Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/state-legislature 2019-06-20T23:40:29+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Max & Murphy Podcast: Landmark Climate Legislation in Albany 2019-06-19T04:00:00+00:00 2019-06-19T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8619-max-murphy-podcast-landmark-climate-legislation-in-albany Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/8905567630_efbdf4ba59_z.jpg" alt="water environment climate protection" width="600" height="355" /></p> <p>Ord Falls Rapids upper Hudson River (photo: NYS DEC)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>June 19, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Landmark Climate Legislation in Albany<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/priya-mulgaonkar.jpg" alt="priya mulgaonkar" width="150" height="150" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />After the passage of the landmark Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in Albany, Priya Mulgaonkar from the NYC-Environmental Justice Alliance and NY Renews coalition joined the show to discuss the legislation, what it does and does not do, where activists, legislators, and Governor Cuomo found compromise, and what comes next in the fight against climate change and toward a renewable economy.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/639245010&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/8905567630_efbdf4ba59_z.jpg" alt="water environment climate protection" width="600" height="355" /></p> <p>Ord Falls Rapids upper Hudson River (photo: NYS DEC)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>June 19, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Landmark Climate Legislation in Albany<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/priya-mulgaonkar.jpg" alt="priya mulgaonkar" width="150" height="150" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />After the passage of the landmark Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in Albany, Priya Mulgaonkar from the NYC-Environmental Justice Alliance and NY Renews coalition joined the show to discuss the legislation, what it does and does not do, where activists, legislators, and Governor Cuomo found compromise, and what comes next in the fight against climate change and toward a renewable economy.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/639245010&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Legislators Search for Common Ground on Expansion of Equal Rights Amendment 2019-06-18T04:00:00+00:00 2019-06-18T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8615-legislators-search-for-common-ground-on-expansion-of-equal-rights-amendment Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/42269048994_68206752b3_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo New York equal rights pride" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The state Senate embraced the notion that the civil rights protections enshrined in the New York state constitution should be more inclusive when it decisively passed an expansive version of an equal rights amendment Monday.</p> <p>The Senate’s amendment goes a step farther than other equal rights amendments by expanding the equal protection clause of the <a href="https://www.dos.ny.gov/info/constitution/article_1_bill_of_rights.html">state bill of rights</a> to outlaw discrimination not only based on sex, but also on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, national origin, ethnicity, age, and ability. Currently, the state constitution only prohibits discrimination based on a person’s “race, color, creed or religion.”</p> <p>“Today, we further the fight for justice for women by moving this crucial amendment forward. At the same time, we are standing up for the rights of the LGBTQ community, the elderly, and the disabled,” said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a statement.</p> <p>The amendment, which had unanimous support in the Senate (it passed 62-0 in the 63-seat chamber), differs significantly from the version that <a href="https://nyassembly.gov/Press/files/20190226.php">passed in the Assembly</a> in February, namely on the number of protected classes added and language clarifying the meaning of “civil rights.”</p> <p>The Assembly’s version, which also passed with a groundswell of support, simply adds the word “sex” to the equal protection clause, extending constitutional protections to women but no further. These differences will have to be reconciled for the amendment to advance.</p> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo made passing an equal rights amendment that would ban discrimination based on sex a top priority this year, including it in his “<a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-unveils-agenda-first-100-days-2019-justice-agenda">2019 Justice Agenda</a>” released in December, and listing it at the end of May among <a href="https://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2019/05/cuomo-outlines-10-issues-for-end-of-session/">ten priorities</a> identified for the final stretch of the legislative session, which is scheduled to end this week.</p> <p>Unlike other state law changes, which simply need to pass both chambers of the Legislature and be signed by the Governor, amendments to the state constitution must be passed by two consecutive Legislatures and then be approved directly by voters via ballot referendum. The current Legislature was sworn-in in January to a two-year term, meaning the second passage of the amendment would have to take place in either 2021 or 2022 in order for it to be put before voters in a referendum. The earliest the amendment could go into effect is late 2021, if it is passed this year or next, then again in 2021 by both houses of the Legislature and voters.</p> <p>A number of the protections in the Senate’s equal rights amendment are already contained in the state’s Human Rights Law, including for gender expression thanks to the <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/senate-passes-genda-bans-conversion-therapy">passage of GENDA</a> earlier this year, but putting them in the state constitution makes them stronger.</p> <p>“Generally when things are listed in the equal protection clause there’s a standard of review that’s attached to constitutional principles that do not attach to statute,” said Alphonso David, the governor’s counsel, at a press conference on June 3.</p> <p>The Senate’s version, by defining the phrase “civil rights,” would also make the constitutional provision self-executing, meaning protections for individual civil rights won’t have to be affirmed in subsequent legislation, as is currently the case.</p> <p>The Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was first introduced in 1923, but has never been ratified. Since then, 11 states have adopted equal rights amendments that protect women’s civil rights, according to a press release from state Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat and the amendment’s main sponsor in the upper chamber. “New York is not one of those 11 states. No state has explicitly granted equal rights to LGBTQ people or the disabled,” the press release reads.</p> <p>At the June 3 press conference, the governor said he would support an expanded version of the amendment in the future but didn’t believe the Assembly would pass one in the final days of the legislative session.</p> <p>“I am totally open to, in the future, adding other classes -- which is what the Senate wants to do. But let’s achieve what we can achieve today and where we have agreement today,” Cuomo said at the press conference, referring to the addition of “sex” to the amendment.</p> <p>He blames the uncertainty of the amendment on the “failed Albany game” of feigning support for a concept but falling short of passing legislation. With different versions of the amendment on the table, much of the political heavy-lifting of securing majority support in both chambers lays ahead even as nearly everyone agrees equal rights protections should be broadened.</p> <p>“There’s 11 days left,” Cuomo said on June 3. “Pass that bill. Next year, come back and I fully support expanding the class even greater.” This is “the old Albany formula for failure. Assembly wants to do this, Senate wants to do this, nothing happens.”</p> <p>“I don’t believe we can get agreement on it this year in 11 days,” Cuomo said of an expanded amendment.</p> <p>Discussions are ongoing to bring the equal rights amendment closer to passage.</p> <p>“We are continuing to urge colleagues in both the Assembly and the Senate to search for common ground. &nbsp;We will see when the dust clears how much more work has to be done,” said Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, in an email to Gotham Gazette. Seawright, a Manhattan Democrat, is the main sponsor of the narrower version of the amendment that passed her chamber in February, and also of a broader companion to the Senate’s amendment.</p> <p>With the clock ticking on the session, the governor has said <a href="https://www.bizjournals.com/albany/news/2019/06/17/cuomo-prevailing-wage-marijuana-legalization.html">his focus now</a> is on the passage of other marquee reforms, namely expanding the prevailing wage and legalizing recreational marijuana, but a host of issues are finding resolution among the Senate, Assembly, and governor’s office, and an end-of-session “big ugly” omnibus bill could be in the works, with untold number of aspects.</p> <p>“Fortunately we have until the end of next year's legislative session to get first passage in both houses in order to stay on schedule with the amendment process,” said Justin Flagg, communications director for Krueger.</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette      

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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/42269048994_68206752b3_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo New York equal rights pride" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The state Senate embraced the notion that the civil rights protections enshrined in the New York state constitution should be more inclusive when it decisively passed an expansive version of an equal rights amendment Monday.</p> <p>The Senate’s amendment goes a step farther than other equal rights amendments by expanding the equal protection clause of the <a href="https://www.dos.ny.gov/info/constitution/article_1_bill_of_rights.html">state bill of rights</a> to outlaw discrimination not only based on sex, but also on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, national origin, ethnicity, age, and ability. Currently, the state constitution only prohibits discrimination based on a person’s “race, color, creed or religion.”</p> <p>“Today, we further the fight for justice for women by moving this crucial amendment forward. At the same time, we are standing up for the rights of the LGBTQ community, the elderly, and the disabled,” said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a statement.</p> <p>The amendment, which had unanimous support in the Senate (it passed 62-0 in the 63-seat chamber), differs significantly from the version that <a href="https://nyassembly.gov/Press/files/20190226.php">passed in the Assembly</a> in February, namely on the number of protected classes added and language clarifying the meaning of “civil rights.”</p> <p>The Assembly’s version, which also passed with a groundswell of support, simply adds the word “sex” to the equal protection clause, extending constitutional protections to women but no further. These differences will have to be reconciled for the amendment to advance.</p> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo made passing an equal rights amendment that would ban discrimination based on sex a top priority this year, including it in his “<a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-unveils-agenda-first-100-days-2019-justice-agenda">2019 Justice Agenda</a>” released in December, and listing it at the end of May among <a href="https://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2019/05/cuomo-outlines-10-issues-for-end-of-session/">ten priorities</a> identified for the final stretch of the legislative session, which is scheduled to end this week.</p> <p>Unlike other state law changes, which simply need to pass both chambers of the Legislature and be signed by the Governor, amendments to the state constitution must be passed by two consecutive Legislatures and then be approved directly by voters via ballot referendum. The current Legislature was sworn-in in January to a two-year term, meaning the second passage of the amendment would have to take place in either 2021 or 2022 in order for it to be put before voters in a referendum. The earliest the amendment could go into effect is late 2021, if it is passed this year or next, then again in 2021 by both houses of the Legislature and voters.</p> <p>A number of the protections in the Senate’s equal rights amendment are already contained in the state’s Human Rights Law, including for gender expression thanks to the <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/senate-passes-genda-bans-conversion-therapy">passage of GENDA</a> earlier this year, but putting them in the state constitution makes them stronger.</p> <p>“Generally when things are listed in the equal protection clause there’s a standard of review that’s attached to constitutional principles that do not attach to statute,” said Alphonso David, the governor’s counsel, at a press conference on June 3.</p> <p>The Senate’s version, by defining the phrase “civil rights,” would also make the constitutional provision self-executing, meaning protections for individual civil rights won’t have to be affirmed in subsequent legislation, as is currently the case.</p> <p>The Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was first introduced in 1923, but has never been ratified. Since then, 11 states have adopted equal rights amendments that protect women’s civil rights, according to a press release from state Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat and the amendment’s main sponsor in the upper chamber. “New York is not one of those 11 states. No state has explicitly granted equal rights to LGBTQ people or the disabled,” the press release reads.</p> <p>At the June 3 press conference, the governor said he would support an expanded version of the amendment in the future but didn’t believe the Assembly would pass one in the final days of the legislative session.</p> <p>“I am totally open to, in the future, adding other classes -- which is what the Senate wants to do. But let’s achieve what we can achieve today and where we have agreement today,” Cuomo said at the press conference, referring to the addition of “sex” to the amendment.</p> <p>He blames the uncertainty of the amendment on the “failed Albany game” of feigning support for a concept but falling short of passing legislation. With different versions of the amendment on the table, much of the political heavy-lifting of securing majority support in both chambers lays ahead even as nearly everyone agrees equal rights protections should be broadened.</p> <p>“There’s 11 days left,” Cuomo said on June 3. “Pass that bill. Next year, come back and I fully support expanding the class even greater.” This is “the old Albany formula for failure. Assembly wants to do this, Senate wants to do this, nothing happens.”</p> <p>“I don’t believe we can get agreement on it this year in 11 days,” Cuomo said of an expanded amendment.</p> <p>Discussions are ongoing to bring the equal rights amendment closer to passage.</p> <p>“We are continuing to urge colleagues in both the Assembly and the Senate to search for common ground. &nbsp;We will see when the dust clears how much more work has to be done,” said Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, in an email to Gotham Gazette. Seawright, a Manhattan Democrat, is the main sponsor of the narrower version of the amendment that passed her chamber in February, and also of a broader companion to the Senate’s amendment.</p> <p>With the clock ticking on the session, the governor has said <a href="https://www.bizjournals.com/albany/news/2019/06/17/cuomo-prevailing-wage-marijuana-legalization.html">his focus now</a> is on the passage of other marquee reforms, namely expanding the prevailing wage and legalizing recreational marijuana, but a host of issues are finding resolution among the Senate, Assembly, and governor’s office, and an end-of-session “big ugly” omnibus bill could be in the works, with untold number of aspects.</p> <p>“Fortunately we have until the end of next year's legislative session to get first passage in both houses in order to stay on schedule with the amendment process,” said Justin Flagg, communications director for Krueger.</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette      

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</p>
Lives on the Line: Legislature Must Reform Solitary Confinement Before Session's End 2019-06-18T04:00:00+00:00 2019-06-18T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8616-lives-on-the-line-legislature-must-reform-solitary-confinement-before-session-s-end Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/18348963500_b18fe5aedf_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo solitary confinement prison" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Thousands of people are subjected to long-term solitary confinement in New York. The United Nations <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2011/10/392012-solitary-confinement-should-be-banned-most-cases-un-expert-says">calls</a> it torture. New York’s jails and prisons call it business as usual.</p> <p>Our state’s laws permit 23-hour confinement for months and even years at a time in jails and prisons across the state. This despite the fact that long-term solitary confinement creates severe and irreparable mental and physical trauma. Its effects can be deadly. The <a href="https://www.newsday.com/news/region-state/transgender-woman-s-death-in-nyc-jail-under-investigation-1.32263735">death</a> this month of Layleen Polanco in a solitary cell at Rikers is just the latest example.</p> <p>In 2015, the state and the New York Civil Liberties Union reached a <a href="https://www.nyclu.org/sites/default/files/releases/20151216_factsheet_final_0.pdf">settlement</a> that required critical changes to the use of solitary confinement in state prisons. Although the state has made important efforts to reform solitary confinement for people in prisons, we need the legislature to pass more comprehensive changes to ensure that individuals held in both prisons and jails are no longer subjected to solitary confinement in state prisons and local jails that lasts longer than 15 consecutive days.</p> <p>People in solitary confinement are <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/inmates-in-solitary-confinement-7-times-more-likely-to-harm-themselves-study/">seven times</a> more likely to hurt or kill themselves. We cannot afford to wait on reform. Thousands of people are in danger and there is a bill in the state legislature that could help them.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement (HALT) Act would make several important changes to the way our state currently uses solitary. First, it would prohibit long-term solitary confinement by limiting the time spent in confinement to no more than 15 consecutive days or 20 days total in any 60-day period.</p> <p>The HALT Act would ban the solitary confinement of especially vulnerable people, including those 21 years or younger, 55 years or older, and people with certain disabilities. The government would also be barred from locking up in solitary anyone who is pregnant or in post-partum recovery or anyone who is a new mother or caring for a child while incarcerated.</p> <p>Critically, the legislation would prohibit solitary for all but a small set of serious offenses. And HALT would provide rehabilitative programming that would help keep jails and prisons safer for everyone, including staff. To that end, it mandates that all people in solitary receive at least six hours of out-of-cell rehabilitative programming, plus one hour of out-of-cell recreation per day.</p> <p>In settling the NYCLU’s lawsuit, Governor Cuomo has acknowledged that the state needs to reduce its reliance on solitary confinement. The settlement was critical to reducing the state’s reliance on isolated confinement. But we need his leadership to push for more comprehensive reform that protects the health of everyone in our jails and prisons by ending prolonged solitary confinement.</p> <p>No one should be subject to torture.</p> <p>Speaker Carl Heastie and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins must act now and bring HALT to a vote. In 2018, New Yorkers voted to end the gridlock in Albany that kept progressive legislation like HALT from passing. By voting for this bill, lawmakers will help show that this legislative session is different and that the status quo of Albany inaction is over.</p> <p>***<br />Donna Lieberman is the Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JustAskDonna" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@JustAskDonna</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCLU" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@NYCLU</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/18348963500_b18fe5aedf_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo solitary confinement prison" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Thousands of people are subjected to long-term solitary confinement in New York. The United Nations <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2011/10/392012-solitary-confinement-should-be-banned-most-cases-un-expert-says">calls</a> it torture. New York’s jails and prisons call it business as usual.</p> <p>Our state’s laws permit 23-hour confinement for months and even years at a time in jails and prisons across the state. This despite the fact that long-term solitary confinement creates severe and irreparable mental and physical trauma. Its effects can be deadly. The <a href="https://www.newsday.com/news/region-state/transgender-woman-s-death-in-nyc-jail-under-investigation-1.32263735">death</a> this month of Layleen Polanco in a solitary cell at Rikers is just the latest example.</p> <p>In 2015, the state and the New York Civil Liberties Union reached a <a href="https://www.nyclu.org/sites/default/files/releases/20151216_factsheet_final_0.pdf">settlement</a> that required critical changes to the use of solitary confinement in state prisons. Although the state has made important efforts to reform solitary confinement for people in prisons, we need the legislature to pass more comprehensive changes to ensure that individuals held in both prisons and jails are no longer subjected to solitary confinement in state prisons and local jails that lasts longer than 15 consecutive days.</p> <p>People in solitary confinement are <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/inmates-in-solitary-confinement-7-times-more-likely-to-harm-themselves-study/">seven times</a> more likely to hurt or kill themselves. We cannot afford to wait on reform. Thousands of people are in danger and there is a bill in the state legislature that could help them.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement (HALT) Act would make several important changes to the way our state currently uses solitary. First, it would prohibit long-term solitary confinement by limiting the time spent in confinement to no more than 15 consecutive days or 20 days total in any 60-day period.</p> <p>The HALT Act would ban the solitary confinement of especially vulnerable people, including those 21 years or younger, 55 years or older, and people with certain disabilities. The government would also be barred from locking up in solitary anyone who is pregnant or in post-partum recovery or anyone who is a new mother or caring for a child while incarcerated.</p> <p>Critically, the legislation would prohibit solitary for all but a small set of serious offenses. And HALT would provide rehabilitative programming that would help keep jails and prisons safer for everyone, including staff. To that end, it mandates that all people in solitary receive at least six hours of out-of-cell rehabilitative programming, plus one hour of out-of-cell recreation per day.</p> <p>In settling the NYCLU’s lawsuit, Governor Cuomo has acknowledged that the state needs to reduce its reliance on solitary confinement. The settlement was critical to reducing the state’s reliance on isolated confinement. But we need his leadership to push for more comprehensive reform that protects the health of everyone in our jails and prisons by ending prolonged solitary confinement.</p> <p>No one should be subject to torture.</p> <p>Speaker Carl Heastie and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins must act now and bring HALT to a vote. In 2018, New Yorkers voted to end the gridlock in Albany that kept progressive legislation like HALT from passing. By voting for this bill, lawmakers will help show that this legislative session is different and that the status quo of Albany inaction is over.</p> <p>***<br />Donna Lieberman is the Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JustAskDonna" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@JustAskDonna</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCLU" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@NYCLU</a>.</p> <p>

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Smells Like Teen Surveillance 2019-06-17T04:00:00+00:00 2019-06-17T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8603-smells-like-teen-surveillance Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/gov-cuomo-2million.jpg" alt="gov cuomo 2million" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: Philip Kamrass/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)</p> <hr /> <p>Picture a student sprinting to math class, late for a test after sleeping through the alarm. &nbsp;Hair disheveled, backpack open, their heart is racing. But in an instant this quintessential scene morphs into something far more dangerous as the student is faced with armed police officers, aiming their guns, demanding the student lie down on the ground.</p> <p>This is the grim prospect for the students of Lockport, New York, whose school district is the latest to stumble headlong into the national surveillance debate.</p> <p>In Lockport, students will no longer just be graded on their homework and exams, <a href="https://buffalonews.com/2019/06/02/lockport-schools-giving-facial-recognition-system-a-dry-run-despite-state-warning/">they’ll receive a grade from the school’s state-of-the-art surveillance boondoggle: facial recognition</a>. Let’s be clear, facial recognition technology has no place in schools. It is expensive, invasive, and more than a little bit creepy. The newest versions claim they predict behavior, but that “suspected school shooter” is actually just an anxious kid who’s running late for a test.</p> <p>Even worse, many facial recognition systems will label students as a “threat” because of their race.</p> <p>The facts are clear: facial recognition is biased. The technology can be eerily accurate, but <a href="http://proceedings.mlr.press/v81/buolamwini18a/buolamwini18a.pdf">error rates are much higher for women and people of color</a>. When one commercial product looked at members of Congress, it largely gave white representatives a pass, but <a href="https://www.aclu.org/blog/privacy-technology/surveillance-technologies/amazons-face-recognition-falsely-matched-28">falsely claimed that half a dozen of members of the Congressional Black Caucus were criminals</a>.</p> <p>Bias would be reason enough to scrap this Orwellian misadventure, but things get worse. Facial recognition fails more often for <a href="https://www.nist.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2019/04/04/frvt_report_2019_04_04.pdf">minors</a> and <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031320314001137">people under stress</a>. That’s right, they’re putting a racist surveillance technology that’s undermined by moody teenagers…in a high school.</p> <p>And the problems don’t end there. Not only is facial recognition biased and broken, it is expensive. Lockport doled out nearly <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/30/us/ny-school-facial-recognition-trnd/index.html">$4 million</a> for their eight-school system. Millions that could support students, being used to surveil them instead. But the cost is more than dollars and cents; this system comes at a steep cost to student privacy. The system captures the biometric data of every person setting foot in the school, building a database that could be harnessed by <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2018/02/19/586387119/automating-inequality-algorithms-in-public-services-often-fail-the-most-vulnerab">law enforcement</a> or even ICE.</p> <p>Alarmingly, Lockport’s impact could extend far beyond the eight-square-mile town. Cities and states look to each other for policy innovation, copying each other on things related to “security” all the time. So long as state and federal officials allow money to be squandered this way, there will be a financial incentive for other school districts to follow Lockport’s dubious lead.</p> <p>State officials must do more. In recent days, Governor Cuomo belatedly noted his “<a href="https://www.lockportjournal.com/news/local_news/cuomo-urges-patience-on-facial-recognition-technology/article_5cad62e6-8031-5604-85e6-4ada0d628e2a.html">concerns</a>” about this discriminatory surveillance net, but his comments are too little, too late. The half-hearted condemnation is particularly unconvincing in light of his past facial recognition advocacy.</p> <p>Just last year, the governor rushed the roll-out of a disastrous facial recognition project on the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge that <a href="https://www.engadget.com/2019/04/07/nyc-facial-recognition-experiment-failure/">failed to detect a single face</a>. It’s time for the governor to face the music on surveillance and call for a state-wide moratorium on facial recognition.</p> <p>As a first step, we must prohibit facial recognition in schools -- it’s the very least we can do. That’s exactly what lawmakers might do in a few days when they should vote on a measure from <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/a6787">Assemblymember Monica Wallace</a> and <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/s5140">State Senator Brian Kavanagh</a>, banning biometric data collection in schools. The measure might be too late to help the students whose data was already recorded in Lockport, but we can make sure no other students have to give up their privacy and civil rights as the price of attending classes.</p> <p>***<br />Cahn is the executive director of The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, a New York-based civil rights and police accountability organization. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/cahnlawny">@cahnlawny</a>. Blum is a rising 3L at NYU School of Law and a civil rights intern at The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JamesLBlum">@JamesLBlum</a>.</p> <p>

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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/gov-cuomo-2million.jpg" alt="gov cuomo 2million" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: Philip Kamrass/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)</p> <hr /> <p>Picture a student sprinting to math class, late for a test after sleeping through the alarm. &nbsp;Hair disheveled, backpack open, their heart is racing. But in an instant this quintessential scene morphs into something far more dangerous as the student is faced with armed police officers, aiming their guns, demanding the student lie down on the ground.</p> <p>This is the grim prospect for the students of Lockport, New York, whose school district is the latest to stumble headlong into the national surveillance debate.</p> <p>In Lockport, students will no longer just be graded on their homework and exams, <a href="https://buffalonews.com/2019/06/02/lockport-schools-giving-facial-recognition-system-a-dry-run-despite-state-warning/">they’ll receive a grade from the school’s state-of-the-art surveillance boondoggle: facial recognition</a>. Let’s be clear, facial recognition technology has no place in schools. It is expensive, invasive, and more than a little bit creepy. The newest versions claim they predict behavior, but that “suspected school shooter” is actually just an anxious kid who’s running late for a test.</p> <p>Even worse, many facial recognition systems will label students as a “threat” because of their race.</p> <p>The facts are clear: facial recognition is biased. The technology can be eerily accurate, but <a href="http://proceedings.mlr.press/v81/buolamwini18a/buolamwini18a.pdf">error rates are much higher for women and people of color</a>. When one commercial product looked at members of Congress, it largely gave white representatives a pass, but <a href="https://www.aclu.org/blog/privacy-technology/surveillance-technologies/amazons-face-recognition-falsely-matched-28">falsely claimed that half a dozen of members of the Congressional Black Caucus were criminals</a>.</p> <p>Bias would be reason enough to scrap this Orwellian misadventure, but things get worse. Facial recognition fails more often for <a href="https://www.nist.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2019/04/04/frvt_report_2019_04_04.pdf">minors</a> and <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031320314001137">people under stress</a>. That’s right, they’re putting a racist surveillance technology that’s undermined by moody teenagers…in a high school.</p> <p>And the problems don’t end there. Not only is facial recognition biased and broken, it is expensive. Lockport doled out nearly <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/30/us/ny-school-facial-recognition-trnd/index.html">$4 million</a> for their eight-school system. Millions that could support students, being used to surveil them instead. But the cost is more than dollars and cents; this system comes at a steep cost to student privacy. The system captures the biometric data of every person setting foot in the school, building a database that could be harnessed by <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2018/02/19/586387119/automating-inequality-algorithms-in-public-services-often-fail-the-most-vulnerab">law enforcement</a> or even ICE.</p> <p>Alarmingly, Lockport’s impact could extend far beyond the eight-square-mile town. Cities and states look to each other for policy innovation, copying each other on things related to “security” all the time. So long as state and federal officials allow money to be squandered this way, there will be a financial incentive for other school districts to follow Lockport’s dubious lead.</p> <p>State officials must do more. In recent days, Governor Cuomo belatedly noted his “<a href="https://www.lockportjournal.com/news/local_news/cuomo-urges-patience-on-facial-recognition-technology/article_5cad62e6-8031-5604-85e6-4ada0d628e2a.html">concerns</a>” about this discriminatory surveillance net, but his comments are too little, too late. The half-hearted condemnation is particularly unconvincing in light of his past facial recognition advocacy.</p> <p>Just last year, the governor rushed the roll-out of a disastrous facial recognition project on the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge that <a href="https://www.engadget.com/2019/04/07/nyc-facial-recognition-experiment-failure/">failed to detect a single face</a>. It’s time for the governor to face the music on surveillance and call for a state-wide moratorium on facial recognition.</p> <p>As a first step, we must prohibit facial recognition in schools -- it’s the very least we can do. That’s exactly what lawmakers might do in a few days when they should vote on a measure from <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/a6787">Assemblymember Monica Wallace</a> and <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/s5140">State Senator Brian Kavanagh</a>, banning biometric data collection in schools. The measure might be too late to help the students whose data was already recorded in Lockport, but we can make sure no other students have to give up their privacy and civil rights as the price of attending classes.</p> <p>***<br />Cahn is the executive director of The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, a New York-based civil rights and police accountability organization. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/cahnlawny">@cahnlawny</a>. Blum is a rising 3L at NYU School of Law and a civil rights intern at The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JamesLBlum">@JamesLBlum</a>.</p> <p>

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</p>
Cuomo, Legislative Majorities Reach Deal on 'History-Making' Climate Bill 2019-06-17T04:00:00+00:00 2019-06-17T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8610-cuomo-legislature-reach-deal-on-climate-bill Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/46945877944_d55d934dc3_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo climate" width="600" height="377" /></p> <p>(photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The state Senate, Assembly, and Governor Cuomo have reached an agreement on a version of the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA), setting the stage for passage of a bill to significantly reduce New York’s greenhouse gas emissions and transition the state toward a green economy. The bill has previously passed three times in the Democratic-led Assembly, but stalled in the Senate, which was controlled by Republicans for virtually all of the past several decades until this year.</p> <p>As support for the CCPA mounted in recent weeks, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8588-pushed-on-climate-legislation-cuomo-tries-to-set-himself-apart" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cuomo had questioned the bill</a>, criticized its supporters as "playing politics" with important policy matters, and explained that key differences on the bill related to timelines and goals around moving to renewable energy, as well as how and where new state environmental funding would be allocated.</p> <p>Compromise was reached over the weekend as the three parties negotiated a host of issues, and came to a number of agreements, just ahead of the scheduled end of the Albany legislative session on Wednesday.</p> <p>The agreed-upon bill sets ambitious standards to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, including transitioning to 70 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 85 percent emissions reductions by 2050. Between 35 and 40 percent of the money allocated by the bill’s transition requirements will be invested in communities most vulnerable to climate change. The bill will also create provisions for wage and labor standards for state-supported “green jobs” or those that improve sustainability.</p> <p>“I believe we have an agreement. I believe it's going to pass,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said on WAMC radio’s The Roundtable on Monday morning. After repeatedly calling the bill both too ambitious and not ambitious enough, and dismissing advocates and elected officials pushing for it as promising too much too quickly because they wanted to score political points, Cuomo indicated at the end of last week that he was hopeful to reach a deal on a climate bill. The governor has also repeatedly cited his own version of a “New York Green New Deal,” with targets for reductions in emissions and transitions to renewables.</p> <p>“We all knew we had to make some compromise to get a three way agreement, but we’ve done a lot of good stuff in this bill. We’re going to see New York lead the world,” Assemblymember Barbara Lifton said at a Monday press conference hosted by legislators and the broad NY Renews coalition that has been organizing behind the bill. Lifton was an early supporter of the CCPA when it was first passed in 2016.</p> <p>In recent weeks NY Renews had helped secure majority sponsorship of the CCPA in both houses and rolled out high-profile endorsements of the bill from much of the New York congressional delegation, including both Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.</p> <p>A key area of compromise was reached around the mandated investments in hard-hit and vulnerable communities, areas of the state in need of “environmental justice.”</p> <p>“Climate change especially heightens the vulnerability of disadvantaged communities, which bear environmental and socioeconomic burdens as well as legacies of racial and ethnic discrimination,” the proposed bill reads. “Actions undertaken by New York state to mitigate greenhouse gas should prioritize the safety and health of disadvantaged communities.”</p> <p>Cuomo had maintained that his lack of support for the CCPA stemmed from “a question of the distribution of funding.”</p> <p>“Taxpayers' money is taxpayers' money and if it's taxpayers' money for an environmental purpose, I want to make sure it's going to an environmental purpose,” Cuomo said on WAMC Monday. “This transformation to the new green economy is very expensive and we don't have the luxury of using funding for political purposes.”</p> <p>Monday’s press conference hosted by NY Renews was celebratory, even if some advocates were slightly disappointed by the compromise and the governor’s claims that legislators backing the CCPA were “playing politics.”</p> <p>“This is not just a moment for New York but has implications for the world,” climate equity campaign strategist Adrien Salazar said.</p> <p>Because of its investment in disadvantaged communities, the CCPA is a widely intersectional bill, Senator Jessica Ramos of Queens said at the press conference.</p> <p>“The CCPA is a huge, history-making piece of legislation, but it can only be the start,” Ramos said.</p> <p>“While DC sleeps through a crisis, NY steps up,” Long Island Senator Todd Kaminsky tweeted Monday. Kaminsky serves as the chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee and lead sponsor of the bill.</p> <p>The bill is expected to be voted on in both legislative houses on Wednesday, the final scheduled day of the session.</p> <p>[READ: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8588-pushed-on-climate-legislation-cuomo-tries-to-set-himself-apart" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Pushed on Climate Legislation, Cuomo Tries to Set Himself Apart</a>]</p> <p>

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by Noah Berman, Gotham Gazette

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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/46945877944_d55d934dc3_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo climate" width="600" height="377" /></p> <p>(photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The state Senate, Assembly, and Governor Cuomo have reached an agreement on a version of the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA), setting the stage for passage of a bill to significantly reduce New York’s greenhouse gas emissions and transition the state toward a green economy. The bill has previously passed three times in the Democratic-led Assembly, but stalled in the Senate, which was controlled by Republicans for virtually all of the past several decades until this year.</p> <p>As support for the CCPA mounted in recent weeks, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8588-pushed-on-climate-legislation-cuomo-tries-to-set-himself-apart" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cuomo had questioned the bill</a>, criticized its supporters as "playing politics" with important policy matters, and explained that key differences on the bill related to timelines and goals around moving to renewable energy, as well as how and where new state environmental funding would be allocated.</p> <p>Compromise was reached over the weekend as the three parties negotiated a host of issues, and came to a number of agreements, just ahead of the scheduled end of the Albany legislative session on Wednesday.</p> <p>The agreed-upon bill sets ambitious standards to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, including transitioning to 70 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 85 percent emissions reductions by 2050. Between 35 and 40 percent of the money allocated by the bill’s transition requirements will be invested in communities most vulnerable to climate change. The bill will also create provisions for wage and labor standards for state-supported “green jobs” or those that improve sustainability.</p> <p>“I believe we have an agreement. I believe it's going to pass,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said on WAMC radio’s The Roundtable on Monday morning. After repeatedly calling the bill both too ambitious and not ambitious enough, and dismissing advocates and elected officials pushing for it as promising too much too quickly because they wanted to score political points, Cuomo indicated at the end of last week that he was hopeful to reach a deal on a climate bill. The governor has also repeatedly cited his own version of a “New York Green New Deal,” with targets for reductions in emissions and transitions to renewables.</p> <p>“We all knew we had to make some compromise to get a three way agreement, but we’ve done a lot of good stuff in this bill. We’re going to see New York lead the world,” Assemblymember Barbara Lifton said at a Monday press conference hosted by legislators and the broad NY Renews coalition that has been organizing behind the bill. Lifton was an early supporter of the CCPA when it was first passed in 2016.</p> <p>In recent weeks NY Renews had helped secure majority sponsorship of the CCPA in both houses and rolled out high-profile endorsements of the bill from much of the New York congressional delegation, including both Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.</p> <p>A key area of compromise was reached around the mandated investments in hard-hit and vulnerable communities, areas of the state in need of “environmental justice.”</p> <p>“Climate change especially heightens the vulnerability of disadvantaged communities, which bear environmental and socioeconomic burdens as well as legacies of racial and ethnic discrimination,” the proposed bill reads. “Actions undertaken by New York state to mitigate greenhouse gas should prioritize the safety and health of disadvantaged communities.”</p> <p>Cuomo had maintained that his lack of support for the CCPA stemmed from “a question of the distribution of funding.”</p> <p>“Taxpayers' money is taxpayers' money and if it's taxpayers' money for an environmental purpose, I want to make sure it's going to an environmental purpose,” Cuomo said on WAMC Monday. “This transformation to the new green economy is very expensive and we don't have the luxury of using funding for political purposes.”</p> <p>Monday’s press conference hosted by NY Renews was celebratory, even if some advocates were slightly disappointed by the compromise and the governor’s claims that legislators backing the CCPA were “playing politics.”</p> <p>“This is not just a moment for New York but has implications for the world,” climate equity campaign strategist Adrien Salazar said.</p> <p>Because of its investment in disadvantaged communities, the CCPA is a widely intersectional bill, Senator Jessica Ramos of Queens said at the press conference.</p> <p>“The CCPA is a huge, history-making piece of legislation, but it can only be the start,” Ramos said.</p> <p>“While DC sleeps through a crisis, NY steps up,” Long Island Senator Todd Kaminsky tweeted Monday. Kaminsky serves as the chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee and lead sponsor of the bill.</p> <p>The bill is expected to be voted on in both legislative houses on Wednesday, the final scheduled day of the session.</p> <p>[READ: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8588-pushed-on-climate-legislation-cuomo-tries-to-set-himself-apart" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Pushed on Climate Legislation, Cuomo Tries to Set Himself Apart</a>]</p> <p>

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by Noah Berman, Gotham Gazette

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</p>
Stuck on Marijuana Legalization, Could Lawmakers Offer a Referendum as Cuomo Suggested? 2019-06-16T04:00:00+00:00 2019-06-16T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8606-stuck-on-marijuana-legalization-could-lawmakers-offer-a-referendum-as-cuomo-suggested Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/48009653691_b683b49601_z.jpg" alt="state capitol new york" width="600" height="406" /></p> <p>the state capitol (photo: Mike Groll/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In an <a href="https://www.wnyc.org/story/governor-cuomo-052819/">interview at the end of May</a>, Governor Andrew Cuomo made a provocative assertion: he said opponents to recreational marijuana legalization in the state Senate have argued no state in the country has legalized the controversial measure without first putting the question to voters in a ballot referendum. No such referendum has taken place in New York, but Cuomo -- who has pushed for marijuana legalization this year -- indicated on WNYC radio that it was a possibility as legislative efforts to legalize and regulate recreational, adult-use cannabis in the state have stalled.</p> <p>In a state government with virtually no tradition of holding referenda on policy initiatives, what this means for the embattled marijuana push in the final days of the legislative session is uncertain. Reports indicate that negotiations on legalization among the Democratic majorities in the Senate and Assembly and Cuomo’s office have continued throughout the weekend, with the parties eyeing the scheduled end of the session on Wednesday.</p> <p>“The opposition Senate position is, there is no state that has passed it without a referendum. It’s never been done just by the Legislature,” Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, told Brian Lehrer on WNYC on May 28. “They think it’s an overreach by the Legislature,” he added.</p> <p>While it appears true that this narrative has floated around Senate circles fearing the consequences, both political and pragmatic, the assertion itself that no state has legalized recreational marijuana without a referendum, is not (<a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/vermont-state-senate-passes-marijuana-legalization-bill-rebukes-sessions-2018-1">Vermont</a> legalized marijuana possession through its legislature in 2018, and Illinois did the same for marijuana sales <a href="https://chicago.curbed.com/2019/5/31/18647238/illinois-marijuana-legalization-pot-cannabis-recreational-vote">just days</a> after Cuomo’s comments). Nevertheless, the governor appeared to lend credence to the notion that it could be done this way in New York, despite the state’s historically closed attitude toward referenda.</p> <p>The goal of making recreational marijuana legal in New York became a realistic prospect when Democrats took control of the state Legislature earlier this year, joining a slew of priorities backed by progressives that had been backlogged under the previously Republican-controlled state Senate. It was spurred on by parallel efforts in New Jersey, which have since <a href="https://www.nj.com/marijuana/2019/05/top-dems-back-away-from-bill-to-legalize-weed-in-nj-now-theyll-move-to-expand-medical-marijuana-clear-past-convictions.html">collapsed</a>. Garden State lawmakers now plan to put the issue directly before voters in a referendum in 2020.</p> <p>As the end of the legislative session in Albany approaches, the momentum on some reforms has faltered as more centrist, and vulnerable, Democrats from Long Island and north of New York City hedge against political backlash.</p> <p>“New Jersey was going to legalize it, New Jersey stopped. I think that started to shift the political environment. The senators say on the record that they don’t have the votes to pass it politically,” Cuomo told Lehrer. This is true, but senators, led by Manhattan’s Liz Krueger, the lead sponsor of her chamber’s marijuana legalization bill, have said that it’s in part due to Cuomo’s lack of engagement on the issue. As he did on rent regulations, Cuomo has mostly sat back and said senators are being cowed by political considerations, and he’d sign whatever the legislative majorities could agree on.</p> <p>The effort may only require support from two additional senators to reach a majority in the 63-seat chamber, the Democrat and Chronicle <a href="https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/politics/albany/2019/06/05/recreational-marijuana-new-york-few-votes-short-in-senate/1340332001/">reported</a> at the beginning of June. While a legislative path may be there, especially with new compromises packed amid a “big ugly” end-of-session omnibus package, Cuomo did indicate another potential path.</p> <p>In the WNYC interview, after Cuomo pointed out the national referendum trend, he was asked whether a referendum approach could work in New York. The governor responded, “Yes, the short answer is you could do a referendum for a sense of the people where you sketch out the provision and have a referendum, and if it passes then the Legislature could say, ‘We will pass it.’”</p> <p>The long answer is not as clear. While certain types of measures require ballot referenda, like state constitutional amendments and bond issues, New York does not have the mechanism known as “initiative and referendum” <a href="https://rockinst.org/blog/new-york-referendum-state-local-government/">at the state level</a>, which many other so-called “direct democracy” states do (New Jersey doesn’t have it either). Initiative and referendum is a process that allows either the legislature or the public through petitions to put proposals directly onto the ballot to be advanced or blocked by voters.</p> <p>In some states, referenda are also used to solicit public opinion to provide non-binding guidance (and political cover) to legislators. This may be more along the lines of what the governor was describing in his comments on WNYC.</p> <p>New York does not have the infrastructure or political tradition of conducting either type of referendum, according to Gerald Benjamin, an expert on New York State government and director of the Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz.</p> <p>“It’s just a matter of fact that we don’t have the institutional design that supports decision-making by referendum in state government on policy,” Benjamin told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The governor’s office has not returned a request for comment to provide more information about Cuomo’s assertion or thinking on the matter.</p> <p>At the state level, referenda are used in a narrow set of matters that invoke the self-determination of the people, when the form and structure of the government is at stake and lawmakers’ interests pose a conflict to changing them. New York has a lengthy and politically exhausting legislative process for constitutional amendments that culminates in a referendum after passage in consecutive legislative sessions.</p> <p>The question of whether to hold a constitutional convention to amend the state’s foundational document is also mandated by law to be placed on the ballot every 20 years. And any bond issue requiring borrowing on the “full faith and credit” of the state is supposed to be approved by voters in a referendum (though much borrowing, like by <a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/pubauth/reports/pub-auth-num-2017.pdf">public authorities</a>, is not), according to Benjamin.</p> <p>Calling for a referendum can also be a political tool for lawmakers to diffuse responsibility on contentious issues, like recreational marijuana.</p> <p>“We have at least some body of law that says the representative bodies and the elected representatives of the state government should make these decisions, not try to essentially diminish their accountability by turning to the public on matters that are controversial,” Benjamin said.</p> <p>Other practical considerations also complicate the equation. There is a difference between the concept of putting a question of importance directly to voters and the pragmatic demands of getting a meaningful response.</p> <p>In the world of referendum politics there are state rules about qualifying a ballot proposal, and a number of considerations can change the meaning of the question to voters. On a complex topic where the merits are also the subject of current debate, the language of a marijuana question is significant.</p> <p>Stakeholders are still weighing the particulars of what legalizing adult-use cannabis would mean, and the outcome of that discussion could impact how a potential referendum is framed. Debates are far from settled on questions like whether criminal records for marijuana offenses should be sealed or completely expunged, the legally permissible quantities, and what the state should do with the revenue generated from licenses and taxes.</p> <p>Outside the issue-specific questions are more technical ones that would have to be answered: will the referendum be written in plain language that is easily understood; how much of the issue will make it onto the ballot; and how will it be explained to voters?</p> <p>“It’s an easy thing to say, ‘Well, let’s ask the public,’” said Benjamin, and another thing to do it. “We’re not set up to do it, we don’t have the rules and regulations and process. Would we just commission a Siena poll?”</p> <p>Still, some lawmakers are pushing for that approach to legalizing recreational marijuana, and the governor’s comments may give them traction. Especially for state Senate Democrats, who were elected to the majority last November by flipping swing districts and unseating party members who shared power with Republicans, the <a href="https://www.newsday.com/news/region-state/jay-jacobs-drivers-licenses-immigrants-1.32063237">political ramifications</a> of supporting marijuana legalization in conservative-leaning or recently Republican-led districts could be treacherous.</p> <p>“I do believe that it is true that certain members may have said we should do this through referendum because it’s a way of saying we should let the public vote on this,” a spokesperson for Senator Krueger told Gotham Gazette in an interview.</p> <p>Some senators seem to be in favor of the most progressive elements of the marijuana debate but fall short of supporting it through the legislative process. State Senator Monica Martinez, a first-term Long Island Democrat representing a swing district, has said she would not support Krueger’s bill but a spokesperson told Gotham Gazette she is in favor of decriminalizing marijuana and of expunging the records of people with prior offenses. (Expungement is considered a stronger stance than sealing because it means records are destroyed completely rather than sealed but still accessible by police.)</p> <p>“Senator Martinez does support the legalization of Marijuana through a statewide referendum,” wrote a spokesperson for the senator in an email.</p> <p>According to a <a href="https://scri.siena.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SNY0419-Crosstabs5214.pdf">Siena College poll</a> conducted in April, 52 percent of registered voters statewide supported legalization while 42 percent were opposed at the time. The math was flipped in the suburbs, where several of the Democratic state senators who don’t support the legislation live: 44 percent support the proposal and 49 percent oppose it. A more recent Siena poll conducted in the <a href="https://www.crainsnewyork.com/politics/poll-support-legal-marijuana-not-drivers-licenses-undocumented-immigrants">first week of June</a> found those numbers had balanced out, with support both statewide and in the suburbs at 55 percent. (Earlier this year the Democratic county executives of both Suffolk and Nassau on Long Island said their counties would opt out of allowing marijuana sales if the governor’s bill, which includes opt-outs for localities, was passed.)</p> <p>The marijuana bill in the state Assembly, sponsored by Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Buffalo Democrat, appears to have <a href="https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/central-ny/politics/2019/06/14/marijuana-legalization-moves-forward">stronger support</a> in the majority conference, where the partisan balance isn’t as delicate.</p> <p>New Yorkers have not always been warm to the referendum mechanism in the past. At the turn of the 20th century, the Progressive Movement in the state was concerned with changing the institutions of government, in part, to mitigate the power of political parties. While New Yorkers adopted a number of proposals like electing party officials and statewide party nominees (at times, through constitutional convention referenda), they spurned the idea of initiative and referendum, according to Benjamin.</p> <p>“Historically, referendum is regarded as essentially the ducking of responsibility by the representative government elected to make decisions,” he told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Still, the idea of going directly to the people appears to be attractive as the new cohort of state senators that swept into office this year grapple with the potential loss of a signature progressive campaign promise.</p> <p>“I think that’s the problem here, is the political reality that you don’t have the votes in the Senate,” Cuomo told Lehrer.</p> <p>Later he added, “Everything else is smoke.”</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/48009653691_b683b49601_z.jpg" alt="state capitol new york" width="600" height="406" /></p> <p>the state capitol (photo: Mike Groll/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In an <a href="https://www.wnyc.org/story/governor-cuomo-052819/">interview at the end of May</a>, Governor Andrew Cuomo made a provocative assertion: he said opponents to recreational marijuana legalization in the state Senate have argued no state in the country has legalized the controversial measure without first putting the question to voters in a ballot referendum. No such referendum has taken place in New York, but Cuomo -- who has pushed for marijuana legalization this year -- indicated on WNYC radio that it was a possibility as legislative efforts to legalize and regulate recreational, adult-use cannabis in the state have stalled.</p> <p>In a state government with virtually no tradition of holding referenda on policy initiatives, what this means for the embattled marijuana push in the final days of the legislative session is uncertain. Reports indicate that negotiations on legalization among the Democratic majorities in the Senate and Assembly and Cuomo’s office have continued throughout the weekend, with the parties eyeing the scheduled end of the session on Wednesday.</p> <p>“The opposition Senate position is, there is no state that has passed it without a referendum. It’s never been done just by the Legislature,” Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, told Brian Lehrer on WNYC on May 28. “They think it’s an overreach by the Legislature,” he added.</p> <p>While it appears true that this narrative has floated around Senate circles fearing the consequences, both political and pragmatic, the assertion itself that no state has legalized recreational marijuana without a referendum, is not (<a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/vermont-state-senate-passes-marijuana-legalization-bill-rebukes-sessions-2018-1">Vermont</a> legalized marijuana possession through its legislature in 2018, and Illinois did the same for marijuana sales <a href="https://chicago.curbed.com/2019/5/31/18647238/illinois-marijuana-legalization-pot-cannabis-recreational-vote">just days</a> after Cuomo’s comments). Nevertheless, the governor appeared to lend credence to the notion that it could be done this way in New York, despite the state’s historically closed attitude toward referenda.</p> <p>The goal of making recreational marijuana legal in New York became a realistic prospect when Democrats took control of the state Legislature earlier this year, joining a slew of priorities backed by progressives that had been backlogged under the previously Republican-controlled state Senate. It was spurred on by parallel efforts in New Jersey, which have since <a href="https://www.nj.com/marijuana/2019/05/top-dems-back-away-from-bill-to-legalize-weed-in-nj-now-theyll-move-to-expand-medical-marijuana-clear-past-convictions.html">collapsed</a>. Garden State lawmakers now plan to put the issue directly before voters in a referendum in 2020.</p> <p>As the end of the legislative session in Albany approaches, the momentum on some reforms has faltered as more centrist, and vulnerable, Democrats from Long Island and north of New York City hedge against political backlash.</p> <p>“New Jersey was going to legalize it, New Jersey stopped. I think that started to shift the political environment. The senators say on the record that they don’t have the votes to pass it politically,” Cuomo told Lehrer. This is true, but senators, led by Manhattan’s Liz Krueger, the lead sponsor of her chamber’s marijuana legalization bill, have said that it’s in part due to Cuomo’s lack of engagement on the issue. As he did on rent regulations, Cuomo has mostly sat back and said senators are being cowed by political considerations, and he’d sign whatever the legislative majorities could agree on.</p> <p>The effort may only require support from two additional senators to reach a majority in the 63-seat chamber, the Democrat and Chronicle <a href="https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/politics/albany/2019/06/05/recreational-marijuana-new-york-few-votes-short-in-senate/1340332001/">reported</a> at the beginning of June. While a legislative path may be there, especially with new compromises packed amid a “big ugly” end-of-session omnibus package, Cuomo did indicate another potential path.</p> <p>In the WNYC interview, after Cuomo pointed out the national referendum trend, he was asked whether a referendum approach could work in New York. The governor responded, “Yes, the short answer is you could do a referendum for a sense of the people where you sketch out the provision and have a referendum, and if it passes then the Legislature could say, ‘We will pass it.’”</p> <p>The long answer is not as clear. While certain types of measures require ballot referenda, like state constitutional amendments and bond issues, New York does not have the mechanism known as “initiative and referendum” <a href="https://rockinst.org/blog/new-york-referendum-state-local-government/">at the state level</a>, which many other so-called “direct democracy” states do (New Jersey doesn’t have it either). Initiative and referendum is a process that allows either the legislature or the public through petitions to put proposals directly onto the ballot to be advanced or blocked by voters.</p> <p>In some states, referenda are also used to solicit public opinion to provide non-binding guidance (and political cover) to legislators. This may be more along the lines of what the governor was describing in his comments on WNYC.</p> <p>New York does not have the infrastructure or political tradition of conducting either type of referendum, according to Gerald Benjamin, an expert on New York State government and director of the Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz.</p> <p>“It’s just a matter of fact that we don’t have the institutional design that supports decision-making by referendum in state government on policy,” Benjamin told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The governor’s office has not returned a request for comment to provide more information about Cuomo’s assertion or thinking on the matter.</p> <p>At the state level, referenda are used in a narrow set of matters that invoke the self-determination of the people, when the form and structure of the government is at stake and lawmakers’ interests pose a conflict to changing them. New York has a lengthy and politically exhausting legislative process for constitutional amendments that culminates in a referendum after passage in consecutive legislative sessions.</p> <p>The question of whether to hold a constitutional convention to amend the state’s foundational document is also mandated by law to be placed on the ballot every 20 years. And any bond issue requiring borrowing on the “full faith and credit” of the state is supposed to be approved by voters in a referendum (though much borrowing, like by <a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/pubauth/reports/pub-auth-num-2017.pdf">public authorities</a>, is not), according to Benjamin.</p> <p>Calling for a referendum can also be a political tool for lawmakers to diffuse responsibility on contentious issues, like recreational marijuana.</p> <p>“We have at least some body of law that says the representative bodies and the elected representatives of the state government should make these decisions, not try to essentially diminish their accountability by turning to the public on matters that are controversial,” Benjamin said.</p> <p>Other practical considerations also complicate the equation. There is a difference between the concept of putting a question of importance directly to voters and the pragmatic demands of getting a meaningful response.</p> <p>In the world of referendum politics there are state rules about qualifying a ballot proposal, and a number of considerations can change the meaning of the question to voters. On a complex topic where the merits are also the subject of current debate, the language of a marijuana question is significant.</p> <p>Stakeholders are still weighing the particulars of what legalizing adult-use cannabis would mean, and the outcome of that discussion could impact how a potential referendum is framed. Debates are far from settled on questions like whether criminal records for marijuana offenses should be sealed or completely expunged, the legally permissible quantities, and what the state should do with the revenue generated from licenses and taxes.</p> <p>Outside the issue-specific questions are more technical ones that would have to be answered: will the referendum be written in plain language that is easily understood; how much of the issue will make it onto the ballot; and how will it be explained to voters?</p> <p>“It’s an easy thing to say, ‘Well, let’s ask the public,’” said Benjamin, and another thing to do it. “We’re not set up to do it, we don’t have the rules and regulations and process. Would we just commission a Siena poll?”</p> <p>Still, some lawmakers are pushing for that approach to legalizing recreational marijuana, and the governor’s comments may give them traction. Especially for state Senate Democrats, who were elected to the majority last November by flipping swing districts and unseating party members who shared power with Republicans, the <a href="https://www.newsday.com/news/region-state/jay-jacobs-drivers-licenses-immigrants-1.32063237">political ramifications</a> of supporting marijuana legalization in conservative-leaning or recently Republican-led districts could be treacherous.</p> <p>“I do believe that it is true that certain members may have said we should do this through referendum because it’s a way of saying we should let the public vote on this,” a spokesperson for Senator Krueger told Gotham Gazette in an interview.</p> <p>Some senators seem to be in favor of the most progressive elements of the marijuana debate but fall short of supporting it through the legislative process. State Senator Monica Martinez, a first-term Long Island Democrat representing a swing district, has said she would not support Krueger’s bill but a spokesperson told Gotham Gazette she is in favor of decriminalizing marijuana and of expunging the records of people with prior offenses. (Expungement is considered a stronger stance than sealing because it means records are destroyed completely rather than sealed but still accessible by police.)</p> <p>“Senator Martinez does support the legalization of Marijuana through a statewide referendum,” wrote a spokesperson for the senator in an email.</p> <p>According to a <a href="https://scri.siena.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SNY0419-Crosstabs5214.pdf">Siena College poll</a> conducted in April, 52 percent of registered voters statewide supported legalization while 42 percent were opposed at the time. The math was flipped in the suburbs, where several of the Democratic state senators who don’t support the legislation live: 44 percent support the proposal and 49 percent oppose it. A more recent Siena poll conducted in the <a href="https://www.crainsnewyork.com/politics/poll-support-legal-marijuana-not-drivers-licenses-undocumented-immigrants">first week of June</a> found those numbers had balanced out, with support both statewide and in the suburbs at 55 percent. (Earlier this year the Democratic county executives of both Suffolk and Nassau on Long Island said their counties would opt out of allowing marijuana sales if the governor’s bill, which includes opt-outs for localities, was passed.)</p> <p>The marijuana bill in the state Assembly, sponsored by Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Buffalo Democrat, appears to have <a href="https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/central-ny/politics/2019/06/14/marijuana-legalization-moves-forward">stronger support</a> in the majority conference, where the partisan balance isn’t as delicate.</p> <p>New Yorkers have not always been warm to the referendum mechanism in the past. At the turn of the 20th century, the Progressive Movement in the state was concerned with changing the institutions of government, in part, to mitigate the power of political parties. While New Yorkers adopted a number of proposals like electing party officials and statewide party nominees (at times, through constitutional convention referenda), they spurned the idea of initiative and referendum, according to Benjamin.</p> <p>“Historically, referendum is regarded as essentially the ducking of responsibility by the representative government elected to make decisions,” he told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Still, the idea of going directly to the people appears to be attractive as the new cohort of state senators that swept into office this year grapple with the potential loss of a signature progressive campaign promise.</p> <p>“I think that’s the problem here, is the political reality that you don’t have the votes in the Senate,” Cuomo told Lehrer.</p> <p>Later he added, “Everything else is smoke.”</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Seize the Albany Opportunity to Do More for NYCHA 2019-06-16T04:00:00+00:00 2019-06-16T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8604-don-t-leave-albany-without-new-investment-in-nycha Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/gov-cuomo-comm.jpg" alt="gov cuomo comm" width="600" /></p> <p>Danny Barber, left, is the author; with Gov. Cuomo &amp; others (photo: the Governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>I stood with Governor Cuomo last year when he showed how bad conditions in public housing have gotten after decades of federal neglect. With the governor’s leadership, NYCHA was allocated $250 million in last year’s state budget. While that money was held up due to the appointment of a federal monitor, the need for additional funds remains again this year.</p> <p>Major capital repairs are needed to keep residents safe and healthy in all five boroughs. Leaks, mold, pests, broken elevators, and lead are a constant worry for us 400,0000 public housing residents as we try to get to work or school or care for our families at home.</p> <p>The Assembly called for $300 million and the Senate asked for $250 million in the annual state budget process earlier this year. So far, NYCHA has gotten zero. This surprises me given the governor’s commitment and the tumultuous year NYCHA has had, leaving residents with great uncertainty about the future status of our homes.</p> <p>State lawmakers have a chance to redeem themselves and commit to fighting to preserve NYCHA by appropriating capital funds before the end of this year’s legislative session, which is scheduled to finish this week and is expected to include decisions on capital allocations.</p> <p>Albany also has an opportunity to create a more just and equitable tax policy while funding public housing, and it won’t cost a dime in state budget money.</p> <p>This year, New York City will give away about $600 million to homeowners through the Cooperative and Condominium Property Tax Abatement, which reduces real property taxes for owner-occupiers by 17.5% to 28.1%, depending on assessed value. With the abatement scheduled to sunset this week, Albany lawmakers have an opportunity to provide a long-term funding solution for public housing.</p> <p>Reform legislation has been introduced in the Assembly by Robert Rodriguez with a companion bill in the Senate sponsored by the housing committee chair Senator Brian Kavanagh. This bill preserves the tax abatement for 90% of homeowners, while eliminating tax breaks for the top 10% of luxury coops and condos.</p> <p>By ending this tax break for the top 10% of luxury owners now, $170 million in tax revenue will be collected each year. The reform legislation earmarks this revenue for capital repairs in public housing, which can help bring NYCHA into compliance with federal regulations protecting tenants from health hazards such as mold, lead, and vermin.</p> <p>More than 320,000 cooperative and condominium homeowners received an average tax break of $1,890 in fiscal year 2019 but benefits to luxury homeowners far exceed this average. President Trump, for example, was eligible for $48,000 in tax relief when he resided in Trump Tower. This reform bill will end tax breaks for luxury owners who don’t need them. New York City’s Housing and Vacancy Survey indicates that 10% of all coop and condo owners citywide earn more than $350,000 per year. That number contrasts sharply with $24,000, the average income for residents in public housing.</p> <p>Albany lawmakers will have to decide if they want to renew the current abatement and perpetuate housing inequality or if they want to reform it by ending tax breaks to luxury properties and fund repairs that will benefit many thousands of public housing residents. The choice seems simple.</p> <p>***<br />Danny Barber is Chair of the Citywide Council of Presidents of NYCHA residents, representing 400,000 public housing residents. He is also President of Jackson Houses Resident Inc., Chairman of the South Bronx District Council of Presidents Inc., and a member of Community Board 1.</p> <p>

***
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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/gov-cuomo-comm.jpg" alt="gov cuomo comm" width="600" /></p> <p>Danny Barber, left, is the author; with Gov. Cuomo &amp; others (photo: the Governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>I stood with Governor Cuomo last year when he showed how bad conditions in public housing have gotten after decades of federal neglect. With the governor’s leadership, NYCHA was allocated $250 million in last year’s state budget. While that money was held up due to the appointment of a federal monitor, the need for additional funds remains again this year.</p> <p>Major capital repairs are needed to keep residents safe and healthy in all five boroughs. Leaks, mold, pests, broken elevators, and lead are a constant worry for us 400,0000 public housing residents as we try to get to work or school or care for our families at home.</p> <p>The Assembly called for $300 million and the Senate asked for $250 million in the annual state budget process earlier this year. So far, NYCHA has gotten zero. This surprises me given the governor’s commitment and the tumultuous year NYCHA has had, leaving residents with great uncertainty about the future status of our homes.</p> <p>State lawmakers have a chance to redeem themselves and commit to fighting to preserve NYCHA by appropriating capital funds before the end of this year’s legislative session, which is scheduled to finish this week and is expected to include decisions on capital allocations.</p> <p>Albany also has an opportunity to create a more just and equitable tax policy while funding public housing, and it won’t cost a dime in state budget money.</p> <p>This year, New York City will give away about $600 million to homeowners through the Cooperative and Condominium Property Tax Abatement, which reduces real property taxes for owner-occupiers by 17.5% to 28.1%, depending on assessed value. With the abatement scheduled to sunset this week, Albany lawmakers have an opportunity to provide a long-term funding solution for public housing.</p> <p>Reform legislation has been introduced in the Assembly by Robert Rodriguez with a companion bill in the Senate sponsored by the housing committee chair Senator Brian Kavanagh. This bill preserves the tax abatement for 90% of homeowners, while eliminating tax breaks for the top 10% of luxury coops and condos.</p> <p>By ending this tax break for the top 10% of luxury owners now, $170 million in tax revenue will be collected each year. The reform legislation earmarks this revenue for capital repairs in public housing, which can help bring NYCHA into compliance with federal regulations protecting tenants from health hazards such as mold, lead, and vermin.</p> <p>More than 320,000 cooperative and condominium homeowners received an average tax break of $1,890 in fiscal year 2019 but benefits to luxury homeowners far exceed this average. President Trump, for example, was eligible for $48,000 in tax relief when he resided in Trump Tower. This reform bill will end tax breaks for luxury owners who don’t need them. New York City’s Housing and Vacancy Survey indicates that 10% of all coop and condo owners citywide earn more than $350,000 per year. That number contrasts sharply with $24,000, the average income for residents in public housing.</p> <p>Albany lawmakers will have to decide if they want to renew the current abatement and perpetuate housing inequality or if they want to reform it by ending tax breaks to luxury properties and fund repairs that will benefit many thousands of public housing residents. The choice seems simple.</p> <p>***<br />Danny Barber is Chair of the Citywide Council of Presidents of NYCHA residents, representing 400,000 public housing residents. He is also President of Jackson Houses Resident Inc., Chairman of the South Bronx District Council of Presidents Inc., and a member of Community Board 1.</p> <p>

***
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For the Earth's Sake, Enforce Bus Lanes with Cameras 2019-06-16T04:00:00+00:00 2019-06-16T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8605-climate-change-enforce-bus-lanes-with-cameras Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/mta-usb-wifi.jpg" alt="mta usb wifi" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: MTA/Patrick Cashin)</p> <hr /> <p>Transit policy is climate policy. In New York, transportation emits 30% of the city’s carbon pollution and 34% of the state’s. Since it’s easier to drive less in a city than in suburban and rural areas, much of that is carbon we can easily spare. When shrinking New York’s carbon footprint, transportation emissions are low-hanging fruit.</p> <p>Granted, the challenge is stiff. Car registrations in the city are rising, up 9% in the past four years. The city’s own government vehicle fleet has grown 19% in size and 25% in miles traveled in the past five years. City agencies hand out an estimated 150,000 placards that privilege public employees to park their personal cars on our streets, encouraging them to drive rather than ride transit.</p> <p>Car culture is resilient throughout the city. In many communities, a car is a status symbol. Many immigrants, low-income New Yorkers, and New Yorkers of color drive for a living. Taxi drivers protested the recent enactment of congestion pricing. Even progressives in Greenwich Village and Chelsea objected to shuttle bus service for L train riders displaced by construction.</p> <p>To their credit, our leaders have made major commitments to transit. Governor Cuomo and the Legislature passed congestion pricing to fund major subway upgrades. Both Mayor de Blasio and the MTA made historic promises and have begun to improve bus service. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson successfully championed reduced transit fares for low-income riders in the city budget and made a public pledge to “break the car culture.” Comptroller Scott Stringer has produced game-changing reports on bus service and commuter rail.</p> <p>But there’s a lot more to do. Shifting decisively away from cars and toward transit will require major policy change. If done right, it will make the city more equitable, enhance the quality of life for millions of New Yorkers, and help save everyone on the planet from out-of-control climate change.</p> <p>First, it’s crucial that the governor fully implement congestion pricing. Congestion pricing has the potential to directly cut citywide carbon emissions by nearly one million tons annually. By cutting congestion, congestion pricing will also indirectly cut emissions even further by making it easier for families and businesses to locate or stay in the city rather than leave for more carbon-intensive lifestyles in the suburbs or beyond.</p> <p>Second, congestion pricing revenue must be dedicated to fixing the subway. Despite recent improvements in performance, our subway system remains in crisis. While jobs, population, and tourism numbers hit record highs, our subways have been losing riders for three years running, a longer decline than any since the fiscal crisis of the 1970s. The system desperately needs modern signals, new subway cars, and elevators that will provide access to New Yorkers with disabilities.</p> <p>Third, the city and the MTA must deliver on the promise of better bus service in every neighborhood. Today, our buses are the slowest in the nation, mired in traffic, and bogged down with countless stops along convoluted routes. Bus ridership has been falling for over a decade, along with average speeds.</p> <p>The mayor needs to build out a robust bus lane network in tandem with the MTA’s redesign of each borough’s bus map. Truly turning bus service and ridership around will require prioritizing buses and riders along crowded commercial streets. It will also mean changing the spacing of bus stops so that buses can get up to speed and keep moving, delivering faster and more reliable service. Properly spaced bus stops should be upgraded with amenities like shelters, benches, legible maps, and countdown clocks.</p> <p>These commitments will take years to be achieved. Meanwhile, there’s one transit policy item on this session’s Albany legislative agenda that can make a real difference, really soon. Assemblymember Nily Rozic and Senator Liz Krueger are sponsoring legislation (A6777/S1925) that would reauthorize and expand the bus lane camera program citywide.</p> <p>Dedicated lanes are essential to quality bus service but are only as good as they are enforced.</p> <p>To effectively prioritize bus riders on busy city streets, bus lanes must be kept clear of obstructions. The NYPD has only so many officers and myriad other responsibilities. Enforcement cameras nudge drivers to steer clear and leave bus lanes to bus riders.</p> <p>Curbing climate change requires a broad range of policy tools. Many of them involve better transit. Before the end of the session this month, the state Legislature and governor have an important opportunity to put bus riders and the climate first. They should take it.</p> <p>***<br />Danny Pearlstein is&nbsp;Policy and Communications Director of the Riders Alliance. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/RidersNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@RidersNY</a>.</p> <p>

***
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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/mta-usb-wifi.jpg" alt="mta usb wifi" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: MTA/Patrick Cashin)</p> <hr /> <p>Transit policy is climate policy. In New York, transportation emits 30% of the city’s carbon pollution and 34% of the state’s. Since it’s easier to drive less in a city than in suburban and rural areas, much of that is carbon we can easily spare. When shrinking New York’s carbon footprint, transportation emissions are low-hanging fruit.</p> <p>Granted, the challenge is stiff. Car registrations in the city are rising, up 9% in the past four years. The city’s own government vehicle fleet has grown 19% in size and 25% in miles traveled in the past five years. City agencies hand out an estimated 150,000 placards that privilege public employees to park their personal cars on our streets, encouraging them to drive rather than ride transit.</p> <p>Car culture is resilient throughout the city. In many communities, a car is a status symbol. Many immigrants, low-income New Yorkers, and New Yorkers of color drive for a living. Taxi drivers protested the recent enactment of congestion pricing. Even progressives in Greenwich Village and Chelsea objected to shuttle bus service for L train riders displaced by construction.</p> <p>To their credit, our leaders have made major commitments to transit. Governor Cuomo and the Legislature passed congestion pricing to fund major subway upgrades. Both Mayor de Blasio and the MTA made historic promises and have begun to improve bus service. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson successfully championed reduced transit fares for low-income riders in the city budget and made a public pledge to “break the car culture.” Comptroller Scott Stringer has produced game-changing reports on bus service and commuter rail.</p> <p>But there’s a lot more to do. Shifting decisively away from cars and toward transit will require major policy change. If done right, it will make the city more equitable, enhance the quality of life for millions of New Yorkers, and help save everyone on the planet from out-of-control climate change.</p> <p>First, it’s crucial that the governor fully implement congestion pricing. Congestion pricing has the potential to directly cut citywide carbon emissions by nearly one million tons annually. By cutting congestion, congestion pricing will also indirectly cut emissions even further by making it easier for families and businesses to locate or stay in the city rather than leave for more carbon-intensive lifestyles in the suburbs or beyond.</p> <p>Second, congestion pricing revenue must be dedicated to fixing the subway. Despite recent improvements in performance, our subway system remains in crisis. While jobs, population, and tourism numbers hit record highs, our subways have been losing riders for three years running, a longer decline than any since the fiscal crisis of the 1970s. The system desperately needs modern signals, new subway cars, and elevators that will provide access to New Yorkers with disabilities.</p> <p>Third, the city and the MTA must deliver on the promise of better bus service in every neighborhood. Today, our buses are the slowest in the nation, mired in traffic, and bogged down with countless stops along convoluted routes. Bus ridership has been falling for over a decade, along with average speeds.</p> <p>The mayor needs to build out a robust bus lane network in tandem with the MTA’s redesign of each borough’s bus map. Truly turning bus service and ridership around will require prioritizing buses and riders along crowded commercial streets. It will also mean changing the spacing of bus stops so that buses can get up to speed and keep moving, delivering faster and more reliable service. Properly spaced bus stops should be upgraded with amenities like shelters, benches, legible maps, and countdown clocks.</p> <p>These commitments will take years to be achieved. Meanwhile, there’s one transit policy item on this session’s Albany legislative agenda that can make a real difference, really soon. Assemblymember Nily Rozic and Senator Liz Krueger are sponsoring legislation (A6777/S1925) that would reauthorize and expand the bus lane camera program citywide.</p> <p>Dedicated lanes are essential to quality bus service but are only as good as they are enforced.</p> <p>To effectively prioritize bus riders on busy city streets, bus lanes must be kept clear of obstructions. The NYPD has only so many officers and myriad other responsibilities. Enforcement cameras nudge drivers to steer clear and leave bus lanes to bus riders.</p> <p>Curbing climate change requires a broad range of policy tools. Many of them involve better transit. Before the end of the session this month, the state Legislature and governor have an important opportunity to put bus riders and the climate first. They should take it.</p> <p>***<br />Danny Pearlstein is&nbsp;Policy and Communications Director of the Riders Alliance. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/RidersNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@RidersNY</a>.</p> <p>

***
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Max & Murphy Podcast: Dissecting Dynamics in Albany 2019-06-12T04:00:00+00:00 2019-06-12T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8596-max-murphy-podcast-dissecting-dynamics-in-albany Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/red-room-meeting-gov-ac.jpg" alt="red room meeting gov ac" width="600" height="413" /></p> <p>(photo: Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>June 12, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast:Dissecting Dynamics in Albany, with Casey Seiler<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/casey-seiler-albany-times-union.jpg" alt="casey seiler albany times union" width="155" height="155" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Casey Seiler, managing editor of the Albany Times Union, joined the show to discuss the end of the legislative session in Albany, including the historic deal reach on rent regulations, dynamics between Governor Cuomo and the Legislature, and whether deals will be reached on big-ticket items like driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants and adult-use marijuana legalization.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/635767203&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/red-room-meeting-gov-ac.jpg" alt="red room meeting gov ac" width="600" height="413" /></p> <p>(photo: Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>June 12, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast:Dissecting Dynamics in Albany, with Casey Seiler<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/casey-seiler-albany-times-union.jpg" alt="casey seiler albany times union" width="155" height="155" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Casey Seiler, managing editor of the Albany Times Union, joined the show to discuss the end of the legislative session in Albany, including the historic deal reach on rent regulations, dynamics between Governor Cuomo and the Legislature, and whether deals will be reached on big-ticket items like driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants and adult-use marijuana legalization.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/635767203&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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For Racial Justice, Cuomo and Legislative Leaders Must Pass Marijuana Legalization 2019-06-10T04:00:00+00:00 2019-06-10T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8585-for-racial-justice-cuomo-and-legislative-leaders-must-pass-marijuana-legalization Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/gov-amc-rockland.jpg" alt="gov amc rockland" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>We are days away from the end of the legislative session and among the many important issues Governor Cuomo and New York legislators have left to accomplish is addressing the racially-biased and unjust enforcement of marijuana prohibition in our state.</p> <p>The Marijuana Regulation &amp; Taxation Act (MRTA), currently being considered by New York lawmakers, is one of the clearest pathways toward reducing racism in New York. In the last 20 years our beloved state has earned the dubious distinction of becoming the marijuana arrest capital of the country, with more than 800,000 arrests made just for possession of small amounts.</p> <p>Nearly 80% of those arrested have been people of color, even though drug use occurs at similar rates across racial and ethnic groups.</p> <p>These arrests are not a trivial matter. They involve being handcuffed, placed in a police car, taken to a police station, fingerprinted, photographed, possibly being held in jail for up to 24 hours while awaiting arraignment before a judge, appearing in court several times over the course of months, and potentially concluding with the imposition of a permanent criminal record that can easily be found online by employers, landlords, schools, credit agencies, and banks.</p> <p>New Yorkers who are arrested often face consequences that can make it difficult to get and keep a job, maintain a professional license, obtain educational loans, secure housing, or even keep custody of a child. This is all for something that is now legal in 10 states and the District of Columbia, and that white people do for the most part without consequences nationwide.</p> <p>If you are among the many who believe legalization isn’t necessary, believing New York’s decriminalization law protects people of color from law enforcement harassment, let me share the reality of what happens in our communities.</p> <p>While it is currently illegal to sell marijuana, you are not technically supposed to get arrested for possession of small amounts. But New York’s decriminalization law, which we’ve had for 40 years, is failing. More than 60 people on average are still arrested every day for marijuana possession in the state. These arrests have been largely justified by a loophole allowing police officers to distinguish between public and private personal possession. Because possession in “public view” remains a crime—and the fact that there is pervasive and racially-biased over-policing of communities of color—mass arrests continue.</p> <p>The MRTA will not only put an end to these racist police practices, but will create a responsible and well-regulated industry that will better restrict minors’ access to marijuana. It will also generate millions in tax revenue to bolster the state economy and support the communities that have been most harmed by marijuana prohibition.</p> <p>The bill additionally works to address some of the unjust consequences of marijuana prohibition by creating a process for both the reclassification of past convictions related to marijuana and for the resentencing of currently incarcerated individuals who are serving time due to a marijuana-related offense. This provision of the legislation will remove significant barriers that New Yorkers face in the wake of a marijuana conviction and allow them to fully participate in society without the devastating toll of collateral consequences.</p> <p>New Yorkers can feel assured knowing that the sky did not fall in states like Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska that have legalized the adult use of marijuana. Use by minors has not gone up, and there has been no increase in driving under the influence. We have the major benefit of learning from hurdles these pioneering states had to overcome, and incorporating lessons learned.</p> <p>The drug war has left a lasting impact on generations of New Yorkers, particularly harmful for people of color. State resources that could benefit our communities are instead being used to perpetuate wasteful and damaging prohibitionist policies that have not been successful in curbing use, increasing public health, or benefitting communities.</p> <p>The MRTA will not only earn the state billions in revenue, but will reinvest some of this money back into the communities that have been most harmed with adult education services, job training, the expansion of afterschool programs, re-entry services, and other community-centered projects. Money will also be directed toward public schools as well as drug treatment programs and public education campaigns geared toward reducing opioid overdoses and saving lives. It is a win all around.</p> <p>It is time to stop the ineffective, racially-biased, and unjust enforcement of marijuana prohibition and to create a new, well-regulated, and inclusive marijuana industry that is rooted in racial and economic justice. If Governor Cuomo and New York legislators are really interested in curbing racism in our state, they will pass the Marijuana Regulation &amp; Taxation Act this legislative session.</p> <p>***<br />L. Joy Williams is the President of the Brooklyn NAACP. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ljoywilliams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@LJoyWilliams</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/gov-amc-rockland.jpg" alt="gov amc rockland" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>We are days away from the end of the legislative session and among the many important issues Governor Cuomo and New York legislators have left to accomplish is addressing the racially-biased and unjust enforcement of marijuana prohibition in our state.</p> <p>The Marijuana Regulation &amp; Taxation Act (MRTA), currently being considered by New York lawmakers, is one of the clearest pathways toward reducing racism in New York. In the last 20 years our beloved state has earned the dubious distinction of becoming the marijuana arrest capital of the country, with more than 800,000 arrests made just for possession of small amounts.</p> <p>Nearly 80% of those arrested have been people of color, even though drug use occurs at similar rates across racial and ethnic groups.</p> <p>These arrests are not a trivial matter. They involve being handcuffed, placed in a police car, taken to a police station, fingerprinted, photographed, possibly being held in jail for up to 24 hours while awaiting arraignment before a judge, appearing in court several times over the course of months, and potentially concluding with the imposition of a permanent criminal record that can easily be found online by employers, landlords, schools, credit agencies, and banks.</p> <p>New Yorkers who are arrested often face consequences that can make it difficult to get and keep a job, maintain a professional license, obtain educational loans, secure housing, or even keep custody of a child. This is all for something that is now legal in 10 states and the District of Columbia, and that white people do for the most part without consequences nationwide.</p> <p>If you are among the many who believe legalization isn’t necessary, believing New York’s decriminalization law protects people of color from law enforcement harassment, let me share the reality of what happens in our communities.</p> <p>While it is currently illegal to sell marijuana, you are not technically supposed to get arrested for possession of small amounts. But New York’s decriminalization law, which we’ve had for 40 years, is failing. More than 60 people on average are still arrested every day for marijuana possession in the state. These arrests have been largely justified by a loophole allowing police officers to distinguish between public and private personal possession. Because possession in “public view” remains a crime—and the fact that there is pervasive and racially-biased over-policing of communities of color—mass arrests continue.</p> <p>The MRTA will not only put an end to these racist police practices, but will create a responsible and well-regulated industry that will better restrict minors’ access to marijuana. It will also generate millions in tax revenue to bolster the state economy and support the communities that have been most harmed by marijuana prohibition.</p> <p>The bill additionally works to address some of the unjust consequences of marijuana prohibition by creating a process for both the reclassification of past convictions related to marijuana and for the resentencing of currently incarcerated individuals who are serving time due to a marijuana-related offense. This provision of the legislation will remove significant barriers that New Yorkers face in the wake of a marijuana conviction and allow them to fully participate in society without the devastating toll of collateral consequences.</p> <p>New Yorkers can feel assured knowing that the sky did not fall in states like Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska that have legalized the adult use of marijuana. Use by minors has not gone up, and there has been no increase in driving under the influence. We have the major benefit of learning from hurdles these pioneering states had to overcome, and incorporating lessons learned.</p> <p>The drug war has left a lasting impact on generations of New Yorkers, particularly harmful for people of color. State resources that could benefit our communities are instead being used to perpetuate wasteful and damaging prohibitionist policies that have not been successful in curbing use, increasing public health, or benefitting communities.</p> <p>The MRTA will not only earn the state billions in revenue, but will reinvest some of this money back into the communities that have been most harmed with adult education services, job training, the expansion of afterschool programs, re-entry services, and other community-centered projects. Money will also be directed toward public schools as well as drug treatment programs and public education campaigns geared toward reducing opioid overdoses and saving lives. It is a win all around.</p> <p>It is time to stop the ineffective, racially-biased, and unjust enforcement of marijuana prohibition and to create a new, well-regulated, and inclusive marijuana industry that is rooted in racial and economic justice. If Governor Cuomo and New York legislators are really interested in curbing racism in our state, they will pass the Marijuana Regulation &amp; Taxation Act this legislative session.</p> <p>***<br />L. Joy Williams is the President of the Brooklyn NAACP. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ljoywilliams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@LJoyWilliams</a>.</p> <p>

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

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