Gotham Gazette

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Reinvent Albany

Reinvent Albany

  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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”

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • Cuomo Long Island flag

    (photo: The Governor's Office)


    New York’s leading government reform groups reacted to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2018 State of the State agenda on Thursday in Albany, holding a press conference to urge the governor and legislative leaders to adopt a package of reforms to help restore public confidence in state government.

    Despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that Cuomo failed to pass any of the reforms he promised in the wake of the alleged bid-rigging schemes associated with his signature economic development programs, government ethics

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  • Cuomo jobs western new york

    Gov. Cuomo (photo: Governor's Office)


    As federal corruption trials loom for several associates of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the administration is forging ahead with Buffalo Billion II, the second phase in an ambitious plan to revitalize Buffalo’s beleaguered economy and help transform Upstate New York into a hub of technology innovation and jobs. The first phase saw the massive alleged bid-rigging and kickback scandal that rocked state politics when outlined in September 2016 by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office and will loom over

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  • de Blasio public hearing City Council bills

    De Blasio at a public hearing (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


    Four government transparency bills that were passed by the City Council on October 31 aged into law on Friday, having gone 30 days without any action in favor or against them by Mayor Bill de Blasio. The bills all relate to increased disclosure by the administration of billions in city government spending and have been praised by good government advocates.

    Among the bills was one that ...

  • Cuomo announcement open for business

    Governor Cuomo (via the Governor's Office)


    With just a few weeks before the 2018 legislative session, Governor Andrew Cuomo must soon sign or veto the outstanding legislation that passed both houses earlier this year.

    Among over 100 pieces of legislation headed for the governor’s desk over the next month is a bill that aims to strengthen the Freedom of Information Law, drafted with the input of many good government and media interests, ...

  • 34868772685 4a41dee04d z

    Howard Zemsky in Buffalo (via Governor's Office)


    Ahead of the 2018 legislative session, the New York State Assembly’s Economic Development Committee held a hearing Monday in Albany to evaluate the progress of the state’s multitude of economic development programs and hear testimony from companies and organizations that have benefited from state grants.

    Taking center stage was Howard Zemsky, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s economic development czar as president and CEO of Empire State Development, who defended the state’s jobs programs and was

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  • new queens democrats

    The New Queens Democrats recently formed (photo via NQD on Facebook)


    When Sahand Shahrabani moved to Forest Hills, Queens in 2013, the recent college graduate had one goal: to get involved in local politics. But a Google search turned up eerily sparse results for Democratic clubs in the borough and no trace of the Queens County Democratic Party.

    “They don't have Facebook and there’s no website. I was definitely surprised and disappointed by the lack of web presence,” said Shahrabani, now 29.

    During the 2016 presidential race,

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  • Cuomo podium

    Gov. Cuomo (photo: The Governor's Office)


    Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order Monday expanding the list of New York State agencies required to provide voter registration assistance and creating a task force to oversee implementation of the program.

    While current state and federal law requires the forms to be available at the Department of Motor Vehicles and certain social service agencies, Cuomo’s

    Cuomo budget presentation

    (photo: The Governor's Office)


    A new state budget was passed in April in typical Albany fashion: with almost no time for public scrutiny of the bills or proper review by the legislators who quickly voted them through. Since the $153.1 billion budget was passed, watchdogs both in and out of government have released analyses, helping to better inform citizens and increase accountability.

    The budget was adopted a

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  • bill signing Cuomo

    (photo: Philip Kamrass/Governor's Office)


    A bill that would greatly strengthen New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), already vetoed once by Governor Andrew Cuomo, has again passed both houses of the Legislature -- with some minor adjustments.

    The bipartisan legislation, which passed the

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