Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics


Guide To The Mayor's Management Report


Different mayors have used the annual Mayor's Management Report - sometimes called the "public report card" - to different ends. Rudy Giuliani turned the annual report into a kind of performance art, presenting hundreds of graphs and charts that pointed out how well the city was doing under his supervision. Ed Koch, known for his bluntness, once said that based on the report he would give his sanitation commissioner a "C."

In his first management report, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has taken a different approach. When reporters repeatedly asked the mayor what areas he was most concerned about, Bloomberg said again and again that his ultimate concern was not the final grade (although he joked that he would give himself an A+), but presenting the facts in a more organized fashion.

"What we are talking about is getting the information out - whether it is good or bad - and getting it out in a useable format," said the mayor.

This year's Mayor's Management Report is shorter than the reports of the past, easier to read, and much of the jargon has been cut. The 186-page print version (which can be purchased from the City Store for $20) even features fine art: the cover is a painting of the Brooklyn Bridge by Samuel Halpert, courtesy of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Mayor Bloomberg's report also includes an interactive online feature called "My Neighborhood Statistics," which allows New Yorkers to type in their address and generate a web page with maps and statistics about where they live. This feature enables everyday citizens not only to read the report, the mayor said, but "to participate in the government of the future."

The mayor has been widely praised for his efforts. A New York Times editorial called the report "an invitation to New Yorkers to learn more about the performance of city government." City Council Speaker Gifford Miller called it "the best MMR I have seen in years." (For a critique of the report, read Editing Out the Facts by Glenn Pasanen.)

But now that the report has been made more user friendly, what is the city supposed to do with it?


The city charter requires that the mayor issue two management reports a year: a preliminary report by mid-January and final report by mid-September. The management report must have detailed information on each of the city's 44 agencies.

This year's mayor's management report - which covers the fiscal year 2002, from July 1, 2001 through June 30, 2002 -- includes thousands of facts and numbers like how much it costs the city to incarcerate an inmate ($62,595), the number of days the average person stays in the hospital (5.3) or the mean SAT score for freshmen at the City University of New York (1066).

Some of the highlights in the new report include:

  • all major categories of crime are down 10 percent
  • city streets are dirtier
  • there were fewer complaints about pot holes
  • more New Yorkers are visiting emergency rooms, up 18 percent since 1998
  • traffic fatalities rose three percent last year, with 398 people dead
  • the number of people on the city's welfare rolls continues to decline
  • only 58 percent of restrooms in city parks are in service

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 radically altered some statistics. Police overtime increased from $338 million in 2001 to $610 million in 2002, according to Commissioner Ray Kelly, because of heightened security measures.

The way the information is presented also says much about the new mayor's commitment to use of technology. Bloomberg made his billions off of a computer system and media company that provides financial news and information. Now he seems intent on using technology to reform City Hall. has more than 50,000 pages of content and 100 online transactional services. Visitors can pay parking tickets, view property statements, obtain birth and death certificates, or report housing code violations online.

The mayor says he hopes that all of these things can not only lead to better-informed citizens, but also a streamlined government.


For the first time, the report includes an interactive online feature called "My Neighborhood Statistics."

New Yorkers can type in their address or a street intersection and generate a web page with a map of their area (by community board, school district, or police precinct) and statistics in 14 categories. Visitors will learn about the condition of neighborhood parks, the number of murders, and what percentage of teachers in the area are certified. (The site also offers instructions for how to use the different features.)

By clicking on one of the statistics a user can also generate a citywide map that shows how their area compares with the rest of the city. Residents of the lower East Side, for example, will find that they have some of the dirtiest streets in the city, while people who live in East New York will find that they have the highest rates of lead poisoning in children.

However, the neighborhood statistics pages, as they are currently designed, offers only a quick snap-shot of information. Some visitors may want to know more and will have to go searching elsewhere on the site.

For example only two crime categories - the total number of major felonies and murders - are listed on the "My Neighborhood Statistics" page. To look up additional information, visitors have to go to the police department web site and look up information by precinct. For detailed information about agencies like the corrections department, consumer affairs, transportation, and the taxi and limousine commission, visitors much go to the Citywide Accountability Program web page. The Citywide Accountability Program uses the police department's statistical approach to evaluate performance of city agencies.

New Yorkers may also find that they are not sure what do with their new knowledge.

Because the information is based on community boards, there is no local elected official to complain to, or vote out of office if things do not improve. There are several community boards in each City Council district, but the site offers no way for visitors to find which council district they live in.

When Mayor Bloomberg was asked how residents should respond, he suggested that they email City Hall. The mayor's web site has a place to correspond, complain, or request a city service as well as a Frequently Asked Questions section for 12 areas of city government.

The mayor also said that the city's new 311 phone number - which is still in the planning stages and will coordinate non-emergency police calls as well as complaints about city services - will be a more effective way for residents to register their concerns.


Non-profit advocacy groups will use statistics to lobby for their issues. Local politicians will use the information to decide where to allocate funding and to call on the state or federal government for aid. And journalists will use the numbers as the basis for stories about where the city is lacking.

But ultimately, the task of going over the details of the Mayor's Management Report is the job of the New York City Council.

Each year, the council must take the mayor's report and hold a series of public hearings to ensure that the city is really running as smoothly as the mayor says it is. This year's hearings, the council said, are scheduled for November, after the general election.

"Oversight is the most potent power the council has as a counter balance to the mayor," said Douglas Muzzio of the Baruch School of Public Affairs. "They can literally walk in and look at what a city agency is doing, how they are spending their money and what services they are or are not providing."

The role of oversight is especially critical now, some say.

There is a new mayor, new commissioners, and many new ways the city is trying to addressing its problems. And as the city faces a $5 billion deficit, the council's role of monitoring city services, which are in jeopardy of being slashed, is critical.

When he released his report, Mayor Bloomberg cautioned that just because the city has the statistics and has good intentions does not necessarily mean that a problem can be solved.

"There will be things that work well, there will be things that work poorly," said Bloomberg. "Sometimes you will get lucky and it will come out in spite of your actions. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, there will be circumstances that prevent you from being successful."


See also: "Editing Out The Facts" by Glenn Pasanen


How Your Council Member Voted


When Mayor Michael Bloomberg first proposed eliminating the city's recycling program earlier this year, the City Council responded with outrage -- threatening to sue, pushing for an independent authority to take over recycling, and even postponing the budget deadline while they fought it.

However, for all that, the City Council voted 49 to 1 to go along with the mayor and suspend the city's glass and plastic recycling program. Only Lower East Side Councilmember Margarita Lopez voted "No."

The law changing to the city's recycling is just one of about two dozen laws passed since the mayor and the members of the City Council took office in January, and nowhere near the oddest one. These laws offer one of the few ways voters can assess their representatives, if only for what is missing.

Now, it is easier to look at the laws and the votes. The City Council has put this information on its web site for the first time. And Searchlight's voting records make sense of these bills and laws by sorting through them and selecting the most important, controversial, and absurd legislation. (Also read "It's 10 am - Do You Know Where Your Council Member Is?" by Lenore Chester to learn more about how to evaluate your representative's performance.)

Besides the trashing of recycling, the most publicized new law was the tax increase on cigarettes that made a pack in New York the most expensive in the nation. There were also laws:

When term limits brought in the much-anticipated turnover in city government, including 38 of 51 new council members, legislators promised to "reinvent city government." Yet much remains the same.

Some of the most significant and controversial bills have NOT yet been voted on, including ones that:

The new council has also chosen to continue its tradition of changing street names, arguing foreign politics, and introducing some wacky legislation, such as requiring the city to print materials using only vegetable oil ink, increasing the number of American flags at parades, and providing mini-parachutes for people to escape from skyscrapers.

And as was the case in the old City Council, nearly every vote is unanimous.


Since taking office in January, the City Council has introduced nearly a thousand new bills and resolutions. But they have only passed two dozen into law.

The majority of these new laws change street names or make minor adjustments to the cityÕs codes. Some of the most significant, which are tied to the budget, originated in the mayorÕs office, not in the City Council. To date, there have been no close votes.

The new council and mayor are off to a slow start compared to previous administrations. As the New York Times reported, the Giuliani and Dinkins administrations put more than 30 new laws on the books by the same time in their first years and none of those were street name changes.

Some question if the new City Council and Speaker Gifford Miller, looking ahead to the election of 2003, are playing it safe.

One bill to make the city's lead paint law more stringent has the support of 31 members, but has gone nowhere. The real estate lobby opposes it, and the speaker has kept his distance.


The City Council has added its voice to the rebuilding debate and called on the Port Authority to relinquish control of the World Trade Center site. "The Port Authority should find a way to give this land back to the city," said Speaker Gifford Miller.

The council's rebuilding plan calls for affordable housing, a memorial on the twin towers footprints, and buildings that meet strict environmental and safety standards. The plan was released nearly a month after the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation unveiled its initial six plans and reiterated what had already been voiced by civic groups, the press, and by New Yorkers who attended various public forums.

The one unique element is a public market, similar to the Pike Place Market in Seattle, where food vendors, crafts people, and artists would sell a variety of goods. "A public market would create a street feel that is different from other places in the city," Miller said.

The council also wants all new construction to meet city building codes. The World Trade Center violated numerous city standards, including housing a 6,000-gallon fuel tank under the buildings, which some say may have contributed to the collapse of the twin towers.

Since September 11, the council has struggled to find a role in the rebuilding process.

It had no say in the make-up of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, whose members were appointed by the governor, former Mayor Giuliani, and Mayor Bloomberg. Despite holding more than a dozen hearings on how the attacks affected small businesses, residents, and schools, the council has had trouble getting the attention of decision-makers. And Speaker Miller said that even the council's role in the Uniform Land Use Review Process, the system of approving construction and zoning changes, will likely be cir cumvented.

"I think the lead bill is going to be an interesting test of the new council," said Dave Palmer of the New York Public Interest Research Group who is lobbying in favor of the legislation. "But there is no date for a hearing and so far it does not look like much has changed on this issue."

However, the council has shown that it can act on its own behalf.

Just a few months after taking office, the council passed a bill to amend the term limits law that would have forced eight senior members of the council, including Speaker Miller, out of office after serving just six years. Despite objections from the mayor, the council floated the idea in the press, introduced the measure, held a public hearing, and passed itÑall in less than a month.

Last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed the measure.

"I believe it is simply inappropriate for those members elected in 1997, who were aware of the rules under which they were elected, to seek to change those rules in a manner that may work to their own advantage," the mayor said in a statement.

Council leaders said they would override the mayor's veto. The measure was passed in July by a vote of 46 to 2; the council needs 34 votes to override.


The annual budget is the most important piece of legislation that the City Council considers and passes.

Yet just 18 days after the 2003 budget went into effect, the fiscal plan that the mayor and the council spent months wrangling over to bridge a $5 billion budget gap was called into question. The New York State Financial Control Board, which monitors the city's financial budget, said the plan was "fundamentally out of alignment."

What changed in those 18 days? Nothing. The mayor and the council agreed to a budget plan that they knew was a short-term solution. It depends largely on $1.5 billion in borrowing, small taxes and fees, and labor agreements that have not been negotiated. Facing a nearly $3.7 billion budget deficit next year, both sides are now back to the drawing board.

Mayor Bloomberg has told city agencies to look for ways to cut an additional 7.5 percent from their budgets, said a subway fare hike may be imminent, and raised the possibility of employee lay-offs.

The council wants to reinstate the commuter tax, a measure that the body does not have the power to institute and, since the tax would only affect people who live outside of the city, poses no political risk to the individual members.


The City Council has a long history of reaching into areas where it has no jurisdiction. This year, the council has debated Middle East policy, the plight of political prisoners arrested in the 1960's, and whether capital punishment should be abolished.

The council has also lived up to its history of introducing strange legislation that has little chance of ever becoming a law.

Speaker Gifford Miller would like the city to print paper materials using only ink made from environmentally friendly vegetable oil. Bay Ridge Councilmember Martin Golden wants to require the American flag to be displayed at every parade. And Sheepshead Bay Councilmember Michael Nelson wants to make graffiti a felony.

The most puzzling piece of legislation introduced this year comes from Fort Green Councilmember James Davis, who drafted a resolution calling for skyscrapers to provide non-traditional ways of escape, including the use of small parachutes, safety slides, and something called a "landing and aerial rescue platform." Davis said the idea, which he hopes will calm post 9/11 fears, struck him while visiting a 36-story building. He wondered if a low-altitude parachute might be a possible alternative to using the stairs.


In 1989, the city rewrote its official constitution with one aim being to make the City Council a more equal partner with the mayor. The council was given more power over the budget and issues involving land use, and oversight over city agencies. But in many ways the mayor still sets the agenda at City Hall.

For example, the council tried repeatedly to insert itself into Mayor Bloomberg's successful bid to take control of city schools, suggesting that the council should have played some role in approving the new schools chancellor or the members of the education panel, the body that replaced the Board of Education. The mayor ignored these suggestions.

The individual council members are also kept in check by the Speaker of the City Council, who likes to keep the 51-member body speaking with one voice.

One of the ways to do this is to control the votes on legislation and make each vote a show of unity and strength. And since the speaker gets the most praise or takes the most blame for the council's action, he is careful to allow votes that are only in his best interest, which leads to a lopsided vote on nearly every bill. The speaker also names the chairs of the committees who decide whether to hold a hearing on legislation and whether or not to call for a vote on a potential law.

Speaker Gifford Miller has promised to allow the council members more freedom than they had in the past. "I don't have to win every vote, but I should win most of them," Miller said at a public forum before he was elected speaker.

In January, one of the first things the City Council did after electing a speaker was to amend its own rules. The members said the changes would make the council more like Congress and allow them to introduce bills, have more debate, and make individual members and committees more independent. The changes gave the individual members the power to bring a bill to a vote, they said, and to publicly oppose the speaker.

So far, no one has taken full advantage of the rule changes.


In the past, it was nearly impossible for the public to get access to the council voting records. Those ambitious few who did seek them out (like Searchlight on the City Council, which has kept track of voting records for more than a decade) found themselves thumbing through stacks of dusty encyclopedia-sized books in the Municipal Library.

At a public forum last December, Councilmember Gifford Miller was asked if as the next speaker he would be willing to make the council procedures and votes available online. Miller responded that an electronic database to do just that already existed, but even the council members and their staff were not allowed to use it.

"This is not rocket science," Miller said at the event. "It's easy. In fact it's already been done, we just have to give the public and council members access to it."

To his credit, the speaker delivered on his promise and the City Council now posts copies of legislation, the status of bills, and the voting records dating back to 1990 on the council's web site.

Will this information make the public better informed?

Even Councilmember Margarita Lopez, the lone dissenter in the law to curb the city's recycling program, who said voting with everybody else would have been "morally wrong," is not sure voting records will give constituents the information they really need.

"I don't think that my voting record speaks for who I am or what I have done," said Lopez. "It only shows if you have voted 'yes' or 'no.' It does not show if a person is honest and open, or if they are always double-talking, saying one thing and then doing another."

See also: "It's 10 am - Do You Know Where Your Council Member Is?" by Lenore Chester


New York City's Foreign Policy

Rodolfo Montiel and Teodoro Cabrera waged a crusade to save the forests of Mexico, and were imprisoned for it. Three members of the New York City Council waged their own crusade -- to get the two environmentalists out of prison. Last year, the council members sponsored a resolution calling on the Mexican government to release Montiel and Cabrera from a jail thousands of miles from New York's City Hall.

The two activists were in fact freed.

Did the officials from Staten Island and Manhattan have anything to do with an event that occurred at the opposite end of the continent? If you ask the Sierra Club, the answer is yes, sort of -- they and "thousands of people around the world."

The members of the council were indulging in a prized New York City tradition. They were playing at foreign policy.

In the past 18 months alone, the City Council has passed some two dozen foreign-policy resolutions, calling on the Japanese to stop "scientific whaling," condemning anti-Semitism in the Egyptian press, and endorsing the "Abidjan Declaration" for Africa, though some members of the council may not have known exactly what that was. Next Tuesday, in what promises to be a rancorous departure from the usual unanimity in such proceedings, a council committee will debate four separate resolutions relating to the Middle East. One asks President George W. Bush to throw the Palestinian Authority out of New York, while another calls for an "evenhanded" policy in the region.

"The council spends an awful lot of time and energy debating things that we can do little about," says Councilmember Lewis Fidler, who nevertheless sponsored one of the Middle East resolutions. (See his article in Searchlight).

New York's elected officials long have felt compelled to weigh in on burning issues and pressing problems elsewhere on the globe. David Dinkins used his position as mayor to advance the fight against the apartheid government of South Africa. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani made Clinton administration officials blanch in 1995 when he kicked Palestinian Authority chairman Yasir Arafat out of a Lincoln Center concert marking the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.

It is true that New York is a sophisticated world city, the headquarters for the United Nations, and a longtime haven for political exiles, several of whom have gone on to become a father of their newly liberated nations - Jose Marti of Cuba, Eamon de Valera of Ireland, Giuseppe Garibaldi of Italy. But the fervor of New York City officials for all things international may be the ultimate example of talking globally, but thinking locally. In a city of immigrants, it is just smart politics for candidates and office holders to tell their constituents what they want to hear, even (especially) in matters over which they have no control.

This goes back a long way. In his very first campaign for public office, in 1914, Fiorello LaGuardia attacked his Irish-American opponent for being insufficiently anti-British; in subsequent campaigns, as one of his biographers puts it, LaGuardia "celebrated each of the parochial positions in turn" of his Irish, German, Italian and Jewish constituents.

Still, some would argue that this local political practice was given new validity after September 11. If people from foreign countries could kill New Yorkers because of U.S. foreign policy, why shouldn't city officials take their own stands on international affairs?


For some 50 years, New York politicians made visiting the "three I's" -- Ireland, Italy and Israel -- the ancestral or spiritual homes of many New Yorkers Ăś an inevitable part of their campaigning.

It is a tradition that continues. Both Democratic candidates for governor, State Comptroller Carl McCall and Andrew Cuomo, have visited Israel in the past six months, with McCall taking shooting practice, M-16 in hand, with the Israeli Defense Force.

When Cuomo was U.S. housing secretary, he met with Arafat. This year, McCall responded to that meeting by calling his opponent a "friend of Arafat," although his office has since distanced itself from the statement.

But the tradition of international involvement has expanded. Governor George Pataki visited Puerto Rico, as part of the growing protest against the Navy weapons tests on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. This gave him favorable publicity, but nowhere near that of the Reverend Al Sharpton, who, along with Adolfo Carrion Jr., Roberto Ramirez and Jose Rivera, three New York politicians of Puerto Rican descent, spent time in jail for trespassing on the island. Carrion, a council member when he was jailed last summer, easily won election as Bronx borough president several months later.

After American Airlines flight 587 crashed in November, Mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg went to the Dominican Republic to meet and mourn with victims' families. Giuliani also courted New York's expanding Dominican population, visiting the nation in 1998 after a hurricane.

With 36 percent of the city's population foreign born, more than at any time since 1910, and with the most diverse population ever, it will probably not be too long before the campaign itinerary includes mandatory stops in China, India and Pakistan.


Unlike laws, the hundreds of resolutions that the City Council passes annually lack any power of enforcement. If the argument is that they help focus attention on a matter of conscience, it is unlikely that many of the resolutions garner much publicity. (Others passed since 2000 include a condemnation of human rights abuses in Sierra Leona, official praise for the crew of a U.S. plane shot down over China, and endorsement of World Breastfeeding Day.) Such resolutions, rather, could easily be seen as providing members of the council with little more than an opportunity to feel self-important, to vent, or to court voters. Indeed, the council leadership is said to have discussed doing away with resolutions about foreign affairs and other issues outside the council's jurisdiction. After all, even the target audience does not seem to notice them. Few Italian-American New Yorkers, for example, were seen dancing in the streets when the council officially declared "the primacy of Antonio Meucci in the invention of the telephone."

But the city government is not impotent to affect foreign affairs. It has economic clout.

It can, for example, refuse to invest its billions of dollars of pension funds in companies that conduct business with a certain country.

This tactic gained prominence during the international fight against the apartheid regime in South Africa. And New York participated. New York pension funds were divested of $500 million worth of stock in companies that did business in South Africa. The City Council also passed a bill that allowed the city to rate banks based on their opposition to apartheid.

While it would be difficult to gauge with precision the effect of New York's actions alone, there is no question that they were part of an international economic campaign that hastened apartheid's demise.

In 1997, then New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi sought to revive this tactic to force Swiss banks to help Holocaust survivors recover assets that had been looted in Nazi Germany. The threat of such action undoubtedly helped convince the banks to reach a compromise.

That same year, then Council Speaker Peter Vallone introduced a proposal calling for the city to sever ties with banks and other concerns that operated in 15 countries where, Vallone said, Christians were being persecuted. The list included China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The New York City Partnership and Chamber of Commerce helped form a coalition called Don't Sanction New York to fight the measure, thereby acknowledging that it could have had some effect. Vallone backed down.

But the New York City Council did bar New York from depositing money in banks, or signing contracts with firms, that do business in Burma, a nation frequently condemned for human rights violations. In its economic sanctions, it joined more than 25 cities and states, including Los Angeles and Minneapolis.


This year, the council's foreign policy energies have focused on the Middle East. This is hardly surprising in the city that still has the second largest Jewish population in the world. And concern with the regions dates back at least to 1840 when New Yorkers spoke out in a case called the Damascus Affair in which Syrian Jews were falsely accused of ritually murdering gentiles.

On July 9, the council Cultural Affairs committee will consider resolutions condemning suicide bombings, calling on the United Nations to do the same and demanding an end to anti-Semitic violence in Europe and other Western nations.

It will also consider whether to brand the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation organization as terrorist groups and urge President George Bush to close the authority's New York City office. Earlier this year Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage had asked the council to kill that resolution and the measure's sponsors retreated for awhile.

At the same meeting, the committee will review a measure with a different perspective. Proposed by Councilmember Charles Barron, it calls "for an even-handed policy in the Middle East and a halt to the killings" and urges the council "to serve as facilitators of peace and not to appear to take sides in the conflictĆ’ [J]ust as the council supports Israel's right to existĆ’so too must the council support Palestinian self-determination."

"All life is precious; we cannot continue this uneven policy that gives no recognition to the Palestinian people," Barron said when he proposed the resolution in April.

Although no one publicly objected to the resolution then, it does not have the unanimous support that normally accompanies council resolutions on matters far from home. "I don't think you can look at the Middle East and term Mr. Barron's resolutions even-handed," Fidler said. "Israelis don't strap bombs on themselves and go into marketplaces and kill innocent people."

A recent NY1 poll found 44 percent of New Yorkers supported Israel. But 39 percent were undecided, and 17 percent expressed more sympathy with the Palestinian cause. The division may in part reflect increased diversity in the city and the growing Muslim population

However, the political establishment remains less divided than the overall population. Indeed, until recently, New York politicians took more extreme stands than many Israeli officials did.

Since the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, began in September 2000, council resolutions have condemned Palestinian suicide bombings and the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe, but spared Israel even the rather muted criticism made by the Bush and Clinton administrations.

Shortly after assuming office in January, Councilmember David Weprin proposed naming a street in his Queens district after Rehavam Ze'evi, an assassinated Israeli Cabinet minister who, in the words of the Jewish newspaper The Forward, "brought the concept of 'transfer' -- the mass expulsion of Palestinian Arabs -- out of the shadows where it belonged and into the mainstream of Israeli political discourse." After Ze'evi's political beliefs were aired, the resolution was not introduced.

Some debate the wisdom of the council's involvement. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for example, has objected to actions aimed at evicting the Palestinian Authority from New York. As the host city for the United Nations, Bloomberg said, "Even when it is painful and disgraceful and disgusting, any term you want to use -- we have to be willing to let anybody that the UN wants to credit, or visit them, come here."

Councilmember Fidler says that despite his ambivalence about the council engaging in such issues at all, he is compelled to speak, particularly on matters concerning the Middle East; "As an American and as a Jew, I know that silence in the face of bigotry helps bigotry to grow."


The events of September 11 gave New York more credibility on foreign policy, if no official role. Rudolph Giuliani became one of the few mayors ever to address the United Nations' General Assembly. He thanked the members of the assembly for "your support for New York and America, and your understanding of what needs to be done to remove the threat of terrorism." This was quite a change from four years earlier when Giuliani attacked UN diplomats for not paying their parking tickets and said he wouldn't care if the international body left the city.

In one of the most striking demonstrations of international support for the city, the World Economic Forum, which had always convened previously in Davos, Switzerland, moved its 2002 meeting to the Waldorf Astoria.

But shortly after September 11, Giuliani rejected a $10 million check for humanitarian aid from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal because the Saudi issued a press release asking America to "reexamine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinian cause." Giuliani won widespread praise for his action. Where else but in New York could a statement about what is happening abroad be more important than hard cash to help solve a problem at home?


Involvement and Accountability

Dennis Walcott is deputy mayor for policy. He served as president of the New York Urban League and was a member of the Board of Education. This is adapted from a speech he delivered to the Women's City Club of New York on June 5 just as a deal was being reached to give the mayor control of the New York City public schools:

I am a parent of four children. All of them have gone through the New York City public education system. I have been a board of education member and a temporary trustee of a local school board. My wife has been involved in one of our school's local leadership teams. In short, I am a big believer in public education.

Mayor Bloomberg is passionate in his beliefs on a number of issues, but his number one issue happens to coincide with my number one issue: education.

The administration's vision for education is very simple. We feel that the mayor should be the person responsible for selecting a chancellor and for dealing with the chancellor, who, in turn has the power to hire the district superintendents. We want parents involved at all levels.

This change in governance will provide accountability. People ask us what that has to do with performance. Well, accountability is about everything. If you don't have a person accountable, you don't have a good outcome at the end of the day.

The reality is we've got a budget deficit. The mayor made a decision to cut budgets across all agencies, including police and fire and including the Department of Aging. But in negotiating with the state, we are seeking to restore education spending to where it should be or, at worst, slightly below where it should be.

One of the things we have to look at is the allocation of dollars both from the central Board of Education to the districts and then from the districts to the local schools as well. Our Office of Management and Budget has been working with the board's division of budget and looking at the numbers to make sure that we do not have any dollars cut from the classroom.

The education budget includes debt service, it includes pension relief, it includes a lot of items that drive up the cost. The challenge is how you redirect the budget to make sure that classrooms benefit.

When it comes to money, governance means a lot. Instead of an amorphous board of education being held accountable for spending, the mayor will be held accountable. Then the voters can decide whether this mayor or future mayors did a job on education similar to what past mayors did on crime and other issues they had under their control.

On funding, the mayor will have to put himself, or in the future, herself on the line and make sure that there is money to support initiatives around education. If not, the voters will hold them accountable.

It takes a lot of guts on my boss's part to push this out front and push it so hard. He is saying, "I want to be accountable. I want the buck to stop with me."

Along with accountability, goes the issue of engaging parents and communities to support the educational system. Accountability extends to issues involving the United Federation of Teachers and the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, the principal's union, making sure that we have a team approach for dealing with schools.

The late House Speaker Tip O'Neill once said all politics is local. Well, all education is local as well. You can deal with education on a macro basis by putting in new systems, but, when you get right down to it, the issue really is how do you improve the local school.

How do you get a principal who is qualified to run his or her school? How do you make sure you have certified teachers teaching in their course area in th eir respective schools? How do you deal with the issue of those schools that the state has determined are failing -- the schools under registration review or SURR schools -- and make sure there's a reform plan in place to move them off that list and not just languish.

How do you put the challenge of education children back to the community? I hear a lot of debate about teachers, principals and the chancellor, but an equal amount of debate needs to take place around the community's responsibility and the parents' responsibility in education.

Parents need to play a major role. In our discussions with Albany, we looked at ways to maximize parental involvement as well as community involvement. I have been at a number of local school boards, some good and some not so good, and the good ones say, "Listen, the parents don't care. They don't want to be involved."

I approach it from the opposite end. I want to make sure that parents have an opportunity to be engaged in their local schools.

We're looking at several things to improve community involvement. Since I've been deputy mayor, the mayor, myself and our team have met with close to 150 individuals and groups at City Hall as well as in the community. We have been getting feedback, both formal and informal, as far as not only how to restructure but how to engage our children in a more meaningful way.

I hosted a meeting with roughly 15 deans from the schools of education in New York City, both public and private, to discuss how they can work with us. We're going to reconvene to talk about the teacher certification issues we will face in the upcoming year, as well as to take a look at how the education schools can become more engaged in schools in their local communities.

I've met with ministers. I have met with local lay leaders in the communities to get them to buy into the system. I've met with business leaders throughout the city to make sure that they are there to provide support. We have foundations that have been waiting for the debate on governance to be concluded so they can make commitments for investing in the New York City educational system. We have people of good will and interest who are ready to jump in as partners to help reform and improve our educational system.

Other than education, my responsibilities include the Housing Authority, the City University of New York system, the School Construction Authority, the Health and Hospitals Corporation and the Department of Youth and Community Development. My goal and our goal in the administration is to have these different agencies and authorities linked together.

The Housing Authority houses residents who attend the public school system. How do we develop better integration between the housing authority ad the education structure to make sure there's collaboration? How can we put tutorial programs and after school support services located in individual housing authority facilities?

How do we take advantage of some of the new legislation that will come down to improve the School Construction Authority and make sure that we bring down the price per square foot of building schools? That way, even with the budget deficit situation, we can get more bang for our buck in building schools.

How do we expand the partnership that we already have with CUNY and build more schools on campuses? How do we take advantage of the generous offer of Governors Island from the federal government and President George W. Bush and use it to benefit the public high school system?

I am not one to promise miracles because we have a big deficit that we have to face not only this year but in future years as well. What I can guarantee and promise is that we will listen, we will meet and respond, we will collaborate with people who both agree and disagree with us. In our outreach to those 150 groups and individuals, we met with some individuals who totally disagree with the way we're handling certain things.

The culmination of my no longer being "out there" as an advocate and president of the New York Urban League but instead being in my "insider's" role came when I was roundly booed at an event at Washington Irving High School a few months ago. It was a mind-boggling experience. But I told the group that was booing me, "You know, that's your right and I have no problems with that. I will come back next time and time and time again, and you can continue to boo because I will give you the respect that you deserve and we can try to collaborate together to reach consensus on those issues where we disagree."

That's what this administration is about -- meeting with people from various backgrounds, various belief system, various ways of operating business, and pulling together not just to rebuild lower Manhattan but to work on rebuilding the entire city both from a psychological point of view and from a human service and educational point of view.


Elect The Board Of Education

In the debate over how to improve the governance of the city schools, most people seem to see the choice as either mayoral control or an expansion of the membership of the current Board of Education. We have not looked at how some of the most successful school districts in the state are run. Most New York districts with fewer than 125,000 students, including the most high-performing suburban districts, have elected schools boards. They are financially and politically independent of their municipal governments.

New York City, though, has never had an independent board of education. The current Board of Education is, at best, only quasi-independent, with members responsible to the borough presidents and to the mayor, who appoint them, but not to the taxpaying and voting public. To think that a New York City mayor does not already influence education funding and policy is, at best, naĂťve. The mayor controls the money because education is included in the city budget. New York State education funds go directly to the city, not the Board of Education, so the mayor has control of those dollars as well. The mayor also plays a role in the selection and removal of a chancellor. Yes, New York's mayor could have more control, but a review of cities that have mayoral control of education does not support the notion that that alone leads to reform.

And so perhaps we should consider legislation that would make New York City more like its successful neighbors. An elected school board should govern the city's schools. There would be a member from each borough as well as two at-large members elected by all voters.

More importantly, funding for this elected school board, and the school system, should come from a consistent source of city income earmarked for education, and legislation should insure that that funding does not fall below a certain level. Now local, state and federal education funds are all deposited directly into city coffers and allocated by the mayor and City Council. There would be more accountability if an elected school board, representing parents and taxpayers, received money set aside for education and knew that it was responsible for making sure the funds were well-spent.

Infrastructure and the building of new schools should also depend on a consistent source of funds, with the board able to issue bonds.

While the state legislature considers the overall governing structure for our public schools, we should also address the governance at the school level. Individual schools need greater autonomy. New York City must hire and retain skilled school leaders, principals, and teachers. They need guidance from parents and the authority and freedom to determine how their schools should be run.

These reforms, along with a change in Albany's funding of schools so that New York City is no longer short-changed, would go a long way to ensuring the success of New York City's public schools.

Jill Levy is the president of the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, the union representing principals, assistant principals, supervisors and administrators in city public schools.

School Control, by Irving Hamer, Jr.


Child Care

A complex picture of benefits and risks for young children in child care is emerging from a large and long-running national study. Researchers conducting the study for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development announced in mid-April that children who spend more than thirty hours a week in child care as toddlers are somewhat more likely to be aggressive, disobedient and defiant in kindergarten than children who spend less than ten hours a week in care.

The study also found that children in high-quality day care centers score higher on cognitive tests of math and language skills than children cared for at home or in low-quality centers.

In New York City, child care and its impact on children are major concerns. Roughly 470,000 city children of pre-school age have mothers who work full time, according to Child Care, Inc., a New York City non-profit agency. Under new rules instituted in the wake of welfare reform, New York parents are required to participate in job-related activities when babies reach twelve weeks of age. There are 124,000 children under the age of six who are in welfare families with mothers required to work.

"Seventeen percent of children have behavior problems in the range of what we would consider the risk range," said Dr. Sarah Friedman, coordinator the study for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, a federal agency. The problems include fighting, cruelty, throwing tantrums. Other children, she said, showed elevated scores for milder aggressive behaviors that fall within the normal range of child behavior such as booing, talking too much, arguing. Dr. Friedman said the quality of care did not seem to be a significant factor.

The federal researchers have been following 1,300 children since birth and periodically have provided updates on the children's intellectual, emotional and social development. The children received care in a variety of settings, including home-based care and formal day care centers. The latest findings come from an analysis of tests and observations conducted when the children were four-and-a-half and five years old.

The newest findings stand in contrast to earlier reports from the long-range study. Two years ago the researchers reported that, at 36 months, the children in high-quality center-based care showed better mathematical reasoning and language skills than children in other types of care, and no detectable behavioral problems. Then, as now, in terms of language and math development, the children in high-quality care were indistinguishable from children cared for exclusively by their mothers.

"Sometimes things appear later," explained Dr. Friedman. "It is not unusual, in times of transition, such as the start of kindergarten, for weaknesses to become more apparent. One of the research questions is whether the results will increase, stay the same, or decrease" as the children progress through school, she added.

As news of the findings reached New York, child care experts began to express doubts about the study, pointing out that the research has been presented without having been published and that the data and methodology are not available for review.

"We really have to see the study in its entirety to evaluate how robust the findings are," said Gail Nayowith, executive director of the Citizens' Committee for Children of New York "They say that children who are in care for a full week are rated as being more aggressive, but we do not know yet what the definitions of aggressive behavior are or how the ratings have been done."

Nayowith said the study was unlikely to influence New York City policy makers because many families in New York need child care for survival. "There is no question that a work-first economy like we have in New York City, where even single mothers of very young children have to work, is predicated on child care. So what are the researchers saying? That parents should stay home? That does not seem very helpful. What I would really be curious about is what kind of services were offered to these kids."

Nationally, parents express considerable ambivalence about using child care. A recent survey indicates that while parents overwhelmingly believe young children are better off at home with a parent, working parents report satisfaction with their own child care arrangements.

Sarah Friedman, the lead investigator at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, warned that policy makers and parents should not look for simple solutions.

"This is all very complex," she said. "Just cutting the number of hours in care is too simple a recommendation because working less means less income and if you look at the data, the more income families have the better the outcome for children. Having said that, I am not belittling the results we have. They need to make us think."

Peggy J. Farber is freelance journalist specializing in children's issues. Her reporting on conditions of NYC children has appeared in City Limits Magazine as well as on National Public Radio.

The New York State Legislature: How Albany Controls the City


The state capitol may be 140 miles from New York City, but in reality it is a lot closer. State government plays an enormous role in the everyday life of the city. Although New York is often considered the most powerful city in the world, it is truly amazing how little it can control (See Gotham Gazette's article on the upstate-downstate divide). Want to change the school system, the tax structure, rent regulation? The State Legislature just began its 2001 session. Try your luck in Albany.


The state's authority over the city derives from the basic notion that cities are creations of the state, very much like corporations. They have charters, but only have the powers the state assigns to them. There is a Municipal Home Rule Law, which gives cities certain authority, and there are supposed limitations on actions the Legislature can take with regard to individual cities. But the state can easily sidestep those requirements and do virtually whatever it wants.

Thus, the city has little power to control its own taxing authority, outside of the property tax. The Mayor and City Council must go hat in hand to Albany each year to beg for the right to change a tax, and often get rebuffed. On the other hand, the state can eliminate a city tax without the city's consent, as it did with the commuter tax in 1999. The state can also force city spending, such as by passing legislation that increases benefits to retired city workers. What unions cannot win at the bargaining table they can try to gain through Albany.

The state also exercises control over education in the city. The Board of Education and the school boards were created through state legislation and the 1997 reallocation of powers between the Schools Chancellor and the community boards resulted from state law. The City University is a creature of the state. Similarly, Albany runs the framework by which rents are regulated in the city. Many of the requirements imposed on city social service programs also come from upstate (as well as the federal government). A state authority operates subways and busses, bridges and tunnels.

This year, the State Legislature will again be addressing a range of issues of deep concern to New York City residents. Electric power rates and supply (will we face what California is going through?) will be a crucial issue, but must be left to the state. One of the major fights will be over state education aid, which is indispensable to the city's schools. Proposals to change laws regarding drug offenders, gun trafficking, businesses-related taxes and reform of the voting system are all on Albany's agenda. All impact the welfare and economy of our city, but are beyond the city's control.

We in the city do not pay too much attention to the way Albany works, but we should. Here's a brief description. The Governor, George Pataki, has substantial power to set the state 's agenda and prepares the state budget, the major governing document, which must be approved by the Legislature. The Legislature has two Houses, a 150-member Assembly and a 61-member Senate. For the past 25 years, different parties have controlled the two Houses of the Legislature -- the Republicans run the Senate and the Democrats run the Assembly. Regardless of the public opinion trends in the country and conditions in the state, incumbents rarely lose, particularly in a general election.


The first thing to learn about Albany is that the Legislature, and legislators, are very good at self-preservation. Here are the tools that make this possible:

  • The Legislature controls the drawing of legislative districts. The Senate Republicans and the Assembly Democrats have each given the other free rein to draw districts to their liking. Even members from the minority parties receive favorable treatment, though not at the expense of the majority. It is not unheard of, for instance, for districts to be drawn so as to exclude a potentially strong challenger to a particular incumbent. The result in each House has been permanent majority party control and districts drawn to the incumbents' liking.
  • The state 's election law is the most arcane in the nation. The process of getting on the ballot is unreasonably difficult and, of course, those in power will not make it any easier for challengers to surface.
  • Legislative campaign committees collect a lot of money, given the state 's unusually lax campaign finance laws, and spend it to preserve power and incumbents.
  • Portions of the state budget are allocated by legislative district, with the local legislators able to take credit. In addition, legislators receive budget funds called "member items", which they can spend on anything in their district and which have the feel of a direct contribution from a legislator.


In this atmosphere, legislators owe their continuation in office to their leader. It is thus not surprising that the two people who run the Legislature are the Senate Majority Leader, Joseph Bruno, and the Speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, who are elected by their respective Houses. Indeed, along with the Governor Pataki, these are the "three men in a room" who make all the key decisions, often without adequate consultation with members of their House or even their party. The Speaker and Majority Leader have accumulated tremendous power, and they know how to use it. Play along, or risk losing leadership opportunities, campaign funds, extra stipends (called "lu-lu's") given to committee chairs and others, and other perquisites. Some members have even been locked out of their office.

The leaders pay special attention to members in "marginal" districts, those where the Democratic and Republican enrollments are so close that it seems as if either party can win. There are fewer of these seats than you might think, because the districts are drawn to minimize competition, and in reality these districts seldom change parties. But legislators in "marginal" districts are likely to receive more visibility and resources. On the other hand, the leaders have no need to lavish help on legislators in "safe" districts.

How does all this affect the representation you get? It is fair to ask whether constituents are being fairly treated when some legislators can get bills passed or have access to the trappings of power while others are frozen out of the process, often simply on the whim of a leader who, after all, only represents one of the districts. But those legislators who rise up to demand more say face swift punishment -- as did many who challenged the Speaker's leadership last year. The members put the leader in power but after that, watch out.


This concentration of power does not foster representative government. Many of the important governmental decisions, including the state budget, are negotiated in secret--even many members don't know what's going on--and are passed before they are read, let alone digested, by our elected representatives.

Sometimes, unfortunate leadership decisions are held up to public scrutiny. In 1999, the Democrats tried to wrestle a Senate seat away from Republican control in a special election to fill a vacancy. To curry favor with the voters in that Rockland County district, the leaders double-dared each other into repealing the city's commuter tax, costing the city hundreds of millions in lost revenue. The Democrat lost anyway.

Just recently, a New York Supreme Court Justice ruled that the funding of the city's schools violates the state constitution by providing an inadequate education for the city's school children. The Justice found, not surprisingly, that the funding inadequacy was a state responsibility, and took particular note of the method by which the "three men in a room" manipulate supposedly sophisticated formulas to match a backroom deal they made, a deal which he said has consistently under funded the city.


This little primer of Albany should not be meant to suggest that the legislators, including the leaders, are not people of good will who have the best interests of the state and their constituents in mind, and some excellent laws have resulted. But the process has evolved to the point where they don't have to care. Little can shake the power hold or undermine incumbency. There is no way that the public can act directly through initiative or referendum, which may well be good, given the California experience. But it does mean that the acts and omissions of the Legislature go unchallenged.

The only check on the state government is an informed electorate, which holds its legislators and the Governor accountable. While the Governor's actions tend to be in the public eye, those of the legislators are not. Make sure your Assembly Member and Senator hear from you. If you are not comfortable with the concentration of authority in the legislative leaders, you should say so. No office holder has the right to remain in office, but should be subject to careful scrutiny and challenged when necessary. City residents, with so much at stake in Albany, should take note.

Alan Rothstein is Chair of the Committee on State Legislation of Citizens Union, and formerly was its Legislative Director. He now serves as General Counsel to The Association of the Bar of the city of New York. The views expressed in this essay are his own.

The Governor's Budget

When Governor George Pataki unveiled his proposed new budget, Michael Rebell was unimpressed. Rebell is the executive director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, the group that won a landmark lawsuit against with the system for funding public education in the state, which shortchanges students in New York City. The governor's budget calls for combining 11 funding categories into a single block grant and giving local districts discretion over how to spend state money. But Rebell said the plan left much of the old system in place: 35 funding categories were untouched by the Pataki plan.

"We see a lot of baby steps when what the court called for is a complete overhaul," Rebell said. "This budget leaves in place an incomprehensible system that bears no relationship whatsoever to what educating children actually costs."

But it was not just in the field of education that the governor's budget disappointed advocates for kids. "I don't see anything in this budget that indicates a significant investment in New York State children," said Elie Ward, executive director of Statewide Youth Advocacy, Inc. "There are very few surprises anywhere, no new initiatives. It looks like the same old budget."

Day care advocates, alarmed at a shortage of day care programs for low-income families, urged the governor to add $292 million to the state1s Child Care Block Grant, but Pataki held firm. His proposed $840 million block grant contains no new state money.

The governor also slipped a pet plan into the budget that advocates have fought off before: the transfer of juvenile offenders at age 16 from facilities run by the Office of Children and Family Services to state prisons. "This is not a new proposal," said Gabrielle Kriesler, director of program and policy at the Citizens Committee for Children. "But this is not something we are in support of and we1re hoping that the legislature will not agree to it."

One bright spot in the budget, according to Kriesler and others, is Governor Pataki1s restoration of money for preventive services - those services, such as family counseling and drug and alcohol treatment programs, that are aimed at keeping children out of foster care. Pataki eliminated preventive programs, in effect, in 1995 when he folded prevention and foster care into a single child welfare block grant, cut total child welfare spending by 25 percent, and gave local governments considerable latitude in spending the money. Scrambling to maintain funds for abused and neglected children already in foster care, most local governments - including New York City - dropped preventive programs.

In the new budget, Governor Pataki proposes returning to a system of open funding for preventive services, reimbursing without limit 65 percent of the money local governments spend on these services. "This is a wonderful change because it reinstates the partnership between the state and the counties," Kriesler said.

Veterans of New York State budget battles like Ward and Kriesler urge caution in evaluating Pataki1s budget. "There is nothing that people care about that will not be negotiated and changed over the next few months," said Elie Ward. "In reality the governors budget is just the first shot - and a peek at what the governor is thinking."

Peggy J. Farber is freelance journalist specializing in children's issues. Her reporting on conditions of NYC children has appeared in City Limits Magazine as well as on National Public Radio.

The Upstate-Downstate Debate


Every year since 1913, the town of Boiceville, New York has held a ceremony to recognize the families who were forced off their land to make way for a reservoir for New York City. Boiceville was not the only upstate town that was displaced for the sake of the city's drinking water. Hundreds of homes, churches, schools and graveyards still rest at the bottom of man-made lakes and reservoirs.

And the people who live there have not forgotten the sacrifices they made for their downstate neighbor. In part, this is because the upstate-downstate battles over land and water continue today. The most recent example is the state's proposal for roads and development along the Kensico Reservoir in Westchester County.

Governor George Pataki says the area around Kensico must be developed so that it will create jobs. City politicians oppose the plans in order to preserve the purity of the water and have called the construction plans ill conceived.

This is just the latest round in a long struggle between New York City and the upstate counties. It is a battle of geography, economics, culture, as well as politics.

"Like a massive geological fault, the rivalry between these two sections has ruptured state unity for centuries," wrote historian David Maldwyn Ellis in his book New York State and City.

But the upstate-downstate tension is more than just a feud between rural Republicans and urban Democrats. (State Assemblyman John Ravitz attests to what it is like to be a downstate Republican in the midst of this fray)

The divide is built into the state Constitution -- affecting how laws are made, how tax revenue is spent, and how the city can govern. As powerful as New York City is, issues like the commuter tax, rent control, prison construction, and public transit still fall under Albany's control.

Add in a struggling upstate economy and politicians feeding upstate-downstate stereotypes for their own gain, and the long-running battle makes for a messy way to run government.


Four years ago, the state passed a law to increase pay for police, firefighters, and other city workers in New York. Mayor Giuliani challenged the law in court, and won because the pay raise violated a "home rule" provision in the state Constitution.

Home rule gives local governments the authority to make and change laws relating to "property, affairs, or government" as well as jurisdiction over local matters such as health, safety, and the general well being of citizen. Home rule only applies when the issue only affects local residents.

In this case, the court ruled that the pay increases for city workers needed to have City Council approval, (which it didn't) and so it was invalidated.

But it's not always so simple.

Home rule does not always provide the city with protection against interference by the state legislature. The New York State courts have ruled that if an issue is a substantial "matter of state concern," then the state still has jurisdiction.

Home rule also does not apply to local finances. Local governments are still dependent on the legislature for the power to tax, and so issues like spending, borrowing, and lending fall under strict state restrictions.

That is how New York City lost more than $360 million in revenue per year when the state successfully repealed the city's commuter tax in 1999. The mayor argued against the repeal on the same grounds of home rule. This time, the courts disagreed because the tax affected New York citizens living outside the city.

The ruling was especially contentious because, as the city explained in its lawsuit, the repeal seemed to come about for political reasons. To gain support for their candidates in a special election for state senator in the suburbs, Democrats and Republicans in Albany both voted against the commuter tax.

In the end, these types of debates over who has ultimate authority often end up in politically charged court cases.


Although the current home rule provision was adopted in 1963 (after much fighting between city and state government), the divide between upstate and downstate can be traced back to the beginning of the state.

In the early 1700's, upstate farmers and New York City merchants debated taxes and trade regulations that were in their own interests. As New York City grew as a cultural and economic power, the mutual disregard between the geographic areas and governmental bodies of the state and city increased.

Issues of immigration and race are also factors. Historically, upstaters have tended to be white, native-born, and Protestant; New York City residents are often descendents of immigrants, Jewish and Catholic. An upstate delegate to the 1894 Constitutional convention called New York City "a sewer of ignorance and corruption flowing in from foreign lands." Today, the city is home to over 80 percent of the states African-Americans and Jews, and over 90 percent of its Spanish-speaking and Asian population.

But much of the battle is over money and power, and many city politicians have felt that the state government sucks up the city's wealth.

George Washington Plunkitt, a turn of the century Tammany Hall district lea der once railed, "in this state the Republican government makes no pretense at all. It says right out in the open: `New York is a nice, big, fat goose. Come along with your carving knives and have a slice.'"

With this history, it is no wonder legislative issues have divided the city and the state again and again.


In the midst of the recent economic boom, many upstate counties have not enjoyed the same sort of success as New York City.

According to a recent study that tracked job growth from 1995-1999, New York has the second highest average wage among all states. That growth, however, has been primarily concentrated in the downstate region. If upstate was a separate state, its job growth for the 1995-99 period would have ranked second to last among all states.

There is also a prevailing upstate sentiment that the state government favors New York City by providing its residents with a disproportionate amount of tax dollars to support social programs.

"There's a myth, perpetuated by upstate newspapers, that New York City is draining money out of the state treasury," said Assemblyman Edward C. Sullivan.

But statistics point otherwise. The Center for Governmental Research released a recent report that showed that New York City "contributes significantly more in revenue than it receives in state funds."

Upstate areas receive $1.41 in state aid for every tax dollar contributed, while New York City breaks even, the report states. Likewise, the upstate area, with the exception of Rochester County, receives much more than their share of state spending.


Most states encounter political tension between urban and rural areas. But in New York, it is compounded by the fact that the city has more in common with world cities like London, Tokyo, or Paris, than to Buffalo or Albany.

When people elsewhere in the world think of New York, they think of the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Wall Street and Times Square. They think city, not state.

But in comparison to upstate and the suburbs, New York City with its 7.4 million residents has a large chunk, but not a majority, of the state's population. The upstate population is approximately 7 million and the suburban population is 3.7 million.

On Election Day, New York City voters don't carry as much clout as they might think. In general elections, upstate voters represent about 45 percent of the vote, while the city only carries about 30 percent, with the suburbs taking the remaining 25 percent.

But even so, some upstate New Yorkers are convinced that the state government only serves the interests of the city. Some have gone as far as to call for the sucession of upstate New York to create the 51st state.

And politicians often feed the urban-versus-rural stereotypes. Former Mayor Ed Koch made fun of upstate life with his comments about pick-up trucks, women in "gingham dresses" and men in Sears's suits. In 1998, when Governor Pataki and Senator D'Amato faced re-election challenges from city Democrats, the GOP ran ads showing sharks swimming out of the city to devour the rest of the state.


Each time rent control is set to expire, the old upstate and downstate tension resurfaces.

Today, it is state law, not city law, that provides limits on how much landlords can charge for rent in lower and middle class apartments. In a city with over 1 million apartments under rent protection, more than half of all apartments in the city, it is almost entirely a New York City concern.

So why does the New York State Legislature control rent regulations?

"Local government powers have to be given from the state," said Michael Schill, Professor of Law and Urban Planning at New York University. Rent control remains, in the words of the state constitution, "a significant matter of state concern" that the state does not wish to give up. Schill added that "the issue is not unique to New York." Cities like Boston and Los Angeles have faced similar battles with state government.

In 1997, the State Assembly and Governor Pataki vowed to end rent controls on apartments, city tenant advocates responded and along with support from Democrats were able to muster enough power to extended rent protections for six more years. At one point, the issue was consuming so much of the state government's time that the Buffalo News declared "upstate legislators should band together and insist that such a regional issue be decided separately from those that affect the whole state."

Over the past two years, the state government has considered a proposal to widen roads abutting the Kensico Reservoir in Westchester County. The problem is that the reservoir provides drinking water for about 9 million people in the New York City area. City officials fear that the proposed development would increase run-off and the amount of pollutants that go into the water, and mean the city would have to build a filtration system that could cost upwards of six million dollars.

The state government and the state Department of Transportation have remained steadfast in their position that highway improvements are necessary. In January, City Council passed a resolution calling on the state to stop the plans for expansion and City Comptroller Alan Hevesi sent a letter to Pataki urging him to reduce the project's size.

Meanwhile, the issue is still sitting in Albany, with the governor and Department of Transportation yet to weigh in.

According to a recent study, New York State spends more than $2 billion a year to operate its prisons. With their struggling economy, upstate towns and politicians lobby hard for prisons to be built in their areas. They've proved successful. Two-thirds of the prison facilities are located three hours or more from New York City. Between 1983-1994, 28 of the 29 prisons authorized for construction were built upstate. One town in particular, Dannemora, now has more inmates than inhabitants.

The upstate-downstate debate lies in the fact that 70 percent of the state's prisoners come from New York City, many from low-income neighborhoods of color. The U.S. Census Bureau records inmates as residents of the area where the prisons are located, not as members of the neighborhood where they reside.

This means less federal and state aid, as well as less political representation for the New York City neighborhoods that lose over 66,000 residents a year to Republican districts upstate. The state's prison policies, in effect, transfer public funds and electoral influence from urban neighborhoods of color to white, rural upstate areas.

This past Election Day proved once again that upstaters and downstaters have different political interests.

On the vote over the Transportation Bond Act, which would have increased the state's debt to pay for upgrading highways upstate and improving New York City's subway system, 72 percent of people in New York City approved the measure. In upstate New York, however, 64 percent who cast ballots voted against the act.

The upstate vote made the difference, and the proposition failed by a vote of 53 to 47 percent. Now the city will have to figure out another way to fund mass transit improvements.


This year, Hillary Clinton drew enough support from both upstate and downstate voters to win the U.S. Senate seat. It's been noted that her success came in part because she was able to gather enough support from urban areas upstate, like Rochester and Buffalo, to combine with her strong showing in New York City.

Clinton garnered this support by claiming that her priority was to promote economic prosperity throughout the entire state by using such methods as tax credits for small businesses. This, she hopes, will "build one great New York State. A New York where every region, every community and every New Yorker can take part in our new economy."

Boosting both the upstate and downstate economies may be the best way to end upstate-downstate gridlock. But as the real work begins for Senator-elect Clinton, she may find that her priority of helping the upstate economy conflicts with another of her favorite issues, the environment.

Other Links:


Going Private

What do Off Track Betting, the World Trade Center and some of New York City's most troubled schools have in common?

All are run by a government agency, but won't be for long. They are being "privatized" -- taken over by companies that hope to run them as businesses and make a profit.

These institutions join the many enterprises that New Yorkers considered to be locked firmly in the public sector but that no longer are. For example, services for the homeless and management of parks, to varying degrees, have been turned over to businesses or nonprofit organizations.

Not everybody approves of this across-the-board trend (See story by Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer) And not all the efforts have been successful. The courts blocked sales of the city's water system and of Coney Island Hospital. Although Giuliani has said he would like to get the city out of the hospital business, the Health and Hospitals Corp. still operates 20 hospitals.

Just last week, the administration's plan to have private companies find jobs for welfare recipients foundered badly, as the companies accused the city of mismanaging the hand-over.

But the trend does not seem to have played itself out. The city is taking steps to lease its airports to a corporation, and at least one critic argues that New York's School Construction Authority should be replaced by private contractors.

Meanwhile, in some other jurisdictions, private companies run the prisons. Whatever the targets may be, the arguments for privatizing them are much the same. Proponents say a business can provide better services more efficiently. Opponents, such as public employee unions, prefer to keep matters in the government's hands, fearing a corporation could cut the civil servants' wages and benefits. Other critics maintain that many operations simply cannot be run at a profit without sacrificing quality, stinting on service or ignoring the neediest New Yorkers.


The debate over the proper role and size of government has gone on for centuries. Indeed some existing public enterprises were originally run by businesses and then made public. The New York City subways were operated by private companies until mounting financial problems forced them to sell out to the city in 1940.

The idea of cutting back on government and expanding the role of the private sector began picking up speed about 30 years ago when it was championed by management professor Peter R. Drucker, who coined the word "reprivatize."

Theory turned into practice when Margaret Thatcher become prime minister of Great Britain and promptly began selling off state-owned companies, such as British Petroleum and Rolls Royce. Since there weren't any such state-owned companies in the United States, one focus of privatization in this country has been local governments. With its wide array of public services, including housing, health care, transportation and media, New York was a particularly tempting laboratory, and since his election in 1993, Mayor Giuliani has been eager to experiment.

The mayor has been spurred by several goals. In some cases, he says the public sector has failed and the private sector could do the job better. So he has sought to break the Board of Education's grip on the city schools, which he often criticizes. He has not, though, offered to lease out the Police Department, which he credits with the drop in crime, to private security firms.

Giuliani has focused also on publicly owned enterprises whose sale can produce a big infusion of cash. For example, the sale of WNYC-TV in 1996 brought in $207 million to the city's treasury. Then, too, as New York's first Republican mayor in 40 years, Giuliani has sought to shake up a public establishment that has been linked to the Democrats.

But some Democrats have supported privatization as well. For example, former Governor Mario Cuomo has been quoted as saying, "It is not government's obligation to provide services, but to see that they're provided."


Privatization can take a number of forms. Some citizens simply opt out of public services. "The problems that have made life tough for all New Yorkers have led lawyers, bankers and other high-income families to deal with the decline in public services by privatizing on their own," write Charles Brecher and Sheila Spiezio.

"Their children go to private schools. . . . They have private security in their buildings - and even in their neighborhoods. They rely on black car or limousine service for transportation. They depend on private health insurance and private hospitals. For those who can afford it, the private purchase of formerly public services has become routine."

Governments can transfer responsibility for delivering a service by contracting with a private agency, issuing vouchers to recipients of what had been a state service or leasing a publicly owned facility to a private operator. And a government agency may remain public but set out to mimic some of the practices of the private sector. It is thought that the New York City Board of Education was trying to do precisely that when it appointed former Citicorp lawyer Harold Levy schools chancellor.


Supporters of privatization proceed from the premise that government is too big and inefficient. Hemmed in by contracts with public employee unions, by entrenched bureaucracies and by often nitpicking rules and regulations, advocates say, government operations tend to be inflexible, unwieldy and far more expensive than they should be. E.S. Savas, a Baruch College professor notes, for example, that cities that contract out garbage collection cut their costs by 35 percent

But the arguments go beyond efficiency. There are, of course, those who make money by taking over public services or facilities. Others, Savas has written, seek privatization because they believe in less government, while some are hoping to take power away from a faceless bureaucracy and transfer it to people who will now be able to choose among various providers of a service. Adherents of a free market argue that, if public enterprises have to compete, whether with private enterprises or other public ones, they will be forced to improve services or face extinction.

But where some see efficiency and improved service, others see danger. After all, the private sector does not always do things right, Diane B. Enriques noted in the New York Times, as she faulted privatization advocates for ignoring "every modern example of private-sector incompetence from New Coke to 'Ishtar.'" If she were more up-to-date, she might have thrown in Crystal Pepsi, Firestone tires, "Waterworld," or anything else Kevin Costner has appeared in lately.

In his book, "You Don't Always Get What You Pay For: The Economics of Privatization," Elliott Sclar, director of urban planning programs at the Columbia University School of Architecture, argues that taking responsibilities away from government does not always produce cost savings and great efficiency. But he is most concerned about the erosion in important public values - even over something as simple as a parking garage. After Westchester had a private business operate the garage at its county medical center, fees went up until poor patients could no longer afford to park there.

As more and more services become private, critics worry that only society's least powerful will rely on public offerings and that therefore the quality of those services will spiral inexorably downward. And Savas concedes, "preoccupation with efficiency, competition and market forces may overlook interests and issues vital to social well-being."

Perhaps the biggest difficulty with privatization, as with so many other ideas of the moment, is that some view it as a panacea. In a paper prepared for the Urban Institute, Demetra Smith Nightingale and Nancy Pindus conclude there is little "clear evidence that private sector delivery [of services] is inherently more effective or less effective than public service delivery. . . . There are examples of success and failure in both sectors."

What seems most important, they continue, "is whether the service is made accountable for its actions and whether public objectives are clear."


Profits from Pupils?
While castigating the public Board of Education for failing to teach the city's children, Giuliani has advocated both charter schools and vouchers. The former are privately operated and run more or less independently of city or Board of Education regulation, but receive money from the government. While these schools can be run by groups of parents or teachers as well as small community groups, the charter school process in New York has tended to favor large nonprofit groups and for-profit educational management companies. According to a report in City Limits, fully half of the 23 charter schools that the state approved to open in 2000 or 2001 -- including two in New York City -- will be run by for-profit companies.

The charter movement in the city - and the for-profit companies -- got a boost earlier this year when Chancellor Levy announced he would turn some of New York most troubled schools into charter schools. Although some non-profit agencies applied for charters, the Board of Education has narrowed the list of candidates down to four for-profit companies: Edison, Mosaica Education, Victory Schools and Advantage Schools.

Such companies are emerging as a big trend in education, Janelle Scott, of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Columbia, has said. They maintain that by introducing better management techniques and by not being forced to hire union workers, including teachers, they can both provide a quality education and make a profit.

The jury is still out, though. Although some studies say charter schools do help students, particularly in inner cities that are often poorly served by the public schools, other studies are less favorable. And so far, according to Businessweek, few of the for-profit school companies made a profit.

Gail Foster, the founder of the Toussaint Institute, says she became interested in privatized or charter schools because they could allow for more community involvement and control. But, she says, in New York "the word is going around the African American community that you have to have a management company to do a charter school. . . . Have we just substituted the public bureaucracy with a Wall Street bureaucracy?"

Under the voucher system, parents would receive the equivalent of a few thousand dollars a year that they would have to use to "purchase" their child's education - at a public, private or, in some cases, even a parochial school. The dispute over whether to launch a pilot voucher program in New York helped speed former, Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew's departure from the city.

Even though Crew is gone, though, there is no voucher program in New York.

Horses and Planes
To candidate Rudy Giuliani in 1993, Off Track Betting exemplified the inefficient public enterprise. It was, he said, "the only bookie operation in the world to lose money," and he pledged to clean it up and sell it. In the last fiscal year, OTB made a profit of $39.2 million. It is now up for sale, and bids could go as high as $400 million.

Given that wagering on horses is not exactly an essential social service, there's been little opposition to the proposed sale, other than from District Council 37, the union that represents OTB workers.

Similarly, the leasing of the World Trade Center by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has attracted little opposition, with some of New York's top real estate companies bidding for a 99-year deal. The agency could realize $2 billion from the arrangement.

The Port Authority, though, is more reluctant to surrender control of LaGuardia and Kennedy airports -- an idea the mayor has enthusiastically advanced. "We're losing passengers, we're losing business, and we're losing prestige because of the Port Authority's management," the mayor has said. Even though the authority's lease on the airports is not set to expire for another 15 years, Giuliani has requested bids from private companies interested in running the facilities. City officials hope this move will encourage the Port Authority, which they say has cheated New York City out of millions in revenue, to step out before 2015.

Private Space
Perhaps no public service seems as inherently public as a park. Yet private groups and businesses are playing an increasing role in the city's parks. Between 1987 and 1996, city spending for parks fell 31 percent, but the amount of private money for it increased threefold. This administration has turned much of the responsibility for maintaining and improving the parks over to public agencies, such as the Central Park Conservancy and the Prospect Park Alliance.

Some facilities, such as Central Park and Bryant Park, have thrived under this arrangement. But most people tend to support parks only in their own neighborhoods. So playgrounds and other recreational facilities in poorer areas, particularly in the Bronx and Queen, have suffered.

Then there are the 503 private "parks" that are supposed to be public. They were created under a 1961 regulation that allowed developers to build additional floor space in exchange for furnishing plazas, arcades, walkways and atriums for the general populace.

A recent study of all these spaces found that only 15 are so appealing that they draw visitors from across the city, while 66 "neighborhood spaces" attract people from within the community. But 207 "marginal spaces," are so bad that people try to keep away from them. According to the Municipal Art Society, "many building owners have let their plazas fall into neglect, depriving the people of New York City of active public spaces."

Social Contract
Part of the national drive to change welfare as we know it has involved contracting out an array of services intended to help the poor. Perhaps most notably, the city Department of Human Resources, rather than operating an employment program, was to contract with private companies who would place welfare recipients in jobs.

Last week, though, the administration began backing away from the plan, with the companies charging that the welfare recipients had not been screened for drug or mental problems. "It's been an operational nightmare," one contractor told The New York Times, adding that the city "could not have done a worse job if they tried."

Privatization of some other social services, however, is in place. By 1997, private agencies already took care of 70 percent of New York's foster children. The Department of Homeless Services has shifted away from directly operating shelters and other facilities and has been contracting out those services. According to a study by Gordon J.Campbell and Elizabeth McCarthy that appeared in the Policy Studies Journal earlier this year, more than 100 shelters, eight drop-in centers and six outreach teams are run by private nonprofit agencies. The writers believe this has enabled the city to provide the homeless with better services at a lower costs.


As long as there is a New York City government, it will no doubt be doing things that some critics think could be better done by the private sector. Prisons, which in some places are operated by for-profit businesses, are still in New York's public sector. Some of the many critics of the city's School Construction Authority have proposed that the way to build more classrooms - and to build them safely and promptly - is to turn the job over private contractors.

And, then of course, there are the subways. Is it time to sell them back to private operators?


Print Friendly and PDF

Editor's Choice

Gotham Gazette: New York Voters Approve $4.2 Billion Environmental Bond Act
New York Voters Approve $4.2 Billion Environmental Bond Act
Gotham Gazette: 
New York City Voters Approve Racial Justice Ballot Measures
New York City Voters Approve Racial Justice Ballot Measures
Gotham Gazette: Max Politics Podcast: A Winning Formula for Democrats in Tough New York Races
Max Politics Podcast: A Winning Formula for Democrats in Tough New York Races
Gotham Gazette: Max Politics Podcast Max Politics Podcast