Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

Reinvent Albany

Reinvent Albany

  • Bills Stadium Deal Tests Hochul's Ethics Promises and Legislature's Oversight Role

    Gov. Hochul at a Bills game (photo: @GovKathyHochul)


    Last week Governor Kathy Hochul announced a deal to build a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills with hundreds of millions of dollars in state subsidies, and that she was planning to push it through the state budget with little time for scrutiny by the Legislature or public. It was the exact type of Albany politics many feared of the secretive negotiations with Hochul’s hometown team – and the type she promised to leave behind when she took office last year.

    The new stadium deal is also the first major test of a non-binding ...

  • 'Database of Deals' for State Business Subsidy Accountability Backed by Both Houses of Legislature

    Gov. Hochul talks economic development (photo: Darren McGee/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)


    In their separate one-house budget resolutions passed this week both houses of the State Legislature included a "database of deals," a public register of state business subsidies that would shed light on billions of dollars in government incentives to corporations.

    The legislation, which has been around for years but not passed, would require the state to publish a searchable database of state subsidies for economic development projects that would document the corporate recipient, the state benefits received,

    ...
  • High Hopes for New Era of MTA Transparency

    Subway riders (photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA)


    In October 2021, Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Open Data Act, sponsored by Senator Leroy Comrie and Assemblymember Robert Carroll. Hochulsaid the law will require MTA data to be “properly available for constituents to read

    ...
  • Advocates and Journalists Push Hochul to Release Troves of Covid Data

    covid 19 room

    Gov. Hochul (photo: Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)


    A coalition of advocacy groups is pushing Governor Kathy Hochul to release over 100 datasets related to the coronavirus pandemic in New York that they believe the state is keeping. The groups say that information can be used by scientists, journalists, and advocates to better understand the virus, its impact on public health, and the state's response.

    In a ...

  • ‘Turning the Page on a Long Chapter’: Kathy Hochul's First Month as Governor of New York

    covid 19 brief

    Gov. Hochul (photo: Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)


    Governor Kathy Hochul on Friday marked her first month in office, during which she has responded to several ongoing and new crises, barnstormed the state in public appearances, and sought to begin restoring confidence in state government after nearly three full terms of her disgraced predecessor’s leadership.

    Hochul, a Democrat from Buffalo, continues to carve out the rot of Andrew Cuomo’s administration and build out the top echelons of her executive office as she works to put more

    ...
  • Max Politics Podcast: A Government Reform Agenda for Governor Hochul

    2 a gov reform

    Gov. Hochul is sworn in (photo: Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)


    September 01, 2021 - Max Politics Podcast: A Government Reform Agenda for Governor Hochul

    John Kaehny, executive director of government watchdog and reform group Reinvent Albany, joined the show to discuss what ethics, transparency, and other reforms Governor Kathy Hochul should prioritize as well as a number of other issues related to how state government works in New York.

    Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think, on Twitter

    ...
  • 6 Steps to End Taxpayer-Funded Corporate Welfare in New York

    gov cuomo build

    Gov. Cuomo at an economic development event (photo: governor's office)


    New York State gives an estimated $4.4 billion a year to corporations to create jobs. Local governments give approximately $5.6 billion more, according to the Citizens Budget Commission. We do not know how much assistance each business gets, nor do we know how many jobs are created or retained. But we do know – as hundreds of studies have shown – that

    ...
  • 'Open' Government Amid an Outbreak

    4 mbdb holds

    Wrestling with government during a pandemic (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


    Governor Andrew Cuomo suspended aspects of the state's Open Meetings Law with an executive order Friday, as officials grapple with how to keep government running during a pandemic without jeopardizing public health or sacrificing accountability.

    As state and city officials continue to prepare for the long haul of coronavirus (COVID-19) management, and as most public events are postponed to limit the virus’ reach, one emerging question is how government agencies will continue to hold

    ...
  • Criticism Grows as State Campaign Finance Plans Head Toward Law

    outline justice agenda

    (photo: governor's office)


    New York State is set to adopt a new electoral campaign finance system, with voluntary participation, lower individual contribution limits, and a new public matching system to amplify small donations. It is based on the recommendations of a state commission, which also raised the threshold for political party ballot access, that will become law unless the state Legislature acts to amend them by Sunday, December 22, which legislative leaders have given no indication they will attempt.

    But while many reform-minded elected

    ...
  • The Candidate That Wins Should Get At Least Half The Votes

    attends cojo patbudexpoatguild

    (photo: City Council)


    Suppose eight candidates are running for Mayor or a City Council seat or another New York City office. On election night, the results are extremely close: The top candidate gets 29% of the vote, and the second 28%. Even though 70% of voters picked someone else, a candidate with less than one-third of the votes will become the elected representative of 100% of the office’s jurisdiction. 

    This situation may seem unlikely, but it’s precisely what happened in a 2013 special election for New York City

    ...
  • Council Hears 3 Campaign Finance Bills to Enhance Low-Dollar Impact, Limit Criminals, Curb Conflicts

    council comm hearing

    Council Member Keith Powers (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    The City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations held a hearing Wednesday to discuss three bills related to campaign finance reform. Two of the bills would prohibit candidates convicted of felony corruption or misuse of public funds from receiving public matching funds and reduce the matching funds contribution minimum from $10 to $5. They are sponsored by Council Members Fernando Cabrera and Keith Powers, respectively. Cabrera is the chair of the governmental operations

    ...
  • 'Blow Up the MTA'? Not Yet

    state otc ad spk co jo del

    Council Speaker Corey Johnson (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    With subway and bus riders so frustrated with poor service, it is understandable that city leaders are talking about changing the governance of the MTA and its New York City Transit (NYCT) division as a solution.

    Most notably, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson has come up with a well-intentioned but ultimately misguided plan to break NYCT off from the MTA and vest full responsibility for its funding and operation in a mayor-controlled structure he’s named Big Apple Transit, or

    ...
  • There's Plenty of Money in the MTA Capital Plan, It's Just Not Being Spent

    Cuomo subway MTA

    Gov. Cuomo inspects track work (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


    The subway (plan) is delayed again.

    While subway service has improved since the nadir that led to the current (and controversial) “state of emergency,” it’s obvious to anyone who rides the system enough or just watches the New York City Transit Twitter feed that there’s still a ways to go before everything is at or near full strength.

    But while the Metropolitan

    ...
  • 18 Steps to Increase Transparency at the MTA and Help Restore Public Trust

    mta chairman foye

    MTA Chair Pat Foye (photo: Marc A. Hermann/MTA)


    In recent weeks, Pat Foye, the new CEO/Chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has twice publicly committed to improving the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) and open data processes at the MTA. This is welcome news and an essential step forward for a government authority that has lost a great deal of public trust and is widely perceived as being politicized by the governor’s office. Our organization, Reinvent Albany, will strongly support this push by Foye and we hope it is a small down payment

    ...
  • The Devilish Details of Albany’s MTA Budget Package

    govcuomo photos

    (photo: governor's office)


    My organization, Reinvent Albany, applauds Governor Cuomo and the legislature for passing congestion pricing in the state budget. Yet we are concerned about it being undermined by boundless exemptions for politically powerful interest groups, and a proliferation of other new structures and requirements for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) that passed along with the tolling program.

    Paradoxically, the MTA legislative “reform” package also included a deal for the Legislature to approve new CEO/Chair Pat Foye without

    ...
  • A Simple First Step to Help the MTA Re-Establish Credibility

    mta rf

    Andy Byford (photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit)


    This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project
    Find the rest of the series here

    The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is teetering on financial collapse and still struggling to overcome a meltdown in subway service and collapse in bus ridership. No one doubts that the MTA has serious problems and riders are suffering. But before the State Legislature approves tens of billions of new funding, the MTA needs to

    ...
  • A Closer Look at the Tax Incentives in the Amazon Deal

    govcoumo realestate

    Cuomo, de Blasio & an Amazon rep celebrate (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


    Amazon’s decision to put a corporate campus in Long Island City after a year-long, somewhat-public search for a host city and a series of incentives from New York City and State has drawn skepticism and outrage in Queens and beyond for a number of reasons.

    Some activists and elected officials oppose the secretive process by which Amazon got its land, tax breaks and grant, others feel like the company isn’t a corporate entity the city and state should be

    ...
  • With Nod from De Blasio and Push from Johnson, Momentum for Ranked-Choice Voting in New York City

    bdb at voting machine

    (photo: Gotham Gazette)


    With all three of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s charter revision proposals approved by voters by wide margins on Tuesday, eyes are now on the 2019 Charter Revision Commission, empaneled by the City Council and other officials, which will, in some respects, pick up where the 2018 commission left off, possibly considering issues that the mayor’s commission did not act on.

    Key among those is ranked-choice voting (also known as instant runoff voting), an alternative method of voting wherein voters rank their candidate preferences

    ...
  • Vote Yes Three Times to Improve New York City Democracy

    three voting booths

    (photo: Mayor's Office)


    A political awakening is sweeping New York City. Voter turnout during the last election spiked nearly 300 percent. More New Yorkers are speaking out and looking to engage in the civic life and democracy of their city.

    Earlier this year, hundreds of New Yorkers, many of them everyday people who gave up their personal time to attend a public hearing, voiced their concerns to a New York City Charter Revision Commission appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio traveling the five boroughs. The Charter Commission boiled down hundreds of hours of

    ...
  • State Board of Elections Curtails Power of Enforcement Counsel

    gov and cuomo coughlin votes

    (Photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)


    The State Board of Elections voted on Wednesday to hobble the subpoena powers of Chief Enforcement Counsel Risa Sugarman, dealing a significant blow to one of the state’s only election law watchdogs.

    The new rules, which were voted on by the board at a commissioners’ meeting in Albany, would require Sugarman to obtain permission from the board members (two Democrats, two Republicans) for each subpoena she plans to issue in a probe, and for the “circumstances of the investigation”

    ...
  • Attention Shifts to Assembly Hesitation on Accountability Bills Opposed by Cuomo

    govcuomo speakerheastie

    Speaker Heastie, left, and Governor Cuomo (photo via the Governor's Office)


    Amid open conflict with Governor Andrew Cuomo, a second-term Democrat, the Republican-controlled state Senate recently passed a package of bills aimed at shedding light on taxpayer-funded economic development projects, among other reform measures. The move helped reignite attention on the legislation and put pressure on the Democrat-led Assembly to pass bills it has previously supported.

    The legislation includes the Procurement Integrity Act, which would restore

    ...
  • City Council Considers Requiring More Reporting on Required Reporting

    City Council Cabrera Vallone

    CMs Cabrera, left, and Vallone (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)


    How does the New York City Council check city government agencies without legislating agency operations, which it sometimes does not have the power to do? Reporting bills.

    The Council often passes legislation that requires an agency under the direction of the mayor to produce a report, like Local Law 47, which compels the NYPD to compile data on subway fare-beating arrests. This bill, and the NYPD’s response, quickly became another flash point in tensions between city agencies and the

    ...
  • Charter Revision Commission Urged to Consider Tighter Donation Rules for City-Affiliated Nonprofits

    m bdb first lady chirlane

    Mayor de Blasio & the Mayor's Fund (photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayoral Photo Office)


    A government reform group is urging Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Charter Revision Commission to explore stronger restrictions on donations to nonprofits affiliated with city agencies, building on a raft of laws passed through the New York City Council and signed by the mayor in 2016, which are set to go into effect next year.

    Reinvent Albany, an organization focused on government transparency and accountability, is advocating for greater disclosure

    ...
  • City Council Hears Bill on Charter Revision Commission

    Fernando Cabrera

    Council Member Fernando Cabrera (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    A day after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced initial appointments to a Charter Revision Commission that he is convening to examine the city’s campaign finance laws, Public Advocate Letitia James and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer testified before the City Council on their own alternative proposal to create a Commission to examine the structure of city government.

    The Charter is the city’s seminal governing document, laying out the powers and functions of every level of

    ...
  • Sunlight for Subsidies

    andrew cuomo buffalo

    Gov. Cuomo in Buffalo (photo via The Governor's Office)


    New York State and local governments spend over $8 billion annually in taxpayer money, giving subsidies to businesses through tax abatements and credits, low or no interest loans, grants, and capital investments like building factories. Eight billion dollars could otherwise pay for the MTA Subway Action Plan in addition to the entire 5-year capital plan for New York City Housing Authority

    ...