker in the Board of Elections there is a Republican worker in the Board of Elections, which balances the actions of the board, so to speak.”

It has also had the effect of entrenching the established party organizations, and creates the prospect of them “collaborating to the disadvantage of insurgencies in either of the parties,” according to Benjamin of SUNY New Paltz.

Changing the bipartisan structure in the state constitution is an arduous process that would require the Legislature to pass an amendment in two consecutive sessions and for voters to approve it. Many legislators also hold leadership positions in the county party organizations that select elections commissioners under the current system.

“Corruption is a lesser problem than collusion. The majority of the Board of Elections is needed to act. Since there are two commissioners, that means they both have to agree,” Benjamin said, referring to a typical county board, which has two commissioners (as is the case for each borough in New York City). Benjamin was an elected member of the Ulster County Legislature during the 1980s and early ‘90s, and said he received selections from county party leaders from which to appoint elections commissioners.

“Any one commissioner can block an action. If somebody complains about something or there’s an appeal to the board, they can get together and say, ‘You back me on this one, I’ll back you on that one.’ That kind of thing happens all the time,” he said.

"The idea that the Democrat and the Republican would collude against the voter has never occurred to anybody," Lerner said, "but that’s what we’re seeing."

This is part one of a two-part series. Part two -- Partisanship, Patronage & Potential Fixes -- will be published soon.

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette      

Read more by this writer.

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New York's Election Administration Accountability Vacuum - Part I: 'Bad Choices at Every Step' Mon, 09 Sep 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Dates, Deadlines, Elections & Ballot Questions: Everything You Need to Know for Fall 2019 in New York City https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8781-voter-registration-deadline-dates-races-ballot-questions-2019-election-new-york-city https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8781-voter-registration-deadline-dates-races-ballot-questions-2019-election-new-york-city may bdb first lady mccray

(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


One out of every four years, there are few elections on the ballot in New York City, with almost no competitive races at the city or state level. Such is the case in 2019, the year after congressional, state legislative, and statewide races, and the year before the presidential, congressional, and state legislative races.

But New Yorkers will this fall have the opportunity to vote on several ballot proposals that could make fundamental changes to the City Charter, the document that governs central powers and functions of elected offices, city agencies, and local elections. And, there is also the culmination of the high-profile race to become the next Queens District Attorney, multiple special elections, and the first test-run of early voting and electronic poll books, both passed in Albany earlier this year. There would be two other district attorney races, but both the top prosecutors in the Bronx and Staten Island have gone unchallenged this year.

There are also important deadlines that voters must heed ahead of November 5, Election Day, which could affect their ability to participate in next year’s presidential and other primary elections. The presidential primary in New York is all but certain to take place April 28, but Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday also proposed moving the state and congressional primaries, currently scheduled for June, to the same date.

It’s also noteworthy that this election will mark the halfway point between New York City mayoral elections, meaning it is exactly two years until the next mayor is selected.

Deadlines
Election day is November 5 this year, but there are also nine days of early voting, which is launching in New York for the first time.

October 11 is the last day to register to vote in the 2019 general election. Registration applications must be delivered in person to the New York City Board of Elections or mailed with an October 11 postmark (it must be received by October 16 to be processed). The Department of Motor Vehicles also processes online voter registration applications for individuals with a valid state driver’s license, permit or non-driver ID, and social security number.

October 29 is the last day for voters to postmark an application to receive an absentee ballot, while November 4 is the last day that voters can apply in person for an absentee ballot.

November 4 is also the last day when absentee ballots must be postmarked and mailed in order to be counted. The ballot must reach the BOE by November 12 at the latest. Voters can also have their absentee ballot delivered by another person to the BOE by election day. 

The BOE offers voter registration forms in five languages and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs supplements those with forms in 11 additional languages.

Governor Andrew Cuomo also signed an executive order last year that grants conditional pardons on a case-by-case basis allowing parolees under post-release community supervision to vote.

Separately, if a voter changes their address on their registration by October 16, the BOE must process it by the general election.

New York will also roll out nine days of early voting for the November general election, after it was approved by the state Legislature and signed by Cuomo earlier this year. From October 26 to November 3, polling sites will open for varying hours across the five boroughs. There are 61 sites in total – 18 in Brooklyn, 14 in Queens, 11 in the Bronx, 9 each in Manhattan and Staten Island. (There will be no early voting on November 4, the day before Election Day.)

To facilitate early voting, the BOE will for the first time utilize electronic poll books, which were also approved by the Legislature and Cuomo this year. 

On Election day, all poll sites statewide will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Voters can find their poll sites here (it always makes sense to double check in the days before heading out to vote).

Meanwhile, Cuomo has not yet signed a bill passed by both houses of the Legislature that would significantly shift New York’s shockingly early deadline by which voters must change their political party enrollment to be able to vote in the next primary election. Currently, for a registered voter to switch party affiliation -- from unaffiliated (aka “independent”) to Democrat or Republican, for example -- to vote in next year’s presidential primary in April or the federal and state primaries scheduled for June, they must deliver their application to the BOE by October 11 of this year. But a bill passed by both Democratic majorities in the Legislature and awaiting Cuomo’s signature would move that deadline to February 14, 2020.

What’s On The Ballot
In New York City, there are two special elections, one citywide and one City Council, taking place in the general election, as well as the general election for Queens District Attorney, and a variety of judicial elections. (District Attorneys Darcel Clark of the Bronx and Michael McMahon of Staten Island will both get another term by uncontested elections.)

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a Democrat who was elected in a special election in February, must defend his seat this year in order to serve the remainder of the term that runs through 2021. His only opponent is City Council Member Joe Borelli, a Staten Island Republican, who has acknowledged his extremely slim chances of victory in a city where Democrats overwhelmingly outnumber Republicans. Borelli has also said he’s running in part to discuss the powers of the office and make it clear that the public advocate should hold the mayor accountable.

Williams’ election kicked off a nonpartisan special election in May for his City Council seat, in Brooklyn’s District 45 which covers Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood, Marine Park, Flatlands and Kensington. The seat was won by Farah Louis, who previously served as Williams’ deputy chief of staff. Williams had, however, endorsed her opponent, Monique Chandler-Waterman, a non-profit leader. 

Chandler-Waterman attempted to challenge Louis in the June 26 primary but was unsuccessful yet again. Louis faces only one active challenger, Anthony Beckford, in the general election, but she is expected to win easily and serve out the remainder of the term through 2021.

In Queens, Borough President Melinda Katz eventually won a recounted and drama-filled Democratic primary over her closest competitor, public defender Tiffany Cabán, and is expected to win easily in the general election over Republican nominee Joe Murray, a defense attorney and former NYPD officer (Murray is a registered Democrat but received a Wilson-Pakula certificate from the Queens Republican Party in order to appear on their ballot line).

In July, the 2019 Charter Revision Commission approved five overarching questions to place on the ballot, containing 19 proposals in all that cover issues such as elections and redistricting, government ethics, police accountability, the city budget, and land use policy. Voters throughout the five boroughs can cast a “yes” or “no” vote for each of the five questions, and they each need a simple majority of votes cast to be approved.

Read all about them here:  Charter Revision Commission Gives Final Approval to 19 Proposals in 5 Questions to Appear on November Ballot

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Dates, Deadlines, Elections & Ballot Questions: Everything You Need to Know for Fall 2019 in New York City Sun, 08 Sep 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Eric Adams Plans to Put Public Health on the Menu in the Next Race for Mayor https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8728-eric-adams-public-health-next-race-for-mayor https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8728-eric-adams-public-health-next-race-for-mayor eric adams healthy food

Eric Adams with healthy food people (photo: @BPEricAdams)


Eric Adams, Brooklyn’s borough president since 2014, can always count on one place for good reviews: vegan magazines and websites.

Forks Over Knives, an organization dedicated to plant-based diets, collaborated with Adams for a 2018 mini-documentary about his lifestyle. Plant-Based News has written several stories concerning the measures Adams has championed as borough president. Vegan blog The Plantiful declared in 2018 that “we are lucky to have an inspirational Borough President” like Eric Adams.

After a 2016 diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes, Adams, a Democrat, transformed his lifestyle, switching to veganism and developing a rigorous exercise regimen. He dropped 30 pounds and became a crusader for health initiatives -- everything from yoga to biking to eating less meat -- in Brooklyn and beyond. His public health focus has earned him attention in more mainstream local media and among advocates, and he’s spearheaded several public policy changes, including getting New York City schools to adopt “Meatless Mondays.”

“At every event, I talk about how health is the cornerstone to our prosperity,” Adams said in a 2017 New York Times profile about his response to his diabetes diagnosis and published shortly after he went vegan.

While Adams will not be running as a single-issue candidate, he appears likely to put public health front and center in making his upcoming New York City mayoral campaign pitch.

The public health programs he’s backed, and the personal story behind them, have made him a popular figure in media devoted to healthy eating and a fairly unique political profile, especially relative to most other politicians, including his likely mayoral race competitors.

Now, as he gears up for a mayoral run toward the all-important June 2021 Democratic primary, Adams will have to see whether he can go citywide with his message of healthy living and gain traction among voters who will also want to hear about education, housing, transit, public safety, and other typical big-ticket issues, among others that may be more niche.

And while the former 22-year veteran of the NYPD and seven-year veteran of the state Senate will surely have plans and talking points on a wide variety of issues as the mayoral race unfolds, his focus on public health may help set him apart.

In a wide-ranging, hour-long interview with Gotham Gazette about his career and the upcoming campaign, Adams made it clear that health will indeed be a major component of his 2021 platform. “Health! Health is crucial!,” he said. “It’s not sustainable,” he added, of the city’s overburdened health care system. He went on to describe tele-medicine, one of many policies he has committed to focus on in order to address the city’s purported health crisis, which includes higher than average obesity rates.

Under Adams’ idea of expanded tele-medicine, patients would have increased options to talk to a doctor online rather than travel to the doctor’s office, potentially a great help to seniors and others who may have difficulty leaving their houses. “There’s no reason people should sit in the emergency room,” Adams said, “when they can use tele-medicine and look right on the screen and speak to a doctor right away.” 

Adams also professed support for improving lunches in New York City’s schools and hospitals, though he did not provide details. He’s also making a push for adding yoga and meditation to school curriculum.

Along with specific healthfulness policies, Adams believes that the best way to reduce the healthcare system’s woes is to reduce the need for so much institutional healthcare to begin with. “While other people are talking about making sure children have access to emergency rooms,” he told Gotham Gazette, “I'm having a conversation about preventing families from going to emergency rooms…I’m going to wean people off being reactionary, and create a proactive form of dealing with health.” 

It’s a philosophy born of Adams’ approach to his own illness. He wrote retrospectively in 2018 that he “wanted to try lifestyle changes before signing up for insulin injections,” and his goal is for everyone else to have the same choice he did. Calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to increase plant-based medicine at New York City hospitals, Adams had a simple plea: “Give the patient the option.”

Looking at his likely 2021 opponents -- including at least fellow Democrats Comptroller Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. -- Adams said that “what I am offering is different from everyone else that is running because no one else is looking outside the box the way I’m looking outside the box.” 

One key question Adams will face is how much voters want to hear about public health policy, and whether he can make them care enough about healthy living to base their mayoral vote on it, at least in part.

A poll conducted by Quinnipiac in October 2017, just ahead of de Blasio’s re-election that November, asked likely voters in New York City what the most important issue would be for them in deciding who to vote for in that year’s mayoral election; health was not considered notable enough by the pollster to include in its list of options. Only 1% of respondents volunteered an answer other than those provided: the economy, education, crime, housing, homelessness, and public transportation. 

Similarly, an article on NY1’s and Baruch College’s The City Poll from May 2017 listed affordable housing, crime, jobs and the economy, and homelessness as the top four issues for New Yorkers, with no mention of health. Public health issues were little discussed in the 2013 and 2017 mayoral races.

Health care is, of course, a crucial aspect of many peoples’ lives and often a central piece of the national discussion, whether it’s Medicare for All, “Obamacare,” or reproductive rights. The conversation also does come up locally -- there’s been much discussion in New York state government about a state-level single-payer healthcare system, and de Blasio has made recent announcements around expanded city health care for uninsured New Yorkers, especially those who are undocumented. Issues related to health care access, including hospital closures, have been part of the local political discussion in recent years.

In a national poll conducted by Pew Research Center in 2019, health care costs were the second-most important policy priority for voters. This would indicate that voters pay more attention to health-related issues on the federal level, though perhaps more city residents need to be asked about it. 

One challenge for Adams may be to convince voters that the mayor’s office should play a greater role in lowering health care costs and making the city a healthier place. The issue certainly was central at times during the mayoralty of Michael Bloomberg, who instituted a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants and calorie counts on menus at chain restaurants. He also sought to limit the sizes of sodas that could be purchased at some establishments due to high sugar concentrations.

And de Blasio has made mental health a major focus through the at times controversial ThriveNYC program led by First Lady Chirlane McCray, which Adams has mostly expressed support of.

As a pair of studies from 2014 show, Bloomberg, Adams and others are not wrong to focus on health as a major concern. Between 2004 and 2014, obesity among New York City adults increased from 27.5% to 32.4%, while diabetes rates rose from 13.4% to 16.0%. The study’s authors note in the abstract that they “observed increases in eating out and screen time over time and no improvements in physical activity.”

A different study found a 2014 obesity rate of 27.0% in the whole of New York state; if the city had been its own separate state, it would have been the ninth-most obese state in the nation. 

It is against this backdrop that Adams has waged his fight for a healthier Brooklyn, and New York. His first foray into health-related legislation was in 2011, when he was the sole sponsor of a quixotic bill in the State Senate to entirely ban the use of salt in New York restaurants; the bill was introduced twice, and died in committee both times. 

Following his ascension to borough president, and his subsequent diabetes diagnosis, he has increased his efforts exponentially, oftentimes with much greater success. His Meatless Mondays initiative, which requires vegetarian school lunches every Monday, began as a pilot program in 15 schools across Brooklyn less than two years. This coming September, it will be rolled out across the entire city public school system.

“I stood beside Mayor de Blasio and then-Chancellor Fariña in 2017 to announce that fifteen schools in Brooklyn were undertaking Meatless Mondays,” Adams said in March about the rollout. “In less than eighteen months, we can announce that Meatless Mondays has spread to more than one million children at every school across the city, putting us on the path to make our kids, communities, and planet healthier.”

Adams was also successful shepherding a bill through the City Council in 2017 that created a city urban agriculture website, which informs residents about local community gardens and farms. And his general push to make Brooklyn Borough Hall a mecca for healthy lifestyles is evident, with bike-to-work events or vegan meetups happening nearly every month. As a former NYPD officer and now elected official, Adams has also taken a leading role in addressing gun violence as a public health issue, allocating and pushing for more resources to community-based solutions and proactive efforts to reduce vulnerable young people's propensity toward illegally carrying or using a gun.

Some initiatives that Adams has championed remain in limbo. A 2018 bill introduced at his request in the City Council to eliminate processed meats in public schools has not made it out of committee, though some of its provisions are present in de Blasio’s “New York City’s Green New Deal.”

A more recent push this past April to ban junk food advertisements from city property has also made no apparent headway thus far.

With the 2021 primary now under two years away, Adams will soon intensify his citywide healthfulness pitch. He says his Brooklyn constituents have already felt the effects of his initiatives. “It may not be on everyone's radar,” he said, “but it has taken flight.”

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by Joey Fox, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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Eric Adams Plans to Put Public Health on the Menu in the Next Race for Mayor Thu, 08 Aug 2019 04:00:00 +0000
‘This Town Needs a Woman Mayor’: Alicia Glen Isn’t Ruling Out a 2021 Run https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8717-deputy-mayor-alicia-glen-woman-run-de-blasio-election https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8717-deputy-mayor-alicia-glen-woman-run-de-blasio-election depmaypant sho ho bug

former Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office)


While she insists she has no intention to run at this time, former Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen is not ruling out a campaign to become New York City’s next mayor, and says the city needs a woman in charge after her former boss, Mayor Bill de Blasio, is term-limited out of office at the end of 2021.

“Right now I have no plans to run for mayor because I think that the constant speculation about who’s running for mayor sort of distracts from what the real issue is,” she said during a recent interview with Gotham Gazette. “And what the real issue is, is what kind of mayor do we need going into the next decade? And, in my mind, I think this town needs a woman mayor. I think this town needs somebody who actually has experience and a track record of running things.”

With the all-important Democratic primary for New York City mayor just under two years away, in June 2021, the four declared and likely Democratic candidates, all men, have begun earnestly raising funds and pitching potential allies for what is expected to be a highly competitive race. Each of the four -- Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and Comptroller Scott Stringer -- has significant political experience, a base of support, and an early, distinct pitch of their vision for leading the city.

While one essential question of the last open race for mayor, in 2013, was whether the city would elect its first female mayor, in then-Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who lost to de Blasio in the Democratic primary, one ongoing question about the 2021 race is whether any female candidate will enter the race. (Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis challenged de Blasio in the 2017 general election and lost by a wide margin, indicative of Republican chances in today’s New York City.)

Given her fairly high-profile status as deputy mayor for housing and economic development for de Blasio’s first five-plus years as mayor, Glen’s name has been bandied about as a potentially strong contender should she jump into the mayoral race, though she would clearly face an uphill climb given the likely field, and her lack of an electoral base or popular name recognition. And while she would face criticism over various housing-related crises the de Blasio administration has faced, she would be able to boast a series of tangible accomplishments at the highest level of city government.

A controversial figure given the affordable housing program she designed, her work to broker the ill-fated Queens Amazon campus deal, and the state of the city’s public housing, Glen would likely face opposition from a growing progressive movement across the city. But some say Glen would present a clear and viable alternative to the other candidates and that her time as deputy mayor makes her perhaps most qualified to be New York City’s chief executive. Glen has been in and around city government for decades.

As Mayor Bill de Blasio’s top housing and economic development official for nearly five-and-a-half years, and as a former Goldman Sachs executive, Glen has managerial experience and concrete accomplishments that would make for a robust mayoral resume. She’s helmed the mayor’s housing program, which is on schedule to create and preserve 300,000 units of affordable housing over 12 years (2014-2026); she spearheaded large economic development projects, like those at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, that are expected to directly and indirectly create tens of thousands of jobs; she helped turn around the operating finances of the New York City Housing Authority; and she oversaw the expansion of the Citi Bike program and the launch of the new ferry system.

But with each item on her resume comes an asterisk, especially in a Democratic primary. Housing advocates say the mayor’s plan doesn’t target enough housing for the lowest-income New Yorkers and marginalizes the homeless; the ferry system is massively subsidized and isn’t linked to the current MTA fare system for buses and subways. The biggest blot is the public housing system, home to more than 400,000 New Yorkers and scandal after scandal. As residents continue to live in squalid and dangerous conditions, a federal monitor is now in place. And while de Blasio and Glen have accurately pointed to a lack of adequate federal and state support for NYCHA, with crises dating back into past administrations, the turnaround job they promised is far from complete.

Those who have worked with Glen believe that she has the chops to be mayor. Vishaan Chakrabarti, associate professor of practice at Columbia GSAPP and founder of the Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, said he would vote for her. “I think that position [of deputy mayor] definitely qualifies one to run for mayor,” said Chakrabarti, formerly a city planner under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. 

“I'm hoping we get to a place where we can reconcile the...very progressive agenda that...many people want to see with the ability to really get things done on the ground, where it's not just rhetoric, right? It's actually being able to deal with the controversy of bringing change,” he added, insisting that Glen has the “toughness” for the job of mayor. 

Glen is no stranger to controversy and she has never shied away from tough decisions. And she sees the job of mayor as more than a political position. “[I]t’s also a job that requires you to be able, in a very complex economy, in a very complex jurisdictional construct between state, regional, national politics, in a city which is still, I would argue, the global capital of commerce, culture and hopefully innovation -- that requires I think some skills that are not necessarily the skills that people who are always in the political class appreciate as much,” she said, insisting that she was not referring to any of the current candidates in the race. 

Mary Ann Tighe, CEO of the New York Tri-State Region for CBRE, a commercial real estate services firm and chair emeritus of the Real Estate Board of New York, said Glen “would make a great mayor.” 

“It would be thrilling to have a mayor who would place all her energy in the job and who knows how to manage,” she said. “You know, at the end of the day, a mayor’s job is that of a manager. It's not setting national policy, if you know what I mean. It's sticking up and getting the garbage picked up. It's making the life of the city fair and safe. I think Alicia would do thrilling things that would really benefit New York City if she were to be elected.”

One of the challenges for Glen may be her close association with de Blasio in a race where most of the candidate will be running as a break from him. Organizations like the Working Families Party and the Democratic Socialists of America, ascendant in recent state and city elections, would also be heavily opposed to Glen, given her ties to real estate and business.

Some Democratic consultants believe Glen’s chances of victory would be slim. “She has no constituency to count on. She is not well known in the city,” said George Arzt, a veteran of citywide races. “That said, there is also no woman in the race.”

There are relatively few women in elected office in New York City: none of the current citywide officials are women and while two of the five borough presidents are women, neither Manhattan’s Gale Brewer nor Queens’ Melinda Katz, who may be on the verge of becoming district attorney, is likely to run for mayor in the next election. Just 12 of the 51 members of the City Council are women. Quinn has been the subject of speculation with regard to the upcoming mayoral race, but few if any other names of women have been mentioned in the early chatter.

“I think I wouldn’t rule it out because of the fact that New York City doesn’t have, right now, a lot of women candidates,” Glen said just after leaving City Hall, appearing in March on the What’s The [Data] Point? podcast, adding, “There are an unbelievable number of young women out there who blow my mind every single day, but there’s still a dearth of women who have executive experience, have run complex organizations, who’ve had multiple experiences, both in politics and the private sector, and in the nonprofit sector. You know, it’s something I would obviously think about at the right time.”

Arzt said Glen is behind. “If she started earlier, she could have been getting some publicity,” he said. “Starting this late and going into it next year, I don't think she has the momentum going forward or the fundraising that the others do…She is way behind.” Arzt also noted that, even if she chose to run, even real estate interests and business groups would be unlikely to rally behind her. Rather, they’ll back the candidate most likely to win, he said. “I would view her potential candidacy as a real long shot,” he said. 

Another consultant who wished to remain anonymous in order to speak more freely said Glen doesn’t have the progressive track record necessary to be successful in the upcoming Democratic primary. The consultant cited Glen’s past as a Goldman Sachs executive, her lack of focus on NYCHA, and the city’s unaffordability despite the much-touted affordable housing program.

“I think she would be an interesting foil for the rest of the candidates, especially Stringer, who is focused on running as a progressive, because I think she would turn off folks like DSA,” the consultant said. “I'm not totally sure where she would actually get her votes from because it seems like Eric Adams is focused on Brooklyn, Ruben Diaz Jr. has the Bronx. Corey and Scott are sort of fighting over Manhattan. But Alicia seems like she would also be working on Manhattan...So I’m not totally sure where her base would be that wasn’t overlapping with multiple other people.”

Glen has hardly the level of name recognition as the others. Diaz Jr. and Adams are popular in their boroughs, each having won multiple borough-wide elections as well as legislative ones before those. Johnson is increasingly seen as stepping in for an absentee mayor as de Blasio runs for president. Stringer is ubiquitous at events around the city and the only one of the four already elected citywide (twice). “The everyday person does not know what a deputy mayor is,” the consultant said. “Alicia Glen is not a known name outside of the political chattering class.”

For her part, Glen says she will continue to work towards the city’s future, whether she’s in government or outside of it. She’s currently the new chair of the Trust for Governors Island, but it’s unclear what other moves may be on the horizon, near- or long-term.

“At the end of the day, New York City is a really, really, really complex organism and I do believe strongly that we need to have a mayor and a team of people who can appreciate that and sort of understand you have to get stuff done,” Glen said during the recent sitdown with Gotham Gazette. “And that doesn’t mean there aren’t really important policy arguments going on, and policy informs implementation but you have to be able to play in a much more nuanced, complex world.”

“[T]he economy is not necessarily going to stay as strong as it has been,” she warned, “just as you look at historical cycles and that’s going to require people who understand how to leverage resources really well, assemble great teams, manage the balance sheet and those are hard skills. I don’t think you need Michael Bloomberg to come back. What he may have known about running a big company he may have lacked in understanding some of the other great things that our mayor has to do. But I do think I want to be part of the ongoing success story of New York and however that plays out, I’ll be there.”

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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‘This Town Needs a Woman Mayor’: Alicia Glen Isn’t Ruling Out a 2021 Run Mon, 05 Aug 2019 04:00:00 +0000
On Presidential Campaign Trail, De Blasio Promises Paid Vacation Law ‘This Year,’ But City Council Has No Timeline https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8707-presidential-campaign-trail-de-blasio-promises-paid-vacation-city-council-no-timeline https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8707-presidential-campaign-trail-de-blasio-promises-paid-vacation-city-council-no-timeline proposes mybdbd become

(photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)


As he campaigns for president, Mayor Bill de Blasio has repeatedly said that “this year” the city will pass a mandate that most businesses provide employees with two weeks of paid personal time each year, but the City Council, which would have to pass such legislation, has not committed to the timeline the mayor is touting.

De Blasio first announced his support for paid personal leave and said it would get done “this year” in his January State of the City, and he’s doubled down on that timeframe a number of times since, including during remarks at a U.S. Conference of Mayors session in late January, despite the fact that he has no public commitment of that sort from the city’s legislative body.

In May, the mayor led a rally for paid personal time legislation just ahead of the City Council’s initial hearing on the bill, which was first introduced in 2014 by then-City Council Member Jumaane Williams, who is now the public advocate. De Blasio did not back the bill, which would expand the city’s paid sick leave law and is facing opposition from business owners, until five years later.

At the rally, both de Blasio and Williams said it would be passed this year.

The push has become a major talking point for de Blasio on the presidential campaign trail -- “we’re going to pass a law in New York this year, two weeks paid vacation for every working person,” he said this past Sunday on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos -- and he included the idea in his recently-unveiled “21st century workers’ bill of rights” campaign agenda.

But there has been no apparent movement on the bill since the May hearing, and it has just eight sponsors in the 51-seat City Council (including Williams, who as public advocate is a non-voting member of the Council but can sponsor bills).

Asked how the mayor could be so certain about it passing this year, a City Hall spokesperson for de Blasio, Laura Feyer, said in a statement, “Since the start of the year, we have been pushing hard and working nonstop with stakeholders and elected officials to get Paid Personal Time legislation passed this year. We look forward achieving this massive win so that New Yorkers get the time off they are owed.”

A spokesperson for City Council Speaker Corey Johnson told Gotham Gazette that the speaker continues to be supportive of the aims of the bill but has concerns about potential unintended consequences impacting small businesses. Unlike de Blasio, the Council has no set timetable in mind, the spokesperson said.

“The paid leave proposal is going through the legislative process,” a Council spokesperson wrote by email.

Williams remains optimistic, but he appears to have backed off any timeline. “As the bill goes through the legislative process, our office looks forward to continuing to work with the Council and Administration so that Paid Personal Time is no longer a privilege, but a right for all New Yorkers,” Williams said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. Despite being asked, Williams did not comment on the timeframe for passage of the bill.

At the May rally, Williams said, “In a couple weeks or a couple months we are going to have paid personal time.”

At a January press conference not long after de Blasio announced his support for paid personal time, Johnson said he was supportive of the bill conceptually, but “it will go through the legislative process.”

“We want to hear from all the stakeholders. We want to hear from workers and small business owners,” he said. The Council created that opportunity in May. Before the hearing, de Blasio and Williams led their rally in support of the bill, while business owners and other critics led a rally in opposition. Proponents and opponents of the bill then testified before the Council’s Civil Service and Labor Committee, chair by Council Member I. Daneek Miller. 

Miller’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the legislation’s status and potential timeline for passage.

The legislation would require private employers with five or more employees to offer 10 days of paid personal leave annually, accrued based on employee service hours. For every 30 hours worked, an employee would earn one hour of paid personal time, with a maximum of 80 hours earned per year, according to the bill. De Blasio and other supporters of the legislation have pointed to similar programs in other countries, and lamented the United States as the only “industrialized” nation that does not mandate any paid personal leave.

New York City mandates paid sick leave for employers of the same size that would be affected by the proposed legislation, a law that was passed in late 2013 and then expanded multiple times by de Blasio and the City Council, beginning during the mayor’s first year in office in 2014.

“Working people have been working longer and harder with very little to show for it,” de Blasio said at the May rally. “Too many people in this city aren’t guaranteed any time off – not a single day. That’s not what New York City is about,” he said.

During Sunday’s interview on ABC, de Blasio said, “We need to do things like ensure a $15 minimum wage and paid vacation days....every country on Earth, every major country on Earth provides paid vacation days as a matter of law. Doesn’t happen in this country, we’re going to pass a law in New York this year, two weeks paid vacation for every working person.”

Later in the interview he said it again: “Look, in New York City, we've done pre-k for every child for free. We have done $15 minimum wage. We've done paid sick days. We're giving those two weeks paid vacation to every working person. We're literally guaranteeing health care for anyone who does not have health insurance. These things are happening in the nation's largest city.”

Small business owners and advocates have made their opposition to the paid personal time bill known over the last few months, saying that while they want to be able to give paid personal leave, they cannot afford to do so and would be on board if the city funded it. Up to 80 percent of small business owners are concerned that mandated paid personal leave would require “significant operational changes,” which could include letting workers go, according to a June survey of 1,471 small business owners.

Supporters for paid personal leave have found a rallying cry in 2014’s Earned Safe and Sick Time Law, citing similar pushback from small business owners at the time.

“Yeah, we heard that when we all did paid sick leave together, we heard that when we did the fair work week together, every time we heard the same refrain, it would hurt our economy and we would lose jobs. Well, guess what? We have more jobs in New York City than we've ever had in our history,” de Blasio said of opposition at the May rally.

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by Noah Berman, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Ben Max contributed to this story.

Note: this story has been updated with comment from the mayor's office.

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On Presidential Campaign Trail, De Blasio Promises Paid Vacation Law ‘This Year,’ But City Council Has No Timeline Tue, 30 Jul 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Charter Revision Commission Gives Final Approval to 19 Proposals in 5 Questions to Appear on November Ballot https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8696-charter-revision-commission-final-approval-19-proposals-5-questions-november-ballot https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8696-charter-revision-commission-final-approval-19-proposals-5-questions-november-ballot voting election

(photo: Mihael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


The 2019 New York City Charter Revision Commission held its final meeting at City Hall on Wednesday to officially approve the language of 19 ballot proposals that will be put before voters for the November 5 general election. (The commission dropped a proposal related to units of appropriation in the city budget, which had earlier been approved for inclusion.)

The meeting concludes a year of activity for the commission, which was created through legislation passed by the City Council and included members appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Comptroller Scott Stringer, former Public Advocate and now State Attorney General Letitia James, and the five borough presidents. Over more than 65 hours of public hearings and meetings – and doubtless dozens of hours of discussions behind closed doors – the commission sifted through hundreds of suggestions about how to amend and improve the charter, the city’s governing document that establishes the powers and functions of municipal entities and officials.

The ballot proposals that the commission settled on are as varied as they are numerous, and are grouped into five overarching questions that will appear on the November ballot, when voters across the city will have few electoral races to decide but significant potential changes to city governance and elections to approve or disapprove.

The questions will be grouped by those about elections and redistricting; the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), which investigates police misconduct; ethics and government; city budget; and land use. New Yorkers will have to cast a “yes” or “no” vote on those questions, each of which needs a simple majority to be approved.

As Wednesday’s meeting in the City Council chambers got underway, it was almost immediately disrupted by Black Lives Matters protestors, who were displeased that the commission did not advance a measure to create a popularly-elected CCRB. Commission Chair Gail Benjamin was forced to recess the meeting temporarily until the protestors voluntarily departed. 

There were few amendments proposed to the draft report that the commission had approved earlier. Commissioner James Caras said there was a lack of consensus on language for the units of appropriation proposal, but that he had been assured by the City Council and the mayor’s office that they would work together on the issue, which is about how clearly budget line items are presented, outside of the charter revision process. 

Elections and Redistricting
The first of the three elections-related proposals would establish ranked-choice voting in primary and special elections for all city government seats beginning in January 2021. The process would allow voters to rank as many as five candidates in order of preference, eliminating costly and labor-intensive runoff elections in primaries for citywide seats and helping to create a stronger sense of a popular mandate behind the winners of crowded elections. 

Another proposal would extend the time between a vacancy and a special election, to bring it in line with state and federal laws, while the third proposal would change the timing for redrawing City Council districts. 

Civilian Complaint Review Board
The CCRB is an independent civilian agency charged with monitoring and investigating complaints of abuse of power and misconduct by police officers. The charter commission’s proposals would expand the Board’s membership from 13 to 15. One of the two new members would be appointed by the public advocate, and the second, who would also serve as chair,  would be chosen jointly by the mayor and City Council speaker. The proposal also allows the Council to directly appoint members to the body rather than requiring the mayor’s approval.

Besides tweaking the structure, the ballot question also expands the CCRB’s authority. The board, with a majority vote, would be able to give the executive director subpoena power; it would receive a guaranteed personnel budget unless the mayor expressly determines otherwise; and it would allow the board to investigate and discipline officers for lying during a CCRB probe. 

Another proposal requires that the NYPD commissioner provide a written explanation any time they do not abide by a disciplinary recommendation made by the CCRB. 

Government Ethics
Former city officials and employees currently face a one-year ban from appearing as a lobbyist before the agency or branch of government they served. The commission proposed expanding that to two years for anyone leaving their post after January 2022. 

Commissioner Sal Albanese said it was a “modest improvement” on the revolving door of city officials and the lobbying industry, and proposed amending the implementation of that proposal to make it effective by January 2020. But his amendment failed. 

“My ideal is a lifetime ban,” he rued. “I proposed a five-year ban, I settled for a two-year ban.”

The ballot question also contains significant changes to the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board. The board currently has five members appointed by the mayor with the advice and consent of the City Council. The ballot question would replace two members with one appointee each of the comptroller and the public advocate. It would also ban COIB members from working for political campaigns in the city and lower the maximum amount of money they can donate to campaigns to $400 (the “doing business” limit).

Another proposal in the question would give the City Council advice and consent power in the appointment of the corporation counsel, who heads the Law Department and is the city’s top lawyer; and it would also require the citywide director of the Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprise program to directly report to the mayor and be backed by a mayoral M/WBE office.  

City Budget
Though the city sets aside billions of dollars each year in reserves that can be used in case of an economic slowdown, there is no specific charter-approved or -mandated fund for that purpose. The commission proposed allowing the creation of such a “rainy day fund” that can cover revenue shortfalls if the city should face them. This measure, however, would also require separate authorization from the state Legislature because of the city’s troubled fiscal history of decades ago.  

Commissioner Stephen Fiala sought to set parameters for any proposed rainy day fund and tried to strengthen the language of the charter amendment. But that proposal, like Albanese’s, also failed to get support, with other commissioners worrying about the unintended consequences of last-minute changes. 

The ballot question also proposes guaranteed budgets for the offices of the public advocate and the borough presidents, therefore preempting the mayor’s office from slashing their funding at its discretion. At minimum, these offices would receive a budget increase in line with inflation or the percentage by which the city’s expense budget increases, whichever is lower.

Two other proposals would give the City Council a more even hand in deciding budget allocations with the mayor’s office, requiring that the mayor provide non-property tax revenue estimates to the Council on an earlier timeline, and to provide proposed budget modifications within 30 days when making changes to the city’s financial plan.

Land Use
On land use, the commission did not propose sweeping changes that many advocates wanted. Nonetheless, the ballot question proposed would give borough presidents and community boards more information and a somewhat greater voice in the approval of land use applications through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). 

The proposal requires the Department of City Planning to provide detailed summaries of ULURPs to the borough representatives at a minimum of 30 days before the application is certified for public review. It would also give community boards additional time to review land use applications.

Election Day -- when the five questions with 19 proposed city charter amendments will be on the ballot -- is Tuesday, November 5. The charter commission will dedicate resources over the coming months to making sure that New Yorkers know they can and should go vote on the charter revision proposals in November.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Charter Revision Commission Gives Final Approval to 19 Proposals in 5 Questions to Appear on November Ballot Wed, 24 Jul 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Assemblymember David Weprin Plots City Comptroller Campaign https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8684-assemblymember-david-weprin-plots-city-comptroller-campaign https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8684-assemblymember-david-weprin-plots-city-comptroller-campaign comptroller david weprin

(photo: David Weprin for Comptroller, 2009)


State Assemblymember David Weprin of Queens has officially filed papers to run for New York City Comptroller in 2021 and has been raising funds for the race for the last five months. He is the third Democrat to jump into the race, joining New York City Council Members Helen Rosenthal of Manhattan and Brad Lander of Brooklyn.

The 2021 election is expected to be a herculean undertaking, with all three citywide elected officials, the five borough presidents, and all 51 City Council seats on the ballot. Except for the public advocate and about 15 City Council members, most elections will be for an “open” seat because of term limits preventing incumbents from running for reelection.

All-important in most New York City races, the Democratic primaries will be in June of 2021, just under two years from now.

Weprin has represented the Assembly’s 24th district since 2010, when he was elected in a special election. He holds the same seat that was once held by his brother, Mark Weprin, and before that his father, Saul Weprin, the former Speaker of the Assembly. Prior to serving on the Assembly, Weprin served two terms on the New York City Council, from 2002 till 2009, chairing the powerful Committee on Finance. 

"I like to think that I’m the most qualified candidate for comptroller,” Weprin said in a brief phone interview, citing his prior experience as Deputy Superintendent of Banks under Governor Mario Cuomo, Secretary of the Banking Board for New York State, his long career on Wall Street, his time as chair of the Securities Industry Association, and as a member of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

This is not Weprin’s first attempt to win the office of the chief fiscal officer of New York City, who is charged with overseeing city spending, approving city contracts, and serving as fiduciary to the $200 billion-plus pension funds, among other duties. In 2009, Weprin unsuccessfully sought the Democratic primary nomination for comptroller, getting 10.6% of the vote. The election went to a runoff when no candidate crossed the 40% threshold for victory. John Liu of Queens, now a state Senator, eventually emerged as the winner of the runoff and the general election. 

But Weprin expects different circumstances, chiefly, the fact that he may be the only candidate from Queens. "I thought I was the most qualified candidate in ‘09...but we had three Queens candidates and I think that hurt me significantly," he said, referring to himself, Liu and then City Council Member Melinda Katz. Weprin and Katz got far fewer votes than former City Council Member David Yassky, who advanced to the runoff. 

That also wasn’t Weprin’s only unsuccessful bid at higher office. In 2011, he was the Queens Democratic Party’s pick after the resignation amid scandal of Anthony Weiner in the 9th Congressional District, which covers parts of Brooklyn and Queens, in yet another special election. But Weprin lost to Republican candidate Bob Turner by nearly 3,700 votes, giving the GOP that seat for the first time in 88 years.

Filings with the New York City Campaign Finance Board show that Weprin has raised $62,672 for his 2021 campaign from 154 donors. He has spent about $13,290 and has $49,382 in cash on hand as of the filing. Weprin has more than $444,000 in a state campaign account that he could transfer to his citywide account. But he also owes the CFB a debt of nearly $320,000 – a repayment of public funds from his 2009 campaign –  which he must first clear before receiving any more public funds.

In terms of fundraising for this race, his two opponents already have a leg up. Lander has $204,468 in the bank, and Rosenthal has $66,777. All three candidates are participating in the CFB’s public matching funds program, under new rules that were approved last year and recently strengthened by the City Council. Each of them can raise maximum individual donations of $2,000, with the first $250 of each qualifying contribution being matched at an 8-to-1 ratio. Weprin already has $22,817 in matching claims, but those funds won’t be disbursed by the Campaign Finance Board until later in the election cycle. Neither Rosenthal nor Weprin appears to have made a large initial fundraising push, while Lander put some effort into fundraising, including a large 50th birthday party event. In conjunction Lander has also apparently made moves to lock in a number of early supporters among elected officials and activists whose names appeared on the party invitation, though his campaign has not rolled those out formally as of yet.

In the Assembly, Weprin serves as chair of the Committee of Correction, and has advocated for the passage of parole reforms through the Legislature (a major push for parole reforms failed in Albany this year). The Correction Officer’s Benevolent Association donated $2,000 to his comptroller campaign last month. He’s also received contributions from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association ($500) and the Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association ($1,000).

As of now, Weprin joins a field with two candidates occupying political space to his left.

"I know both of them, they’re both excellent City Council members," Weprin said of his opponents. "I have nothing negative to say about them. I just think my resume for comptroller is superior. That’s the only office I’m really interested in. I’m not just interested in running for the sake of running or running for mayor in the future. I have no intention of doing that. I think comptroller is an office I know something about. I think it’s an office I’m uniquely qualified for."

Notably, Weprin was among a vocal minority of state lawmakers who, in the run up to the state budget this year, opposed a proposal to create a congestion pricing program in New York City. The program eventually passed, though it will not be implemented till 2021, which could potentially make it an election issue in the city, particularly in Weprin’s native stronghold in eastern Queens.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note - this article has been updated with comment from Assemblymember David Weprin. 

Note - this article has been updated to note that Weprin owes the CFB a $320,000 debt for repayment of public funds from his 2009 campaign. 

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Assemblymember David Weprin Plots City Comptroller Campaign Fri, 19 Jul 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Corey Johnson's Big Small-Dollar Bet https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8685-corey-johnson-s-big-small-dollar-bet https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8685-corey-johnson-s-big-small-dollar-bet Corey Johnson

Council Speaker Corey Johnson (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)


City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s expected mayoral campaign is based in part on a big small-dollar gamble.

When Johnson announced in January that he was exploring a bid for mayor – he hasn’t made it official yet – he set a $250 limit on all campaign contributions, far below the maximum possible limit of $5,100. And though the latest campaign finance disclosures show him outpacing his three likely Democratic primary opponents in the number of donations he received, he is well behind the pack in total funds and will have to work overtime to fill the gap.

Along with the low self-imposed donation limit ($250 is also the ceiling for how much of each donation can be matched eight-to-one in the city’s public campaign finance system), Johnson has also pledged not to take any campaign money from real estate developers, lobbyists, or corporate political action committees.

By constraining himself in these ways, he’s making a calculated bet: that New Yorkers will be impressed enough by his voluntary limitations that so many will donate, albeit in small amounts, to still get him the war chest he needs to spend as much as his competitors given the cap on expenditures that comes with the city’s matching system. And, that he’ll hit those maximums while earning a larger, more enthusiastic grassroots base of supporters than his opponents.

He’ll be living out the values that many Democrats espouse, and he’ll have a very effective talking point as he seeks to separate himself from the pack, expected to also include City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

“I’m focused on these small-dollar contributions because there’s a double benefit,” Johnson said in a Wednesday interview. “Of course there’s the money you raise, but also you get to meet a lot more people around the city and spread your message to New Yorkers.”

“I’m doing this in a way that no one’s ever done before,” he added, “and I was a little concerned when I made the pledge, wondering if I’d be able to raise the amount of money to be able to compete. But after these last five months, I feel good about where I am and I feel like it’s totally doable.”

The latest filings with the New York City Campaign Finance Board show that Johnson has raised a total of $379,728 from 3,029 contributions. The money came from 2,612 individual donors, with many of them giving more than once. He also transferred $88,780 from his City Council campaign account, spent only about $32,800 and has just under $432,000 in cash on hand.

“I think it shows the grassroots nature of the campaign and I did it all without raising money from real estate developers or people who work at lobbying firms and with a self-imposed cap of $250,” Johnson said Wednesday. “So I feel excited. I worked really hard. I went around the city and met with voters in their neighborhoods, in their living rooms and talked about the issues that matter to New Yorkers.”

Johnson will be bolstered by the city’s voluntary public matching funds program, which incentivizes small donations by matching them with public funds and has recently been enhanced by the City Council through legislation, a portion of which stirred controversy given its apparent benefit to Johnson and detriment to his rivals.

A ballot referendum approved last year gave candidates the ability to choose one of two versions of the city’s public funds program, run by the Campaign Finance Board. For candidates for citywide positions, they can now opt for a new $2,000 contribution limit and receive an 8-to-1 match for the first $250 of an eligible contribution, or they could stick with the older $5,100 limit and receive a 6-to-1 match for the first $175 of an eligible contribution.

The City Council then bolstered the new system further by enhancing the extent of the public match candidates can receive as it relates to the spending cap in their race, and made the new system retroactive to the beginning of the four-year cycle, meaning the start of 2018, which rankled Johnson’s rivals, especially Stringer, who would have to return a significant amount of money in order to opt into the new system.

Stringer accused Johnson of playing political games with his government position, while Johnson noted he was acting on a recommendation from the Campaign Finance Board, looking to help take big money out of politics, and that Stringer could stick with the higher donation limits if he’d like (though Stringer had already chosen the new system, not thinking he would have to make refunds from 2018 fundraising). The changes also impact Adams -- who also has criticized Johnson over the move -- and Diaz, Jr., though they have not made clear which system they plan to choose. After this election cycle, the new system will be the only choice.

Johnson chose the new system and of his total fundraising, $315,421 qualifies for public matching funds, meaning he could receive eight times that amount in public funds. When the Council increased the cap on the amount of public funds a candidate can receive – from 75% to 88.8% of the spending limit for a campaign – it meant Johnson will be able to stick to his self-imposed limit and spend as much as his three rivals, who are all expected to participate in the matching funds program and therefore abide by spending limits. It’s unclear if any other Democrats will jump into the race, or what the general election field may look like.

It's likely that Johnson, Adams, Diaz Jr., and Stringer are all able to raise as much as they need to, in combination with matching funds, and spend the allowable amount -- $7.3 million for the primary. But Johnson appears to think his pledge will significantly impact how voters and donors see him, and his competitors, which can potentially help him secure more support in the ascendent left wing of the Democratic Party.

Johnson sees significant momentum in his first filing period, noting that he currently has the largest amount of funds that can be matched, compared to the other candidates who had been raising funds for well over a year before he began.

There are also pitfalls to Johnson’s approach. He said he can’t afford full-time campaign staff and admits that it’s “been a challenge” to vet the thousands of contributions he’s receiving with a mostly volunteer crew. He’s had to return about $4,100 to people who have gone over his campaign limit. It also takes major time and effort to raise so many smaller contributions and not buttress them with larger ones.

“Oh my god, it’s very tough. It’s grueling. And sort of nonstop, and it’s house party by house party, 20-25, 30-35 people at a time,” said Johnson, who has been appearing at a variety of small campaign gatherings.

Compared to Adams, Diaz Jr., and Stringer, the Council speaker is currently far behind in money in the bank. Along with taking the larger donations, the other three have been raising funds far longer and have deeper coffers from their own earlier races. No one has received any public matching funds yet, and won’t anytime soon -- the Democratic mayoral primary will be in June, 2021. (If Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is running for president, doesn’t finish his term for one reason or another, things could speed up a bit.)

Stringer leads the pack with nearly $2.6 million in cash on hand. He raised $336,700 in the last six months from 1,447 individual contributors after having raised at a faster rate previously, when he was toying with a challenge to de Blasio head of the mayor’s 2017 reelection. Stringer was able to transfer $1.4 million to his campaign from a previous citywide campaign account and has been prolific in his fundraising. Of his total, he has about $254,554 in funds that qualify for a public match.

Opting in to the newer of the two campaign finance systems, Stringer now has to return many thousands of dollars that represent the retroactive lowering of the individual contribution limit. Stringer called the new regulations a “power grab” by Johnson, critiquing him for changing the rules midway through the race (a criticism that Adams echoed).

"Time and again, Scott Stringer has stood up for bold progressive solutions to our toughest challenges, and this latest filing shows the growing energy behind our people-powered campaign,” said Emily Bernstein, finance director for Stringer’s campaign, in a statement. “At grassroots events across the city, we’ve talked with New Yorkers about real ideas to make our city more affordable for working families, build a better future for our children, and deliver true progressive change. We’re incredibly humbled by the support we’ve received, and we’re excited to build on our momentum.”

After Stringer, Adams has the most funds, with nearly $2.3 million in cash on hand. He raised $583,627 in the last six months from 1,234 donors. He also made an earlier transfer of $332,594 from his borough president campaign account. A total of $273,385 from his fundraising would be matchable by the CFB, though Adams has not yet declared if he is participating in the public matching funds program, much less which of the two versions, and has been accepting donations of the maximum amount allowed, $5,100. “New Yorkers believe in Eric and trust that he shares their vision for our city--that's why so many of them from such diverse backgrounds are supporting his campaign to lead the five boroughs. And he's just getting started,” said Evan Thies, a campaign spokesperson, in an email.

In comparison, Diaz Jr. has about $931,228 in the bank. He raised $232,334 in this latest filing period, from 385 donors, and he transferred $219,395 to his campaign for this race. He also hasn’t declared whether he will participate in the public funds program but most of his money came from large donations. He has about $57,476 that would qualify for matching funds.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Ben Max contributed to this story.

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Corey Johnson's Big Small-Dollar Bet Thu, 18 Jul 2019 04:00:00 +0000