SPOTLIGHT: MUNICIPAL UNIONS
CAN NONRELIGIOUS POLITICIANS GO MAINSTREAM?
February 24, 2014
BEATING THE CLOCK IS THERE A DOWNSIDE TO ON-TIME BUDGETS?
City & State
FEBRUARY 24, 2014
No Good Deed
ive hundred years before House of Cards, Niccolò Machiavelli counseled in The Prince that “men should either be caressed or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, but of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that one does to a man should be such that one does not fear revenge for it.” A deft practitioner of pragmatic political philosophy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is doubtlessly well acquainted with the substance of this advice—all the more reason he may be kicking himself for not having heeded it at a critical juncture in his career. In 2010 Cuomo had the fate of the Working Families Party in his hands. The party desperately needed Cuomo, then the attorney general, to take its line in his bid for governor, for without his name at the top of the WFP’s ticket, the party would have By Morgan Pehme been hard-pressed to garner the 50,000 votes in the gubernatorial race necessary to automatically secure its ballot line for the following four years. Cuomo seemed to take pleasure in toying with the possibility of banishing the party to—if not outright oblivion—at least one of the strata of political purgatory. Hard as it is to picture now with the WFP at the pinnacle of its power to date, in 2010 the party was down in the dumps, its credibility impugned by the Data & Field imbroglio and its raison d’être diminished by the rise of Obama and the eagerness of New Yorkers to embrace safe, centrist leadership in the aftermath of the Spitzer/Paterson saga. Had Cuomo rejected the line, he would have rendered it toxic, impotent or both—just as he did in 2002 when he let the Liberal line wither on the vine by withdrawing from the governor’s race against Carl McCall. Of course, ultimately Cuomo agreed to carry the party’s standard, a calculation that seemed at the time to reflect the WFP’s announcement that no charges would be filed against it related to Data & Field, as well as a fleeting bump in Carl Paladino’s poll numbers. The price of Cuomo’s altruism was public obeisance—the party had to swallow his agenda whole and swear it tasted delicious. And so the WFP lived to fight another day—and fight it did. Three years later the scope of its electoral victories in New York City were of a historic magnitude, vaulting the party and its champion, Mayor Bill de Blasio, to a position of power rivaling that of the state’s mighty governor. By all indications, it appears that the WFP has not forgotten the agony Cuomo forced it to endure not so long ago, and the indifference with which he has treated the party’s priorities since. The fierce intractability with which de Blasio and his WFP-aligned allies have confronted Cuomo on universal pre-K and the mayor’s proposed tax increase has betrayed a sense that their quarrel is more than just a policy debate—it’s personal, too. Now there are rumblings that the party might deny Cuomo its line in his re-election bid, and instead run its national director, Dan Cantor, in protest. The mere threat of turning the tables on the governor must surely delight the party’s leaders as poetic justice. When Rome finally defeated Carthage in the Punic Wars, it salted the earth of its enemy’s city, so that nothing could ever grow there again. And nothing ever did. Should the governor have killed the WFP when he had the chance? Only time will tell if he will regret having shown his adversary mercy.
Contents Page 5 ..........
UPFRONT The more holidays the merrier?
Page 6 .......... COUNCIL WATCH
The de Blasio family’s peculiar underthe-radar endorsement By Seth Barron
Page 8 .......... CITY
State of the City: A shift in tone from the Bloomberg era By Nick Powell Page 10 ........ STATE Can Albany agree on how to kill “zombies”? By Matthew Hamilton
Page 12 ......... INDUSTRY
The prospects of online gambling in New York … Why the state’s shift to managed care for Medicaid patients is making some nervous
Page 16 ........
BEATING THE CLOCK Gov. Cuomo has ushered in a new era of on-time budgets. Is that good for New York? By Jon Lentz
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PERSPECTIVES Michael Benjamin on how to reintegrate ex-cons … Alexis Grenell on whether nonreligious politicians can go mainstream … Brad Lander on rules reform in the New York City Council ... and Steven M. Cohen on the difficulty of righting wrongful convictions.
Page 30 ....... BACK & FORTH
A Q&A with Piero Fassino, the mayor of Turin, Italy Cover: Illustration, Guillaume Federighi
city & state — February 24, 2014
Page 22 ........ SPOTLIGHT: MUNICIPAL UNIONS CITY AND STATE, LLC Chairman Steve Farbman President/CEO Tom Allon firstname.lastname@example.org
the Editor Q&A with New York Knicks’ Point Guard Raymond Felton
Preview: 2014 State Legislative Session
Mark-Viverito Elected New Speaker: Can the Council Forgive and Forget?
January 20, 2014
One year after its passage, has the SAFE Act reduced gun violence?
Following the election of Melissa Mark-Viverito as New York City Council Speaker, City & State City Hall Bureau Chief Nick Powell wrote an analysis of the vote entitled “A Healing Moment or Political Theater?” The Bronx Machine sabotaged the will of its constituency by following the defect in character of its leaders. This is clearly not representative of the Bronxites who voted them into office. It is now time to consider a changing of the guard while there is yet time to save face. The revolution will not be televised.
city & state — February 24, 2014
—Pastor Bruce Rivera (via cityandstateny.com) Your article, while making some salient points regarding insider politics and theater, totally invisibilizes the role of Speaker Viverito [sic] in her own ascension to power. As is the case in most patriarchal analyses like yours, this gifted Puerto Rican women is a mere plaything in the world of white males, [Rep. Joe] Crowley and [Mayor Bill] de Blasio. You have looked at Viverito as a rubber stamp for de Blasio. Viverito has a 20-year history in the Latino community. She was one of the few officials of color to endorse de Blasio when most officials of color endorsed Thompson. She is a co-founder of the Progressive Caucus, championed participatory budgeting, and was unapologetically Puerto Rican despite the anti-Latino attacks of the mainstream
media. Her victory was a victory for the Latino community. She is more than just a capable legislator, she is an outstanding legislator, and in your critique you fail to highlight the incompetence of [Councilman Dan] Garodnick, who has nothing to show for his efforts but a baptism by the county bosses and real estate interests. Speaker Viverito’s role is not to heal the wounds of the real estate political hacks that challenged her but to promote a progressive agenda for the people of New York. Your approach is not uncommon for those who see the political world of the city revolving around white folks. But in the diverse world of Letitia James and Viverito and the changing demographics of the city, your “whites-only count” is inaccurate, and has grown tired. —JuanSotomayor77@yahoo.com (via cityandstateny.com) Nick Powell responds to Mr. Sotomayor: Let me begin by first outright rejecting your characterization of my Speaker vote analysis as “patriarchal.” Your analysis, on the other hand, is narrow, without any basis of fact, and reactionary in the worst way. I would like to give you the benefit of the doubt that you read the dozens of actual hit pieces published against Melissa Mark-Viverito during her jockeying with Dan Garodnick for the leadership position, but your laughable reaction to my exceedingly fair depiction of political theater on the day of the Speaker vote makes that a dangerous assumption. In fact, your commentary is so myopically defensive of Speaker MarkViverito that you fail to see beyond your own blatant hypocrisy with your ludicrous and irresponsible charges of racial bias. Clearly it is you, sir, who views the political world of the city as black and white, which, needless to say, is not only inaccurate and tired, but a poor reflection of the “progressive” ideals you value so dearly.
In his column, City & State Editor Morgan Pehme argued that the governor should call special elections for the 11 vacant seats in the State Legislature. Thank you for finally telling “We the People” the truth. “It’s a balance of the cost and hardship of the election versus the community’s right to representation,” says Gov. Cuomo. Seems the people are only entitled to as much representation as they have money to buy! Apparently the governor needs to reread the Declaration of Independence, together with the U.S. Constitution. What he is advocating through his statement is that government without
representation can be justified if it is just too darn expensive (or inconvenient) to have an election. Tell that to the tens of millions of veterans who have served, and even more so the millions who have made the “supreme sacrifice” in the name of protecting democracy and freedom. —Really Now (via cityandstateny.com) Commentator Michael Kinsley once defined a gaffe as someone inadvertently telling the truth. Sheldon Silver has done so with his line about what legislators do once the budget is passed, and what he didn’t say is that legislators have little to do even with that since the budget is essentially passed by the proverbial “three men in a room.” Let the seats stay open; fewer salaries and staff to pay, and nobody involved will be missed. —David Levine (via cityandstateny.com) In his cover story, Matthew Hamilton asked whether New York State was actually safer one year after the passage of the SAFE Act. The governor of New York is treading on the Second Amendment. He bellowed, “Why do you need 10 bullets to kill a deer?” This is a nonsensical non sequitur. I ask, “Why do the troopers who guard him need 10 or 15 bullets to kill a deer?” The second amendment has nothing to do with hunting and everything to do with self-defense. Disarming good people does nothing to protect our children. It’s a free country. We need a small government to defend the country, keep the peace and stay out of the way. A large government distorts reality. I want to be able to buy gasoline without ethanol. I don’t want to pay farmers not to farm. I want to be able to hire the doctor of my choice, get the treatment he recommends and pay with the insurance policy of my choice. It’s a free country. When the stuff hits the fan and we are faced with a major catastrophe, the phone will be dead; the police and prison guards will be at home protecting their families. When a politician offers you the illusion of safety in exchange for freedom; don’t take it. It’s a free country. —Dan Malwitz, Orchard Park, N.Y. As was pointed out in the article, the SAFE Act has not reduced the number of guns in New York; it has only pushed their purchase/sale underground. Now instead of being able to monitor these sales, the police are blind to the transactions. Cuomo has managed to take a legal industry and push law abiding vendors out of the state while increasing profits for illegal vendors. That is the primary accomplishment of the SAFE Act. —Upstate Taxpayer (via cityandstateny.com) To have your letter to the editor considered for publication, leave a comment at www.cityandstateny.com, tweet us @CityAndStateNY, email email@example.com or write to 61 Broadway, Suite 2825, New York, NY 10006. Letters may be edited for clarity or length. cityandstateny.com
New York City students may soon be able to stay home for the Lunar New Year and two Muslim holy days, assuming talk about adding them to the roster of school holidays leads to pans out. But Mayor Bill de Blasio is less sure about Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights—perhaps because of the number of days students already get off. CURRENT NEW YORK CITY SCHOOL HOLIDAYS (2013–14) SEPT. 2: Labor Day SEPT. 5–6: Rosh Hashanah OCT. 14: Columbus Day NOV. 5: Election Day NOV. 11: Veterans Day (observed) NOV. 28–29: Thanksgiving Recess DEC. 23–Jan. 1: Winter Recess (including Christmas and New Year’s Day) JAN. 20: Martin Luther King Jr. Day FEB. 17–21: Midwinter Recess (including Presidents’ Day) APRIL 14–22: Spring Recess (including Good Friday, Easter and Passover) MAY 26: Memorial Day JUNE 5: Anniversary Day
PROPOSED SCHOOL HOLIDAYS JAN. 31: Lunar New Year The holiday, traditionally the most important in Chinese culture, is tied to the cycles of the moon and fell on Jan. 31 this year. De Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito have called for it to be a school holiday, and state lawmakers introduced a bill that would let schools close. OCT. 4–5 and JULY 28: Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr De Blasio also supports designating the Muslim holy days as days off. Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, falls at the end of July this year. Eid al-Adha, which falls on Oct. 4–5 this year, honors the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his first-born son. Last year it occurred Oct. 14–18. NOV. 3: Diwali The Hindu festival of lights, which was celebrated on Nov. 3 last year, has also been proposed as a school holiday. City Councilman Daniel Dromm recently wrote to Chancellor Carmen Fariña in support of making it a school holiday, though de Blasio has said he has not made up his mind if he agrees.
OTHER NONSCHOOL HOLIDAYS SEPT. 13–14: Yom Kippur Yom Kippur is one of the holiest days of the year for Jews. Last year it fell on Sept. 13–14; this year it falls on Oct. 3–4. NOV. 12: Birth of Bahá’u’lláh The holiday celebrates Bahá’u’lláh, a key figure in the Baha’i faith. JAN. 7: Eastern Orthodox Christmas The Eastern Orthodox Church, which follows a different calendar, celebrates Christmas in early January. MARCH 17: St. Patrick’s Day Each year in New York City, there are parades, green beer and plenty of corned beef, cabbage and stew. (There are those who feel a hangover holiday the day after might be more appropriate.) APRIL 1: April Fool’s Day Okay, so it’s a stretch. But is there anything more annoying than that one co-worker who insists on playing pranks all day? At least give that person the day off. cityandstateny.com
By Dr. Marsha Gordon
As the New York State economy continues to sputter, bold leadership on economic development has never been needed more. Incentives to lure businesses, enterprise zones, and blueprints and studies that map out prospective solutions to the problems our state faces all have their place; but the one thing New York must have if we are to jump-start and grow our economy is reliable and affordable energy. At a time when demand for electricity continues to rise, New York seems bent on reducing supply. State regulations have shuttered several power generators and, as the basic laws of economics dictate, less supply plus more demand equals higher prices. According to Federal Energy Information Administration data, New Yorkers pay the second-highest electricity rates in the continental U.S. However, it is not simply the laws of economics at play. New York has an array of opaque taxes and fees that have nothing at all to do with electricity generation or transmission added onto our electric bills. For example, there’s the Section 18-A Surcharge that currently adds a 2 percent levy on consumer and business electric bills. In 2009, Albany increased the assessment 500 percent, from 0.33 percent of New Yorkers’ bills. The surcharge produces an estimates $600 million in revenue for the state and, though the increase is scheduled to expire on March 31, Governor Cuomo wants to extend it. Uncertainty about the future of the Indian Point nuclear power plant also holds the promise of significantly higher electric rates for New Yorkers, while an order from the Public Service Commission would add an $811 million rate increase as part of a contingency plan.
Our studies have shown that shutting Indian Point means the loss of 2,065 MW of electric-generating capacity – and the resulting higher prices – plus an estimated 11,000 jobs, $2.1 billion in cumulative wages, and nearly $5.5 billion in cumulative economic output. Furthermore, the replacement power to make up the shortfall would add 6 million tons of carbon emissions to our air every year. That is the exact opposite of the development we want. There is no guarantee that the best laid, most well-intentioned plans for meeting our future energy needs and economic development goals will ever come to fruition, yet the two go hand-in-hand. When it comes to energy production, the future is now. We must build toward a secure energy future that ensures the power our state, its people, and businesses need today, tomorrow, and beyond remains available, affordable, and plentiful. Dr. Marsha Gordon is President of the Business Council of Westchester (www.westchesterny.org) and member of the New York AREA Advisory Board. Dr. Gordon has been named one of Westchester’s most respected, admired and inspiring leaders by Westchester Magazine. S P E C I A L
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The New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (New York AREA) is a diverse group of business, labor, environmental, and community leaders working together for clean, low-cost and reliable electricity solutions that foster prosperity and jobs for the Empire State. W W W. A R E A - A L L I A N C E . O R G
city & state — February 24, 2014
Power Up Economic Development with Reliable, Affordable Energy
TO G OR NOT TO G
city & state — February 24, 2014
hirlane McCray made her first official solo appearance as New York’s First Lady last month at an immigration forum sponsored by the Black Institute, an “action tank” run by longtime de Blasio friend and political ally Bertha Lewis. McCray’s talk was followed by the release of a Black Institute video spot featuring McCray and the ubiquitous de Blasio children, in which the three of them proudly announce themselves as “G,” a term that, according to the Black Institute’s “G Project” website, means “A Black Immigrant—an African, Caribbean, or Afro Latino person, who has immigrated to the US from another country.” The G Project “focuses entirely on Black Immigrants” and their descendants; Chirlane McCray, the secondgeneration granddaughter of immigrants from Barbados, identifies herself in the video as “G-2,” while Dante and Chiara de Blasio identify themselves as “G-3.” Mayors’ wives and children do not typically endorse specific charities or nonprofits. Donna Hanover and Joyce Dinkins, the city’s previous two first ladies, appeared in occasional commercials on behalf of noncontroversial causes such as breast cancer or literacy, but rarely if ever on behalf of a specific organization tied so closely to a political associate of one of their husbands, nor one that takes a peculiarly ethno-nationalist approach to broad policy questions. Lewis, co-founder of the New York chapter of the Working Families Party, and the former head of ACORN, created the Black Institute in order to promote issues of concern to African-Americans, including education, economic fairness and immigration. The language of the Black Institute’s website strikes a distinctly pre-post-racial tone, somewhat reminiscent of the Black Nationalist rhetoric of the 1970s. For example, on the subject of education, the Black Institute looks wistfully to the America of segregated schools, before “Brown
v. Board of Education all but eradicated the African American teaching workforce.” Elsewhere, the G Project website makes the confusing claim that “many individuals believed to be Black Americans, are actually Black Immigrants, or descendants of Black Immigrants and not descendants of black slaves.” And in a “G survey” on the website, the respondents are asked to identify the birthplace of their “maternal” and “fraternal” grandparents. According to Lewis, the “G Project” was founded to enlighten America to the significance of black immigration: Since 1965 there has been an influx of immigrants from the Caribbean and, in lesser numbers, from sub-Saharan Africa. Lewis is concerned particularly with the plight of a number of children who came here legally with their parents, but who have aged into undocumented status. “The G Project is about visibility, putting black and other faces into the immigration debate,” she says, acknowledging that part of the G Project’s objective is to build support for immigration reform among American blacks. “Instead of focusing on the perceived ills of immigration, and the supposed divide that it has created in the black community, [the G Project] focuses on the positive aspects of immigration.” The “perceived ills of immigration” to which Lewis is referring appear to be the fears some African-Americans have historically had of being displaced by low-skilled, low-wage immigrant labor in jobs as varied as construction, meatpacking and janitorial services. As recently as the mid-’90s, for instance, Rep. Barbara Jordan’s Commission on Immigration Reform called openly for restrictions on legal immigration and increased removal of illegal immigrants on the grounds that immigrants provide unfair competition for jobs and services for “the most vulnerable of Americans.” Opinion polls of middle and working class citizens—white, black and Latino—have consistently put the normalization of immigration status for the undocumented as a low priority, compared with jobs, education, the environment and a host of other concerns. Strikingly, one of the goals of the Black Institute and its G Project appears to be the promotion of black immigration in order to increase the black population of America. Maintaining and expanding the “diversity visa”—an important mechanism for Africans to get into the United States—is a primary aim of the G Project. Asked why an average black American should care particularly about bringing Senegalese or Ivorians into the U.S., Lewis appealed to blood kinship as a rationale: “If you are an African-American, these are your brothers and sisters and cousins.” She added, “We talk about global civilization: If the 21st century is the century of being global, guess what? That means black faces.”
But Lewis’ enthusiasm about the future of a minority-majority “browning” America is tempered by the consideration that the black population—America’s historically dominant minority—will lose its status as America becomes more pluralistic. Lewis argues, “The immigration question should not be solely based on people jumping over borders and contending just with folks who are Latino. … We have to talk about black people. It is not just a question of increasing black immigration, which we believe does need to be increased, and which would be a net gain. But let’s get away from an immigration system and legislation that only looks at one aspect of immigration, and only has one frame.” An odd triumphalism tinged with wishful thinking underwrites much of the G Project’s rhetoric. For instance, its website states: “it is estimated that there are over 60 million first and second generation African Americans with immigrant backgrounds.” Given that the U.S. Census Bureau puts the total number of AfricanAmericans at less than 50 million, the G Project’s figure is off at least by an order of magnitude. The website also makes the odd claim that “the African American vote for the first time exceeded the White vote in 2012,” a contention Lewis repeated last September in a speech before the Black Congressional Caucus, stating, “AfricanAmericans outvoted white Americans. Oooh. That’s the fear of the white man.” In regard to the G Project’s implicit concern that black political
The Black Institute’s founder Bertha Lewis cityandstateny.com
Made-in-New York Energy Powers Prosperity By James Slevin
The Ivanpah solar power installation in California’s Mojave Desert opened to much fanfare earlier this month. The massive facility took years to build, cost a reported $2.2 billion dollars, and occupies more than five square miles. The return on investment, however, seems questionable. Ivanpah produces just 392 megawatts (MW) of electricity and, disappointingly, only 86 permanent jobs, while powering only 140,000 homes. In 2012, New York consumed 158.7 million MW of electricity. The state imported more than 22.9 million MW of that total as the need for power grows along with our dependence on digital devices and technology.
power faces a decline in relation to growing Latino and Asian influence, Lewis stated unequivocally to City & State that blacks outvoted whites in the 2012 national election. Asked if she was speaking about the percentage of voter turnout among blacks, which was indeed higher than whites, Lewis said, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Darling, look it up. Black votes outnumbered white votes: More black people cast votes than white people.” According to the U.S. Census, in 2012 white non-Hispanics cast 98 million votes, blacks cast 17.8 million votes, and Hispanics cast 11.2 million votes. It is interesting to note that the Black Institute shares office space with the prominent consulting firm the Advance Group, which has deep ties to Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and WFP candidates generally. Until her recent departure from the Advance Group, both the firm and the Black Institute had the same spokeswoman, Chelsea Connor, who handled press inquiries for both organizations. The Advance Group, run by Scott Levenson, made headlines recently for its campaign work in the 2013 elections, during which the firm apparently took campaign dollars from individual campaigns as well as from outside groups supporting the same candidates through independent expenditures. Assurances that there was no improper coordination of resources have been met with skepticism by some observers (and possibly regulators). More recently, during the campaign for the Speakership in December it emerged that the Advance Group was providing Mark-Viverito, the mayor’s preferred candidate, with unpaid assistance, a possible violation of campaign finance laws. Deepening the connection between the firm and the mayor is another longtime personal relationship. A senior advisor at the Advance Group, Michael Gaspard, is the brother of Patrick Gaspard, the U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, a former top aide to Bertha Lewis and a confidant of the mayor’s. City & State previously reported that following the Democratic primary in September, Ambassador Gaspard stepped in to help broker cityandstateny.com
Bill Thompson’s withdrawal from the race in order to spare Bill de Blasio a bloody runoff—an action some critics allege was a violation the Hatch Act, which bans most federal employees from participating in partisan political activities. It has also been written that Patrick Gaspard helped the mayor lean on Brooklyn Democratic boss Frank Seddio to throw his delegation’s support behind Mark-Viverito for Speaker. For his part, Ambassador Gaspard has denied any involvement in New York City politics. In response to queries regarding McCray’s involvement with the Black Institute, Rebecca Katz, a spokeswoman from the mayor’s office, said, “Her grandmother is from Barbados. Both she and the mayor are deeply interested in their family history and have taken family trips to Barbados, Italy and Ghana to explore their roots.” The couple believes, Katz added, that “it is important to know where you came from in order to know where you are going.” The videos promoting the G Project, according to Katz, “were made last summer because Bertha Lewis asked her to do it, and [McCray] thought it sounded interesting.” Given the decades-long relationship between the mayor and his family and Lewis, it is easy to conclude that McCray’s appearance at the Black Institute’s immigration function was just what it sounds like: a favor for an old friend. The First Lady arrived an hour late and stayed for 10 minutes, and her remarks were noncontroversial. She probably has not familiarized herself deeply with some of the odd claims of the G Project’s website or its misstatement of basic demographic facts, and one imagines that she is probably unaware of the Black Institute’s vaguely racialist ideology as it pertains to increasing the immigration of Africans as a means of building black political power. Still, just as Mayor de Blasio learned through his recent experience of calling to inquire into the arrest of one of his political allies, McCray and the de Blasio children must also be careful to abide by a more stringent standard now that all of their actions are so intensely scrutinized. The First Lady must use the utmost caution in vetting the causes she supports to avoid wading into any messy political thickets that could be construed as misrepresentative of her good intentions.
As the Empire State competes to keep and attract new businesses, it has much to offer: a skilled, educated and productive work force; great natural beauty; some of the best schools anywhere; and entertainment, recreational and cultural attractions that are second to none. What we lack is a sufficient supply of electricity that is produced instate. As a result, New Yorkers already bear the burden of the secondhighest electricity rates in the continental U.S. The situation would become even worse if the State shut down the nuclear plant at Indian Point, as the result of such an action would be even less available power, higher rates and the loss of jobs and tax revenues. The workers at Indian Point are very conscious of the need to have a safe nuclear plant. After all, they would be the first ones affected if there were any problems at that plant. Moreover, their families live in the immediate area. These fine men and women work day and night to make sure that New Yorkers have a safe, reliable source of power to operate all the equipment that people have at their homes and businesses.
It is time to take a stand and fight to maintain all of our state’s existing clean, affordable, reliable electricity-generation sources, starting with the Indian Point nuclear power plant. While the potential of solar, wind and hydro power may be great, that potential has yet to be realized; and when those finally are ready to come on line, we in New York State will need them in addition to the existing sources of power. New York needs a world-class energy system that is not subject to the volatility of supply and demand from neighboring states and Canada or to the dangers of having more high-voltage power lines criss-crossing the State. We have the highly trained union workforce to build and maintain this industry and, one day, New York may again flourish as a leading exporter of clean, affordable, reliable electricity that will stimulate real jobs, economic development, and tax revenue growth right here. James Slevin is the President of the Utility Workers of America Local 1-2 and a member of the New York AREA Advisory Board.
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New York AREA’s membership includes some of the state’s most vital business, labor and community organizations including the New York State AFL-CIO, Business Council of New York State, Partnership for New York City, New York Building Congress, National Federation of Independent Business and many more. W W W. A R E A - A L L I A N C E . O R G
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A screen capture from the promotional video the First Lady and her children participated in for The Black Institute’s G Project.
DE BLASIO’S STATE OF THE CITY MARKS A SHIFT IN TONE FROM BLOOMBERG ERA
city & state — February 24, 2014
s with most mayors less than two months into their administration, Mayor Bill de Blasio did not have a laundry list of accomplishments to point to during his State of the City address. But unlike his predecessor Michael Bloomberg’s first State of the City, which covered a wide range of topics and laid the foundation for his 12 years in office, de Blasio eschewed a longterm blueprint in favor of addressing the urgency of leveling the city’s economic playing field. Borrowing a quote from his political idol, former mayor Fiorello La Guardia, de Blasio expressed his desire to act immediately on bridging the equality gap as a stepping stone to his vision of a more harmonious New York City. “Mayor La Guardia said, ‘A mayor who cannot look 50 or 75 years ahead is not worthy of being in City Hall.’ We must lay the foundation now for the strength and stability of New York’s future … a future of greater equality and opportunity,” de Blasio said. The setting of de Blasio’s speech reflected a marked shift in tone from Bloomberg. Continuing his campaign narrative as a “man of the people,” de Blasio delivered his State of the City at LaGuardia Community College in Queens in a plain auditorium with few frills other than a banner above his podium that read, “One New York Rising Together.” Compared with Bloomberg in his final address, held in Brooklyn’s new Barclays Center with championship banners of accomplishments hanging from the ceiling, de Blasio might as well have been a guest lecturer in a college survey class rather than one of the most powerful politicians in the nation. Instead of projecting that power through the venue or with pageantry—Bloomberg had a dance troupe and the Brooklyn Nets’ mascot make an appearance last year—de Blasio wielded his oft-referenced “mandate” voters had given him with his resounding victory in November. Bloomberg’s first State of the City foreshadowed what would be a sometimes antagonistic relationship between his administration and the city’s public sector unions. “Currently, New York City’s municipal workforce has grown to be one-seventh the size of the whole federal government, if you don’t count the military,” Bloomberg said in 2002. “Our people serve 8 million citizens. Theirs serves 250 million. Put directly, today we just don’t have the money to continue this level of staffing.” De Blasio took a thinly veiled shot at his predecessor: “I know that these speeches have at times been used to attack the motives of our public employees,” he said. He then went on to highlight the services the public sector provides, forecasting what could be a much friendlier relationship with the municipal unions—and one that might pay dividends for the city’s labor force during collective
bargaining. The first two legislative initiatives de Blasio mentioned also reflected a break from Bloomberg. He touted the paid sick leave agreement forged with the New York City Council, which Bloomberg vetoed before the Council overrode him, passing a watereddown version of the original bill. By contrast, de Blasio announced he would issue an executive order ending Bloomberg’s lawsuit blocking the Council’s living wage law, which requires developers and businesses who receive at least $1 million in tax abatements or low-cost financing to pay city workers either $10 an hour with benefits or $11.50 without them. Bloomberg opposed the law on the grounds that it violated the state’s minimum wage law—a law that, coincidentally or not, de Blasio hopes to tweak by asking Albany to allow New York City to set its own wage floor. Despite these headline-grabbing aspects of his speech, de Blasio’s State of the City was as significant for what it omitted as for what it included. Environmental and transportation issues that had been central to Bloomberg’s agenda were scarcely mentioned. With the recovery after Superstorm Sandy ongoing, to not put forth any strategy to harden the city’s brittle infrastructure, or even to recognize Bloomberg’s plan, as de Blasio has in the past, was a curious oversight. The mayor also neglected to detail a comprehensive strategy for his lofty goal of creating and preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing—35,000 more units than were created under Bloomberg in 12 years—saying only that he would require developers to build affordable homes “rather than simply multimillion-dollar condos for the most fortunate among us.” “We must build more to achieve our vision,” de Blasio said. “But the people’s interests will be accounted for in every real estate deal made with the city.” Is this stick-without-the carrot approach to real estate development the “fundamental reset” that de Blasio spoke of? If so, it stands in stark contrast to Bloomberg, who in his first State of the City articulated a vision for rezoning the far West Side of Manhattan to turn old industrial waterfront sites into housing developments and parks. One notable similarity between Bloomberg and de Blasio’s inaugural State of the City addresses is that each unveiled a major education initiative. For Bloomberg it was eliminating government bureaucracy and establishing mayoral control over the school system—a power play befitting the billionaire mogul with a grand vision for reshaping the city. De Blasio, unsurprisingly, concluded his speech with a passionate argument for his
Rob Bennett/Office of the Mayor
By NICK POWELL
Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers his first State of the City speech.
signature proposal—a dedicated income tax hike on high-income earners to pay for free universal prekindergarten for all 4-year olds and after-school programs for every middle school student. Yet the divergent approaches to their respective major education initiatives also reflect stark differences between the current and former mayor. Bloomberg called for restoring “accountability” and “reforming the governance” of the school system—a textbook businessman’s argument. Bloomberg presented his case as if he were making a presentation to the board of one of his corporations. De Blasio, on the other hand, told a poignant anecdote about a single mother whose life would be immeasurably improved by pre-K and after-school programs, and emphasized that the smarter and more prepared our children are, the better the chances of sustainable economic success for all. In the end, de Blasio’s speech challenged the perceived “gilded” comforts of the Bloomberg administration by striking the populist tone for which many New Yorkers have been pining. While lacking his predecessor’s sweeping ambition, the speech showcased the new mayor’s ability to connect with an audience and electorate in a way that Bloomberg never could. But Bloomberg proved he could execute his vision, while still governing a safe, healthy and productive city. De Blasio’s ability to merge his political chops with effective governance will determine whether he can one day hoist some championship banners of his own. cityandstateny.com
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S TAT E
CAN ALBANY AGREE ON HOW TO KILL “ZOMBIES”?
A group of bills introduced this legislative session aim to force banks to take care of homes that the foreclosure process has begun for but hasn’t been completed.
city & state — February 24, 2014
n Manhattan there is an ever more expensive real estate battle over apartments and penthouses taking place in the clouds. But far below the skyline dwellings, in other parts of the state, there is an ongoing clash just to get someone to take ownership of properties worth millions of dollars less than those luxury condos. From Long Island to Buffalo to the North Country, homes foreclosed upon during the last recession sit without tenants. However, in many cases, the owners of these forsaken buildings do not even know they are still listed on the deeds. This phenomenon is what Assemblyman Mickey Kearns is trying to eradicate with a pair of bills aimed at forcing banks to take control of homes that have essentially been incompletely foreclosed on, leaving a property with the original owner on the deed and no one to take care of it. Kearns’ concerns about these deserted houses— known colloquially as “zombie properties”—are both aesthetic and safety-related. “It negatively affects other properties in the neighborhood,” Kearns said. “It increases the expense of local taxpayers. … [Moreover,] first responders, if there is a fire, they’re going to these abandoned properties when they could be working on other public safety matters.” The first of Kearns’ two bills would force banks to obtain a mortgage foreclosure in good faith, while the second would require banks to provide the contact information for the person who is supposed to be performing upkeep on the foreclosed property. New York has the third-highest home foreclosure inventory in the nation, behind only Florida and New Jersey, and Kearns has already had hundreds of local municipalities—villages, towns, cities and counties
included—sign on in support of his bill. A map in his office marking each of those supporters with a red pushpin makes the state look like it has chicken pox, especially in the western and downstate regions. The bills are mirrored in the Senate by legislation sponsored by Sen. Patrick Gallivan, who, like Kearns, represents Western New York. The Capital Region’s Center for Economic Growth, through its Local Government Council, has named fixing the blight caused by abandoned properties the No. 3 goal on its legislative agenda, and singled out the Kearns/Gallivan bills as a means to accomplish that end. Despite this support, passage of the legislation is uncertain. This session is not the first time Kearns has tangled with the banking industry; he has introduced versions of the two bills in each of the last two years—both times to no avail. The bill aimed at making banks provide a contact has passed the Assembly but was tabled in the Senate in 2012. Lobbying by banks represents a significant portion of the advocacy dollars spent each year in Albany. According to JCOPE, real estate and construction lobbying and banking lobbying totaled $28,990,312 in spending in 2012. While it is up in the air how much of that hefty spending would go toward wooing votes in opposition to his proposed legislation, Kearns has already faced resistance from banks to his contact information bill. When he initially tested the bill two years ago, he met with bank officials who said they feared for the lives of the people who would have to answer phone calls from angry neighbors living next to the foreclosed properties. Ultimately, concluded Kearns, the banks do not want to change. “They think this is someone else’s problem,” he
said. “When times are bad, they don’t want that responsibility.” Advocates for the banking industry openly opposed Kearns’ bills when they were previously put forth in the Legislature. A memo in opposition to the contact information bill was submitted in June of 2012, and another memo in opposition to the “good faith” bill was submitted in May of last year. When the bill regarding the posting of contact information was introduced in 2012, it drew criticism from the New York Bankers Association, which argued that the legislation would unnecessarily duplicate and possibly conflict with existing notice requirements. The association also maintained that posting an owner’s direct phone line could result in inappropriate calls or harassment and potential charges of noncompliance if the notice were removed from the structure. While the opposition this session to Kearns’ and Gallivan’s bills will likely again be fierce, the legislators have a powerful new ally this time around: the state’s toughest bank prosecutor, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. In early February Schneiderman announced that he would ask the Legislature to take up a proposal from his office to combat “zombie properties.” A spokesman for Schneiderman, Matt Mittenthal, said the difference between the existing bills and the attorney general’s is that the AG’s would mandate banks to assume responsibility for the upkeep of the buildings as soon as they became vacant, as well as create a statewide registry of zombie homes banks would be required to update, so that municipalities could track the blighted properties within their borders and monitor them to ensure they are up to code. Mittenthal said the AG’s office has reached out to some members of the Assembly and begun conversations with Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein about its proposed legislation. As of the reporting of this article in mid-February, the AG’s office and Kearns’ had not yet communicated. Other legislators have offered up similar remedies to tackle the state’s “zombie” problem. Sen. Terry Gipson is sponsoring a bill that would force plaintiffs in foreclosure cases to maintain the property in question in good faith. Sen. Tim Kennedy has proposed a bill that would do the same thing, and in addition make violating the law a misdemeanor. Regardless of the legislation’s final form, which could take time to develop, Kearns’ goal is to help banks become better neighbors—though he anticipates that effort will take some prodding. “They don’t want to be a good neighbor,” he said. “I’m not asking all the banks—[just] some of the big banks—to be good neighbors.” cityandstateny.com
By MATTHEW HAMILTON
Empire State or Utility Empire?
In In New New York York State, State, utility utility companies companies seem seem to to call call the the shots. shots. There There is is no no independent independent voice voice to to represent represent consumers’ consumers’ best best interests interests — — protecting protecting us us from from unfair unfair rate rate hikes, hikes, advocating advocating for for better better response response when when severe severe weather weather strikes strikes and and fighting fighting for for utility utility customers. customers. The The majority majority of of states states have have consumer consumer utility utility advocates. advocates. Governor Governor Cuomo Cuomo and and State State Legislators, Legislators, please please give give New New Yorkers Yorkers this this independent independent voice. voice.
Call 1-800-869-5861 and tell our leaders: Empower utilities customers in the Empire State.
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New York State
Helping Working Families Achieve A Better Life
Economic Development or Corporate Welfare
STATE’S SHIFT TO MANAGED CARE FOR MEDICAID PATIENTS RAISES CONCERNS By ALLISON HIBBS
By Mario Cilento, New York State AFL-CIO President It is important for our state and local communities to lure and assist private sector employers to create jobs. However, corporations accepting government assistance need to be held to a higher standard than private employers that start-up on their own funding and pay their regular taxes.
It is not enough that our economic development strategy helps investors and developers increase their profit on investment; working men and women also need to see increased earnings and benefits. It is not enough that local governments, through the virtually unchecked authority of IDAs, grant tax breaks to business simply for setting up shop. The fact is that profitability does not equal job creation. The term “jobless recovery” is clear evidence of that as Wall Street breaks records while income disparity grows to historic levels. The goal should be to replenish the revenue that state and local governments forgo so existing taxpayers are not left holding the bag and taking on additional costs because the new businesses are not paying their fair share. That means the people who work in these new businesses need to earn enough to buy houses and pay local taxes themselves.
city & state — February 24, 2014
We need better oversight and transparency in how businesses get tax breaks and what our state and communities are getting in return. We need to make sure that our job creation programs are clearly defined as public works projects and project labor agreements are authorized on construction so that all jobs created have standards greater than the bare minimum. And we need to make sure that if an employer accepts government assistance that it honors the agreement or returns the taxpayer gifts. Enacting these common sense reforms will help ensure that publicly funded economic development programs work for hardworking New Yorkers. The New York State AFL-CIO is a federation of 3,000 affiliated public sector, private sector, and building trades unions throughout the state representing 2.5 million members, retirees and their families. Our State Federation, which is the largest and most diverse in the country, is committed to making New York work for hardworking New Yorkers. For more information on the Labor Movement in New York, visit www.nysaflcio.org.
Nwork Y making
Jason Helgerson (far left) led the governor’s Medicaid Redesign Team, which has saved billions of dollars, some of which may be used to help struggling hospitals. Some Medicaid reforms have raised concerns, however.
ov. Andrew Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Team has reduced government spending, slowed rising healthcare costs and freed up funds to help struggling hospitals. But one reform—the shift to managed care programs—is still “making lots of people nervous,” said Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, the longtime chair of the Assembly Health Committee and a member of Cuomo’s Redesign Team. More than four million Medicaid consumers have been moved to care management programs over the last two years as a result of the Medicaid Redesign Team’s recommendations. The “Care Management for All” initiative, just one aspect of the much larger statewide Medicaid overhaul, calls for 95 percent of Medicaid recipients to be enrolled in care management plans by 2018. The New York State Department of Health has said that the initiative, which aims to improve coordination of benefits, quality of care and patient outcomes, will shift Medicaid spending to a system under which a managed care organization is paid by the state
to organize patient care and reimburse healthcare service providers. This will almost entirely replace fee-forservice Medicaid, under which service providers bill the state directly, patients receive fragmented care and there is less accountability for outcomes. The initiative aligns with the primary goal of the MRT: to control Medicaid costs by promoting healthy Medicaid patients rather than simply cutting benefits or reducing payment rates. Taken together, MRT initiatives are already projected to reduce Medicaid spending growth by billions of dollars. Managed care organizations—or, in some cases, a health management organization, or HMO—will be closely regulated and monitored by the state. But providers have raised concerns, including in the mental health field, where the bulk of the patient population has yet to be shifted over to the new plans. “It’s all supposed to start in 2015,” said Glenn Liebman, CEO of the Mental Health Association in New York State. “At this point we’re trying to figure out where the points are where we can really advocate strongly cityandstateny.com
DARREN MCGEE/EXECUTIVE CHAMBER
The state and local governments now spend $7 billion each year in various tax incentive and economic development programs in the name of creating jobs. Clearly, we are not getting the most from those incentives. And we clearly cannot keep cutting state and local services while we continue to fund corporate welfare.
to ensure that the best practices and policies are in place for those individuals with psychiatric disabilities, and that they don’t fall through the cracks. Our biggest concern is that there are enough protections in place for those individuals.” The quality strategy for the Medicaid Managed Care Program, released in the fall of 2012, details managed care organization requirements and a variety of quality assurance metrics that closely compare and monitor compliance and outcomes, ensure
provides more accountability for longterm patient outcomes, Rosenthal acknowledged “some risk” regarding implementation. But Rosenthal and NYAPRS have commended the state for its focus on long-term recovery for mental health patients—as opposed to simply providing stopgap treatment— while also emphasizing the need for flexibility in their care. The Mental Health Association in New York State has raised other concerns about the implementation of coordinated care for mental health
Our Our Perspective Perspective Protect New York’s Protect New York’s Wage Theft Wage Theft Prevention Law Law Prevention By Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department By Stuart Appelbaum, President, Store Union, RWDSU, UFCW and Department Store Union, Retail, Wholesale RWDSU, UFCW or too long, working men and women in New York theirmen wages stolen by in New or toohave long,seen working and women unscrupulous while facing York have seenemployers their wages stolen by an uphill battleunscrupulous in recovering employers what they are owed. while facing an uphill That’s why in 2010, Theft Prevention battle in recovering whatthe theyWage are owed. Act was signed into law, creating penalties That’s why in 2010, the Wagetougher Theft Prevention for employers withhold workers’ pay. The Act was signedwho intoillegally law, creating tougher penalties bill was championed by thewithhold RWDSU workers’ and otherpay. The for employers who illegally workers’ rights advocates have and long other fought the bill was championed by thewho RWDSU wage andrights hour advocates abuses that arehave rampant workers’ who long throughout fought the New York State. Clearly, something to bethat done protect the state’s wage and hourhad abuses aretorampant throughout working andClearly, women, who werehad by some estimates cheated of New Yorkmen State. something to be done to protect the out state’s more than $1and billion annually Newby York Cityestimates alone by employers who working men women, whoinwere some cheated out of didn’tthan mind$1 breaking the law toinpad more billion annually Newtheir Yorkprofits. City alone by employers who Under law, a court or to thepad New Yorkprofits. State Department of Labor can didn’t mindthe breaking the law their forceUnder employers to pay backorwages plus an State equal Department amount in damages the law, a court the New York of Labor –can up from only 25 percent before the plus law’san passage. It also expands force employers to pay back wages equal amount in damages – protections employer retaliation workersItwho up for their up from onlyagainst 25 percent before the law’sfor passage. alsostand expands rights. Employers who retaliate against their workerswho canstand now be up protections against employer retaliation for workers upfined for their to $10,000 for each of retaliation, is paid tocan thenow worker. rights. Employers whoact retaliate againstwhich their workers be fined up But now,foraneach important part of the which law is is under in Albany. Bills to $10,000 act of retaliation, paidattack to the worker. haveBut been introduced that would annual notice –a now, an important part ofremove the lawthe is under attack inprovision Albany. Bills required written noticethat fromwould employers given all employees informing have been introduced remove the to annual notice provision –a them of their rates of pay, when and how often be paid, informing and any required written notice from employers given to they’ll all employees deductions (such or lodging costs) that actual them of their ratesasoftips pay,received when and how often they’ll because paid, their and any pay to fall below wage. The notice must given in English and deductions (suchminimum as tips received or lodging costs)be that cause their actual in primary language. paythe to employee’s fall below minimum wage. The notice must be given in English and Supporters of primary repealing the provision say it will save administrative in the employee’s language. costs, but in reality that’s justthe a smokescreen a ploy would Supporters of repealing provision say itforwill savethat administrative removebut some of thethat’s teeth just froma the Wage Theftfor Prevention The costs, in reality smokescreen a ploy thatAct. would annual notice is there for afrom reason: it protects by preventing remove some of the teeth the Wage Theftworkers Prevention Act. The hidden changes in payfor and These sudden changes annual notice is there a working reason: itconditions. protects workers by preventing have often been in used employers to steal wages from uninformed hidden changes payby and working conditions. These sudden changes employees. have often been used by employers to steal wages from uninformed The provision ensures that workers know what they are supposed to employees. be paid, and mostensures importantly, paperwhat trail regarding worker pay The provision that leaves workersa know they are supposed to andpaid, classification. This not onlyleaves protects workers byregarding spelling out exactly be and most importantly, a paper trail worker pay what they should be earning – regular and overtime – but also and classification. This not only protects workers by spelling outprotects exactly employers during be payearning disputes. When employees sign– these annual what they should – regular and overtime but also protects notices, they are confirming – inWhen a statement written their annual primary employers during pay disputes. employees signinthese language – that are receiving the pay they should getting. notices, they arethey confirming – in a statement written inbe their primary The Wage Actthe waspay designed to combat decades language – thatTheft theyPrevention are receiving they should be getting. worth of Wage employer abuse that allowed the exploitation of workers who The Theft Prevention Act was designed to combat decades were ill-equipped fight back, and it isthe starting to make a real difference worth of employertoabuse that allowed exploitation of workers who in theill-equipped lives of NewtoYork’s working people. Weakening it now does a were fight back, and it is starting to make a real difference disservice only York’s to Newworking York’s workers, but also to responsible in the livesnot of New people. Weakening it now does a employers whoonly are to upholding their obligations. disservice not New York’s workers, but also to responsible employers who are upholding their obligations.
patient access to practitioners and isolate areas to target for improvement or advancement. Currently, however, only a limited range of behavioral health services are available under the program, and advocates see a need for additional regulations addressing the unique demands of those with psychiatric disabilities, as well as a necessity for better training and more behavioral health experience for those who coordinate care. The DOH has acknowledged a need to require organizations to have “extensive experience” managing care for individuals with complex behavioral health issues. Mental health advocates, however, have often excoriated HMO coordinated healthcare plans for limiting necessary services, neglecting rehabilitation and generally misunderstanding or entirely missing mental health issues. “The pace of change has been rapid,” said Harvey Rosenthal, executive director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services. “And I think that gives people pause. Not all of the details have been figured out. But I’ve been an advocate for 38 years, and I think that the proposals here are groundbreaking—and in many instances are what we’ve long sought.” Noting that the new system cityandstateny.com
patients in the Medicaid program. The organization has called for a stronger safety net, in addition to the funding available for capitated services for individuals who “fall through the cracks” of the new system. The group also suggests incentives to work with existing providers in an effort to “insure continuity” and improve long-term patient recovery rates and provisions for a 24-hour informational helpline. “The state is taking all comments very seriously, is my understanding,” Liebman said. Gottfried expects some agitation from health advocates to adopt a more community-based model where “care coordination is communityand provider-based rather than done through HMOs and insurance companies,” he said. States like North Carolina have successfully moved to a care management system that places coordination directly in the hands of primary care providers, bypassing larger providers and utilizing community networks to advance and improve care, he noted. “I think this would be better for both consumers and providers as well as the health community at large,” Gottfried said. “I’ve been urging this shift for some time, and I know that the Health Department has been looking at it as well. The benefits here could be potentially enormous.”
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city & state — Feburary 24, 2014
DARREN MCGEE/EXECUTIVE CHAMBER
AS CASINO EXPANSION GEARS UP, LITTLE APPETITE FOR ONLINE GAMBLING IN NEW YORK By MATTHEW HAMILTON
“A lot of people just don’t trust a computer. I know friends of mine who … played poker online when it was in the gray area of states before it was actually declared illegal. They go on the sites now and they tell me it’s rigged. They don’t trust it.”
city & state — February 24, 2014
n the weeks after voters approved a referendum to legalize casinos across New York, a top Cuomo administration official reportedly met with a lobbyist connected to the gambling website PokerStars.com. With casino seeds freshly planted in New York, long a fertile ground for expansion, that single meeting may have been insignificant—but in the casino world, the idea of online gambling is anything but chump change. There is currently a battle ongoing between casino industry titans over the digital presence of the world’s top casino brands. On one side is Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire 80-year-old CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp. On the other are casino giants like Caesars Entertainment Corp. and MGM Resorts International. Adelson and his allies, wary of the effect online gambling could have on physical casinos, do not want to see it legalized on a national scale. But executives on the other side say that if online gambling is regulated, it is just another boost to their own bottom lines. Although the state has a number of Native American casinos and limited racetrack casinos, New York is still new to the business of full-fledged casinos. And while talks are heating up about where those castles of cash could go, the idea of online gambling has been more of an afterthought. But is it plausible? In November New Jersey became the third state in the nation to allow online gambling, joining casinorich Nevada and Delaware. But while Atlantic City has had a long-standing reputation as a Northeast mecca for gamblers, online gambling has yet to pan out. In its first five weeks, online gambling brought in a relatively paltry $8.4 million, far off the pace that would give New Jersey the $1.2 billion officials projected by the end of June. With a neighboring state’s online outlets— websites run by Atlantic City casinos— underperforming, one industry analyst suggested that New York would be wise to hold off on rolling the dice for now. “I don’t see the reason for New York to allow online gambling,” said Alan Woinski, president of Gaming USA. “I don’t see where they benefit. If they’re going to do it as an amenity, that’s one thing, but it’s not going to be a revenue generator.” The problem Woinski sees with online gambling is the selection of games. The more popular sites are for
poker—a game Woinski said does not bring in the big money for traditional casinos. Generating money online is a matter of taking a brick-and-mortar casino and offering it entirely online, he said. In New Jersey, that has posed a problem. Woinski said some websites offer slots, but because casinos are going through offshore providers for their websites, the games are unfamiliar to players, which makes them unappealing. Woinski added that online gambling is largely for the players who haven’t set foot in a casino in some time. “A lot of people just don’t trust a computer,” he said. “I know friends of mine who … played poker online when it was in the gray area of states before it was actually declared illegal. They go on the sites now and they tell me it’s rigged. They don’t trust it.” Even though the sites are legitimate, Woinski said, play can be unpredictable and erratic since online players “do things they wouldn’t do if they were playing for big money. … So it looks to them like it’s rigged.” Even if online gamblers aren’t playing for big money, advocates say there is big money to be made by legalizing online gambling, despite the disappointing haul states like New Jersey have
generated so far. According to the American Gaming Association, Americans spend an annual average of roughly $3 billion on overseas gaming websites, and federal legalization could mean 22,000 jobs and more than $26 billion in tax revenue. Advocates are largely focused on federal legalization of online gambling, though, and even their attempts to use New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada—the only three states to legalize the practice—as examples might not hold much weight. The American Gaming Association calls New Jersey’s revenue and participation positive, but says results have been mixed in Delaware and inconclusive in Nevada. There has been little public discussion about online gambling in New York since the November casino referendum passed. The enacting legislation does not mention online or website-based gambling. And despite the November meeting with the PokerStars lobbyist, a Cuomo spokesperson said this month that the administration does not have a position on online gambling. PokerStars did not respond to an interview request. State Sen. John Bonacic, the chair of the state Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, said in a statement that at this point online gaming discussions are premature, since all five members of the Gaming Facility Location Board have yet to be named and the request for applications for resort destination casinos has yet to be issued. “The first priority is to have these resorts built in order to create jobs, spur economic development throughout the state and generate increased revenues for education, property tax relief and aid to local governments,” Bonacic said.
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BEATING THE CLOCK
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ushered in a new era of on-time budgets. Is that good for New York?
DARREN MCGEE/OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
By JON LENTZ
Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled his first budget proposal on Feb. 1, 2011. All three budgets since he took office were completed before the start of the new fiscal year.
city & state — February 24, 2014
ov. Andrew Cuomo’s perfect record of ontime budgets was already in jeopardy. The governor had been playing up the importance of timely budgets, praising the Legislature during his State of the State address for meeting the deadline in each of his first three years in office and—in a compliment that could double as a warning—for breaking the “gridlock that had plagued Albany.” Make it four straight, he exhorted lawmakers in his budget address, and together they would achieve a feat unmatched since the 1970s. By the end of January, top legislative leaders had dutifully laid out a timeline that would finalize the state’s financial plan several days before April 1, the start of the new fiscal year. State Sen. Jeff Klein, the leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, said that the timeline “demonstrates the Legislature’s commitment to delivering another fiscally responsible and on-time state budget.” Then one Monday afternoon in February, Klein went off script. One of the more volatile issues impeding the smooth passage of this year’s state
budget is a dispute over universal pre-kindergarten, which pits Cuomo’s state-funded statewide plan against Mayor Bill de Blasio’s competing proposal for New York City, a far more costly option but one that would be paid for by a proposed local tax hike on the city’s wealthiest residents. Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos plunged into the debate by telling reporters that he simply would not allow de Blasio’s plan to come to the floor for a vote. That same day Klein, who shares control of the state Senate with Skelos, fired back. “I will not approve a budget that fails to realize the vision Mayor de Blasio and I share of providing high-quality, universal pre-K,” Klein said in a sharply worded statement. “Mayor de Blasio’s plan is the only one that provides New York City with the funding it needs to achieve that goal.” Klein’s stance was remarkable. A legislative leader was standing up to the governor, threatening not just a key policy proposal but also the on-time adoption of the state budget—the accomplishment Cuomo generally cites first when making the case that he has
put an end to Albany “dysfunction.” For a moment, state government veterans and budget experts wondered if the Legislature might dust off one of its few real tools to gain leverage in negotiations with Cuomo: late budgets. By the next morning, however, Klein was back in line. At a press conference to promote the IDC’s paid family leave proposal, he claimed that he did not want to hold up the budget. “Everyone in New York State now wants universal pre-K,” he said. “Now we enter a crucial time frame, the budget process. Can the state come up with the money to make sure that 54,000 4-year-olds in the City of New York get full-time universal pre-K? That’s what we have to grapple with in this budget session.” In a statement later that day he added, “I want an on-time budget this year, which is something I am very proud to have accomplished for the past three years. As I have always said, I am not in favor of taxing just for the sake of taxing.” What was telling about Klein’s apparent threat, a hardball move not used since Cuomo took office in cityandstateny.com
before acting on any new spending bills of its own. In 2010, his last year in office, Gov. David Paterson, faced with a late budget, struck on the idea of inserting his budget language into the temporary extender bills that were passed to keep the state government operating. Lawmakers are not allowed to submit their own extender bills, and the precedent set by Pataki allowed the governor to add terms and conditions that lawmakers had no power to amend. Today lawmakers can still delay the budget in an attempt to increase spending or add a new program, but they now have to weigh the popularity of an initiative or appropriation against the public outcry that would come with a government shutdown. “As a result, I think it’s going to be unusual to see a significantly late budget—a late budget by an hour or a day doesn’t really matter, that could happen—but I think the days of having really late budgets are over, because the Legislature’s completely ceded control,” said Blair Horner, the legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “The governor just gives them the extender—he could do a whole 11-month-and-29-day extender—and says, ‘Take it or leave it.’ All they’re left with is shutting down the government as their option.” As Gov. Andrew Cuomo positions himself as the one competent leader in Albany who can meet deadlines and get things done, an underlying question remains: Has the governor of New York consolidated too much power? Cuomo has had a cooperative relationship with legislative leaders without having to resort to the steps taken by his predecessors. Unlike Pataki, he has not rewritten state law in the budget, and unlike Paterson, he has not had to force his budget through with extender bills. Some of the dearth of drama in the budget process during the Cuomo administration can be attributed to the governor’s shrewdness in providing a mix of funding and new programs each legislative session sufficient to satisfy all the key players. “When Gov. Andrew Cuomo came in, he set it up in such a manner that it was easy to do,” said Assemblyman Herman Farrell, the longtime chair of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee and a veteran of past budget standoffs. “He worked out his deals in December.
He talked to the different unions, he talked to the education people, he gave them numbers. But he could say something to them because we were $10 billion short, and we were going to have a lot of problems. And he said, ‘Look, here’s what I’m going to do for education. I’m going to tell you this is what I’m going to cut, and this is what I’m going to cut next year, and this is what I’m going to do the third year.’ And people looked at it and said, ‘It can only get worse,’ so we agreed to it.” Of course, the precedents set by Pataki and Paterson also play a critical role in getting lawmakers to cooperate. “The governor, if he did it in a certain way, could give us a budget—and we don’t even want to talk about it—that we couldn’t touch,” Farrell said. “He could set it up so that we couldn’t hold it up. There would be extenders; there would be a whole lot of problems with it. So nobody has wanted to go into that war. No governor wanted that war, and we didn’t want the war. But you knew the guy had a shotgun in the bedroom, so we were being very careful.” And even if Cuomo does not take full advantage of his power—or worse, abuses it—a successor could. “It’s not a democracy,” Mauro said. “It gives the governor the power, ultimately, to govern by decree—if the governor is willing to insist on his way or no way.”
he day that Klein backed down from his demand that de Blasio’s pre-K plan be included in the state budget, Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, was interviewed by Capital Tonight host Liz Benjamin, who asked if it would be worth it for Klein to delay the budget to get what he wanted. “You know, I think that it’s a legitimate thing to hold up a budget past April 1 to get a better budget, okay?” Easton responded. “The truth is, there’s nothing magic about March 31 that makes things better. If you get a worse budget on March 31, it’s going to hurt you more on April 1. But if you get a better budget—” “Yeah, but schools, the longer you go on, they can’t plan for their own budgets,” Benjamin countered. “The truth is … if out of a later budget schools got
Better Late Than Never?
Not since the mid-1970s has New York had four consecutive on-time budgets.
Malcolm Wilson Mario Cuomo
city & state — February 24, 2014
DARREN MCGEE/OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
2011, was the senator’s quick reversal. New York has for decades given a great deal of authority to its top elected official, granting the chief executive unilateral control over what to include in the budget and how to divvy up spending. However, a string of court rulings and the strong-arm tactics of two former governors have shifted the balance of power even further—too far, some say—in favor of the executive chamber. The Legislature, stripped of powers it once took for granted, is faced with the choice of acquiescing or shutting down the state government. When the governor submits his executive budget each January, state lawmakers can add new spending items, and the governor can veto them. The Legislature can then override a veto with a two-thirds vote in both houses. However, lawmakers can only change dollar amounts, not the language describing how the money is collected or distributed. In 1990 the Legislature amended the budget to include a fee on commercial banks to help pay for audits. The New York State Bankers Association sued, and the state Court of Appeals concluded in 1993 that lawmakers cannot alter the “terms and conditions” in an appropriation bill. Gov. George Pataki seized on the ruling to completely rewrite school aid formulas by inserting temporary changes into the budget. A 2004 ruling in the case Silver v. Pataki upheld the governor’s ability to use the budget to singlehandedly alter state law, as long as the changes were directly linked to an appropriation, which typically lasts for a single year. “When I worked in the budget process, we used to change the terms and conditions all the time,” said Frank Mauro, a former secretary of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee and the executive director emeritus of the Fiscal Policy Institute. “The governor thought we could. He thought he could veto what we did. And we thought the Legislature could override it. But the Bankers decision changed all that. The Legislature could no longer change the terms and conditions. So how did Pataki build upon that? They would have an appropriation for aid to education, and then they’d have 20 pages changing the formula in the statute. And the Legislature couldn’t change it, unless the governor agreed to bargain.” The state Constitution also requires the Legislature to address all of the governor’s appropriations bills
more funding, or there was more pre-K, that would end up helping students more in the long run,” Easton continued. “I’m not here saying, ‘Oh, we should have a late budget.’ … I think that we need to be talking about how with pre-K and school aid, we’re going to actually get a better budget. If we can’t get it done by March 31, we should go after that. The likelihood of going past that date has become less and less in recent years. But I think all of the leaders who are committed to pre-K, if they want to deliver it, then they have to say, ‘We are going to make this a must-have issue in the budget; we won’t do the budget without it.’ ” Easton’s contention that a late budget can yield more favorable results for advocates, depending upon which side of an issue they support, is not without historical merit. In past years lawmakers ultimately won more funding for school districts by holding up the process. When Eliot Spitzer was governor, cuts to Medicaid were restored. And in another year, the Assembly delayed passage until it was able to get landmark rent legislation. Sometimes late budgets were even used by the governor as leverage to pass favored programs, such as a workers’ compensation reform bill Pataki pushed through his first term. “The lateness of the budget was Exhibit A in the idiotic argument that the Legislature was dysfunctional,” said Richard Brodsky, a former assemblyman who is now a senior fellow at Demos. “Now, there’s plenty wrong with the Legislature. But we didn’t understand what dysfunction really meant until the Tea Party took over in Washington. In fact, the state was never without a budget because we did continuing resolutions. In fact, we were holding out for the things the advocates wanted. In fact, we got them. And then the same folks would say, ‘Yeah, but you didn’t do it on time.’ ”
city & state — February 24, 2014
century ago, New York was confronted with the exact opposite predicament it now faces. When Al Smith became governor in 1919, he had little real authority. The budget was left to committee chairs and rank-and-file lawmakers to submit appropriations bills. There was no centralized process to review spending requests. A governor
could veto appropriations, but was hampered by the lack of line-item veto authority. Reformers had concluded that empowering the governor— including instituting an executive budget process— would make state government more accountable. Smith’s support was critical in eventually getting the reforms passed, but it wasn’t until his successor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, took office that the new budget process was implemented. In recent decades, the dynamic between the governor and legislative chambers in regard to the executive budget process became characterized by chronic delays. Between the late 1980s and the first decade of the 2000s, the state had only three on-time budgets. Under Gov. Mario Cuomo, budgets were late more often than they were on time. On Pataki’s watch the budget process dragged on even longer, with negotiations lasting well into the summer on several occasions. “For the past 30 years, 23 budgets have been late an average of 50 days,” Andrew Cuomo noted in his January budget address. “Just think about that. That was the track record for state government. Thirty years, 23 late budgets—and not a little late, 50 days. And then you wonder why the people in the state of New York thought the government wasn’t working. New York State government was gridlock on steroids.” Missing the budget deadline can cause problems. School districts and small nonprofits can be forced to scrape by with less funding. Lawmakers don’t get paid. The state’s credit rating can take a hit, which can raise borrowing costs. Voters lose confidence in their elected officials. “I think the public expects that the governor and lawmakers adhere to the rules that they themselves have established,” said NYPIRG’s Horner. “And April 1 is the fiscal year, so the public believes that they therefore should have a budget done by April 1. … Everyone used the budget process as a cudgel against their political opponents. I think that fed public cynicism.” Other than generating scathing headlines, however, late budgets have not had much of an impact on the lives of everyday New Yorkers. “Now the question [is]: What if they don’t pass
the budget until June instead of March? It’s not good government practice, but otherwise, what in the hell is the difference?” said Richard Ravitch, who served as lieutenant governor under Paterson. “They pass continuing resolutions every month so the state is legally able to spend the money that they need to spend as if the budget were passed. So in terms of operations in the state government, there’s no change whatsoever.” Nonetheless, Ravitch added, “I’m not advocating delay—it’s not a good practice.” The breakdown in the state government’s system of checks and balances—which has made it far easier for the governor to insist upon an on-time budget— is also a legitimate concern, Horner acknowledged, even as good government groups attack late budgets as a sign of dysfunction. “The ability of the Legislature to act as a check on the excesses of the executive, which was a paradigm of the founding fathers, is thrown out of whack,” Horner said. “In New York, it’s really advise and consent by the Legislature. The governor drafts the budget, and the Legislature has some limited ability to influence the governor’s proposal, and if they don’t like it, their choice is to shut down the government. From our perspective, we believe the Legislature should have more of a role in budgetmaking, and we think the public should definitely have more of a role in budget-making. But absent changing the state Constitution, I don’t think you can fundamentally change that.” Mauro, an outspoken critic of the shift in power, noted that Cuomo has used the power in a way that doesn’t undercut it. “I guess you could say he’s used it effectively,” Mauro said. “It doesn’t mean he should have that much power, but he hasn’t abused it.” So is the era of late budgets over? “It is unless the governor tries something really extreme,” Mauro said. “In the ordinary course of events, I think the era of late budgets [is] over. Jeffrey Klein might change all that. … He could make whoever he wants to be the majority, so if he really wanted this to get a vote, he could ultimately force one by breaking his memorandum of understanding on the majority coalition. I think it’s possible.”
A DREAM ON HOLD By JON LENTZ
emocratic state lawmakers have made it clear that a top priority for them this year is the DREAM Act, a bill that would give young undocumented immigrants access to state aid for college. But are they willing to hold up the state budget over the issue? “A final budget that does not include the DREAM Act would be very difficult for me to vote for,” said Francisco Moya, a sponsor of the legislation. “I remain absolutely committed to seeing to it that the DREAM Act is signed into law this year. I’ve never wavered from that position, and neither have our DREAMers.” When the legislation was left out of the budget a year ago, state Senators Adriano Espaillat, José Peralta, Martin Dilan and other colleagues voted against the budget bill that no longer included it. “While this budget is a step back, we won’t stop fighting until this injustice is corrected,” said Espaillat at the time. This past December Peralta and Espaillat sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo requesting that he mention the bill in his State of the State address. The governor did not. Another source familiar with the thinking of Latino lawmakers said that last year’s protest vote would not be the end of their resistance. “We kind of expect that to happen again this year, though on a much larger level, though probably not large enough to necessarily do anything except raise a stink,” the source said. “But we do expect people to be a lot more vocal about it when it comes to the education bill. People are definitely concerned about this, and it’s a bigger deal than it was last year.” For some lawmakers, it is still too early to say how the push for the DREAM Act will conclude. But for Peralta, insisting on the bill’s inclusion in the budget would be counterproductive. “David Paterson changed that,” said Frank Sobrino, a spokesman for Peralta. “It’s not a viable way to make any noise or make any headway with the DREAM Act. [Peralta] just doesn’t see it as a viable option.”
Aaron Sirulnick, Chairman of the Board, Rent Stabilization Association
Affordable Housing Doesn’t Come Cheap New York City needs more affordable housing. But creating or preserving affordable housing is costly and difficult. That’s why some people are advocating the easy way out. They want to freeze rents, or make it more difficult to raise rents, in rent stabilized apartments, the largest pool of existing affordable housing in New York City. Sounds like a simple solution, but it will only make things worse. There are nearly one million rent stabilized apartments in New York City and most are at least 70 years old. These buildings need constant maintenance and are in need of major upgrading. Property owners spent more than $10 billion in 2013 to maintain and improve these rental buildings. About a third of that was spent on City taxes and charges which pay for police, firemen and sanitation workers and other municipal services. The rest was spent locally, hiring neighborhood supers, plumbers and electricians and purchasing hardware, supplies and appliances from local shops.
Altogether, spending by rental property owners supported more than 160,000 jobs and generated more than $16 billion in economic activity in 2013. But now, New York State regulators are trying to roll back rents and make it much more difficult for rental owners to upgrade and improve their properties. And Mayor Bill de Blasio is on record calling for a freeze on stabilized rents, even though property tax assessments are scheduled to increase by another 10% this year.
In a perfect world there would be no increases in taxes, water & sewer rates, fuel, labor or insurance for buildings. Unfortunately that’s not realistic in New York City. To preserve our existing affordable housing, everyone must shoulder these increases and only the truly needy should be insulated from high cost of housing in New York City.
David Paterson Andrew Cuomo
Visit the RsA At: www.RsAnyc.oRg
city & state — February 24, 2014
Without rent increases to meet the constantly rising cost of City real estate taxes, water charges and other operating cost increases, rental owners will not be able to maintain, much less improve, their properties, resulting in sub-standard living conditions. Zero rent increase will shut down the economic engine that supports thousands of local jobs and businesses in neighborhoods throughout the City. And zero rent increase will cut down the tax revenue that supports about 25% of the City’s budget.
DE BLASIO’S BUDGET: PROGRESSIVE OR AGGRESSIVE? By NICK POWELL
hat does a “progressive” city budget look like? During his preliminary budget presentation last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio attached his favorite buzzword to a supposedly apolitical document. Through the explicit and implicit priorities laid out in his financial plan, the mayor—who mere months ago dubbed himself a “fiscal conservative”—threw caution to the wind, etching his major policy items into the budget with or without the necessary cooperation from Albany, and despite the element of unpredictability stemming from the unsettled municipal labor contracts. “It may sound counterintuitive to some, but we need a balanced budget and a strong and stable city government to facilitate our fight
against inequality,” de Blasio said in his presentation. The major hurdle de Blasio will have to clear in order to deliver on that statement is the aforementioned 152 outstanding union contracts left behind by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The cost of settling every single contract will be prohibitive, and could potentially blow a sizable hole in the budget both in the near and long-term. To that end, many budget observers were scanning the documents this week, looking for areas where de Blasio and his budget director, Dean Fuleihan, might pad the budget to create a reserve of money to draw on in order to dole out the years of retroactive pay owed to some of the unions. Alas, even the most keen-eyed
watchdogs found no evidence of budget shenanigans, and, with the exception of the once depleted Retiree Health Benefits Insurance Trust Fund—which de Blasio and Fuleihan replenished with $1 billion and could theoretically utilize to settle the contracts—the mayor will have to get creative in order to find the funds to placate his friends in organized labor. Some budget experts assert that because the money for collective bargaining is not yet set in stone, de Blasio’s financial plan is, for now, hardly discernible from the most recent one issued by his predecessor. “There aren’t major changes from what Bloomberg laid out in his last budget plan in November,” said Doug Turetsky, communications director for the Independent Budget Office. “It’s fair to say that the budget has a
down payment on a number of the initiatives that de Blasio talked about in the campaign, but he’s only been in office six weeks; he’s still getting his administration together.” Therein lies some of the mystery shrouding the preliminary budget. Most budget experts agree that Fuleihan was working without a full hand in terms of putting together a robust progressive budget—notably because so many city agencies still lack a commissioner to do any real assessment of their needs. Moreover, as long as the labor contracts hang in the balance, de Blasio’s budget remains somewhat in flux. The mayor is widely regarded by labor and political insiders as more amenable to the demands of municipal unions than Bloomberg ever was, but
city & state — February 24, 2014
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio gave his preliminary budget address this month. cityandstateny.com
for Albany’s granting de Blasio the home rule rights he has been actively campaigning for in order to raise the tax; it also factors an additional $500 million the mayor maintains the city is owed by the state for school aid. From the outset of the budget presentation, de Blasio tried to thread the needle between the progressive label he has bestowed upon himself and his administration’s “profound sense of fiscal responsibility.” But is he shirking that responsibility by assuming an extra $1 billion-plus in funding from the state to finance his robust education plan? “It’s good for people to understand that the mayor is being very consistent and aggressive in his stance toward Albany,” said James Parrot, deputy director and chief economist at the Fiscal Policy Institute. “Rather than being a supplicant and trying to beg for money from Albany, it’s better to be assertive and make the city’s case—and if need be, take it to the voters at some point and get them to reward or punish people, depending on whether they support the city’s agenda in Albany. There’s an element of risk in doing that, but it’s a quality of leadership.” However, de Blasio was not nearly as emboldened when discussing issues that required federal assistance in his budget presentation. On cuts to federal food stamps, de Blasio merely outlined the recent cuts made to the program via the recently passed Farm Bill, seemingly resigned to the “federal situation we face.” A year removed from Superstorm Sandy, the most devastating natural disaster to sweep through the five boroughs, the mayor offered little more than lip service in committing to the continued rehabilitation of affected areas. In lieu of an actual blueprint for recovery, the mayor instead pointed to the remaining federal money owed to the city for Sandy rebuilding, a total of $4.6 billion in unmet needs. To be fair, in the coming weeks de Blasio will have the opportunity to make more far-reaching changes as he and Fuleihan piece together the executive budget. His plan to build 200,000 units of affordable housing, as well as the funding for the New York Police Department’s inspector general to contribute to stop-and-frisk reform should be spelled out when the budget is finalized, and both could further buttress his progressive credentials. Only at that point will we learn whether Cuomo and the Legislature will see to it that de Blasio’s political gambit of aggressively budgeting for his education program pays off. With reporting by Kristen Meriwether
Build a Better
An Agenda for New York’s Future n Protect
New York’s assets by adequately funding critical infrastructure needs: Make capital investments exempt from the property tax cap; allow use of pension funds to support infrastructure improvements
NY Works and job creation: Pass mandate relief measures that will free up funds for public works and put New Yorkers back to work
Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) and Design-build: Accelerate infrastructure projects, leverage public dollars and reduce costs
Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS): Allow public authorities and public benefit corporations to use QBS to achieve higher quality design and lower project life-cycle costs
infrastructure projects cost effectively: Increase use of private design firms
design professionals: Ensure that design professionals are responsible only for the work they perform
Leaders in the business of engineering www.acecny.org
city & state — February 24. 2014
some budget analysts believe that a truly forward-thinking budget would factor in the ballooning pension and healthcare costs that put a sizable dent in the city budget. “Is maintaining unsustainable pension/health benefits for public sector workers—benefits no longer available in the private sector— really progressive budgeting?” asks Nicole Gelinas, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. “It comes at the cost of investing in infrastructure and other things that can help poor people. It is these benefits costs, now 31 percent of local tax dollars, that define the budget, and de Blasio did not even acknowledge them.” There is a notion among de Blasio critics that the mayor is sticking to Bloomberg-era payroll projections even as unions will likely ask for raises that would push those estimates up by billions of dollars annually, something de Blasio will eventually have to reconcile as contracts are negotiated and he finalizes his executive budget. This line of thinking lends credence to the theory that the mayor will institute pattern bargaining in settling with the unions—i.e., baselining a certain amount of back pay and salary increases with one or more unions as a precedent for bargaining with others. In fact, some insiders point to the recent settlement the city reached with its 200 environmental officers, where each individual worker received $50,000 in retroactive pay, as a potential harbinger for collective bargaining sessions. Putting the labor uncertainty aside, de Blasio outlined several immediate actions that appear to qualify the preliminary budget to carry the “progressive” banner. The mayor restored several Bloomberg-era homelessness prevention and runaway youth programs, keeping a pledge to tackle an issue that stymied his predecessor. He relieved the New York City Housing Authority of a portion of its crippling debt so it can better address the neverending backlog of repair requests from NYCHA residents. De Blasio also announced a joint initiative with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to cap the rent contribution for people living with HIV and AIDS in city-supported housing, and provided start-up funding for a program to provide municipal identification cards to undocumented immigrants Of course, the centerpiece of the mayor’s budget is his proposal to establish universal preschool for all 4-year-olds and after-school programs for every middle school student, paid for through a hike to the personal income tax on high-income earners. The preliminary budget not only accounts
M U N I C I PA L U N I O N S city & state — February 24, 2014
ARBITRATION COULD THROW WRENCH IN CITY LABOR SETTLEMENTS By NICK POWELL
hroughout his campaign and time in office Mayor Bill de Blasio has artfully dodged publicly negotiating New York City’s expired contracts with its municipal unions. All along the mayor has mostly stuck to the same talking point in discussing how he will approach settling the contracts—the first great test of his administration— referring to the billions of dollars that could wind up added to the city’s ledger for salary increases and back pay as “the great unknown.” Adding to this uncertainty is an element that has largely been ignored in the public discourse, despite the immense attention the looming contract negotiations have received: arbitration. It is through arbitration that some—or perhaps many—of these contracts might ultimately be settled—a process over which the city would have little control. It is also because of arbitration that no matter how fiscally conservative the mayor seeks to be in tackling the negotiations ahead of him the city will still end up paying out billions. During his recent analysis of the mayor’s preliminary budget City Comptroller Scott Stringer directed the city to avoid arbitration at all costs— even setting a deadline of June 30 for the contracts to be at least well on their way to being settled. “Any time that you go to nonbinding or binding arbitration, the city loses control over the process to a certain extent,” Stringer said. “It’s much better if we come to the table, a table where labor and administration can negotiate those contracts, because we have a better opportunity to put all of the cards on the table, we resolve some of these issues, build the trust that we need going forward, and I believe that strengthens our hand for the long-term economically.” The mechanics of arbitration are complicated; certain public unions are entitled to the process, while other unions can opt into it. Currently the United Federation of Teachers and 8,000 city nurses represented by the New York State Nurses Association are involved in arbitration talks for the collective bargaining round that ended in 2009. For the teachers, the agreement they come to in arbitration is nonbinding—meaning the city is not required to honor whatever recommendation the arbitrator makes. The nurses’ arbitration award is binding: As long as it is ratified by the city’s Office of Collective Bargaining the city has to pay whatever salary increases or retroactive pay the arbitrators feel the union is owed. Several labor insiders believe that arbitrators will grant both the city’s teachers and nurses the same 4 percent salary increases the other municipal unions received during that last round of collective bargaining negotiations. They also maintain that other public unions such as those representing school supervisors, school custodians, and licensed practical nurses, which did not receive raises from
that round of bargaining would get them this time around, judging by the past tendencies of arbitrators. Arbitrators base their decisions in part upon a practical consideration; in order for them to be hired again in the future for the job of settling a negotiation, their decision has to be guided at least to a degree by precedent. To that end, arbitrators involved in labor settlements hew to broad criteria: an established pattern in the city’s bargaining with other unions, and the city’s ability to pay the salary increases and retroactive raises the unions contend they are owed. “One common misconception is often that, because the city is running a one-year surplus, this indicates an ability to pay recurring wage increases, and that’s been logic that’s been applied to many of these arbitration settlements,” said Maria Doulis, director of city studies for the Citizens Budget Commission.
“Any time that you go to nonbinding or binding arbitration, the city loses control over the process to a certain extent.” In fact, as recently as last year, localities upstate wrestled with the same issue. Because the arbitration process is codified in state law for some unions— notably those of the police and firefighters—certain cities wanted arbitrators to give more weight to their respective fiscal positions in settling the disputed contracts. In response Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature passed a law that set up a Financial Restructuring Board for Local Governments, and agreed to establish clear “ability to pay” standards that arbitration panels are obligated to follow. Adding another wrinkle to the city’s arbitration mystery, in relation to the teachers and nurses, is a recent report that one of the arbitrators assigned to the negotiations, Martin Scheinman, also happens to have been a fundraiser for de Blasio’s campaign. While some believe this could mean Scheinman would settle on a recommendation more favorable to the city, others scoff at the notion. “I wouldn’t read too much into that; he’s a pro, he’s experienced. If he wants to be chosen [for arbitration panels] in the future, he wants to come out as rooted in reality and fact,” said Ed Ott, former executive director of the Central Labor Council. “He wouldn’t throw his career out the window for one case.” As for the police and firefighter unions, de
Blasio and his director of labor relations, Bob Linn, might very well have their hands tied, regardless of the favorability of the arbitrator. Past observers of arbitration deals note that arbitrators in these negotiations have shown a willingness to break whatever pattern the city sets with other unions’ contracts, giving them higher awards. The uniform (fire, police, corrections) unions typically argue that because of the risk involved in their line of work, they are entitled to higher wage increases than other municipal unions. “Politically speaking, you want to show that you support the police force, as a public service people care about,” Doulis said. “Mayors have been more willing to give a little bit more to the uniforms for that reason.” The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association went to arbitration for the 2004–06 round of collective bargaining, for instance, and ultimately was awarded a 4.5 percent raise in the first year, and a 5 percent raise in the second—greater than the pattern of wage increases of 3 percent and 3.15 percent the city established with firefighters, corrections officers, and sanitation workers. Several labor sources believe that de Blasio and Linn would be wise to establish a settlement pattern for this current round of bargaining with a union that might be more amenable to a relatively lower wage increase or retroactive pay. One former longtime arbitrator said that DC 37 might be a good place to start, as they are considered weaker politically than UFT. “The giant amongst them all is the UFT. Mike Mulgrew is a pretty bright guy. Besides that, if you look at the landscape, DC 37 is a shell of its former self,” the former arbitrator said. “They’re not going to play a significant role. … The city could sort of peel them off and use its wiles to get them to settle on a deal that kind of will establish a pattern that the other unions will lock into.” Other labor sources believe the UFT might set that pattern for the current round of bargaining by accepting a contract that saves the city some money on the front end but is back-loaded with wage increases in later years. “It becomes a question of what he can sell to the unions in the future,” said Richard Steier, editorin-chief of the city labor publication The Chief. “My guess is that [the city] will look to do something with the unions where they could find some savings, maybe on health benefits.” One way or another, with so many expired contracts on the docket, Mayor de Blasio and his budget team are likely scanning the city’s coffers for the billions of dollars that will likely be needed for bargaining. Should many of the city’s unions go to arbitration, the mayor may have to start pinching pennies in order to fully fund his ambitious legislative agenda. cityandstateny.com
CUNY LAUNCHES TERENCE D. TOLBERT PUBLIC SERVICE INTERNSHIP AND HONORS COMMISSIONER PETER RIVERA OF THE NYS DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
he City University of New York has announced the launch of the Terence D. Tolbert Public Service Internship and presented the CUNY Educational Leadership Award to the Hon. Peter Rivera, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor, at its annual luncheon program in Albany during the 42nd Annual Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus Conference Weekend. The 2014 internship winner is Ms. Crystal Joseph of the CUNY School of Professional Studies who will earn academic credit and an award as part of her fieldwork experience in the office of New York State Assemblyman and Housing Committee Chair Keith Wright (Harlem), where Mr. Tolbert served as Chief of Staff. Among the academic priorities she will focus on are educational access and advancement, which were central to Terence D. Tolbert’s activism on a city, state, and federal level.
Carolyn Tolbert (mother of Terence D. Tolbert), Crystal Joseph, the 2014 Terence D. Tolbert Public Service Internship winner and CUNY Trustee Freida D. Foster The event was held on Feb. 15, at Prime on the Plaza located in the Empire State Plaza.
The program also featured the 11th class of the CUNY Caucus Scholars program, an academically rigorous district office internship for students interested in service to the Caucus members of the New York State Legislature. Interim Chancellor William P. Kelly stated: “The Tolbert Public Service Internship is a singular honor commemorating the extraordinary life of Terence D. Tolbert, who dedicated himself to government and public service. The Hon. Peter Rivera has compiled an exemplary record of public service as New York State’s Commissioner of Labor as well as during his long and distinguished service in the State Assembly
and is a staunch supporter of public higher education and CUNY. I also wish to congratulate the students in the CUNY Caucus Scholars program who are receiving first-hand experience in the district offices of State Senators and Assembly members of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus.” CUNY’s new Terence D. Tolbert Public Service Internship bears the name of one of New York’s lifetime public servants who passed away in 2008. The internship will provide a highly qualified graduate student with the opportunity to learn by doing in the office of an elected official. The Tolbert Public Service Intern will work with community members and stakeholders in the city to resolve policy problems and address local needs. Mr. Tolbert, born and raised in Harlem and a graduate of Hunter College/CUNY, dedicated himself to politics and government service. He worked with the New York State Senate Minority Program Office; served on the staff of New York State Senators Martin Connor and Joseph L. Galiber; worked with Congressman Charles Rangel; and was chief of staff to State Assemblyman Keith Wright for eight years. He served as New York State director of John Edwards’ presidential campaign in 2003-04, and in 2004 as Nevada state director of a progressive get-out-the-vote organization, America Coming Together. In former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s bid for a second term, he served as liaison to ethnic, religious and cultural groups in the city. He also worked on the campaigns of Senator Charles E. Schumer and former Governor Eliot Spitzer. He was the New York City Department of Education’s primary representative in Albany and Washington, D.C. He died at age 44 in 2008 while playing a lead role in the Nevada presidential campaign of Barack Obama. A video tribute to Mr. Tolbert was shown at the CUNY Luncheon as a celebration of his life, and the 2014 Public Service Intern was recognized by Freida Foster, Mr. Tolbert’s widow, a Trustee of The City University of New York. The Hon. Peter Rivera received CUNY’s Educational Leadership Award from CUNY Board of Trustees Vice Chairperson Philip Alfonso Berry for his strong support, invaluable expertise and exemplary dedication to the academic and professional success of CUNY students.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo nominated Mr. Rivera as Commissioner of the State Department of Labor in 2012. Mr. Rivera was born in Puerto Rico and came to New York City as a child. He served as Speaker Pro Tempore of the Assembly and represented the people of the 76th Assembly District since 1992. He was also chairman of the Assembly Standing Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. Mr. Rivera convened the Mental Hygiene Work group to reorganize the Mental Health system in New York State. He also belonged to the Assembly Committee on Rules and the Judiciary Committee, as well as the committees on Agriculture, and Consumer Affairs and Protection. He chaired the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force. As the highest-ranking Latino in the Assembly, he fought for issues of importance to the Hispanic community, including improving educational quality, strengthening bilingual education, increasing access to healthcare and AIDS-related funding, and establishing a Puerto Rican heritage center at a newly renovated Bronx office of the New York Public Library. Previously, he served as President of the Puerto Rican Bar Association and succeeded in doubling the number of Hispanic judges in New York during his tenure. The luncheon also included a salute to the 11th cohort of the CUNY Caucus Scholars program, an internship program with the State Legislature for students considering careers and involvement in public service. The program allows students to learn about the work performed by the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, as well as the services provided by the State Legislature to communities of need in New York City. Selected students are assigned to the district offices of New York State legislators who are members of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. Interns perform substantive tasks such as constituent case management, legislative research and assistance, and also draft research papers and written logs in which they describe and analyze their internships. All CUNY Caucus Scholars receive academic guidance through enrollment in campus-based seminars with CUNY faculty, as well as regular meetings with members of the Caucus and their staff.
M U N I C I PA L U N I O N S
ROAD TO MUNICIPAL LABOR SETTLEMENTS PAVED WITH UNCERTAINTY By RICHARD STEIER
money to throw around. That’s why during the budget speech de Blasio sounded more than a bit like his predecessor in talking about the need for unions to offset the cost of raises by finding equivalent savings. The most likely place would be in the area of health benefits: Unlike state workers, who now pay 16 percent of their health premiums after the Cuomo shakedown, and transit workers, who pay a much smaller share, municipal workers pay nothing toward their basic coverage. They are likely to resist starting now. But because Bloomberg deferred dealing with a bargaining problem that grew with time, and due to the lack of earlier action to offset the cost of those leftover raises, de Blasio has little choice but to try to pull them across that particular line in the sand.
city & state — February 24, 2014
Former mayor Michael Bloomberg (L) left union leaders like UFT President Michael Mulgrew (R) hanging by closing the window for them to receive pay increases.
here was a distinct edge to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s voice when he said during his budget presentation last week, “The previous administration was given an artificially high level of credit for management.” He was referring to the labor-contract mess he inherited when Michael Bloomberg left office after a third term in which he created a negotiating logjam. Following his 2009 re-election Bloomberg insisted that the city could not afford to honor a bargaining pattern he had set the previous two years, under which more than half the city’s workforce had already received two annual 4 percent pay raises. It seemed out of character for a man accustomed to criticizing other government officials who postponed tough decisions by “kicking the can down the road,” but it’s his successor’s problem now. And for the moment, neither de Blasio nor most union leaders can do very much about it. A binding arbitration proceeding involving the New York State Nurses Association is likely to produce an award sometime this spring that will produce the 4 percent raises also being pursued by the United Federation of Teachers; it will also affect unions for those smaller employee groups that didn’t get contracts before Bloomberg closed the pay window. Much less certain is whether those raises will be applied with full retroactivity dating back to the end of previous union contracts. In the case of the UFT, that would mean back pay dating to Nov. 1, 2009, and totaling $3.2 billion. Throw the other unions into that situation and the tab rises to about $4 billion. Until that issue is decided—plus a key issue as
to whether the city can legally defer part of the payment or must dole it out in its entirety in the fiscal year that begins July 1—there’s no way to know how much money will be available for the entire municipal union universe, most of which is working under contracts that expired during the latter half of 2010. The amount of money available to settle the labor contracts doesn’t figure to be much, especially considering the likelihood that the UFT and NYSNA won’t get shut out completely on retroactivity, given its being a component of city wage deals and arbitration awards for close to a half-century. And even if the city’s budget surplus continues rising between now and the end of June, de Blasio cannot afford to be overly generous in that “new” old round of bargaining. He has to be mindful of another pattern covering the same round: the three-year wage freeze Gov. Andrew Cuomo strong-armed the state’s unions into accepting between 2011 and 2014 in return for a commitment not to lay off up to 10,000 workers. The city doesn’t face the kind of financial problems Cuomo confronted when he took office, and its unions are sure to make that point when they go to the bargaining table. There has also never been a clear linkage between state and city contracts. But de Blasio—who in his bruising battle with Cuomo over prekindergarten funding has already gotten a taste of what happens when you tug on Superman’s cape—doesn’t figure to want to further antagonize him by granting raises in the neighborhood of 4 percent in this round. It would make it too easy for the governor to argue that the city must not need future state aid if it has all that
Richard Steier is editor of The Chief, a civil service newspaper, and the author of the recently published Enough Blame to Go Around, about the struggles of New York City’s public employee unions.
During the budget speech de Blasio sounded more than a bit like his predecessor in talking about the need for unions to offset the cost of raises by finding equivalent savings. The most likely place would be in the area of health benefits: Unlike state workers, who now pay 16 percent of their health premiums after the Cuomo shakedown, and transit workers, who pay a much smaller share, municipal workers pay nothing toward their basic coverage. cityandstateny.com
istrust and cynicism about government prevail these days—with partisan gridlock in Congress, NSA surveillance, New Jersey embroiled in Bridgegate, the New York State Senate denying New York City a vote on whether we can tax ourselves to pay for universal pre-K or raise our own minimum wage and Albany refusing meaningful campaign finance reform. At the New York City Council, we are pushing in the other direction. On Monday, Feb. 24, the Council’s Rules Committee will hold a public hearing on a simple but fundamental question: “What changes in the City Council’s rules can make a more responsive, transparent and effective Legislature?” Rules reform may seem arcane, but its impact on the lives of New Yorkers is not. The rules determine whether bills can get to the floor for a vote, how much discretionary funding goes to each district, and whether Council members can represent their constituents without fear of retribution. It is not often that elected officials are willing to give up some of their power in the service of the public interest. Melissa Mark-Viverito, the Council’s new Speaker, has pledged to do just that. Historically, power within the Council has been concentrated in the Speaker’s office. The Council often
operated as a one-person show, with the rest of the Council’s members— and by extension their constituents— having little say. So last fall most of the returning and incoming Council members (including Mark-Viverito) came together to pledge support for rules reform. The effort was organized by Council Members Fernando Cabrera, David Greenfield, Jumaane Williams and myself, with a strong boost from the Progressive Caucus (all of whom signed on). We agreed that we need to take the politics out of the discretionary funding (commonly referred to as “member items”) that enables Council members to support Little Leagues, soup kitchens and senior programs. As a report by Citizens Union made clear, the process remains flawed, with no correlation between need and resources. It is a poorly kept secret that discretionary funding has been allocated primarily based on each member’s relationship with the Speaker. That practice prevents members from voting their consciences and denies fair resources to New Yorkers in some of the city’s poorest districts—and we are going to end it. Other principles that we all got behind: Legislation with broad support should get a vote. Chairs should be able to set the agenda for their committees. The Council should
therefore less able to act in unity. I do not believe New Yorkers are that cynical. Do we prefer leaders who must resort to bullying and soft bribery, or would we rather start with efforts to build consensus? Are we not stronger when all Council members are empowered to be leaders in their districts and on the issues where they have expertise? Is it so hard to believe that we could stand together on matters that are a priority for our constituents, even when—especially when—that means standing up to the mayor? I believe we can do it. I know we are going to give it our best democratic effort.
Brad Lander is Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Rules, Privileges, and Elections. On Monday, Feb. 24, at 2 p.m., the committee will hold a public hearing on “What changes in the City Council’s rules can make a more responsive, transparent, and effective Legislature?” New Yorkers will also be able weigh in on changes to City Council rules at council.nyc.gov.
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city & state — Feburary 24, 2014
REPLACING BULLYING AND SOFT BRIBERY WITH CONSENSUS
support innovative civic engagement, like participatory budgeting. Central staff resources should help members do their jobs. A clear grievance process should be in place in case the rules are not followed. At our hearing—and over the following weeks as we develop a formal proposal to bring to the Council floor—we will talk through specifics on these ideas. More than that: We will open up the floor, and the Web, for New Yorkers to contribute their own ideas for Council reform. We know that some want to see the end of the allowances that Council leaders and committee chairs receive. Others want more open data and transparency. When the City Charter was amended in 1989, the Council was given more power over budget and land use matters, and expanded from 35 to 51 members. The idea was to make sure that Council members reflect and represent our city’s diverse neighborhoods—so communities have a voice in government. That is the real goal of reform. To some, inclusive leadership means weakness. Political insiders caution that rules reform will leave the Speaker weaker and the Council
M U N I C I PA L U N I O N S
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Featured Editorial Coverage: COMMON CORE: Governor Cuomo, the New York State Legislature, the New York State Board of Regents, the labor unions, and on down to local school districts are all seemingly split on whether to enhance, scrap or stay put on implementation of Common Core standards at current. Is there a pathway to appease all parties, and if not, who are likely to end up the winners and losers here?
UNIVERSAL PRE-K: With Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio haggling over funding streams and negotiating details for Universal Pre-K in New York, with the possibility of high need areas getting preferential treatment, City & State takes a deeper look at the timeline for true implementation of Universal Pre-K in New York, versus the political rhetoric. Is the money even there long–term?
city & state — February 24, 2014
In the last 5 years tuitions at SUNY and CUNY have risen, partially as a result of decreased funding from New York State. With renewed efforts by the governor to use areas around some SUNY schools as tax free zones, and Mayor de Blasio’s overall equality push, will these focuses and others lead to a funding increase?
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DANEEK MILLER Chair, New York City Council Civil Service and Labor Committee
PETER ABBATE Chair, New York State Assembly Governmental Employees Committee
Q: How will your past as a former union president inform your agenda as Labor Committee chair? DM: My labor background will be invaluable to passing meaningful and effective legislation. ... [T]o work together, we need to understand each other’s obligations and needs. [F]or unions and the city to work together requires openness to negotiation. I am intimately familiar with many sides of the debates that continue to live on and the ways in which the laws that we will pass here directly affect working families. As an experienced negotiator, I am looking forward to resolving these issues.
Q: What should be the state Legislature’s top labor priority? PA: Maintaining the current level of benefits employees of this state have.
Q: Aside from retroactive raises, do you foresee any other major negotiating points for settling the city’s expired labor contracts? DM: There are always going to be outstanding problems to which lasting resolutions are put on hold while other issues demand our limited time. But the importance of taking care of the men and women who make New York great has been understated for far too long. Opening up this dialogue will be a great opportunity to address ongoing problems tied to labor laws, such as the quality of life for workers and their families, healthcare and benefits and extension of benefits to their spouses and dependents. The implications of what we decide today will affect future generations of our great city.
Q: Port Authority leadership and Andrew Cuomo agree that workers at the two major NYC airports should receive raises, but it’s up to airlines to provide them. Can the Legislature influence them? PA: The Legislature is the governing body for the state of New York. While we make laws and institute rules and regulations, it is beyond the power of the Legislature to mandate subjects of collective bargaining with private companies. In my opinion, if the airlines believe the employees they have working for them are doing a good job, they should do what’s right by them.
Q. Any other labor issues you hope to address in the City Council? DM: The privatization of public jobs ... is a major concern. We need to advance the services we provide, not retreat from these responsibilities. Closely related is the struggle low-wage workers throughout our city are confronting.
Q: The state comptroller’s overtime report showed 2013 overtime costs topped $611 million at a time when the state’s workforce is down. How might the Legislature tackle these rising overtime costs? PA: The easiest way to fix the overtime issue is to hire more employees. It is very difficult to do so when there were hiring freezes instituted by past administrations consecutively.
Q: Right in your backyard are several expired labor contracts that need to get done between unions and New York City. How would you advise the mayor to work with these unions to achieve a positive result for all? PA: My suggestion to the mayor would be to do what’s right by the employees of the city to maintain the level of services that the city’s residents expect and deserve. cityandstateny.com
or weeks, universal prekindergarten has dominated budget news coming out of Albany. So it might be surprising to learn that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget has actual good news for exoffenders (or justice-involved persons). Cuomo proposes restoring college classes at 10 state prisons, raising the age for felony offenders and funding a statewide Re-entry Council to recommend policies to reduce recidivism among newly released prisoners and parolees. Tracie M. Gardner, policy director at the Legal Action Center, which
A CONSTITUENCY OF NONE
he First Amendment is clear that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” yet the practical separation between church and state is anything but. Public life is saturated with references to God, from the courts to the Pledge of Allegiance. Right or wrong, candidates are required to negotiate through the religious beliefs of others and account for their own. In 1954 the phrase “under God” was added to the Pledge in an attempt to weed out communists at the height of the McCarthy era. Fast-forward to the 2013 race for City Council Speaker,
supports creating a Re-entry Council, said that mentioning the Council in the State of the State address was a “cool thing” for Cuomo to do. Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Jeffrion Aubry, while supporting the initiative, isn’t sure what the Council is supposed to do. When asked to elaborate before the Legislature’s joint hearing on public protection spending in the budget, the Division of Criminal Justice Services commissioner demurred without really sharing any information about how the $250,000 would be spent. Aubry rightly posits that the Council is unnecessary, since evidence already exists showing what specific kinds of policies and assistance best prevent ex-inmates from becoming repeat offenders. In an email Glenn E. Martin, the founder of JustLeadershipUSA, pointed out that upstate communities have been seeded with much needed services for the thousands of men and women returning annually from prison to upstate New York. County Re-entry Task Forces (CRTF) in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx (three of 19 such task forces statewide) have brought together community stakeholders and the Division of Criminal Justice Services to provide recent parolees with
transitional assistance. Statewide over 75 percent of CRTF parolees have job placement, drug abuse and social service needs. Only one-quarter of them report working full- or part-time jobs. In 2012, fewer than 10 percent of the New York City participants were arrested for parole violations or rearrested for new crimes. Last October, the Think Outside the Cell Foundation hosted the NYC Prison to Prosperity business competition at Lehman College in the Bronx. At-risk youth and adult ex-offenders pitched their best business ideas to a group of New York corporate leaders led by Ed Lewis, co-founder of Essence magazine. Assisting ex-offenders in acquiring business skills, start-up capital and renewed self-esteem puts them on the road to redemption, success and full taxpayer citizenship. I know a number of former prison inmates, such as my best friend Ray L, who transformed their lives and families for the better after becoming drug-free, gaining job skills and acquiring gainful employment. Recently I met a man who, after spending seven years in prison, is now developing a business plan for a cleaning service. He hopes to qualify
for a small business loan that will enable him to get his business off the ground. For those without connections, the County Re-entry Task Forces and the NYC Prison to Prosperity project are providing a helping hand. “Formerly incarcerated citizens need to be introduced to necessary resources to help them transition back into society,” said Camella PinkneyPrice, former co-chair of the Bronx County Reentry Task Force. Gov. Andrew Cuomo does not need another commission telling him what works to combat recidivism. He should reduce already identified barriers to employment, replicate the Re-entry Task Forces and give service providers more resources. Formerly incarcerated people deserve opportunities and help to successfully participate in the civic and work life of our city. Cuomo’s election year inclusion of a statewide Re-entry Council must not just be cotton candy for advocates and ex-offenders. A serious and immediate investment of resources will save scarce taxpayer dollars while enhancing public safety.
in which Councilman Vinny Ignizio accused Melissa Mark-Viverito of failing to say the Pledge due to her “left-leaning” agenda. It was modern red-baiting at its best. Apparently Mark-Viverito had previously stood for but not said the Pledge, until a disgruntled colleague confronted her about it during the campaign. In response she started reciting the Pledge, which Ignizio seemed to think was mere pandering to the “mainstream.” It’s not clear why the Speaker chose previously not to say the Pledge, but presumably she bowed to pressure rather than face persecution for her religious beliefs, or lack thereof. Although the Speaker’s politics are indeed to the left, her religious position may in fact be right around the center. According to a 2012 Pew Research poll, one-fifth of Americans—and a third of adults under 30—are religiously unaffiliated. But that doesn’t mean they’re antireligious. Two-thirds of the 46 million “nones,” as they’re known, say they believe in God (68%), while more than a third classify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious” (37%). They are about twice as likely to describe themselves as political liberals than as conservatives, and majorities support legal abortion (72%) and same-sex marriage (73%). Most important, they vote: In the 2008 presidential election,
religiously unaffiliated Americans voted for Barack Obama as strongly as white evangelical Protestants did for John McCain. Affiliated voters still dominate the electorate: 87% in New York City according to exit polling done by Edison Research. Yet they seem willing to elect a “none.” Mayor Bill de Blasio, a self-described “spiritual person,” won overwhelming majorities among Catholics (66%), Protestants (83%) and Jews (53%). It’s the pro-life Catholic Mr. Ignizio who is actually more out of sync with the mainstream than either de Blasio or Mark-Viverito, as a majority of New Yorkers and Catholics support legal abortion. “Nones” are a rising constituency, but political rhetoric has yet to catch up. Instead, candidates pander to religious communities about metzizah b’peh rather than acknowledge the gray space of “none” identity. The lack of discourse is reinforced by tactics like Ignizio’s, which turn religion into a weapon and force politicians to behave disingenuously. “Freedom of religious thought and expression are sacred whether you believe in God or not. The willingness to talk about things in public even if they’re not comfortable is also sacred,” says Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, president of the National Jewish Center for
Learning and Leadership, which seeks to broaden religious understanding in public discourse. Indeed, it would be enlightening to know the Speaker’s true feelings about the Pledge, and why she chose to take the oath of office on a copy of the City Charter as opposed to the Bible. During the mayoral campaign, de Blasio accused Mayor Bloomberg of having a “blind spot” when it comes to religion: “I don’t think the mayor really understands how crucial it is to protecting the fabric of the city.” Although Bloomberg was reticent to make concessions to religious groups, he was forthright about his own religious identity: a nonpracticing Jew. Mayor De Blasio’s comment that he’s “on the line” is less clear, and betrays some concern about having the conversation. Similarly, the Speaker’s actions seem born of uncertainty rather than selfassurance. Perhaps if these prominent “nones” decided to speak genuinely about their beliefs, they might be pleasantly surprised to find that they’re more mainstream than either they, or the Ignizios of the world, imagine.
Former Assemblyman Michael Benjamin (@SquarePegDem on Twitter) represented the Bronx for eight years.
Alexis Grenell (@agrenell on Twitter) is a Democratic communications strategist based in New York. She handles nonprofit and political clients.
city & state — Feburary 24, 2014
A REENTRY SYSTEM FOR EX-OFFENDERS
THE DIFFICULTY OF RIGHTING WRONGS
STEVEN M. COHEN
city & state — Feburary 24, 2014
that if more facts were brought to the DA’s Office, the prosecutors would correct the injustice. I was wrong again. After another 7 years, several reinvestigations by the DA’s Office, hundreds of pages of briefs, a small mountain of evidence exculpating Lemus and Hidalgo, and a full-blown evidentiary hearing including a public airing of the NYPD’s and prosecution’s investigative missteps, the DA continued to argue that the convictions were fine. Finally, in October 2005, a judge vacated the convictions. Yet still the DA insisted on retrying Lemus. He was acquitted. Hidalgo was spared a
the conviction. That is a major and much welcome change. There are other examples of district attorney’s offices that have tried to be innovative in their approaches. But those offices remain the exceptions—a fact that is not just unfortunate, it can be tragic. When presented with meaningful evidence that a conviction was possibly obtained in error or that a convict may actually be innocent, prosecutors need to get out of the business of judging themselves. Coming up with such a system is not hard to do. For a start, a group of district attorney’s offices might consider a pilot program to review one another’s cases. The New York State District Attorneys Association should be willing to administer such a program. Something so simple, while not perfect, would make a real difference. Meanwhile, until the system is changed, people like Lemus and Hidalgo will continue to endure nightmares that are avoidable and that no amount of money can ever truly compensate.
Steven M. Cohen, former secretary to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, served as an assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York from 1991 to 1998. He is currently a partner with the law firm Zuckerman Spaeder and the executive vice president and chief administrative officer of MacAndrews & Forbes.
Olmedo Hidalgo hugged his lawyer after a Manhattan Supreme Court judge formally tossed out his conviction in 2005. MIKE ALBANS/NY DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE VIA GETTY IMAGES
ttorney General Eric Schneiderman recently proposed legislation that would remove obstacles that make it difficult for the wrongly convicted to obtain financial compensation from New York State. His proposal is admirable. But attention also needs to be paid to the difficulty of getting wrongful convictions righted, not just financially compensated. Twenty years ago, as an assistant United States attorney, I was part of a team of police officers and prosecutors who listened as a gang member admitted to his role in a 1990 murder at the Palladium Nightclub in Manhattan. The admission came grudgingly—but not for the usual reasons. The man willingly admitted to his involvement in numerous acts of violence and murder. When it came to the Palladium murder, however, he was slow to reveal his role. His hesitation was because two men, David Lemus and Olmedo Hidalgo, had already been prosecuted for the crime and were then serving sentences of 25 years to life. At the time, I figured the system would correct itself—maybe not right away but certainly within a few months or a year. After all, it was a group of cops and prosecutors who had uncovered the possible miscarriage of justice. I was wrong. The Manhattan district attorney disputed the reliability of the confession, and a judge concluded that Lemus and Hidalgo belonged behind bars. When I left the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1998, a courageous NYPD detective with whom I had been working when I first heard of the Palladium murder badgered me into not letting the case rest. Although I was reluctant, I still harbored a belief
retrial because he was deported to the Dominican Republic. I will refrain from rehashing more of the facts here, except to note that by the time Lemus and Hidalgo were released they had spent 13 years in jail. And by that time my view of the criminal justice system’s ability to deal with claims of wrongful convictions had been shattered. Typically, claims of wrongful conviction are reviewed by the office that obtained the conviction and often the very prosecutor who handled the trial. That just doesn’t work. Even if you believe, as I do, that the overwhelming majority of prosecutors are fair and honorable, bias is hard to overcome. If you convince a jury that a defendant is guilty, you’re convinced too. Plus, admitting you committed an error is never easy. Even when a different prosecutor is called upon to review the case, they are evaluating a colleague, if not a friend, as well as evaluating the conduct of their own office and their own district attorney. All the while, the prosecutor knows that admitting error is akin to saying that the office directly or indirectly put the wrong person in jail. That is the system. Over the past several years, there has been some improvement. For example, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office now has a Conviction Integrity Unit where cases are reviewed without input from the trial team that obtained
RICHARD C. IANNUZZI
ake a walk by the Internal Revenue Service building in Washington and you can’t help but see an inscription of a quote by the famed jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes: “Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.” Holmes’ insight has as much—if not more—relevance today as it did in the 19th century. Just what are we willing to pay for a civilized society in 2014? It’s a question that can be at least partially answered in the context of the ongoing state budget deliberations in Albany. The governor’s executive proposal— the starting point for budget talks at the Capitol—fails New Yorkers in many ways. Instead of investment and opportunity, it is focused on an electionyear tax-cut package that would benefit the wealthy at the expense of working families. The failure of this executive budget is magnified against the backdrop of poverty and struggle that too many New Yorkers live with every day. Our state is still recovering from the Great Recession; our poverty rate, the 25th highest in the nation, continues to creep up, and the gap between rich and poor is the nation’s largest. Yet the safety net that is supposed to protect New York’s poor and vulnerable is frayed and torn. You can find evidence of it everywhere, from the metropolis of New York City to the hard-hit towns of upstate. The concentration of wealth and extreme poverty drags our state down and squeezes middle income families. As president of New York State United Teachers, the state’s leading advocate for public education, I am troubled that nearly 70 percent of the state’s school districts are operating today with less state support than in 2008–09. Total state aid is $300 million less than five years ago, and there are tens of thousands fewer teachers and paraprofessionals in classrooms helping children learn. In higher education, our excellent network of public institutions—SUNY, CUNY and community colleges—has been devastated by year-after-year program and staff cuts. These deep and painful budget cuts hit just as the demands on our
public schools, colleges and healthcare facilities were increasing. The governor says it is not about the money in education, but a recent study by the Alliance for Quality Education and the Education Law Center clearly demonstrates that money matters in student outcomes. New York’s high average spending masks major differences in funding from district to district that cheat high-needs students of educational opportunities. Meanwhile, the property tax cap is widening the achievement gap. The governor’s woefully inadequate
budget proposal shortchanges our future. It not only fails to provide adequate resources and support to our public schools and university systems— the very best way out of poverty for New Yorkers—but it offers more than $1 billion in new tax breaks for millionaires and Wall Street banks, further widening the gap between the haves and have-nots in our society. You need only look to the recent past to find a time when tax cuts and giveaways to big business left New York State in crisis, short of the revenue it required to fund education,
healthcare and other vital public services. New York State needs to think long-term rather than embrace the short-term good feelings that come with tax cuts. A state fully invested in achieving equity and opportunity, while extending a helping hand to our neighbors in need, is an ideal for which we must strive. And a price worth paying for a civilized society. Richard C. Iannuzzi is president of the 600,000-member New York State United Teachers.
Frontline workers offer a reality check for the real “New” New York LOCAL 1000 AFSCME, AFL-CIO DA N N Y D O N O H U E , P R E S I D E N T
exual predators moved into community group homes, individuals with serious mental illness dumped from treatment centers into county jails, inadequate resources to deal with escalating poverty are just some of the consequences of recent bad budget choices in the real “New” New York. That was the testimony four frontline CSEA-represented public service workers delivered to state lawmakers during recent hearings in Albany on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed state budget.
The experienced workers who have From left, CSEA activists Abraham Benjamin, Kathy Button, nearly 120 years of service to New Ron Briggs and Glen Tuifel. Yorkers, detailed horror stories from their daily routines and urged legislators of sexual predators from secure settings Put revenues to better use to understand the impact of bad policy into community-based group homes. in our communities. and make better choices about how It raises serious public safety questions New York uses its resources. along with concerns about priorities. “I have many individuals with mental “We keep hearing the slogan ‘People “We are also in a vicious circle of health problems in my caseload,” said First’ but the administration does short staffing, mandated overtime and Ron Briggs, an experienced probation not live up to that promise where I occupational injury that leaves workers officer in Fulton County. “They don’t work,” said Kathy Button, a longtime and individuals at risk,” she said. belong in jail and it’s wasting taxpayers’ employee of the New York State money when that’s where they end up.” “People with serious mental illness Office of People with Developmental can’t even get the help they need in Disabilities. “Bad choices undermine Income inequality getting worse is the quality of care in a race to cut costs psychiatric centers because of the the everyday reality that Glen Tuifel lack of resources and there’s even without regard to what they mean for experiences as a worker at the Nassau less help available in the community,” people and communities.” County Department of Social Services. said Abraham Benjamin, who works “Our caseloads are growing with as a treatment aide at the Bronx desperate people in real pain and the New York should not be Psychiatric Center. lack of state support is making a bad in a race to the bottom. situation worse,” Tuifel said. “It is Once discharged and on the streets just not acceptable that we are seeing without follow-up help and care, too growing poverty in our metropolitan many individuals with mental illness get The recent closure of the Monroe arrested for nuisance crimes and end up areas and in some communities half Developmental Center was a wrongthe children are going to bed hungry in jail at local taxpayer expense. headed choice that led to the transfer every night.”
Lawmakers need to look beyond the sound bites and sloganeering to understand what is really happening to real people…
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2/13/14 12:11 PM
city & state — Feburary 24, 2014
AN OPPORTUNITY TO ADDRESS EQUITY ISSUES
PROUD OF TURIN A Q&A WITH
Since 2011, Piero Fassino has been the mayor of Turin, Italy. Historically an industrial powerhouse, Turin is sometimes known as “The Automobile Capital of Italy” for being home to carmakers such as FIAT and Alfa Romeo. In recent years, like many cities in the United States, Turin has moved to diversify its economy as manufacturing has flagged. Among its initiatives, the city is aiming to use its strength as a university town to build a high-tech sector. A veteran of government and politics, before becoming mayor Fassino, a member of the country’s Democratic Party, served at different times as Italy’s minister of justice and minister of foreign trade. City & State Editor Morgan Pehme spoke with Fassino about the goals of his trip to New York City, the most recent upheaval in Italy’s government, and his city’s international superstar soccer team, Juventus. The following is an edited transcript
city & state — January 20, 2014
City & State: In 2006, Turin hosted the Winter Olympics. Was it worth it for your city to hold the games? Piero Fassino: For one century, Torino [Turin in Italian] was an industrial and manufacturing city, a real factory town. In the last 15 years the profile of the city changed. We continue to be an industrial city, but at the same time we are, today, an important center of excellence in research, investigation, innovation [and] technology. We are a great university town. We have two universities of high quality. One hundred thousand students. Thirteen percent foreign. We are a real capital of culture. We invest many, many euros in culture. And today Torino is the city in Italy that has the largest culture to offer. For this reason, in the last year, Torino is also a tourist destination. In this process, the Olympic Games played a strategic role. Because the event solicited the city to renew infrastructure, to build a new infrastructure, reorganize the life of the city and I think open the city. C&S: I have read that you have been trying to attract partnerships with American universities
in Turin. Is that part of why you are in New York City? PF: We have two universities of high quality. Above all the Polytechnic University of Torino, the university for science and engineering is the best in Europe. The Politecnico has a relation or corporation with 400 universities in the world, many in the United States—for example, M.I.T. in Boston. At the same time Torino has a university of high quality— [The University of Turin, which] has 300 to 400 agreements with universities in the world. We want to improve this cooperation. Exchanges of students. Exchanges of experience. Common projects. Common research. Common initiative. [During] my visit [to] New York, and also [during] a visit I [made] in November, I [met] with representatives of Columbia, NYU, Massachusetts University, M.I.T. and others how it is possible to strengthen the relations between our universities and the universities in the states. I think there are many, many great opportunities. I think it is possible to implement many common projects.
C&S: You have also met with the heads of many of New York’s cultural institutions in seeking out partnerships. What other types of investment are you seeking in America for Turin? PF: We are interested to try in many sectors. In the last 15 years we transformed 5 million square meters of factory abandoned. And we use this factory to reorganize the university system. To implement a new activity, industrial, service, trade and other—new residences. We have of the 5 million square meters open to transform. Our goal is to try [to get] foreign investors to support in Torino this transformation. At the same time we are very interested to develop or increase our profile in technology, research and innovation. And this is another front in which we want to try and develop capital resources, international resources, international funding to support the development of activity, research, technology and innovation. And finally we are very interested to invest in the university system. We are very interested, for example, to try and get some American university to establish a site in Torino. C&S: Italy has recently again experienced political upheaval. There was a coup within your own party and Prime Minister Enrico Letta is going to be replaced by Matteo Renzi. What are your feelings about this change? Was reform not taking place as quickly as it should? PF: In this hour [this interview was conducted on Feb. 21], Mr. Renzi will present to president of the Republic the new cabinet. The formula of the government is the same. Alliance led by the Democratic Party, the main party in Italy, the party of center-left with some allies. I think this government is born with one fundamental essential goal: to introduce a package of reform, institutional reform, economic reform, social reform, because Italy needs a great season of modernization. We need to implement a strategy for growth. Because in this last year, the Italy economy is very, very weak. The growth is low. I think with this government we want to push the society and the country to mobilize any resource, financial, technological, human in a view to obtain the high level of growth, because we want to reduce unemployment, we want to reduce the conditions of our many enterprises, we want to give to our country more and more opportunity of the growth, of the job, of the better condition of life. C&S: Do you have any concerns that Prime Minister Renzi will be the third prime minister in a row who was not elected by the people? PF: I think in this moment we need to adopt some new policy, speedily. The hypothesis of a new election [is that] we need the government to implement immediately some important policies. I think it is not useful for our country to delay this choice. Because the people’s claims are urgent today. For this reason I agree on the choice of this new government. C&S: Since you have become mayor, Juventus has won the Scudetto [the Italian soccer championship] twice. Do you think they will win again this year? PF: I hope that Juventus can win. As you know, Juventus is one of the great soccer clubs in the world. It is also one of the great images of our city. There are many, many people who know our city because it is the city of Juventus. So if Juventus wins, it is great for our city. cityandstateny.com
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mind n Over the last five years, SUNY and CUNY have been cut by nearly $2 billion — driving up tuition and endangering quality affordable higher education for all New Yorkers. n Our public colleges and universities are under intense pressure to eliminate programs and courses, erode quality and slash opportunities for students in need.
n Public higher education’s mission of teaching, research and health care is key to a bright future for all New Yorkers. New York State must invest now — in faculty, staff and student support — to keep our public colleges and universities great.
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2/20/14 5:29 PM
Published on Feb 23, 2014
Cover Story: Is there a downside to on-time budgets? Perspectives: Can Non-Religious Politicians Go Mainstream? Industry Spotlight: Munici...