Gotham Gazette

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New Bills: Tracking Stimulus and Unattended Idlers

Fiscal crises don't stop the legislative process.

Here is a sample of bills introduced at the City Council lately, some of which are destined to drift about in legislative purgatory. The council is ready to consider bills that include requiring food inspector grades be posted on street carts to mandating a super majority for tax hikes.

Watching Stimulus Funds

The city is eligible to receive millions -- if not billions -- of dollars in stimulus funding from the federal government as part of the stimulus package approved earlier this year. Already, the city has received $271 million in funding for transportation projects.

To keep track of it all, Councilmember Bill de Blasio, who is a candidate for public advocate, introduced legislation (Intro 957) that would create a Web site detailing all of the stimulus funds awarded to the city. Recipients of funds, according to the bill, would have to give monthly progress reports and detail how the project would increase economic activity in the city.

The site would be called SunlightNYC.

“Without accountability, we risk another AIG," said de Blasio in a prepared statement. "SunlightNYC will require all stimulus spending to be tracked and transparent. The public deserves to know how their money is being spent, down to the last dollar."

City agencies would also have to detail what projects did not receive federal funding that they applied for.

The Bloomberg administration has launched a stimulus tracker detailing the types of funding the city can receive, and the projects that have been awarded federal money.

Posting Food Grades

The city already grades schools, why not pass or fail city food vendors? That is the question Councilmember Daniel Garodnick is asking.

Under legislation (Intro 958) introduced by Garodnick, the city would be required to give laminated grade placards to vendors 72 hours after inspections. Vendors would have to then post visibly on their carts at all times.

Noticing Foreclosed Properties

Under legislation (Intro 959) also introduced by Garodnick, any bank or individual issuing a foreclosure on a property with more than six units would have to notify all of the tenants of the building.

A similar bill introduced by Councilmember Thomas White (Intro 956) would require an entity notify tenants in buildings with between one and five units.

They would have to notify the tenants within ten days of the action, if not, the entity could be subject to a $1,000 fine per day.

Bulletproof Banks

In 2008, according to the council, bank robberies increased by 50 percent.

In hopes of curbing that trend, Councilmember Oliver Koppell introduced legislation (Intro 960) that would require all banks install bulletproof glass at teller windows. The legislation would not apply to atm machines.

If banks fail to comply, they could be fined up to $1,500 under the bill.

Super Majority for Taxes

The council's Republican trio wants to curb taxes. Despite Democrats more than super majority over the governing body, members Jimmy Oddo, Vincent Ignizio and newcomer Eric Ulrich want to require an official super-majority for any approval of a tax hike.

The bill (Intro 961 ) would require any fee, tax increase or decrease be approved by two-thirds of the City Council instead of a simple majority. That means 34 votes in the affirmative instead of 26.

Council Member Salaries

Councilmember Tony Avella, a mayoral candidate, introduced legislation (Intro 946) that would ban any City Council member salary increase within 30 days of a general, primary or special election. Any increase the council approves would not take effect until after the next general election, according to the bill.

Avella voted against the council's pay increase in 2006, which upped salaries from $90,000 to $112,500.

“The purpose of this legislation is to prevent the travesty that occurred in 2006 when the City Council voted itself a 25 percent pay increase," Avella said in a prepared statement. "It is sheer self interest when a legislative body votes to increase the salaries of its current members and only serves to further erode the public’s trust of the body as a whole and of each individual member."

Unattended Idling

After a drunken driver stole an idling car and killed two pedestrians in Middle Village, Queens in February, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley set out to prevent it from happening again.

Crowley introduced legislation (Intro 947) that would increase the fine for leaving a vehicle unattended and idling from $5 to $250.

Though the city has had idling legislation in place since the 1970s, it has been sporadically enforced. Earlier this year, the council passed legislation to step up that enforcement by allowing sanitation and parks officials to issue tickets for idling. The council also recently passed legislation implementing stricter idling guidelines in school zones.

Fire Commissioner Power

The city's fire commissioner has a lot of discretion. He or she can close firehouses -- if fiscal times require -- as he or she sees fit, but needs to notify the council.

Now, Councilmember de Blasio would also like to have the commissioner notify the council when ambulance routes are terminated permanently -- or for more than six months. The legislation ( Intro 949) would require the department notify the City Council 45 days before a route was eliminated. Ambulance services are within the fire department's budget.

The administration is proposing to do away with 30 EMS routes this budget cycle, which many council members were caught by surprise by.

Retirement Age for NYPD

Legislation ( Intro 953) introduced by Councilmember Peter Vallone would increase the city Police Department's mandatory retirement age from 63 to 65.

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